Answer these four questions to understand yourself and whether you are prone to addiction.
Spoiler alert: Scientists agree that an addictive personality is about as real as Superman. You can read more about the myth of the addictive personality by clicking here.
What the research points out is that personality has an influence on whether a drink is just a drink, or whether it becomes a lifestyle. While personality is part of it, at least four other factors contribute to whether you will struggle with addiction:
a.Social and environment – How do you use substances when you socialize? How easy is it to get your hands on alcohol or other substances? And how easy is it for you to gamble, compulsively shop or obsessively overeat?
If you have easy access to alcohol, substances or other addictive processes it will be easier to form an addiction habit. On the other hand, if you have to go out of your way to get alcohol or drugs, that will help to insulate you against an addiction. Addiction happens not only because of what you drink or inject. Gambling is a recognized addiction but it is strongly believed that compulsive use of the internet, shopping or pornography may be different expressions of addiction. These are called process addictions.
b.Personality and family background – Family is not the cause of an addiction or mental illness, but how you experience family relationships and attachments can make you more susceptible.
c.Emotional experience and expression – How do you cope with stress and emotional turmoil? If you tend to experience emotions as extremes, you may be more prone to an addiction. Lacking healthy ways to cope can also increase your vulnerability. For more about coping skills, see the last section of this article and you can also follow this link by the Mental Health Wellness site.
d.Developmental learning gaps – Gaps in your emotional development can make you more prone to an addiction or mental illness. Addiction can be a form of compensating for an underdeveloped part of your personality or a deficit in your social skills.
Four questions that will help you understand whether you are prone to addiction
Remember that answering yes to several or even all of the questions below does not mean that you are an ‘addict.’ You may have the tendency towards addiction, but you can insulate yourself through a healthy lifestyle and productive choices. For more on this, see the last section of this article.
Do you make decisions impulsively?
Does the idea of delaying gratification drive you crazy? If you have to have it, do it or see it NOW, then you are impulsive.
Are you a thrill seeker, or sensation-seeker?
This may be the desire for an adrenaline rush from activities like parachuting, snow boarding or driving fast. Or it may be the rush from eating a lot of your favorite foods or needing to feel emotions in a overwhelming manner in order for them to register. Sensation seeking is the tendency to need a large amount of something to feel satisfied: extensive gaming, repetitive bingeing on junk food, beer, or TV. Go hard or go home may be your motto.
Do you have a sensitivity to anxiety?
Feelings of anxiety can be a huge trigger. You notice and react to stress and anxiety more easily than most people. Your anxiety may come from unhealthy thinking patterns such as rumination about mistakes that you have made, a focus on your weaknesses rather than strengths, anticipation of future situations that may never occur, or mind reading (a preoccupation with what other people may be thinking).
Do you have a deep sense of hopelessness?
You may not feel hopeless every day, but you have extended periods of hopelessness, sadness or gloom for more than two weeks at a time. Everyone feels sad, but most times the mood passes. If you have dark moods that just won’t leave you, you may be more susceptible.
What can you do if you are concerned about yourself or about a family member?
1.Find out more. For a depression test by Dr. Steven M. Melemis that will give you an idea of whether or not you may be depressed, click here. If you are concerned about sadness, dark thoughts that won’t go away, or suicidal thoughts then the first step is to see your doctor. Reading articles like this one is an excellent addition to a health care plan that includes discussing your moods, your well being and your health with your doctor.
2.Social and environment – If you find it difficult to avoid drinking alcohol, then don’t have it at home. If you eat all of the junk food in the house, then make sure your cupboards are clean and stocked with healthy foods. Set up your environment to support better habits. James Clear has an excellent post about how to use environment rather than motivation alone to support healthy habits.
3.Personality and family background – You cannot change your past, but you can work to improve your current relationships. You can spend time with people who value you and what you have to say. When you spend time with people who are healthy for you, you will feel more satisfaction with your connections. Establishing healthy boundaries with your family and current relationships is a key to changing how you think about yourself and experience your relationships. For more on boundaries, see this article on How to Change Your Relationships and Your Recovery with Just 20 Words.
4.Emotional experience and expression – Coping with stress and other forms of emotional turmoil will insulate you from negative habits. Developing healthy habits of coping will need to begin small. You may want to take one new habit on at a time and then break the first step down into tiny steps.
If you want to develop a new habit of meditation, don’t sign up for a class. Just start now. Determine to close your eyes and breath deeply at least three times a day. You may want to link this new habit with established routines like your breaks at work or just after your breakfast, your lunch and your afternoon coffee ritual. This may sound silly and simple, but that is how you begin a new habit: simple. Set a timer on your phone to remind you three times each day to stop, close your eyes and just breathe deeply. Once you have this habit in place, slowly stretch the time to five-ten minutes, three times a day. It is not important how long you meditate for , consistency is the key. You may add to your meditation by reflecting on an inspirational quote or get outside and pay attention to nature. Then familiarize yourself with meditation practices by using a site like this one. By now, you have a regular habit and you may want to experiment with meditation practices from other people, coaches or draw on meditation apps or CD’s.
You may want to begin an exercise program to improve your health and your mental health. Breaking it into simple steps like the example that just we worked through is the path to changing yourself. I suggest reading this article by James Clear on The Habit Loop to learn more about setting up simple steps to build new habits.
5.Developmental learning gaps – As I wrote earlier, addiction can be a form of compensating for an underdeveloped part of your personality or social skills. This may be where you draw on a good coach, a mentor or a counselor. Rather than getting frustrated that you feel triggered, you make the same mistakes or that you can’t seem to get past obstacles in your life, get used to asking yourself “what can I learn from this?” I strongly suggest the book, Mindset by Carol Dweck. For a brief guide on the concept of a growth mindset, click here. Dweck’s work is much deeper and you will not go wrong in spending 20 bucks to buy her book.
There you have it: you don’t have an addictive personality. But remember that no matter what kind of personality that you have, you may be prone to an addiction. You can take steps to insulate yourself against the harmful effects of an addiction. If you enjoyed this article, you will want to check out some of my other writing:
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