Substance use disorder is a disease rooted in a combination of addiction and genetic and environmental factors. A commonly circulated idea in the area of substance abuse is the concept of an addictive personality, or a set of traits and characteristics that may make one more prone to developing a substance dependence of some kind. The director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has said that institute research has found that the so-called “addictive personality” is multifaceted and cannot be defined as one single, neat entity.
So if the “addictive personality” essentially does not exist, why is the phrase used at all? That’s because some people— due to situations, avoidable and unavoidable, and behaviors, intentional and unconscious— are at higher risk than others for developing such a dependence. It is also important to note that anyone can develop a substance use disorder; the presence or absence of certain traits and circumstances does not guarantee that someone will or will not develop a dependence on alcohol and/or drugs.
Familial relation to someone with an addiction
One study found that children of alcohol- or drug-addicted parents are eight times more likely than children of non-addicts to develop an addiction. This could be attributed to the fact that children whose parents have a substance dependence are more likely to have behavioral problems, which increases the likelihood of exposure to, and trying, alcohol and/or drugs.
In addition, children may be genetically predisposed to develop an addictive personality if one or both of their parents are addicted.
Other mental health disorders
Substance use and misuse is often linked to other disorders such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, and PTSD. Experiencing mental distress, especially from a young age, and not knowing how to cope with associated emotions and instability can lead to self-medication with a substance(s).
Impulsive, risk-taking behavior
Individuals with low impulse control who enjoy adventure and taking risk may be more prone to developing an alcohol or drug dependence. One study by a researcher at Copenhagen University found that people with high levels of dopamine in the brain may have lower sensitivity to the “pleasure hormone” and seek more intense experiences to feel pleasure.
Someone who errs on the adventurous side may be more likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol, putting them at initial risk, and more likely to continue to use upon finding heightened pleasure from consumption of alcohol or drug use. Because addiction is based on the repetition of activities/behaviors, a substance dependence may develop quickly.
Additionally, someone who disregards safety and consequences by continually exercising poor judgment— someone with little to no impulse control— may be at greater risk for developing a substance dependence.
Poor coping mechanisms
Often, substance use disorders stem from, and may be perpetuated by, poor coping mechanisms. Being unable to manage stress or pain in healthy ways and/or talk about one’s feelings can lead someone to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. This self-medication can quickly become obsession, and a dependence is created.
An apathetic approach to one’s problems can also encourage unhealthy coping mechanisms and substance abuse.
Continued feelings of isolation and loneliness could mean that you are at higher risk for developing an addiction. Distancing yourself from others and avoiding developing meaningful relationships can keep you from building a positive support system in your life, and you may turn to self-medication with a substance.
If you or a loved one possesses one or more of these traits and believe help may be needed to overcome a substance use disorder, please contact us today. Our admissions team is available 24/7 at (877)-RECOVERY to answer any questions you may have.