The Difference Between An Addictive Personality And Addiction
More than anything, it is important to know that having an addictive personality or a family history of addiction does not automatically mean that you will turn into an addict yourself.
That said, having an addictive personality could be a precursor to addiction. If you know that a family member has struggled with substance abuse, it is a good idea to watch your own relationship with alcohol and drugs. Similarly, if you begin to see yourself abusing substances it is better to just quit using them altogether.
It is not easy to answer exactly what causes an addictive personality but if you find that you are prone to addiction, you can successfully equip yourself to avoid the consequences of addiction.
Experiencing Other Mental Health Disorders
Along with the genetic connection, another individual health trait that can correspond with a higher risk of addiction is the presence of pre-existing mental health disorders. People who struggle with various mental health conditions can be more likely to abuse and become dependent on substances. These conditions include but are not limited to:
- Depression, bipolar disorder, or other mood disorders
- Anxiety or panic disorder
For example, as explained by Brain Facts, multiple studies over the last decades have demonstrated a strong link between schizophrenia and addiction to nicotine. In fact, it has been shown that nicotine can even temporarily lessen some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. The use of cigarettes to manage these symptoms is a phenomenon known as self-medication, which is a common source of substance abuse that later becomes addiction.
Impact Of The Addictive Personality Concept
Critics of the term addictive personality suggest that the concept of an addictive personality is a harmful myth that contributes to mental health stigma.
The problem is that it takes a very complex, multifaceted issue and reduces it down to a simplistic explanation. Critics of the idea of the addictive personality also suggest that it:
- Leads people to underestimate their risk: Believing that there is an addictive personality type may cause people to believe that they are not at risk for developing an addiction. People mistakenly assume that because they don’t have “addictive traits,” that they aren’t at risk.
- Contributes to negative stereotypes about people with addictions: The term can also stigmatize people with addiction and can cause people to think that all people with addictions possess a certain set of negative traits.
- Reduces motivation to change: If people believe they have an addictive personality, it may play a role in reducing self-efficacy. People may assume that they are simply prone to addiction and that there is little they can do to prevent or overcome it.
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Addictions Compulsions And The Addictive Personality
There are vital differences between compulsions and addictions however, both can be influenced by the same underlying causes. For example, someone with an alcohol addiction may be trying to fill a void or temper anxiety. Someone with a compulsion may have underlying feelings of anxiety but may not have addictions or abuse substances.
The main differences between addictions and compulsions concern motivation, especially in regards to pleasure. Addictions often include and are motivated by pleasure while compulsions often lack pleasure. Someone who feeds their craving for an addictive substance is rewarded by dopamine, a chemical released once the brain is rewarded. Once this becomes a habit, he or she is now chasing a reward which can be extremely difficult to stop.
Dont: Shame Or Criticize
Human nature sometimes forces us to shift the blame because its easier to understand a problem if we know its source. But the cause of addictions isnt so black and white, so theres never really just one thing to blame. Most importantly, the person with the addiction is not at fault for the disease.
Avoid implying or outright stating that your loved one is to blame for their addiction. Shaming or criticizing a family member who is struggling with an Alcohol Addiction or an Opioid Addiction is often counterproductive to their Recovery. While tough love may have a small part in helping an alcoholic spouse, this is not the place for it.
Part of practicing compassion for your loved one involves understanding that shaming your loved one may do them more harm than good. Instead, talk with positivity and encouragement, offering the idea of a future of successful long-term Recovery. Provide verbal and physical encouragement rather than lectures or nagging.
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What Are Addictive Behaviors
Being able to identify addictive behaviors is an important part of being able to help a loved one who appears to have an addictive personality disorder. As mentioned above, many people often believe that addictive behaviors are limited to extreme drug abuse however, this is simply not true. Addictive behaviors are wide-ranging and incorporate a significant number of actions which are not always easily identified by family members as being problem behaviors.
The Role Of An Addictive Personality In Relationships
Dealing with the heavy topic of addiction becomes even more crucial when you take into consideration the effect that addiction can have on even the closest of relationships. These relationships can be:
- A boyfriend that has an addictive personality
- A husband with an addictive personality
- Any individual married to someone with an addictive personality
- A brother or sister with an addictive personality
- A child with an addictive personality
- Any family member with an addictive personality
Someone who has some of the personality traits associated with addiction will most likely experience some issues in their relationships especially with those closest to them.
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Dont: Expect Immediate Change
How do you help an alcoholic? One of the best ways is to be realistic in your expectations. Long-term Recovery is not a quick fix. Its an ongoing process for your loved one that takes time, effort and continued support from professionals and family alike. Some treatments may work for some time and then need to be changed.
