“I won’t get addicted, I don’t have an addictive personality” and “I can’t help it, I have an addictive personality” are statements that many people have heard at some point in their lifetime. While this can be about innocent things like sweets, caffeine, or TV shows, when you introduce drug addiction to the list, it becomes an entirely different conversation.
Addiction is a complex disorder whose cause cannot be isolated to just a personality trait. While it would make diagnosing addiction and treating it much easier, there is no single connection that has been identified to cause addiction (though some genes are believed to be linked to different forms of addiction developing). There are families where every member except one has an addiction, while others are addiction-free except for a single member. To put it simply, anyone can develop an addiction at any time.
What is well known is that addiction is profoundly affected by your environment. There are a variety of environmental factors that play a significant role in whether or not you become addicted to something, such as a stressful environment or unhealthy relationships. These can lead to behaviors that put you at a higher risk of abusing drugs to cope, eventually leading to an addiction. However, not all addictions are the same, and a misunderstanding of what addiction is can help explain the addictive personality phenomenon and why more people don’t seek addiction treatment before it is too late.
Damaging Effects of Addiction Stereotypes
One paper published argues that, at any given time, it is plausible that approximately 47% of the adult US population is showing signs of an addiction disorder. That means that nearly 1 in 2 adults in the US have some maladaptive behaviors associated with an addiction disorder. That number is in stark contrast to the documented 11% of adult males who are reported drug abusers. So how can 47% of the population be considered addicted to something and yet, simultaneously, only 11% (approximately 22% when including females) of the population be addicted to drugs?
The problem comes down to damaging stereotypes associated with addiction. When people hear the word “addict,” images of criminals and degenerates come to mind. However, this is not the case for the vast majority of people suffering from addiction disorders. After all, are 47% of people on the streets, committing crimes, or fulfilling other stereotypes associated with addiction at any given time? Of course not!
The behaviors of an “out-of-control” addiction versus a “high-functioning” addiction are very different. The very damaging, but sometimes accurate, picture of people putting their lives and family at risk to satisfy a craving is real, but it’s not the only picture of a person suffering from an addiction disorder. While that may be the stereotype, the fact is 47% of the US population is NOT putting their lives and family at risk to satisfy a craving – so what is an accurate picture? Research tells us that there is no precise picture; that anyone, at any time, can show addictive tendencies or behaviors. There is no one personality or one trait that is the cause for someone’s addiction, or the severity of the addiction.
What Is An Addiction Disorder?
If you are no longer thinking about the damaging image of the stereotypical drug addict, then you open yourself up to being more reflective about what an addiction disorder is and how it presents in different people. The fact is that anyone can become addicted to something. Things like family history and exposure to the substance can make addiction more likely, but it is a combination of many invisible stressors that combine to make an addiction disorder present itself in damaging ways to the user.
There is a difference between habitual and addictive behaviors. Often when someone is describing their “addiction” to television or drinking wine with dinner, they are commenting on their habit of watching TV every day or drinking wine with every dinner. The line between addiction and habit can get blurry, but frequency does not determine addiction. People spending excessive time working or on their hobbies would not be considered an addiction to most despite being more frequent than binge drinking on weekends, which can be seen as a problem or addiction. As a rule of thumb, if stopping the behavior causes physical or emotional issues to develop, or it begins to harm your life, it may be an addiction.
Addiction Treatment for All Personalities
Whether or not an addictive personality is real, we know one thing for sure: addiction is very real. If you find yourself struggling to kick an unhealthy habit or addiction, consider seeking addiction treatment before it gets out of control.
At Ocean Hills Recovery, we’re well versed in identifying unhealthy behaviors and helping you put an end to it. We understand that addiction is not always in your control, but getting help is. Our holistic approach to mental health treatment ensures all aspects of your addiction – physical, mental, and spiritual health – are addressed for comprehensive rehabilitation.
Take your personality into your own hands and get help today. Call today to get started with an addiction specialist.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.