The addiction recovery process is not easy. Our culture tends to stigmatize people with addiction as being weak or irresponsible. But addiction is a complex disease, and it can afflict anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, class, personality. People who are addicted to substances have a wide variety of personality traits: the idea of an “addictive personality” is a myth and can be harmful.
Perhaps some of the misconception about personality arises because of the behaviors that are common to people suffering from addiction:
- Impulsive behavior, including unnecessary risk-taking or seeking high-adrenaline thrills
- Deceitful behavior, continuous lying
- Preference for isolation, avoiding social settings
- Extreme mood swings, emotional imbalances
- Inability or unwillingness to admit failure and take responsibility for their actions
Studies show that drugs and alcohol physically change the brain, affecting the way we process information and how we behave. The behaviors above can develop as addiction progresses because of these changes in the brain. When someone enters treatment and recovery, these behaviors tend to fall away as the person achieves physical stability and learns healthier coping mechanisms.
So, are there any personality traits that may show a propensity for addiction in some people? Researchers who study personality disorders (like borderline personality disorder) and antisocial disorders have found a strong co-occurrence between these disorders and addiction. Otherwise, particular personality traits have not been shown to predict addiction.
That said, many other factors besides personality traits can affect the likelihood that a person will develop an addiction.
- Genes: Some people may be predisposed to biological factors that affect brain development and function, including the propensity to develop a substance addiction. Family relationships and medical history should be discussed with your professional support team as soon as possible to better understand your needs during the treatment process.
- Childhood trauma: Often those who have grown up in unregulated or abusive households may gravitate toward substance abuse or addiction; also, being exposed to alcohol and drugs at a younger age may alter the perception of the substance as a potential problem.
- Mental illness: Many mental disorders can contribute to addiction, especially if undiagnosed. People suffering from anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders, or other mental illnesses may self-medicate with alcohol or drugs as a way to control or escape from the negative effects of their mental illness.
Before we make assumptions about people suffering from addiction, we need to educate ourselves about this powerful disease. The idea that certain personality traits lead to addiction is largely false and can contribute to the attitude that recovery isn’t possible.
Great Oaks Recovery Center believes that every person has the power to change their life for the better. We offer the professional support and full continuum of care that can help you discover and live your best self. We are here for you. Please reach out at any time for more information about our programs.