If one treatment doesnt work, it doesnt mean all treatments will fail. It just means youll have to find the specific one that will work for your loved one.
Addictive Personality Treatment Options
Many different types of services are available to help people who have developed an addiction. Treatment programs can help people manage certain traits, such as impulsivity or neuroticism, that may be contributing to an addiction.
- Inpatient: Inpatient treatment options for addiction offer 24/7 support and are provided in a medical or residential setting. The length of time will vary depending on the persons needs and his or her addiction, but typical stays can range from 30 days to 90 days.
- Outpatient: Outpatient programs are less intensive and allow the person to live at home while receiving recovery services.
- 12-step programs: Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous , provide a safe and supportive environment consisting of others in recovery.
- Teen programs: Specialized programs for teens are based on the unique needs of the individual. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most adolescent addiction treatment takes place in an outpatient setting in order to keep them in the community. However, in more severe cases, teen inpatient treatment may be preferable.12 According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, providers should assess certain aspects of the adolescents life when determining a course of treatment, including: 12
- Level of intoxication and risk of withdrawal.
- Any other medical conditions.
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How To Know If You Have An Addictive Personality
Recognizing that you have an addictive personality can help you avoid alcohol abuse and other addictions.
Keep in mind, people with certain personality traits are not guaranteed to develop an addiction. Many biological and environmental factors play a role in someones risk of addiction.
However, even if you are unaware of your genetic risks and/or you have few environmental risks, you might still be concerned about your risk of addiction. If you are worried you could develop an addiction, there are things you can do to reduce your risk.
Educate yourself about addiction, learn coping skills that help you manage stress in your life, and spend time with positive, supportive people.
Many people with addiction understand how important it is to avoid addiction triggers. Even if you are not sure of your risk or you know you do not have an addiction but you are concerned, you can avoid things with a high likelihood of triggering negative coping skills.
Signs Of An Addictive Personality
Individuals with an addictive personality can be identified by several traits. Experiencing mental conditions like depression and anxiety can, but do not always, indicate addictive personalities. There are a number of better indicators of addictive personalities, including:
- Comfort eating/binge eating
- Never feeling satisfied/needing more of a particular feeling
- An inability to stop using harmful chemicals
- An inability to curtail other harmful activities
Being able to stop and control ones actions indicates healthy boundaries and a lower level of attachment. If you or someone you know hides their harmful behavior, that could signal a problem needing intervention.
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Do You Have An Addictive Personality Take This 20
Some cant say no to alcohol, others cant stop smoking pot. Some prefer the antiseptic high of a pill mass produced in a pharmaceutical clean room, while others crave the soiled rush of a powder purchased on the street and snorted in secret. Familiar to every race, class, occupation, and ethnicity, addiction is the unseen pull of an illicit urge, addiction is the wormhole to a forbidden self. The National Institutes of Health estimate nearly one in 10 Americans over the age of 12 can be classified as a substance abuser or substance dependent. A quick glance at your friends, family, and acquaintances would tell you most anyone can become addicted though some people seem to be more vulnerable than others. The simple question, Why? is not easy to answer, though.
Being Overly Cautious And Lonely
While this personality trait is a 180-degree turnaround from the previously mentioned trait, this doesnt take away from its role in addiction. In fact, some studies suggest that individuals who abstained from any and all substance experimentation during their youth and early adulthood face a higher risk of addiction later on. One argument is that there is less of an opportunity to learn how to regulate. However, there are a few different reasons that these individuals may have exercised such a level of caution.
First, some young people who flat out refuse to partake in any type of addictive substances do so out of the fear and anxiety of making any type of mistake. This high-stakes, Type A personality can lead to anxiety and compulsive behaviors later in life that can trigger substance abuse.
In the second instance, some youth/young adults arent given the opportunity to partake in these substances simply because of social alienation and arent included in the social situations where drugs and alcohol are offered. Loneliness is also a huge trigger to substance abuse.
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Treating Those With Addictive Personalities
Treatment in a research-based recovery center for an addiction to a drug or behavior typically takes a holistic approach. While it is critical for the treatment team to address the specific type of addiction, a main objective of treatment is to heal the addictive behavior itself. But how do treatment professionals achieve this goal? What goes on in recovery programs?
In broad strokes, a comprehensive recovery center provides the following services:
- A thorough intake process: helps the treatment team to create a tailored recovery plan
- A detoxification process: a supportive environment conducive to abstinence, or, in the case of certain drugs like opioids, provides safe substitution therapy
- Therapy: individual sessions and group sessions
- Family services: family therapy, social events, and family education
- Case management: supportive services that provide help with housing, job placement, childcare needs, and transportation to aftercare, such as 12-Step meetings
- Mutual aid meetings: peer support or 12-Step meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.
