People seem to throw the word “addictive personality” around regularly. Most people can recreationally drink and use illicit substances without forming an addiction, but people with “addictive personalities” are more susceptible to forming a dependence.
In actuality, personalities are extremely complex, as is addiction. There are seemingly endless factors that go into creating a type of person who is prone to addiction.
“Addictive personality is not an actual psychiatric diagnosis. Personalities are very complex, and while there’s not one specific type that’s more prone to addiction than others, there are several factors that can combine to make you more likely to become addicted,” states Michael Weaver, MD, of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction.
Factors that Create an Addictive Personality
You won’t really know if you have a pre-disposition to being addicted to something until you are exposed to it. That’s one of the primary flaws in the concept of an addictive personality – it implies that someone will be more likely to get addicted to anything. Instead, addictions are cultivated by a variety of other factors:
- Genetic predisposition. It’s been proven that genetics play an important role in addiction. Studies that have involved twins and siblings have shown that they have similar dispositions to being addicted to the same substances. However, genetics are only one variable in the complex algorithm.
- Social status. The people that you grew up with and the friends you presently have play a larger role in the development of an addiction than most expect. Being exposed to a substance by shady friends, and then being exposed to it again repeatedly after that, will go far in nurturing an addiction.
- Upbringing. If a genetic predisposition is nature, then the upbringing is nurture. Both nature and nurture play a powerful role in shaping someone’s likelihood of becoming addicted to a substance. The values and habits that your parents instilled in you will impact the decisions you make that might lead to addiction.
Each of these factors carry with them deeper levels of complexity as well. All of this illustrates that the concept of an addictive personality is inadequate for explaining how someone might be susceptible to an addiction.
Personality Traits that May Lead to Addiction
There’s no single trait that signifies someone will certainly be prone to an addiction. However, there are a few other signs that someone might be more willing to make life choices that lead to an addiction. The following traits have been found to be common in those who have formed addictions:
- You love excitement. You’re always looking for the next thing that’s going to make your heart race. That might mean speeding everywhere you drive, having one night stands, or recreationally using various substances.
- You’re impulsive. Those who are more likely to make short-term decisions are also more likely to develop an addiction. Impulsive decisions fail to consider the long-term effects they may have, which can often lead to experimentation with various drugs and substances.
- You just can’t quit things you know are bad for you. People who are prone to staying in bad relationships and terrible jobs typically have trouble quitting something, even if they know it’s bad for them. This trait can lead people to continue using a substance after negative consequences have already occurred.
Do you suspect that you might have a predisposition to forming an addiction? You will need to be careful with any addictive substances or activities and know when it’s time to ask for help.
- Marisa Cohen, Do You Have an Addictive Personality?, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/do-you-have-addictive-personality