In movies and TV shows, there’s a typical type of person that is often portrayed as an addict. This person usually has certain traits and characteristics that people view as an “addictive personality.” Unfortunately, some people assume that having these personality traits means you are all but destined to succumb to addiction. But how much of this speculation is actually true? And is there truly an “addictive personality”?
What is an Addictive Personality?
Although it is true that certain recognizable traits are usually present in people who develop addictions, not every single person who becomes addicted will have those traits. It’s impossible to predict who will or won’t develop an addiction and an addictive personality is not a psychiatric diagnosis.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), no single factor can predict if a person will become addicted.1 So the idea that a person could have an “addictive personality” is based on false logic. Addiction is a highly complex disease and the likelihood of a person developing a drug addiction will differ from person to person, regardless of their personality traits.2
4 Common Addictive Personality Traits
Although the idea of having an addictive personality is flawed, there are certain characteristics that may increase a person’s risk of developing an addiction, which some people may view as addictive personality traits. Here are some of the main characteristics that people generally view as addictive personality traits.3
- Risk-taker: People who are risk-takers crave excitement. They need to feel a thrill. This can often be displayed in various ways, such as criminal behavior, risky financial investments, or dangerous physical stunts.
- Impulsive: People who are impulsive are more likely to make sudden decisions without thoroughly thinking through the long-term consequences first. Although spontaneity is not necessarily a bad thing, irresponsible, impulsive behavior can often lead to trouble in the long run.
- Obsessive: Obsessive people feel unable to resist the need to repeat a certain action over and over. Examples may include gaming, gambling, having sex, shopping, or overworking. A healthy amount of these activities is not harmful, but in excess, they can be physically and mentally damaging.
- Lack of self-regulation: Someone who lacks self-regulation is unable to control their feelings, behaviors, and thoughts to achieve moderate use of alcohol or other potentially addictive substances.
Many people who possess these personality traits go on to live lives that are free of substance abuse and addiction, however, there are also those who do not.
Other Factors that Increase the Risk of Addiction
In addition to the four personality traits listed above, there are several other factors that can increase a person’s risk of addiction. These risk factors, coupled with the addictive personality traits above, may create the “perfect storm” and lead to unhealthy attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, and ultimately, substance abuse problems.
Additional risk factors for addiction include:
- Several other family members who suffer from addiction (your genes and biology)
- Early exposure to drugs
- Experiencing high stress or anxiety
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Social alienation and loneliness
- Lack of parental guidance
- Lack of self-worth
- An environment that condones drug and alcohol abuse
Do I Have an Addictive Personality?
Most people want to know what addictive personality traits are because they are either worried that they could have an addictive personality or that a loved one does. People may also wonder about this because they want to prevent future addictions.
If you’re concerned that you might have an addictive personality, the DSM 5 criteria for substance abuse can help you identify problematic behaviors that may be indicative of an addiction problem. If you identify with any of the following behaviors, you may have an addiction problem:
- You take larger or more frequent doses of a substance than you should
- You want to stop using the substance but you can’t
- You spend a lot of time getting the substance, using it, and recovering from use
- You have cravings to use the substance
- You continue to use the substance, even when it causes problems in relationships
- You give up other important social or recreational activities so you can use the substance
- You continue using the substance even when it puts you or someone else in physical danger
- You continue using the substance even when you know you have a psychological or physical dependence as a result
- You need more of the substance to get the effects you want
- You develop withdrawal symptoms which can only be relieved with more of the substance4
Determining whether or not you have an addictive personality isn’t always cut and dry, but you can use the criteria above to determine whether substance abuse and addiction is a problem for you.
How to Help Someone Who is at Risk for Addiction
If you have a friend or a loved one who has these addictive personality traits or who has experienced several of the other risk factors listed above, there’s nothing you can do to control their thoughts or behaviors and prevent them from developing an addiction. This can be a hard truth to swallow, especially if the at-risk person is a child, sibling, spouse, or other close loved one. However, there are some things you can do to help them avoid addiction.
First, you can encourage them to seek behavioral therapy and counseling to address the root causes of some of those high-risk characteristics and traits. Behavioral therapy can help a person learn how to moderate their thoughts and actions in a way that is beneficial to their overall health. It can also be a great opportunity to learn things about themselves that they had not previously realized while also learning how to communicate effectively and respectfully with others.
If your friend or loved one is already experimenting with drugs and alcohol or has already developed an addiction, it’s not too late to get help. A long-term addiction treatment regimen that consists of drug detox, inpatient or outpatient rehab, and continued care services like IOP and sober living will give your loved one the best chance at a life of sustained sobriety.
Call Nova Recovery Center today and let us help you overcome your addiction as you learn how to live a life of lasting sobriety.