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Addictive Personality?

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

My grandfather was an alcoholic. My aunt is an alcoholic. My uncle is an alcoholic. My father has ridden the roller coaster of drug addiction and alcoholism for most of my life. If I went back far enough, I would likely find a handful of addicts from each generation of my family on both sides.


This means that I too am destined to have an addictive personality, right?


Well, kind of.


The truth is, the concept of having an “addictive personality” is a myth. There is no evidence to connect addiction to one's personality, although increased risk factors in an individual’s life can escalate the odds of an individual developing the disease of addiction.


It’s not uncommon for those who are predisposed to an addiction to want to learn more about their own compulsive behaviors in an effort to proactively avoid an issue with addiction before it even begins. The journey starts with an understanding of family history. If you can see that addiction has affected even one person in your family history, your chances of developing the disease increase by 40% to 60%. It is actually genetics that play a key role in your vulnerability to developing addiction, not personality.


The Definition Of An Addictive Personality

The term addictive personality is part of the language that's been used for decades to describe people with the disease of addiction, and it’s a phenomenon that professionals in the field continue to try to destigmatize. Language in addiction is important. As a community, we have to understand that addiction is a disease - a change in brain function - and has nothing to do with one’s personality.


Factors That Contribute To Developing Addictive Personalities

A medical diagnosis for an addictive personality does not exist. According to Michael Weaver, MD., medical director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, “Personalities are very complex, and while there’s not one specific type that’s more prone to addiction than others, there are several factors that can combine to make you more likely to become addicted.” (1). Risk factors to addiction can include environment, when an individual began to use, predisposition genetically, stress, exposure to trauma or having one's own traumatic experience, etc. For more information on how childhood exposure to stress and trauma can weigh in on the potential for disease to develop, watch the Ted Talk on ACES here.


“We are all products of our environment; every person we meet, every new experience or adventure, every book we read, [it all collectively] touches and changes us, making us the unique beings we are.” -CJ Heck

Genetics

We know without a doubt that there is a genetic component to addiction. The risk of developing an addiction is much higher in children whose parents struggle with addiction, but it is not guaranteed.


Furthermore, those whose parents struggle with mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or bipolar disorder can also be more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives(2).


Environment

“We are all products of our environment; every person we meet, every new experience or adventure, every book we read, [it all collectively] touches and changes us, making us the unique beings we are.” -CJ Heck


Our genetics contribute to our baseline personality, but we are heavily influenced by our surroundings and the people we surround ourselves with. People who struggle with addiction are heavily influenced by their physical environment and the host of triggers that dominate it.


According to Psychology Today, “Experiments such as Conditioned Place Preference have revealed that reactions to, and expectation of, the delivery and effect of drugs can form after only three to four exposures to a specific setting and remain, unless the “spell” is broken, eternally.” (3)


Again, environment is only a risk factor. It does not guarantee that an addiction will be developed, but it becomes even more influential in those who are predisposed to addiction because of their genetics.


Mental Health Disorders

Along with genetics and environment, existing mental health disorders can also increase one’s risk of addiction. These mental health disorders can include but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


For example, a person dealing with severe stress and anxiety in their job may self-medicate with alcohol in the evenings in an attempt to mask their issues. This daily attempt to let loose could very easily slip from a habit to addiction in someone with predisposition to addiiction. Before long, the usin behavior is interfering with their daily life and becoming too much to manage.


Why It’s Important To Name The Problem

Those who struggle with addiction are often the last to recognize it, no matter the stage of the addiction. It can be difficult to acknowledge the problem; however, this step is crucial to the healing process. Even when the addiction itself is not considered serious, acknowledging an addictive tendency is an important first step in preventing a more serious addiction from developing.


It’s important to identify and acknowledge an addiction to prevent:

  • Interference with daily life - How is your addiction affecting your ability to complete your job, school work, or hobbies? Are you less productive? Distracted by your next fix? Watching your grades slip?

