Is there an addictive personality?

The answer is yes. And understanding those personality traits is important in helping someone develop the coping skills associated with that personality trait.

We know, for example, that sensation seeking, anxiety sensitivity, hopelessness and impulsiveness are all traits that predispose someone to substance use disorder.

And we know that often those who are most vulnerable to the disorder suffer from a broken reward system, which is more tied to sensation seekers than the other personality traits. Meaning that these are thrill seekers that need to fly down mountains at 65 miles per hour or jump out of airplanes. These traits don’t go away. This population is not often satiated with normal fun events. I know Charles, for example, couldn’t get enough fun. At the end of any event, he was left disappointed and wanting more.

Sensation seekers are usually the popular kids. Those who suffer hopelessness, the ones that most likely suffer from depression. Anxiety sensitivity, obviously those suffering from anxiety. And impulsiveness, a co-occurring trait associated with any number of disorders but most often with ADHD.

Funny thing is that these same personality traits are also associated with our most innovative entrepreneurs, our most talented musicians and actors. Unfortunately, these are the people we are losing in this epidemic. They are not throwaways but represent a segment of the population that plays a key role in our culture. They inspire us, push us outside our comfort zones, create amazing art, music and movies. They are the people that make life interesting.

So think how important it is to funnel these personality traits to more successful pursuits for our children. And to use the information we have to help chronic relapsers understand the genetic component of their personality that might be causing their issue with successfully staying in recovery. We can teach them how to manage these traits to navigate life more successfully.

And finally, our most vulnerable in the population, those who suffer mental illness, succumb to addiction in an effort to self medicate. Like my son Charles, who suffered from depression. When they are teens, we don’t know who suffers from mental illness as some are really experts at hiding it due to the stigma.

Given the normalized drug culture of numbing pain and the lack of exposure to any kind of coping strategies, these kids often reach out for a substance and for the first time in a long time, they feel really good. The drug then seduces them and before they know it, they are addicted.  The earlier someone starts with drugs and alcohol, the more likely they are to suffer an early death or a lifetime of hardship.

It’s time we applied this knowledge. It’s time we stop calling life skills training “soft skills” but refer to them instead as “essential skills.” They are after all the building blocks of resilience. And these skills are as important or more important than most of what we currently teach in schools.

  • From Adina Sylvestri, LCSW–I would also add effects of trauma and the biopsychosocial* conditions of human beings (young and old) as they live in relationship with others is not being addressed. Rather, we judge harshly, police them and send them to corrections which is not “correcting” a thing.
  • *The biopsychosocial model is a broad view that attributes disease outcome to the intricate, variable interaction of biological factors (genetic, biochemical, etc), psychological factors (mood, personality, behavior, etc.), and social factors (cultural, familial, socioeconomic, medical, etc.)

Addiction: The broken reward system

Author: Anne Moss Rogers

I am the owner of emotionally naked, a site that reached a quarter million people in its first 18 months. I am President of Beacon Tree Foundation, advocates for youth mental health as well as a writer and public speaker on the topics of suicide, addiction, mental illness, and grief. I lost my youngest son, Charles, 20, to suicide June 5, 2015. I was a marketing professional for years prior to losing my son and co-owned a digital marketing firm.

4 thoughts on “Is there an addictive personality?”

  1. HI Anne Moss. Thanks for this post. I would also add effects of trauma and the biopsychosocial conditions of human beings (young and old) as they live in relationship with others is not being address. Rather we judge harshly, police them and send them to corrections which is not correcting a thing.

    1. Thank you so much Adina! To the followers reading this, Adina is an LCSW with a specialty in the treatment of those suffering substance use disorder (addiction) as well as co-occuring mental illness.

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