Having an addictive personality doesn’t exist. As we learn more about personalities, addiction and psychology, it becomes easier for us to dispel certain myths and go into much more detail about what a disorder is and is not – and what might be considered normal or acceptable behavior, and what should be considered cause for worry, both on a personal level and on a psychiatric level.
Just because someone has unsavory personal characteristics does not mean they need therapy – but a certain combination of characteristics paired with harmful or destructive behavior can point towards the possibility of a condition that might require a diagnosis and further treatment.
When it comes to addiction and the addictive personality, a lot of assumptions already exist in people’s minds. Today’s stigma against addiction has a lot to do with stereotyping and discrimination, which feeds into the addictive personality concept. A person’s personality does not determine their likelihood towards addiction. Neither do certain “kinds of people” always get addicted.
There are, however, behaviors and markers that statistically point towards a relationship with addiction, causal or otherwise. For example: men are more likely to use drugs than women. That does not mean, however, that being a man inherently makes you drawn towards addictive drugs. There are other factors specifically tied to the male gender that make drug addiction a greater issue for men than for women.
For example, men generally like to take risks. However, this is both biologically motivated, as well as socially and culturally. Workplace deaths are also a far bigger issue among men than among women, and men suffer from a higher suicide rate. A bad economy and other stressors may contribute to risky behavior, and the backlash may come in the form of addiction, depression, and other mental disorders.
The difference is that while being male puts you at a greater risk towards addiction, it does not mean being a man can cause addiction. Noting this crucial difference is important to understanding how the additive personality concept can be valid, while at the same time, many notions around an addictive personality are outdated and false.
What An Addictive Personality Is
An addictive personality does not really exist. Even certain traits are not universal – meaning, while some traits like anxiety and a low self-esteem, are common among people with addiction issues, there are also many who struggle with addiction despite having a healthy self-image before getting addicted.
Furthermore, even something as basic or destructive as deceit isn’t a clear indication of addiction, or addictive potential. Only 18 percent of addicts have a personality disorder with symptoms such as stealing, lack of conscience, or antisocial behavior. While this is higher than in the general population, it still means that most addicts get addicted without having a prior psychiatric condition associated with some sort of addict stereotype.
The closest generalization you can really make for addictiveness is extremes. People of low and high IQs are more likely to get addicted, just as they are more likely to develop mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Furthermore, people who are overtly curious as children have a higher risk towards addiction – but so do overly cautious and compulsive children, who fear any sort of new stimuli.
In other words, any sort of neuroticism as a child tends to create a higher likelihood for addiction. But it gets more complex the longer you consider all the factors. Both genetics and environmental factors, such as peer pressure, family ties, parental relationships, experiences and traumas factor into how a person’s personality may contribute to their eventual addiction.
It’s Not A Condition
There is no such thing as a psychiatric definition for an addictive personality. While people like to talk about having an “addictive personality” because they have trouble staying off the phone or quitting smoking, there is no real scientific indication that this has much to do with personality.
The best we can tell you is that being a well-adjusted individual gives you the best chances with addictive drugs – but anything, from an inborn trait to a set of circumstances, can turn a well-adjusted person into a nervous wreck.
There are genuine factors that affect addiction – and understanding them can give you a better idea of how addiction functions, why it affects us the way it does, and what we can do to better protect ourselves and others from the effects of addiction, and help those who struggle with addiction today.
Factors That Affect Addiction
Risk factors are not necessarily signs that someone is going to become an addict – rather, they’re factors that increase a person’s likelihood to struggle with addiction, for one reason, or another, or a combination of several. Many people struggle with one or more of the factors listed below without developing an addiction. Some people become addicted without any of the risk factors below. This can, however, be helpful in giving you a better mental picture of how addiction works.
Aside from genetic predisposition and a family history for addiction, other risk factors include:
Peer pressure: This is especially common among teens, who are less likely to behave rationally and do not recognize risks or long-term consequences, and are thus more likely to engage or propose dangerous behavior for peer approval including drug use.
Mental health issues: Depression, ADHD and post-traumatic stress are all significant risk factors, as patients are likely to self-medicate.
Family problems: A lack of a healthy relationship with friends or family, and general anti-social behavior is a significant risk factor, especially because it often implies a lack of parental supervision, and loneliness.
Teenage drug use: Teenagers are more likely to struggle with addiction than older people, and drugs affect a developing brain differently, making it more susceptible to progressive drug use and eventual addiction.
The drug itself: The addictiveness of the drug is a massive risk factor. Drugs like heroin and crack cocaine are more addictive than marijuana, and certain methods of drug use – such as injection or smoking – make a drug much more potent than ingestion.
There is no way to know if someone is going to become an addict until they do – but you can always prepare yourself and your loved ones by giving them the education they need to stay away from drugs. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to get help with addiction, then the sooner the better.