The Myth of Having an ‘Alcoholic Personality’

The Myth of Having an 'Alcoholic Personality' |

In the mental health field, clinicians might diagnose their clients with Paranoid Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder. However, there is no such diagnosis as an Alcoholic Personality Disorder, nor is there a specific personality that a clinician might be able to label as being alcoholic.

Despite this, there are some traits that someone with an alcohol addiction might possess and that seem to be common among those who also suffer from addiction in general, regardless of the substance.

For instance, the following are common thought and behavior patterns among those who are vulnerable to developing an addiction.

  • Frustration Tolerance: When facing a life challenge, an individual who might be prone to addiction will tend to have more difficulty in managing the distress of that situation. Particularly, when an individual suffers from mild to severe depression, he or she might be more vulnerable to drinking or drug use.
  • Sensitivity: Those who are prone to developing an addiction also tend to be sensitive, particularly with rejection. When someone realizes that having a drink can ease this painful feeling, the circumstances for a beginning addiction are in place.
  • Low Self Esteem: Related to the above point, those who are vulnerable to an addiction are those who tend to have poor beliefs about themselves. They might experience self-loathing, self-judgment, and be very critical of themselves. There might also be a continuous experience of self-rejection, which makes them sensitive to being rejected by others.
  • Isolation: Because of the pain of rejection by others, perhaps even by family members, those who might develop an addiction might spend a significant amount of time alone. They might also find it difficult to share their innermost feelings and thoughts with others. Furthermore, it might feel safer for them to be alone versus with others.
  • Charismatic: Interestingly, those who are prone to becoming alcoholics or drug users are at times very charismatic. Although this is not necessarily true for all potential alcohol and drug users, what is common is the tendency to have a face or mask by which an individual interacts with the world while their true self remains hidden from others.

James West, M.D. of the Betty Ford Center wrote that although these traits might occur in almost anyone, the alcoholic might experience these in a more exaggerated form. Alcoholics tend toward the extremes, wrote Dr. West, in their feelings, their ambitions, and their drive.

One thing to point out is that having these traits does not indicate having an Antisocial Personality Disorder. This condition is actually quite uncommon and complex. Those who might have the traits above and who feel that they might be prone to alcoholism likely will not have an Antisocial Personality Disorder. At the same time, those who do have this mental illness are in fact more likely to experience an addiction.

Overall, as Dr. West wrote, alcoholics and those prone to alcoholism tend to experience life in an intense way. In fact, there is a saying within the mental health field that those who abuse drugs and alcohol are in fact very spiritual people; they’re just knocking on the wrong door.

The goal of recovery and prevention from addiction is to for a mental health professional or drug counselor to guide an addict towards knocking on a door that more life affirming, such as a rewarding career, a fulfilling family life, or even a spiritual path. There’s no coincidence that the very popular treatment path of Alcoholics Anonymous invites its participates to develop a relationship with a higher power.

Finally, although there are certain traits that an alcoholic or drug user might possess, this doesn’t mean they’re written in stone. You have the power to make the changes you want in your life!


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