Author: Veronica Lichtenstein, LMHC
Aug 6, 2019
Do you have an addictive personality?
Males with addictive personalities tend to be males who are risk-takers, sometimes called “adrenaline junkies.” Females with addictive personalities statistically suffer more from depression or anxiety and have difficulty with social relationships.
People who develop addictions usually have a few traits in common:
Disconnection or apathy to things
Difficulty in emotional regulation
Risk-takers/impulsive or rigidity/OCD
Related to others who have developed addiction
Already have other mental health disorder(s)
Here’s what characterizes those traits:
Disconnection or apathy to everything: Feelings of indifference or flat emotions can be a sign of depression. Individuals experiencing this may choose mal-adaptive methods to cope, like self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, eating obsessions, sleeping too much, isolating themselves from friends and family. Events that used to be pleasurable and fun no longer have any meaning.
Emotional Dysregulation: This mental health term signifies a poorly modulated emotional response. That means a person’s emotions don’t match his environment. “Rage-aholics” show an over-reactive emotive response which is NOT typical of the accepted range of responses. For instance, it’s not typical to take a baseball bat and damage someone else’s car because you think they cut you off in traffic. It seems like road rage is increasing, it’s still not considered a typical response.Naturally, these individuals tend to seek ways to control this.
Impulsive vs Compulsive: Individuals who have addictive personalities tend to be more impulsive than others, and may self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to curb their impulsive feelings, making them vulnerable to addiction. More risk-taking males tend to develop addictive traits than non-risk-taking males.Another way of dealing with intense emotional feelings is by developing behaviors that lessons the intensity of these feelings. If the behavior works to lessen their feelings, it gets repeated. When a person must complete an act (rather than choosing to complete an act) to lesson intense emotions, that need becomes a compulsion.
As the individuals striving to control their impulsivity, they may become rigid or ritualistic – they have to complete a behavior in a certain way or a certain number of times before the anxiety goes away. This is a snapshot of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is closely related to an addictive personality.
Genetics or Other Biological Factors: It is powerful to know the medical history of your family of origin. A personal or family history of addiction makes you vulnerable to it in the future, especially if you have other indicators
It should be noted that many social, psychological, and environmental factors also have a powerful influence on substance abuse/addiction.
Co-Morbidity: Addictive personalities tend to come out in individuals who also have other mental health disorders, often as a person’s attempt to alleviate feelings of depression or anxiety. Initially this is a good idea, but because of tolerance (needing more and more of the substance to achieve the same effect) and because the individual is only treating his symptoms and doing nothing to resolve the actual problem that started him on the road to addiction in the first place, substance abuse is a paper tiger.
An addictive personality crosses a couple of lines at some point, where the person no chooses to self-medicate (or carry out OCD rituals); instead they need to self-medicate to feel normal.
The other line is more obvious to the people around them: The addict begins to choose the substance over personal relationships and responsibilities. The addict’s life is focused on ensuring they have their substance on hand. The addict forgoes food, family, sleep and sex, in exchange for drugs or alcohol. Even the detrimental consequences of his behavior don’t discourage him: Hangovers, withdrawal symptoms, family difficulties, work issues, all of these are tolerated or accepted as long as the individual can engage in his addictive behavior.
Because of the addict’s dependence on drugs to make every situation tolerable, drug or alcohol use needs to be replaced with another behavior or the addict will revert to his addictive ways. This is why so much time in rehab is spent developing new, effective coping skills.