Many psychiatrists used to believe that people who were more prone to drug or alcohol addiction, also known as substance use disorder, shared a common addictive personality. However, throughout the years, researchers have been unable to prove that to be true. What the researchers have found is that there are certain addictive personality traits, or personality characteristics, that are common to those people who are at a high risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
1. Problems with Self-Regulation
Self-regulation means being consistent when making choices. Your choices should always be in line with your values, thus ensuring your well-being. Self-regulation also includes managing your emotions and maintaining a healthy quality of life. Often, individuals who struggle with addiction are unable to manage feelings of anxiety or have difficulty resisting impulsive behaviors.
Impulsivity means a person quickly engages in an unplanned activity without thinking about possible outcomes, risks, or consequences. When a person has problems with impulse control, they simply do whatever seems like a good idea at that moment. Many people who struggle with impulse control have difficulty with the concept of delayed gratification.
3. Low Level of Constraint
A personality trait tied in with impulsivity is having a low level of constraint. If a person has a low level of constraint, it means they have difficulty stopping an action or behavior once it is started.
Nonconformists consider themselves fundamentally different from most people. Their views or behaviors differ from the prevailing practices or ideas of the time. These differences could include their values, interests, or goals. These individuals might be drawn to addictive substances as a way to express their unique views.
5. Low Tolerance to Stress
Everyone has stress in their life. This is natural, but there are people who find it very hard to manage stressful situations because they do not have the necessary coping skills. A stressful situation could be meeting a deadline at work, having an argument with a loved one, or dealing with an unexpected health crisis. People with a low tolerance to stress may be drawn to addictive substances as way to temporarily escape their problems.
6. Adventurous Risk Takers – Thrill and Sensation Seeking
Individuals who like to take risks and have little impulse control regarding dangerous activities or experimenting with new experiences are more likely to try drugs. They have a need for a variety of stimulating and novel experiences. Reuters reported on a study that risk-taking may have to do with the person’s level of the hormone dopamine and their brain’s sensitivity to it.
Sensation seekers are risk takers who generally:
- Enjoy adventurous sports
- Like traveling to meet new people
- Enjoy attending loud parties or concerts
- Have multiple sexual partners
- Drive recklessly
7. Negative Emotionality – Neuroticism
This is the tendency to experience negative feelings and unpleasant emotions easily. According to Psychology Today, it is typically defined as a tendency towards moodiness, depression, anxiety, self-doubt, shyness, and similar negative feelings.
Additional examples of negative emotions include:
People who struggle with feelings of poor self-worth, low self-esteem, or other negative emotions sometimes try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol because they want to feel good about themselves. The opposite occurs when the drugs worsen the brain’s chemistry, leading to even more mood disorders and an enhanced negative self-image.
8. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
When a person has obsessive thinking or behavior it means they are not able to stop thinking a thought or doing the action, even if their life is negatively affected by the obsession. For example, a person may have to keep checking to make sure the door is locked or repeatedly wash their hands. Similar parts of the brain are activated both in addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
When a person is struggling with a substance use disorder, the following may occur:
- They constantly think about their next opportunity to get high and when it is going to happen.
- They worry about how and when they will be able to get drugs.
- They may want to manage their obsessiveness and begin taking drugs as a way to try to manage their OCD.
- Once they become addicted, they obsess over getting the drugs needed to ease their cravings and maintain their addiction.
9. Blame Shifting
Blame shifting occurs when a person does something inappropriate or wrong and does not take responsibility for their actions or mistakes. Instead, they shift the blame to someone else and completely avoid their personal responsibility.
Getting Help for Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, there is help available. Call and speak to a professional staff member at Canyon Vista Recovery Center in Mesa, Arizona. They will answer your questions and explain their comprehensive treatment plan. Get the help you need to live a healthy, fulfilling, and sober life.
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- Psychology Today – The Personality Trait that Most Strongly Predicts Addiction: psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201804/the-personality-trait-most-strongly-predicts-addiction
- US National Library of Medicine – Five-Factor Model Personality Profiles of Drug Users
- Live Science – How Personality Increases Risk of Drug Abuse
- Reuters – Study Links Hormone to Addiction Risk Taking