Personality traits related to addiction Although there is no one set addictive personality type, researchers who study the causes of addiction have found a number of traits that are closely linked to an increased risk of drug or alcohol abuse.

1. Impulsivity

Impulsive people are often viewed as fun to be around due to their spontaneous nature, but this personality trait has a serious dark side. People who are impulsive often don’t stop to think about the potential risk associated with a decision. They will go with whatever course of action seems like a good idea at the moment, which can often place them in risky situations involving drugs and alcohol.

The link between impulsivity and substance abuse can be seen in the high number of people with an ADHD diagnosis who also struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. Impulsivity is one of the defining personality traits associated with ADHD. Researchers have found that about 25% of adults in treatment for alcohol and substance abuse have been diagnosed with ADHD. This makes addiction five to 10 times more common in people with ADHD.

2. Nonconformity

People who are seeking addiction treatment often describe themselves as nonconformists. They consider themselves as fundamentally different from their peers due to their interests, values, and goals.

While the desire to embrace your individuality should be celebrated, feeling like you’re an outsider can lead to social isolation. This lack of perceived support from friends and/or family can increase the desire to turn to drugs and alcohol when faced with challenging situations.

3. Anxiety

People who suffer from anxiety can find themselves plagued with worries about personal relationships, fitting in, and managing everyday situations. They can suffer from physical complaints such as insomnia, panic attacks, stomach problems, dizziness, shortness of breath, and muscle tension that make it hard to focus on their daily activities. To calm the constant chatter in their minds, they may turn to drugs and alcohol.

People with high levels of anxiety often begin their journey to substance abuse by using cigarettes to calm their nerves. After they develop tolerance to nicotine, they start to add alcohol or benzodiazepines into the mix. The problem with this approach is that they eventually end up needing extremely high levels of all of these substances to approach the state of mental calm they crave.

4. Low Tolerance for Stress

Stress is a natural part of life. However, some people find it significantly more difficult to handle stressful situations, such as an argument with a romantic partner, a high stakes project at work, or an unexpected health crisis. People who don’t learn to develop positive coping mechanisms to handle their stress may turn to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief.

A low tolerance for stress is often associated with high anxiety levels. However, people can learn to increase their tolerance to stress with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

5. Sensation Seeking

Sensation seeking refers to the desire to constantly seek out new experiences when placed in situations without a lot of sensory input. Everyone engages in sensation seeking behavior to some extent, but people who report high rates of this activity are most prone to addiction.

Sensation seekers are risk takers who enjoy pursuits such as engaging in adventure sports, attending loud concerts or parties, and traveling to meet new people. They are also more likely to drive recklessly and prefer having multiple sexual partners over stable relationships. In general, men and young adults have the highest rates of sensation seeking behavior—which can help explain why these groups also suffer from substance abuse issues at the highest rates.

6. Blame Shifting

Blame shifting refers to finding it difficult to take responsibility for your own mistakes. Substance abusers tend to exhibit this personality trait in higher than average numbers, often arguing that their drug or alcohol use isn’t a big deal or that they could quit using if they really wanted to.

Extreme blame shifting accompanied by a lack of empathy for others is associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One recent study suggests that about 12% of people with substance abuse problems also meet the criteria for NPD.

What It Means

Most personality type research suggests that basic personality traits are inborn and can’t be changed. However, this doesn’t mean that someone with traits that are linked to addiction is destined to develop a drug or alcohol problem. It simply means that he or she is at a higher risk for addiction and needs to learn ways to channel the negative aspects of certain personality traits into a more positive direction.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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What is withdrawal?Withdrawal is the first step towards addiction recovery, but it’s an often misunderstood part of the process.

Why Withdrawal Occurs

The term withdrawal refers to the symptoms someone with a substance abuse problem experiences after suddenly stopping the use of drugs or alcohol. Withdrawal typically begins within a few hours of when the abused substance leaves the bloodstream.

