Addictive Personality Traits
Addictive Personality Traits
Addictive Personality Traits
Male Risk Factors
Risk factor: Impulsivity, Boldness, and Desire for New Experience
A study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that people who struggled with addiction had two common personality traits: impulsivity and neuroticism. Men appear to especially struggle with impulsivity. Being impulsive means that a person acts quickly, often without thinking about the long-term effects. Being impulsive can make it hard for a person to control their own behavior, which can make them more likely to struggle with addiction.
Female Risk Factors
Risk factors: Sad, Inhibited, and Anxious
If men who are bold and impulsive struggle with addiction, the female character traits doctors associate with addiction are seemingly opposite. Women who report feeling sad, inhibited, or anxious are more likely to struggle with addiction, according to Scientific American.2 These are negative emotions that may lead women to “self-medicate,” or abuse substances as a way to try to escape or cope with their negative feelings. Unfortunately, when a person stops using these drugs, the emotions come back, and they’re often even stronger than before.
Mixing Risk Factors of Males and Females
While impulsivity and sadness or anxiousness may seem opposite, they each have a common trait: problems with self-regulation. Problems regulating emotions can, at times, result in abusing drugs or alcohol as a means to escape.
Mental Health Disorders and Addictive Personality
Anxiety occurs when a person has a heightened sense of fear or worry that is at a much higher level than most people would feel in the same situation. Those with anxiety may often try to self-medicate their feelings. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 43% of people who are in treatment for a substance use disorder for non-medical use of prescription pills have a diagnosis of depression and anxiety.(3)
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that causes a person to lose touch with reality and may experience hallucinations and psychosis where they see, hear, feel, or smell things that aren't there.
Doctors find those with antisocial personality disorder most commonly experience addiction, according to an article in the journal Nature.4 Some of the symptoms or characteristics a person with antisocial personality disorder may display include dishonesty, manipulative behavior, insensitivity, and sometimes criminal behavior.(4) An estimated 9% of people with antisocial personality disorder experience an alcohol use disorder, which is more than twice as much as the general population.(4)
Impulse Control IssuesAs discussed earlier, being impulsive is a common trait in those who experience addiction, particularly in men. Risk-taking is a related addictive personality trait that may make a person more willing to engage in drug and alcohol abuse without being afraid of the consequences.
Mood swings can be a common symptom of some psychological disorders, such as bipolar disorder. They cause a person to swing from the very highs of personality to feeling extremely low. A person who has frequent mood swings may turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to feed these mood swings and keep the personality high going or as a way to self-medicate.
Compulsive behavior includes some of the following character traits:
•Continuing to abuse drugs or alcohol, even when you’ve had a negative outcome or health consequences
•Inability to follow rules you set for yourself, such as limiting the number of drinks you take a day
•Not being able to stop using a particular substance or substances
•People who show compulsive behavior may also obsess over drugs or alcohol or have obsessive thoughts that they may try to escape through using these substances.
Substance Use Disorder and Addictive Personality
A research study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors found people who are addicted to the same substance usually have more addictive personality traits in common than people who struggle with addiction in general. The study found people addicted to alcohol were less likely to report addictive personality traits like being an extrovert, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Those addicted to alcohol were also more likely to be impulsive and neurotic.
Those who struggle with drug abuse often have lower conscientiousness levels than those who don’t, according to a study in the journal Addictive Behaviors.1 Conscientiousness means thinking about others and considering others in a person’s decisions. However, researchers haven’t been able to identify specific addictive personality groupings by drug of choice.
When a person uses drugs or alcohol, the substances cause the brain to release chemicals that change the way they think and feel. This effect can create a pleasurable high or in others, a sense of numbness to their problems. Each of these sensations can basically “feed” a person’s need for more of a substance in an attempt to feel that way again.
Alteration of Brain Networks Tied to Addiction
Which Regions Are Affected by Addiction?
Researchers have attempted to find out what parts of the brain affect addiction and basically keep a person addicted to drugs or alcohol coming back to their addiction. Some of the areas they’ve identified include the prefrontal cortex, a portion of the brain involved in planning, especially planning for the future
Located within the prefrontal cortex is the orbitofrontal cortex, which is an area that helps a person decide what their choices will mean in their future. Doctors have found a direct link between the orbitofrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens (NAC), which is the brain area associated with pleasure and reward.
These portions and others in the brain all work together to guide decisions and sometimes engage in the behaviors that result in or maintain addiction, including relapsing or constantly seeking out a drug to reward the brain’s pleasure circuits.
The Role of Dopamine
Dopamine is a chemical in the body that has many effects on it – one of these effects that doctors associate with addiction is a pleasurable high. There are a lot of misconceptions about dopamine, and the answer is that it’s not quite as simple as the concept that the brain becomes addicted to the flood of neurotransmitters.
Doctors do know that using certain drugs does cause an increase in dopamine in the brain. Examples include using cocaine or heroin. When a person experiences a high that’s super strong, their brain remembers how that high felt. This effect can cause a person to experience a sense of longing and desire to achieve this high again.
However, it’s important to remember that dopamine isn’t the problem. Using drugs or alcohol in the first place was the trigger that set off the events that resulted in higher dopamine levels. While higher levels of dopamine may be motivating to you to return to drug or alcohol use, you have to address the underlying cause first. Plus, there are lots of other activities and pursuits that can increase dopamine in the body. Examples may include eating a food you enjoy or creating art.
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