Addiction stems from a complicated blend of psychological, social and physiological factors. But is there a recipe for addiction? Are some of us doomed to predispositions toward addiction? While some experts say that addiction is far more complex than a list of personality traits, most agree that there are commonalities worth mentioning.
Taken together, these commonalities are sometimes referred to as an addictive personality. Though not universally accepted by either physicians or mental health professionals, the term is understood as describing the personality which demonstrates one or more of the traits commonly linked to addiction.
- Antisocial – This describes those who place a high value on non-conformity to societal norms or those who deliberately alienate themselves from others socially. Since humans are designed with a need to connect with others, the antisocial personality may choose to soothe the anxiety caused by isolation through alcohol or drugs. This person may feel the need to use substances in order to be relaxed when social demands are placed on him/her.
- A low tolerance for stress – At some point everyone faces difficulties and situations which are emotionally taxing. But not everyone has the same degree of coping skill or facility in managing problem emotions. The personality with a low distress tolerance may be more prone to use addiction in place of proper coping behaviors.
- Compulsive behaviors – The compulsive personality tends to view life in terms of black and white with no grey area in between. The personality or event is either a smashing success or an abject failure. If they do not feel completely in control, they feel entirely victimized. This extreme approach to life can lead to compulsive habits which the person feels totally powerless to halt.
- Substitutionary vices – This describes what happens when the person is prevented from engaging in their addictive behavior. In that case, the person simply substitutes a new habit in place of the old one. The former alcoholic turns to chain smoking and the chain smoker becomes a compulsive gum chewer. Sometimes multiple vices spring up when the former addiction is denied.
- Insecurity – People gain a feeling of identity and security through forming interpersonal relationships. The person with no such relationships may turn to addictive behaviors in an effort to cover up these disappointments or to silence their subconscious fear of failing.
- Depression – Similar to those with a low tolerance for distress, the depressed person struggles to manage painful emotions. He/she may seek out a way to create positive feelings through addiction rather than face the reality of day-to-day challenges.
The way certain personality traits contribute to the likelihood of developing addiction is not fully understood, but neither is it disputable. Nevertheless, personality is not deterministic when it comes to addiction. Persons with such personality traits can recognize their own tendencies and intention to make better choices.