One way people try to cope with or explain addiction is by labeling people “more prone to addiction” as having an “addictive personality.” However, there are no studies to suggest that one type of personality makes an individual more prone to addiction than others. Instead, there are several factors that may make a person more susceptible to addiction — and only by understanding them can we truly guard against them.
Addictive Personality Myth
Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of personality. Many studies have shown that addiction is linked to a disorder in the brain rather than a personality issue. When a person consumes drugs or alcohol, dopamine and other similar brain chemicals are released in a much larger amount than they would be naturally. Once an individual starts to misuse drugs or alcohol, the brain naturally releases dopamine more slowly. Less dopamine can make people lethargic, which can cause them to seek out more drugs and alcohol for that euphoric effect.
However, there are many factors that can increase a person’s risk of experiencing addiction, which can sometimes be mislabeled as personality traits.
Sign of Addiction
Knowing and understanding signs of addiction can help you discern whether intervention is necessary. Some of these signs include:
- Changes in sleep patterns;
- Becoming withdrawn or overly talkative;
- Suicidal talk;
- Increased or decreased confidence;
- Crying spells;
- Depression or anxiety;
- Loss of interest in hobbies;
- Loss of coordination;
- Weight loss;
- Dilated pupils or red eyes.
What Causes Addiction?
Some people may be more vulnerable to addiction than others; no single personality type or trait guarantees a substance use disorder or other addictions. The most important thing to remember is this: Addiction is a disease. It can happen to anyone at any time. With that in mind, there are many outside factors that can contribute to addiction, including genetics, relationships, mental health disorders, and a lack of impulse control.
Genetics and Relationships
Studies have shown that people with certain genetic factors are more likely to develop substance use disorders. One of these factors was revealed to be a type of infectious agent that integrates within a gene that regulates dopamine activity. This integration is more common in people with substance use disorders — however, it is important to note, there is no specific “addiction gene.”
Additionally, people that live in high-stress environments are also more likely to develop substance use disorders. High-stress situations trigger the release of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, or stress hormones. These stress hormones can affect the expression of genes in certain systems like the brain’s reward system. As the stress hormone and the reward system interact, it can trigger the development of addiction as well as stress-induced relapse.
Other environmental factors that can influence addiction include:
- Family dynamics and interactions;
- Friend groups;
- Social media and traditional media;
- Physical environments like bars.
Just because someone has these genetic markers or has grown up in stressful environments does not mean they will develop substance use disorders. Knowing what triggers can influence substance use disorders can help people make more informed decisions about themselves and their loved ones.
Other Mental Health Disorders
Mental health issues and addiction are often connected and typically result in co-occurring disorders. People with pre-existing mental health disorders may be more prone to developing substance use disorders. This could happen for a number of reasons including:
- Self-medication with drugs and alcohol;
- Dependence on prescription drugs;
- A misunderstanding of their mental illness.
Substance use disorders are more frequently found in people who have these mental health issues:
- Generalized anxiety disorder;
- Panic disorder;
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- Bipolar disorder;
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
- Psychotic illness;
- Borderline personality disorder;
- Antisocial personality disorder.
Since these illnesses can be linked, it can be hard to treat one without treating the other. Understanding how mental illness can play a role in addiction and vice versa can help you or a loved one get the right treatment.
Lack of Impulse Control
Studies have shown that people who take part in impulsive, risk-taking behavior are more likely to develop addictions. People who act impulsively may have higher levels of dopamine in their brain, which can affect their sensitivity to it. Therefore, these people need more intense experiences to feel the dopamine’s effect. These experiences could include skydiving, extreme sports, and drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, people can develop a tolerance to drugs and alcohol and start increasing their intake to obtain greater levels of dopamine.
How to Overcome an ‘Addictive Personality’
There isn’t truly such a thing as “an addictive personality,” even though you may feel like you are more prone to addictive behavior. Nevertheless, you should still be aware of substance abuse triggers and cravings in order to keep yourself out of situations where the temptation to abuse substances may arise. Examples of potential triggers could be:
- Special occasions;
- Sporting events;
- Being offered a drink or drug;
- Free time or boredom;
While avoiding these situations is ideal, life happens, and there may come a time when you find yourself in a triggering environment. If that does happen, consider these coping mechanisms:
- Reciting a mantra;
- Taking ten minutes for a meditation;
- Creating boundaries with friends and family;
- Developing a strong support network that you can contact anytime;
- Exercising regularly;
- Working with a sponsor.
If you feel like you need more help than you’re able to achieve on your own, consider an inpatient or an outpatient rehab facility. If you cannot make it to in-person treatments, we also offer outpatient treatment via telehealth. That way, you can still receive treatment, regardless of your scheduling needs.
By understanding what factors can make a person more susceptible to addiction, and knowing what triggers to look out for, individuals with substance use disorders can begin a successful recovery plan and treatment. Recovery Centers of America can help you or a loved one achieve and maintain recovery.