Personality Traits of Addiction

Interesting and right on

addiction chainsPeople talk about having an “addictive personality,” but are there really certain personality traits of addiction? Addictive personality isn’t a real psychological diagnosis, but some personality traits do seem to be more common in people with addictions.

Seeing the Signs

Doctors and psychologists can sometimes tell, just from meeting a patient, that the person has an addiction. It’s sort of a “sixth sense” that comes from long experience. What exactly are the doctors looking for? They may not be able to say just what sets off that sixth sense, but it’s based on certain behaviors and attitudes that people with addiction tend to have.

For example, people with addictions may:

Suffer from anxiety and depression
Appear anxious
Seem awkward, impatient, arrogant or angry
Ask for narcotic medications without a valid reason

Traits and Behaviors

Spending time with an addict may help you recognize certain traits and behaviors that tend to accompany addiction, such as the following.

Making impulsive choices
Constantly seeking excitement and new sensations
Feeling alienated from mainstream society
Valuing deviant or nonconformist behavior
Lacking patience such as having trouble waiting for delayed gratification

Personality Disorders and Addiction

Not every addict has a personality disorder, and not every person with a personality disorder has an addiction. However, some personality disorders do seem to have a connection to addiction.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

These people seem to have no regard for either social norms or other people’s feelings. Typical traits include:

Constantly breaking the law
Acting deceitful, such as lying, using false names or trying to con other people
Failing to plan ahead
Acting irritable or aggressive, and getting into physical fights
Behaving recklessly or putting other people in danger
Failing to hold a job, pay bills or keep up with other responsibilities
Lacking remorse for wrong-doing, including for hurting others

Borderline Personality Disorder

People with this disorder have trouble maintaining healthy relationships. Typical traits include:

Fear of abandonment
A pattern of unstable relationships
A tendency to see people as either wonderful or awful
Poor self-image
Suicidal or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
Intense moods which change fairly rapidly
Inappropriate or uncontrollable anger

Personality Traits of Addiction in Teens

Researchers hoping to prevent addiction have studied teenagers to see if certain personality traits predict addiction. Studies suggest a higher risk of drug addiction or teen drinking among teens who:

Are popular socially, but do poorly in school
Have low self-esteem
Seem to lack inhibitions
Refuse to accept authority
Lie, cheat, steal or destroy others’ property
Act aggressively or violently toward people or animals

General Behaviors in Addiction

For a person who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, the substance becomes more important than almost anything else. Addicts may lie about their whereabouts or who they’re with so that they can drink or use drugs without being discovered. They may spend their savings or money that belongs to a friend, spouse or child to get more alcohol or drugs. People with addictions often become defensive or angry if the addiction is addressed. They may also feel guilty and go through periods of remorse during which they decide to get help, only to relapse later.

A Word of Caution Regarding Addictive Personality Traits

One reason why addictions tend to go undiagnosed is that every addict is different. While some people with addictions behave recklessly, seem depressed or make poor decisions, others are able to carry on their lives amazingly well. Looking for personality traits of addiction can help you decide if friends or loved ones have a problem, but it won’t tell you for sure whether they’re an addict.

Also, just because a person has some of the personality traits of addiction doesn’t mean they are, or will become, an addict. Doctors do consider certain traits to be warning signs, but that’s all they are. No personality trait guarantees addiction.

April 29, 2015


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