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Addictive Personality – Do I have one

Popular models and theories of addiction

Experts have been thinking about classifying addiction for the better part of 60 years. The AMA officially declared alcoholism as a disease in 1957 with known symptoms, causes, and outcomes. But the disease model of addiction is only one model that doctors, scientists and researchers use to explain why people use and abuse alcohol or other drugs. The addictive personality is one such model that attempts to explain addiction.

What is the addictive personality?

Simply, the addictive personality is thought to be a distinct psychological trait that predisposes people to addictions. However, this model of addiction is a theory and the addictive personality has not yet been identified. In fact, the nature and the very existence of the “addictive personality” trait is still actively debated among medical, neurobiological and psychological experts. Nonetheless, there is some agreement upon identified personality traits and personality disorders (POs) that make a person vulnerable to addiction. And most experts would agree that certain personality traits appear to be risk factors for substance use or personality disorders in which substance abuse is a behavioral expression.

Personality traits of addicts and alcoholics

  • ambitious
  • ambivalence to authority
  • anger over dependence
  • anxiety & over reactivity
  • apprehensive
  • cautious
  • dependence in interpersonal relationships
  • depression
  • ”dis”-inhibition
  • excitable
  • exploratory
  • extravagant
  • fatigue-able
  • feelings of isolation
  • fickle
  • harm avoidant
  • high emotionality
  • hostility
  • immaturity in interpersonal relationships
  • impulsive
  • inability to express anger adequately
  • industrious
  • inhibited
  • low self-esteem with grandiose behavior
  • moody
  • novelty seeking
  • perfectionism compulsiveness
  • persistent
  • quick-tempered
  • reward dependent
  • rigidity & inability to adapt to changing circumstances
  • risk taking
  • sentimental
  • sex role confusion & sexual immaturity
  • simplistic black and white thinking
  • sympathetic
  • warm

Personality disorders diagnosed among addicts and alcoholics

A personality disorder is an enduring, unconditional, negative belief(s) about oneself, others, and the world. People diagnosed with personality disorders (POs) develop coping behaviors and mechanism that are inappropriate, rigid, and difficult to change. But what causes a personality disorder?

Experts theorize that personality disorders are an interaction between biologically-based personality or temperament traits and highly dysfunctional early caretaking environments. In other words, personality disorders result as a combination of nature and nurture. And what makes personality disorders difficult to deal with in addiction treatment is that they influence symptom severity, persist and interfere with psychosocial functioning once abstinence is achieved, create significant ongoing risk for relapse, and require additional specialized treatment. Some types of personality disorders identified among addicts and alcoholics include:

  • Antisocial
  • Avoidant
  • Borderline
  • Dependent
  • Narcissism
  • Paranoid
  • Schizoid
  • Schizotypal

Can personality predict addiction?

You may be wondering if your personality can predict whether or not you will become addicted to a behavior or substance. This is a rather difficult question to answer. In brief, personality traits alone cannot predict addiction. And researchers are still looking into the existence of the “addictive personality”.

What we do know is that specific patterns and higher levels of certain personality traits, when paired with environmental factors, relate to predictable brain-behavior relationships that predispose people toward chemical dependence. But addiction is difficult to generalize. Please remember to keep in mind that we cannot simplify the nature of addiction so easily. And that personality, in itself, is a most complicated matter. From whence it comes and what impacts our personalities is another article for inquiry. Your questions and comments on the addictive personality are most welcomed.

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Reference sources: The work of Samuel A. Ball, PhD Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
Why do People Abuse Drugs?
Addiction, Personality, and Motivation

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4 Responses to “Addictive Personality – Do I have one
9:09 pm June 6th, 2011

My sister Jennifer was a drug addict for 13 years. She struggled for many years and could not find the help she needed. In and out of rehab, hospitals, we never knew where she was staying from one night to the next. It was terrible. And above all – we knew she was tormented by her addiction. We lived in Florida and there’s a law called The Marchman Act that allows for involuntary drug treament. It basically allows law enforcement to pickup that person and take them to a secure facily for a short period of time. The problem is the cost of filing (upwards of $300) and the depth of the bill only allows for a few days treatment.

My sister ultimately died of her addiction, she did not make it. Many people can’t make it on their own. In repsonse, my mother and I have created a website called t
TheJenniferAct[dot]com and the goal is to create sweeping legislation that can help family members help their loved ones get the treatment they need. I encourage you to go on our website and see if you find anything that helps.

Saul R
8:53 pm January 7th, 2013

I have borderline personality disorder and addictive personality traits. Addiction to alcohol and abuse of both prescribed and non-prescribed drugs has arisen for three main reasons;
1. Unhealthy coping mechanism
2. Dependance
3. As a form of self harm/self neglect
The three reasons interact and their prevelance varies according to circumstances (and inappropriate emotional/behavioural response). The treatment involves tackling the behavioural as well as the causative reasons for addiction and requires intensive treatment over a period of time.

Stephi Pee
2:19 pm May 29th, 2013

I truly appreciate the helpful thoughts you’ve shared on your blog. Many people nowadays, with personality disorder certainly sought for an accurate answer to their glitches. I definitely agree that personality disorders are difficult to deal with addiction treatment, because they mostly influence by symptom severity. I have learned that one of the personality disorder that is prone to addiction is schizoid personality disorder. Thank you again for sharing some insights for us to have a clearer and meaningful understanding of the possible effects that may happen to people with personality disorder.

1:18 am May 30th, 2013

This trait of addictive personality should not just be taking for granted. Support from the families or significant others, should seek for personality treatment. Thank you sharing this post.

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