Addictive Personality – Do I have one

Are some people more likely to become addicts than others? Can you predict addiction based on personality traits? More on the addictive personality here.

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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.

Reference sources: The work of Samuel A. Ball, PhD Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
Why do People Abuse Drugs?
Addiction, Personality, and Motivation
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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