- Aftercare guidance: information on how to engage in effective aftercare after completion of the recovery program
- Motivational Interviewing
- Seeking Safety
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
You Have A Serious Love For Excitement
Addictive personalities are often very keen on living on the edge, and have a love for excitement, according to WebMD. This could include things like driving way faster than the speed limit, putting their life on the line doing extreme sports, and indulging in illegal substances, just to name a few. Why? All of these big risk give off a rush of dopamine in the brain that makes them feel pleasure. J. Wesley Boyd, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School told WebMD that once theyâre used to experiencing it, those with addictive personalities begin to crave that rush more and more.
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How Teens Develop Addictive Personalities
Children can show signs of addictive behavior as early as three years of age. This may surprise you, but its not all that surprising when we look at teenagers and see how addictive they can be with smartphones, tablets, and even drugs and alcohol these days. In one study, researchers believe addictive personalities are caused by two factors: a genetic disposition and under-controlled children. Children who lack emotional and behavior control are more likely to exhibit addictive personalities later in life.
When considering genetic disposition, research has shown consistently that children whose parents abuse alcohol and drugs are more likely to try and become addicted themselves. This could be both from having a biological propensity AND learning the behavior from their parents. Does this mean children whose parents are addicts are destined to become addicts themselves without any hope of escaping it? No, not necessarily.
How To Set And Reinforce Healthy Boundaries
Talk to your loved one about boundaries at a time when youre both calm, not in the heat of an argument. Decide what behavior you will and will not tolerate from the person and make those expectations clear. For example, you may tell your loved one, If you cant talk to me without screaming abuse at me, I will walk out.
- Calmly reassure the person with BPD when setting limits. Say something like, I love you and I want our relationship to work, but I cant handle the stress caused by your behavior. I need you to make this change for me.
- Make sure everyone in the family agrees on the boundariesand how to enforce the consequences if theyre ignored.
- Think of setting boundaries as a process rather than a single event. Instead of hitting your loved one with a long list of boundaries all at once, introduce them gradually, one or two at a time.
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The Addictive Personality Isn’t What You Think It Is
In her new book Maia Szalavitz recalls her behavior as a child in school and at home. Anxious, bright and slightly obsessive, she didn’t seem to fit the stereotype of the addictive personality. Nevertheless, in college she would become addicted to heroin and cocaine, forcing her to reexamine her assumptions about addiction and its treatment. The following is an excerpt from Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction,
Although addiction was originally framed by both Alcoholics Anonymous and psychiatry as a form of antisocial personality or character disorder, research did not confirm this idea. Despite decades of attempts, no single addictive personality common to everyone with addictions has ever been found. If you have come to believe that you yourself or an addicted loved one, by nature of having addiction, has a defective or selfish personality, you have been misled. As George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told me, What were finding is that the addictive personality, if you will, is multifaceted, says Koob. It doesnt really exist as an entity of its own.
It seems that the same regions that gave me my intense curiosity, obsessive focus, and ability to learn and memorize quickly also made me vulnerable to discovering potential bad habits and then rapidly getting locked into them.
The Big Five Personality Traits And Addiction
The Big Five Personality Traits, also known as the OCEAN model, is a theory that identifies five major factors of the human personality neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, extroversion and conscientiousness. Each of these categories covers a subset of human behaviours and attributes. Many studies have analysed the links between the big five characteristics and addiction.
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How To Support Treatment
If your loved one wont acknowledge that they have a problem with BPD, you may want to consider couples therapy. Here, the focus is on the relationship and promoting better communication, rather than on your loved ones disorder. Your partner may more readily agree to this and eventually consider pursuing BPD therapy in the future.
Encourage your loved one to explore healthy ways of handling stress and emotions by practicing mindfulness and employing relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. Sensory-based stimulation can also help them to relieve stress in the moment. Again, you can participate in any of these therapies with your loved one, which can strengthen your bond and may encourage them to pursue other avenues of treatment as well.
By developing an ability to tolerate distress, your loved one can learn how to press pause when the urge to act out or behave impulsively strikes. HelpGuides free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit offers a step-by-step, self-guided program to teach your loved one how to ride the wild horse of overwhelming feelings while staying calm and focused.
Setting goals for BPD recovery: Go slowly
When supporting your loved ones recovery, its important to be patient and set realistic goals. Change can and does happen but, as with reversing any kind of behavior pattern, it takes time.