The concept of an addictive personality is contentious especially in the evidence-based practice of addiction recovery.
- People struggling with addictions seldom have universally identifiable character traits. Each case is different.
- What is relatively common is an inability to find grounding, comfort or satisfaction in day to day activities, relationships, work is a strong commonality in people struggling with addictions.
- Research demonstrates that people from content living environments, seldom fall into cycles of addiction.
- Very little evidence supports biological factors of addiction causes, while innumerate ACE (adverse childhood experiences) and similar studies into complex trauma point to social factors as being likely culprits.
With so much evidence pointing to these social factors. It is hard to connect addiction disorders with individual personalities in that addiction in itself is more often than not a symptom of a disordered social environment in either the past or present.
Having an “addictive personality” implies that an individual who has a certain set of personality traits is more likely to use substances or exhibit behaviours in a manner that is destructive to their wellbeing or the wellbeing of those around them.
As with everything in life, there is a blurred line between what is socially acceptable and what is deemed enjoyable behaviour. The same thing applies to all drugs, alcohol, prescription medications or even process disorders like food, intimacy (sex/love addiction) and gambling.
Most people are mindful of their decisions and the consequences of excess.
However, there is an undeniable correlation between addiction and trauma.
People often self-medicate if they have experienced loss, grief, financial worry or relationship problems. This trauma can also stem from many unresolved childhood events that are seemingly “forgotten” but still churning around in the subconscious and re-inventing themselves into adulthood.
For example, children bought up in a home with a parent with an alcohol use disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders often resort to the same behaviour as their coping mechanism. This conditioning that is learned behaviour mirrored from their primary caregiver and has little to do with personality and more to do with modelled behaviour carried into adulthood.
Building emotional resilience in many cases was not an option for a person that suffered childhood neglect, abandonment or abuse etc. As a child, adapted to certain behaviours out of survival or acceptance yet the adult consequence is the psychological inability to self-soothe under stress, or not even under stress but having a feeling that something is missing when they are NOT under stress.
Thus it makes perfect sense to choose substances as a means to soothe if that option is all that is available.
Addiction is often a very lonely path and people can often become very isolated in the process. In isolation in the company of mind-altering substances, creates many distorted perceptions and perspectives can become the coping behaviours that we can work on through talk therapy. Overtime these distortions are mistaken as personality traits yet they are formed, incubated and fueled by the addiction process and the excess consumption of mind-altering chemicals.
Rather than working on personal relationships, people with substance use issue begin to form other dysfunctional relationships with substances, as they see the substance as being a far safer option than having to contend with the minefield of unreliable interpersonal relationships and human behaviours.
This is not an in itself a personality flaw, so much as a trait of being a human being. We all avoid things that hurt us and choose things that soothe us (even if temporary). In the mind, many formats of social anxiety play into substance use issues as the substance entrenches as a learned behaviour or a safe and reliable target to not directly address what is really causing the problem.
The subconscious mind does not connect the addiction based behaviour with destructive consequences, it only sees the substances as a “relationship” refuge that works.
Once stuck in a cycle, tolerance builds and ultimately dependant on a substance or behaviours to provide both reliefs from negative emotions and in many cases simply for enjoyment.
Bottom line is that there is NO SUCH THING AS AN ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY.
Many factors can contribute to why you or someone you love has started using a substance or following a behaviour that is extremely abnormal. Invariably the missing component to a persons “personality” is, in fact, a distortion in their psyche that they have been carrying since childhood and has little to do with present-day situations. Adverse childhood experiences are intrinsically linked to personality issues in later life. The good news is that they are usually treatable in adult life.
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Seeking Help With Addictions
If you feel you are heading down a road with substances that you no longer want to be on, the quicker you reach out for professional counsellor help the better. Professional counselling from a counsellor that truly understands addiction-related issues, will aid your recovery, help establish boundaries and teach you better coping mechanisms. Being aware of your emotional state and even practising meditation in recovery will help you better understand what drives the need to use substances in excess. Learn more about unbiased patient-centric assessments and the process for valid treatment and admissions In South Africa.