What is an addictive personality? According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a prolonged disease of the brain, affecting the reward centers, and thus, behaviors, drive, retention, and cognition. Researchers believe that a blend of environment, genetics, and family history contribute to one’s risk of addiction. When these factors show up in an individual’s personality in certain ways, they are collectively called the addictive personality.
However, just as addiction is a complicated and very personal experience, addictive personalities and their consequences can vary from person to person. No two sober journeys are exactly the same, and it’s important to note that an addictive personality does not automatically translate into addiction. That said, many people who struggle with substance abuse share several common personality traits.
So, what does it mean to have an addictive personality? Here are several common addictive personality traits to look out for.
Signs of an addictive personality
- Difficulty controlling impulses
People who struggle with addiction tend to have trouble controlling impulses. They are more likely to make rash decisions without considering the consequences, especially long-term outcomes. To that end, they are often thrill seekers who are constantly looking for the “next great thing.”
Tip: try to pause for a moment and consider the implications of the choice you’re about to make. If there are negative side effects or chronic health issues caused by your behavior, maybe it’s time to reassess.
- High stress
Many people with addiction issues consistently experience elevated stress levels. Whether self-imposed from lifestyle choices such as a demanding job or caused by brain imbalances from a mental disorder such as anxiety or bipolar disorder, taking steps to reduce stress is critical. Otherwise, it’s extremely common to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, which only compound the problem.
- Relatives with addiction problems
While not exactly a personality trait, there’s no question that a link exists between genetics and addiction. Having a close relative who struggles with addiction can make addiction more likely. A genetic disposition toward addiction is hardly a guarantee. Other personality traits and environmental factors also play a huge role.
- Poor self-worth
Again, mental health issues such as depression, low self-esteem, or even stress, can lead to self-medication to attempt to cope with or numb away these feelings. However, experimenting with or abusing substances can negatively impact brain chemistry, compounding low feelings and perpetuating an increasingly destructive cycle.
- Lacking long-term goals and commitments
This doesn’t necessarily mean that someone with an addictive personality is lazy or unmotivated. On the contrary, a driven, competitive person may also have an addictive personality. This personality type may aggressively pursue tasks without setting specific goals to accomplish, leaving them with an empty feeling.
What about addictive personality treatment?
If you identify several of the traits above either in yourself or a loved one, you may be wondering what you can do to help.
Remember, one doesn’t need to be an alcoholic or drug addict to have an addictive personality. Addiction can manifest itself in other unhealthy consumption habits such as overeating, gambling, excessive pornography, hoarding, or overspending. An addictive personality may not be the official diagnosis like other mental health issues, but it’s important to identify it and seek help if needed.
Various behavioral therapies can help people struggling to manage their behavior and learn coping skills. Furthermore, for those who already suffer from addiction problems, treatment plans can include these therapies.
One final warning: social alienation is a dangerous sign that addiction is imminent. If you find that you or a loved one is avoiding social situations, it’s time to ask for help from friends, family or a mental health professional.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t wait. Contact one of our knowledgeable addiction specialists, today.