The Addictive Personality - Drug Addiction

Is there such a thing as an ‘addictive personality?’ It is a commonly used expression for a personality type who has a pre-disposition towards addictive substances. This manifests itself in the choices they make, their behaviour and the consequences of their actions.

Is this not just a case of taking responsibility for our actions?

That’s an interesting question and one that is still open to debate. There are arguments about the notion of personal responsibility, free will and being accountable for our actions. We, as adults, are surely capable of deciding whether something is likely to be beneficial or harmful.

It can be argued that no-one forces you to smoke a cannabis joint or take ecstasy; drink more than is good for you or indulge your caffeine cravings, first thing in the morning.

So why do some people persist in doing so? The answer to that may be that someone has a type of personality or aspects of their character which lead them into this form of behaviour. Their brain may contain certain receptors which make them vulnerable to a particular substance, e.g. alcohol.

Human nature is complex and difficult to understand. The motivations or triggers as to why someone chooses to do something which is essentially, self-destructive are hard to fathom. The reasons for how and why we commit certain actions are too numerous to mention.

Risk-averse or a risk-taker?

Consider the following:

Why does one person engage in dangerous, ‘high adrenalin’ sports whereas another prefers to sit at home and read a book?

Why does someone enjoy gambling with their money whereas another will be financially prudent?

Why do some people enjoy drinking to excess whereas others are happy with the odd glass of wine or are teetotal?

We know that some people are ‘risk-takers’  whereas others are ‘risk-averse’. These are the type of people who enjoy a challenge; who want instant gratification and to have new and unusual experiences. The excitement and danger of trying something new and forbidden only adds to the experience.

Conversely there are people who are cautious by nature. They prefer to play it safe and weigh up the pros and cons beforehand of any decision they make or action they take.

Your lifestyle, environment and personality can all be contributing factors to whether you will develop an addiction or not. A highly stressful lifestyle may be the trigger for dependency as may a serious life crisis such as bereavement or redundancy. A violent and/or poverty stricken environment can also be a contributing factor as addiction may be seen as a form of escapism.

Personality types which are vulnerable to addiction

Your personality can be the trigger for an addiction: there are other factors in this equation but reports have been carried out which show that some people appear to be vulnerable to addiction.

These include:

  • Immature personality
  • Anti-social personality
  • Passive-aggressive personality
  • Anxious or stressed personality
  • Self-penalising personality

Immature personality

Someone who is immature or indulges in childish behaviour is likely to act in an impulsive manner without any thought for the consequences. In this sense they are similar to a child in that their instant needs and wants have to met, and met straightaway. Instant gratification is what it is about.

They enjoy showing off and boasting about what they have done. Being the centre of attention is important as is losing control and going ‘over the top’. 

In regard to drug addiction: this means being the one person in a group who will try drugs, alcohol or tobacco; the type of person who enjoys the instant ‘high’ and the feelings of exhilaration from their addiction. They don’t stop to consider that their actions are harmful to them and others, or that it may lead to a long term addiction.

Living for today is more important than thinking about tomorrow.

Anti-social personality

Someone with an anti-social personality is usually in need of ‘anger management’ classes or help with controlling their temper. They are prone to outbursts and/or violence as a means of venting their frustrations.

Alcohol and drugs are turned to as a way of dealing with their emotions.

Passive-aggressive personality

This term describes someone who appears to be calm and laid back on the surface but is angry beneath this peaceful exterior. They often find it difficult to manage their anger.

Drugs, tobacco or alcohol are all means of coping with their anger.

Anxious or stressed personality

Someone who is anxious or stressed lives in a constant state of fear or dread. They feel constantly on edge and find it difficult to relax. They can have a gloomy outlook on life and feel that nothing will go right for them.

A stressed individual will react badly to pressure and will look at ways of coping with this pressure. However this may be harmful methods such as alcohol or drugs. This will relieve their stress albeit temporarily but the stress returns once the effects have worn off. This leads to an ever increasing dependence on these substances and addiction.

The ‘Type A’ personality is particularly prone to stress and possibly addiction. This type of personality is characterised as competitive, ego-driven, ambitious and impatient. In other words, perfect candidates for stress and anxiety.

This type of person may feel in control of their actions but can be prone to self-destructive behaviour as a means of dealing with their stress.

Self-penalising personality

This refers to someone who appears to have a peaceful exterior but is equally adept at concealing their anger. They are very hard on themselves and self-critical of their every move or action.

They resort to addictive substances as a way of dealing with their sense of perceived imperfection.

Individual personality traits

These are personality types but what about personality traits? Traits are individual patterns of behaviour, emotion and thoughts which form part of a personality.

There are people who display certain traits which are symptomatic of addiction. These include: an unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions or to face up to their addiction; compulsive or impulsive behaviour; a tendency to blame others rather than taking ownership and the use of substances such as alcohol or drugs to cope with stress.

Does gender play a part?

Research has shown that drug and alcohol addiction is more prevalent in men, especially single men, than women.

However, the gender gap appears to be closing.

Studies have shown that women are more likely to become addicted to painkillers and tranquillisers whereas men tend to misuse cannabis, alcohol and other drugs.


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