One in ten Americans is affected by substance use disorder and addiction. In 2015, this led to at least 59,000 people dying from a drug overdose. Drug addiction is a major problem in this nation, and it’s vital that we work to find the root cause of the issue so that we can properly treat it.
One common theory is that certain people are just more prone to becoming addicted to drugs, substances, and harmful activities due to having “addictive personalities”. Today, we’ll explore this idea to see if it carries any weight.
What Is Addiction?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a complex brain disease. People who are affected by this disease compulsively abuse substances despite the harm that befalls them as a result of use.
When someone is addicted to something, they will have a single-minded focus on the substance and that focus will take over their life. The person will continually use this substance or engage in this activity no matter what negative consequences they face as a result.
People can become addicted to many things, including:
- Opioids (prescription painkillers, heroin)
- Stimulants (cocaine)
- Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP)
There are also behavioral addictions such as:
Factors That Influence Addiction
There are many things that can influence whether or not a person will face addiction as part of their life story.
Research shows that there is no singular factor that is indicative of a person developing addiction. However, there seem to be common influences in those people who succumb to addiction.
Some of the factors that are indicative of addiction include:
- Genetics: The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that over half of a person’s risk of developing addiction stems from their genetics. This means that a person who has close family members who have battled addiction are more likely to face addiction themselves.
- Environment: The environment a person is raised in or lives in also contributes greatly to their chances of becoming an addict. Youth who experience neglect are more likely to engage in risky behavior like using drugs. Peer pressure also plays a large role in drug use.
- Dual Diagnosis: Many people who face addiction have a dual diagnosis. This means that in addition to battling addiction, they are also living with a mental health disorder such as depression. Mental health issues can play a role in a person’s susceptibility to addiction, and addiction has a direct impact on mental health. This is a hard cycle to break.
- Early Use of Substances: More and more young people are experimenting with drugs and alcohol. This is dangerous because those who begin these activities when they are young are more likely to face addiction as they grow older, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
What Is A Personality?
Before we delve into the idea of addictive personalities, it is important that we understand what is meant by “personality”.
When psychologists refer to a personality, they are speaking of traits that are broad, stable, measurable, and individual to a person. These traits a person possesses help to determine how a person relates to themselves and how they relate to the world around them.
As a person develops, these traits influence their behavior, emotion, thinking, and motivation.
- Openness to experiences (whether a person is cautious or curious)
- Extraversion (whether a person is solitary or outgoing)
- Conscientiousness (whether a person is careless or organized)
- Neuroticism (whether a person is secure or nervous)
- Agreeableness (whether a person is detached or friendly)
When measuring these five dimensions of personality and relating them to addiction, researchers found that people who have high levels of neuroticism are more prone to addictive behaviors. This is thought to be because their brains are emotionally aroused much easier than people who aren’t highly neurotic.
What Influences Personality – Nature vs Nurture
We’ve seen evidence that addiction can be heavily influenced by genetic factors, and there is reason to believe that personality has a genetic component, too.
One of the genes associated with addiction is also associated with extraversion, which is one of the five dimensions of personality. People who rate highly in the area of extroversion tend to be those who seek out social situations and novel experiences.
The five genes that are common between addiction and extraversion seem to reduce the function of the reward system in the brain. Research shows that people who have the genetic makeup associated with extraversion and addiction are not able to efficiently use dopamine. This might be why these people seek pleasure and are more prone to addiction.
Is There Really Such Thing As An Addictive Personality?
- Mental illness
- Chronic pain
- Financial burden
- Social struggles
But the debate rages on as to whether there is actually an addictive personality that plays a role in addiction.
The Case For An Addictive Personality
Dr Stephen Mason explains that an addictive personality is one in which the person is completely unable to control their participation in drinking alcohol, using drugs, engaging in sex, or gambling. He reasons that 10% – 15% of the US population has an addictive personality.
Because researchers have reported that there are common personality traits among people with addictions, many people posit that this must mean that there is such a thing as an addictive personality.
Not every person who possesses these traits becomes addicted to substances or behaviors, though. Often, these personality traits are characteristic of other disorders and addiction is never present.
The Case Against Addictive Personalities
There is plenty of evidence stacked against the notion of an addictive personality, too.
Dr Mark Griffiths says that the idea of an addictive personality is a “complete myth”, stating that there is no evidence that points to a specific set of personality traits that is indicative of addiction.
The medical director at the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction, Dr Michael Weaver reasons that a person’s environment, genetics, and addiction history do not combine to form an addictive personality and that they are instead standalone reasons that can cause addiction.
Claiming that addiction is just a part of a person’s personality can be an easy way to brush aside the real issues at play. When addicts can point to something beyond their control as a reason for their problems, they can feel better about continuing down a destructive path.
Dual diagnosis plays a large role in addiction, and many of the other issues stem from mental health. Borderline personality and addiction has been studied extensively. Personality disorders and addiction are an issue for 23% of people.
What Is An Addiction Prone Personality?
While there is no clear cut evidence pointing to an “addictive personality”, there is plenty to point to the idea that certain personality traits can be indicative of addiction.
If you are curious as to what type of personality would have the most potential for addiction, let’s look at that here.
Personality Traits Of Addiction
There are certain personality characteristics that might increase someone’s risk of becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other substances. Some of these traits include:
- Impulsiveness: People who are more likely to make decisions suddenly without thinking through the long term consequences are impulsive. Those who act on impulse are more likely to struggle with substance abuse.
- Lack of self-regulation: When individuals are unable to control their behavior, feelings, and emotions they are unable to regulate themselves. Models have shown that people who have a lack of self-regulation are more prone to addiction.
- Obsessiveness: People who are dominated by obsessions feel the desire to repeat actions over and over, and they are unable to resist the pull of this. People can be obsessed with many things including sex, overworking, gambling, or taking risks. While engaging in these activities is not inherently bad, when taken to excess problems can occur. People who struggle with obsessions are more likely to face substance abuse disorders.
- Risk Taking: Many people are thrill seekers, with the need to feel excitement. Sometimes this can be fun, but other times it leads to people engaging in criminal behavior, making risky investments, participating in criminal activity and more. Additionally, the National Institute of Health correlates risk taking behavior with substance use.
Where To Turn For Help
Though there are many personality traits that can be correlated to addiction, scientists aren’t on the same page when it comes to there being an addictive personality. Regardless of the cause, millions of people struggle with addictions, and they all need help to overcome and get on the road to recovery.
If you or a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol or struggles with addictive tendencies – help is here.
At The District Recovery Community, we have the skills and knowledge to help you with your illness. We offer many services to not only treat your addiction and withdrawal, but to dig deep and find the root cause of your addictions so that you can move forward in healing.
There is no reason to continue living with the hardship of addiction. Contact us today to begin your journey to recovery.