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Are Addictive Personalities to Blame for Substance Use Disorders?

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Many people can have a mixed drink, smoke pot, or try a recreational drug without becoming addicted to the substance.  But, others will become addicted quickly and suffer years of severe consequences.  According to them, they lack control over their substance use behaviors because of their “addictive personalities.”

According to researchers, an addictive personality is not a valid psychiatric diagnosis.  So, let’s look at the concept of an addictive personality and determine whether it is a myth or is at the core of SUDs.  

What Are Addictive Personalities?

Addictive PersonalitiesStudies show that people with SUDs don’t share specific personality traits.  Therefore, it is impossible to determine who will become addicted to a substance. 

Some of the traits, however, may indicate whether someone may be at higher risk for addiction.

Traits of Addictive Personalities

It is true that there are common traits present among people with SUDs. However, these traits do not always indicate that someone will become addicted.  So, what is an addictive personality?  

Typically, people who may be at higher risk of developing substance use problems often exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Adventurous, risk-taking behaviors
  • An inability to self-regulate
  • Pre-existing mental health disorders
  • Substance abuse among family members
  • Obsessive, compulsive behaviors

Other factors or traits that contribute to addiction are low self-esteem, mood swings, dishonesty, social isolation, selfishness, and lack of personal goals.  

To better understand these traits, let’s examine some of them more closely.

>  Adventurous, Risk-Taking Traits

Addiction specialists have found that those who enjoy taking risks are more likely to experiment with drugs.  This may be the result of high levels of dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine increases a person’s need for more intense experiences to feel pleasure.  Alcohol and drugs often serve as the person’s tools for creating the desired levels of pleasure.

>  Lack of Ability to Self-Regulate

The inability to self-regulate behaviors means that a person is at higher risk for addiction.  Many people who have these issues fail to enjoy their rewards to the same degree as those who do not.  The diminished sense of pleasure causes the person to push harder to get the reward they crave.  

>  Pre-Existing Mental Health Disorders

A pre-existing mental health disorder is among the traits of an addictive personality disorder.  Experts agree that individuals with mental health issues are more likely to misuse addictive substances and develop SUDs.  The disorders include:

  • Bipolar disorder, mood disorders, or depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety or panic disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia

In many cases of mental health disorders, the individual attempts to self-medicate by using drugs or alcohol.   This behavior often leads to addiction.

>  Substance Use Among Family Members

A family history of substance abuse can contribute to a person’s risk of developing SUD.  Certain portions of the human genome are identified as affecting specific addictions.  Furthermore, being in an environment that promotes substance use can lead a person to use substances at an early age.  

According to NIH, genes may be responsible for 40 to 60 percent of your risk for addiction.  However, this does not mean you will develop an addiction just because your family members use drugs or alcohol.

>  Obsessive, Compulsive Traits

People with intense focus and compulsive behaviors are more likely to develop an addiction.  For instance, their substance use behavior develops gradually rather than on impulse.  They use substances as a manifestation of their obsessive-compulsive disorder

Are Addictive Personalities Myth or Reality?

You’ve likely heard someone claim that their substance use is due to an addictive personality.  But, they may be trying to justify their behavior and avoid taking responsibility.  

Experts agree that addiction is a brain disorder and not a personality issue.  Many factors are involved in leading a person to use drugs or alcohol and all types of personalities are prone to addiction. 

Addiction is a complex disorder that can affect anyone.  Even if you have one or more of the traits of addictive personalities, it is not a sign that you will develop an addiction.  

Nevertheless, if you are struggling with addiction, help is available, regardless of the underlying causes.  

At Design for Change, We Treat Addiction and the Underlying Causes

Successful recovery from addiction involves simultaneous treatment for physical dependence and any co-occurring emotional, environmental, or mental factors.  

At Design for Change Recovery, we focus on creating customized programs that address each unique aspect of your addiction.  Our program aims to ensure that you will leave with the necessary skills, motivation, and knowledge to maintain a substance-free lifestyle.   

While in our program, you’ll participate in various classes, activities, and workshops that are designed to help you gain improved physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness which lay the foundation for sober living.

Call our Lancaster, CA facility today to discover how our commitment to excellence in addiction treatment can help you.


Are Addictive Personalities to Blame for Substance Use Disorders?