Addiction affects more and more people each year. Rising numbers across the nation have experts continually looking at all possibilities regarding the origin of addiction. With nearly 20 million Americans suffering from a substance use disorder, one common question we hear is: are personality types and addiction linked?
How Personality Types and Addiction Were Once Approached
For many years, researchers evaluating this question divided personality types into two distinct categories. These included Type A and Type B personalities.
Type A vs. Type B Personalities
Individuals who are Type A are more outgoing, ambitious, competitive, and potentially aggressive than Type B personalities. People with Type B personalities are more easygoing, creative, and generally relaxed.
The thinking around these two categories is that Type A personalities would be more likely to use substances to cope with stress. Type B personalities might be prone to addiction due to being more impulsive. Alcohol and drugs could be a creative outlet leading to addiction for Type B personalities seeking constant stimulus of some sort.
These days, researchers are more aware that multiple personality types exist beyond these two initial categories. It’s essential to look at them through a wide lens to find connections between personality types and addiction.
Is There Such a Thing as an Addictive Personality?
It’s easy to form an image of what someone prone to addiction might look like. Often this idea is based solely on preconceived notions of certain personality traits based on media depictions or personal experience. At times, people may fear they are destined to become addicted based on these assumptions and stereotypes.
There is certainly great value in understanding tendencies related to specific personality types. That said, leaning towards one category or another isn’t enough on its own to predict addictive qualities. Overall, a person’s environment, genetics, and even social groups are likely more accurate indicators of potential for addiction down the road.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one of the most popular and comprehensive personality test options on the market today. This test is used by individuals and corporations alike as a self-report questionnaire that reveals a person’s personality type, preferences, and strengths. Its accuracy and success have made it one of the most widely-used psychological resources across the planet.
The idea behind this test isn’t that specific results are better than others. Instead, those who take the test will fall into one or a combination of 16 different personality types. Each type can be further evaluated to pinpoint specific strengths, needs, and communication strategies, among other types.
Personality types determined by this test include:
- ISTJ-The Inspector
- ISTP-The Crafter
- ISFJ-The Protector
- ISFP-The Artist
- INFJ-The Advocate
- INFP-The Mediator
- INTJ-The Architect
- INTP-The Thinker
- ESTP-The Persuader
- ESTJ-The Director
- ESFP-The Performer
- ESFJ-The Caregiver
- ENFP-The Champion
- ENFJ-The Giver
- ENTP-The Debater
- ENTJ-The Commander
While these personality types are unique, some believe that certain types are more prone to addictive tendencies than others. For example, the ENTP-The Debater, ESTJ-The Director, ESTP-The Persuader are extraverted personalities often linked to addictive tendencies.1
Other Personality Types Potentially Prone to Addiction
Often, risk-taking personality types and addiction are noticeably linked. Those who lean towards adventurous endeavors may experience a higher risk of addiction than those naturally more cautious.
Risk-taking personalities are frequently viewed as impulsive. The desire to experiment with new experiences in life can sometimes bring someone to try substances.
A Reuters study in 2010 revealed that those with risk-taking personalities might also present with higher natural levels of dopamine in their brain. 2 This means that they have to indulge in more intense experiences to feel pleasure. Addiction is more likely to follow in the wake of this type of behavior that seeks more and more intensity.
In discussions about personality types and addiction, one side will often mention individuals who have obsessive or compulsive traits. An obsessive or compulsive personality is quite different from an impulsive personality. Obsessions and compulsions may lead to an addiction based solely on the habit of using a substance.
What begins as recreation can quickly transition into an addiction when compulsive behavior demands the routine of using drugs or alcohol.
Disconnected personality types and addiction are also notably linked. “Disconnected personalities” refer to individuals who struggle to maintain relationships and tend to suffer from severe anxiety and depression.
Often, these personality types turn towards addictive substances as a way to self-manage symptoms related to disconnecting. Over time, dependency is likely.
The Common Denominator
While there’s no universal evidence proving a link between personality types and addiction, there seems to be a common denominator. Among the many personality types that appear more prone to addiction, the vast majority struggle with self-regulation in general.
This difficulty with self-regulation can be related to emotions, thought processes, or behaviors. Amongst all of these personality types, there seems to be an inability to do anything moderately. When excessive substance use happens, addiction often follows.
What Does It All Mean?
The good news is that one or another personality type does not determine whether an individual has substance use problems in life. Instead, personality paired with environmental factors, genetics, and social settings likely contributes to addiction development over time. Fortunately, the individual can address and overcome each of these issues through comprehensive addiction treatment options.
Reach Out Today
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, reaching out for help is the first step toward recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our many treatment program options and services designed to help you take back the life you love and deserve.