  • Effect on relationships - Are the people once closest to you slipping through your fingers? Can you feel them becoming more distant? Are you prioritizing your addiction over the people who mean the most to you?

  • Effect on health and well-being - Can you feel yourself becoming bogged down and depressed? Are you losing touch with the things that once brought you joy? Are you so focused on your addiction that other facets of your health have gone by the wayside?


How To Manage An Addictive Personality

If you’ve identified that you may have an addictive personality and are at risk for serious addiction, there is hope. There are ways you can manage yourself and your impulses to engage less in your addictions and to avoid further development into more serious addictions, like drug and alcohol dependency.

  • Avoidance of all Addictive Behavior: We know that one addiction can lead to another. Avoiding abuse behavior, and the environments that foster them all together, can help. Even “personal” addictive behavior like shopping, pornography, gaming or gambling should be avoided, so as not to open the door to serious addictions.

  • Removal of Triggers in the Environment: Look around your home. Is this where your gambling addiction began? Your drinking addiction? Do you see triggers in your environment that might encourage addictive behavior? Remove the alcohol from your home, including the drinkware you drank it from . Move the furniture around, change the wall colors. All of these things can trigger a craving.

  • Mindfulness And Exercise: Mindfulness has been trialed in the last 10 to 15 years as a supplemental treatment in drug and alcohol addiction. According to the Hader Clinic Queensland, “Mindfulness can be seen as a form of mental training that literally “exercises” neural pathways involved in addiction such the brain’s reward pathways which become dysfunctional during the addiction cycle.”(4)

  • Goal-Setting: Goals can help someone in addiction recovery re-establish their self-worth. Setting goals can encourage you to keep going and to continue to choose your sobriety. (5) When choosing your goals, it’s important to focus on the Three P’s for Recovery: Passion, Power, and Purpose. Setting small goals can help addiction avoidance and recovery feel more obtainable long term.

  • Hobbies: Adopting new hobbies that can replace the time spent engaging in your addictions can help avoid negative behaviors. Find something you truly enjoy, like a painting class, an exercise group, or working on cars. Healthy hobbies can help foster that desire for social activity and will keep you occupied in healthy life choices.


Interventions for Addictive Personalities

More serious addictions may require medical and professional intervention. It’s okay to not be able to manage these on your own. There is hope and help available to you. Rehab/Treatment Programs may be the best option for those dealing with a more serious addiction. If you believe medical detox from addiction is necessary, seek intensive inpatient treatment. If you cannot stop engaging in obsessive personal addiction behaviors, perhaps inpatient treatment will help you stop your using behavior.

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): According to The Addiction Center, “CBT teaches those in treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD) to find connections between their thoughts, feelings, and actions and increase awareness of how these things impact recovery.” (6) When an addicted person is able to recognize why they feel or act a certain way, and how those feelings and behaviors lead to their addiction, they are better equipped to recover from that addiction.

  • Rehab Or Treatment Programs: There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to addiction recovery. For more serious addictions, a detox program may be necessary before entering an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. The tools and resources obtained in rehabilitation and treatment programs can serve individuals diagnosed with addiction for a lifetime to ensure sobriety is manageable and maintained.


The Importance Of Connecting With Others

In most cases, your friends and family have your best interest at heart, but they may not truly understand the difficulties you are facing in choosing recovery. So much of what you learn in recovery can only be understood by those who are going through it or have gone through it in the past. Building a community of other like-minded individuals who are actively seeking recovery can be beneficial to your own recovery, as you hold each other accountable and practice the skills learned in treatment.


Recognize Addiction To Get Help The Soonest

Addiction recovery communities like BHealthyForLife can serve as a safe space for individuals with addiction to reflect on their behaviors and make significant changes for themselves. Just because you have a predisposition to addiction doesn’t mean addiction has to be your past, present, and future. Recognizing your addiction and seeking help are the first steps to your recovery.


Help, no matter what stage you are in, is within your reach. Visit BHealthyForLife for support today.

 

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