If someone were to ask what types of people get addicted to drugs or alcohol, most of the population would be able to offer a few general ideas. They may say that individuals with an “addictive personality” would be the ones most likely to become inadvertently and unhealthily preoccupied and reliant on a substance. Yet what is this addictive personality, and how did the idea develop?
The concept of the addictive personality is so prevalent, there are people who search for traits within themselves to determine if they could be at risk. Some even use these ideas to decide they should stay away from certain activities that could lead to an addiction. As it often can be, prevalence of a belief does not make it true, and this is the case with the proclaimed “addictive personality.”
Here is a look at the myths behind the prevailing idea that certain people are prone to becoming addicted compared with the facts. This article is intended to provide insight for any family affected by mental illness.
The Generic Idea of the Addictive Personality
In reality, the addictive personality is something born of a little truth and a lot of misinformation. The stereotypical image of someone with an addictive personality simply is a misrepresentation of certain traits that are often present in people who develop an addiction.
These traits are not always present in every person who has a substance use disorder. However, that hasn’t stopped those traits from being highlighted or even amplified in pop culture.
Most modern-day researchers advise against using a type of generic personality to categorize individuals prone to addiction. Those with substance abuse problems can have a full list of personality types, and even people who are addicted can display different character attributes.
For example, only 18% of those with an addiction could be characterized as people who also tend to lie, have a lack of conscience, or portray manipulative and antisocial behavior. Nevertheless, many people might assume most addicts would have these traits.
Traits Common Among People With Substance Abuse Problems
It would never be fair to say that all people with a substance abuse problem have the same set of traits that make them predisposed to substance abuse. That said, there are traits that can be commonly recognized among individuals who eventually develop an addiction.
Traits associated with a higher risk of becoming addicted to a psychoactive substance include the following:
- Being apathetic, in general
- Being diagnosed with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia
- Being more adventurous in nature
- Being socially disconnected and overly careful
- Having issues with self-regulation or controlling compulsive tendencies
- Having relatives who have dealt with addiction, especially parents or siblings
Two of the most scientifically backed risk factors include having relatives with an addiction or being diagnosed with some other mental health disorder. Nature and nurture could come into play with the family-related risk factor, even though it has long been assumed that environmental exposure (or nurture) was mainly to blame.
Associated studies have shown genome linkage between genes and certain types of addiction. Ongoing research and studies are underway to further determine what the proposed connections could mean, which could help experts better understand genetic predisposition to substance abuse disorders.
When it comes to prior issues with a mental health disorder as a risk factor for addiction, several studies have found links between specific diagnoses and addiction. However, there is a chance that the link is present due to people with these issues trying to self-medicate. For example, someone who struggles with depression or anxiety may use alcohol or drugs to escape his or her undesirable emotions and feelings.
Addiction Is Not an Easily Explained Condition — in Diagnosis or Treatment
It’s important to keep in mind that the shy young man with poor social skills could be just as prone to substance abuse as the brazen, risk-taking woman. The individual who could be described as neurotic, anti-social, manipulative, emotional or even malicious may or may not develop a problem with substance abuse.
The idea of the certifiable addictive personality can lead people to have concerns where there shouldn’t be and lacking concern where there should be. Society as a whole must work to understand addiction, the risk factors associated with addiction, and how perceptions affect those with an addiction.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Author bio: Chris Hassan is President and CEO of Symetria Health® — the country’s first comprehensive evidence-based opioid addiction treatment program, designed to deliver data-validated outcomes that outperform other treatments currently available. He has over 25 years of experience in the field of addiction treatment, is active on several national panels and corporate boards, while also serving as a Huffington Post contributor.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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