Withdrawal occurs because drugs and alcohol make changes to how your brain processes emotions and regulates mood. These changes flood the body with neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, to create an artificial high. When the body doesn’t get its fix of the addictive substance, it takes time for the brain, nervous system, and vital organs to return to functioning normally. Since addiction is a disease, willpower alone can’t stave off the symptoms of withdrawal.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

In addition to an intense craving for the abused substance, common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle aches or cramps
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

The mood changes associated with withdrawal depend on the type of substance being abused. Generally speaking, someone who has been using depressants such as alcohol or opiates will experience a period of overstimulation during the withdrawal process. At the opposite end of the addiction spectrum, someone who has been abusing stimulants such as methamphetamine or cocaine will experience depressive symptoms. In rare cases, the depressive symptoms associated with withdrawal from stimulants can lead to attempts at self-harm.

Delirium Tremens

Although most withdrawal symptoms are merely uncomfortable and not physically dangerous, severe alcohol abuse can result in a potentially deadly condition called Delirium Tremens (DTs). Approximately 3-5% of alcohol abusers are at risk for DTs during the withdrawal process, with the highest risk being among those who have been struggling with alcoholism for 10 years or more.

The symptoms of DTs are similar to other types of withdrawal, with added hand tremors, irregular heart rate, dehydration, and fever. Without treatment, loss of consciousness and potentially fatal seizures can result.

It’s important to keep in mind that the serious symptoms of DTs don’t begin immediately. Sufferers experience mild withdrawal symptoms first, with the risk for seizures peaking 12 to 48 hours after the last drink.

Someone who is suffered from DTs can be treated with intravenous fluids, vitamins, correction of salt and water imbalances in the bloodstream, and sedative medications.

Severe cases of withdrawal from benzodiazepines can also produce a condition similar to DTs.

Length of Withdrawal

The length of time someone will experience withdrawal varies depending upon the length of substance abuse and the type of substance being abused. Common timelines include:

  • Alcohol: 3 days to several weeks
  • Benzodiazepines: several weeks to several months
  • Cocaine: 7 to 10 days
  • Heroin or prescription painkillers: 24 to 48 hours

The intensity of withdrawal symptoms tends to peak in the first 24 to 48 hours, which is when a substance abuser is most at risk of relapse. After this point, discomfort is reduced to a milder level and more easily managed with exercise, rest, and proper nutrition.

Post-acute withdrawal is a term used to refer to the ongoing symptoms someone experiences while in recovery. These symptoms are primarily emotional in nature and can include cravings, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and trouble concentrating. Episodes of mood disturbances will come and go, but can appear as long as two years after the initial withdrawal experience. In people who don’t seek professional addiction treatment, post-acute withdrawal episodes are well known as a risk factor for relapse.

Effect of Co-Occurring Conditions

People who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety can have more intense mood changes during the withdrawal process. Physical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes can also affect the severity of the withdrawal process. For treatment to be effective, co-occurring disorders must be addressed simultaneously.

The Benefits of Medical Detox

It can be extremely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for someone with a substance abuse problem to attempt to go through withdrawal alone. During withdrawal, substance abusers aren’t thinking clearly and can’t properly monitor their symptoms. For this reason, medically supervised detox is the first step of treatment in an inpatient residential rehab center.

In medical detox, a substance abuser’s symptoms and vital signs are closely monitored and managed with appropriate pharmaceutical interventions. Holistic therapies such as massage and acupuncture can also be used to provide the safest and most comfortable beginning to the recovery process.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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co-occurring mental disordersCo-occurring disorders are mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or OCD, that occur in people who are also suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. This is sometimes referred to as a dual diagnosis.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that most mentally ill people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction are men between 18 and 44. However, women and older adults can also have a dual diagnosis.

How Mental Illness Creates a Vulnerability to Addiction

Mental illness makes people more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse because there is an impulse to self-medicate symptoms that can have a negative effect on one’s qualify of life. For example:

  • Someone who suffers from severe anxiety in social situations might turn to alcohol to relax and feel more comfortable in a group setting.
  • Stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine are often abused by people who are suffering from depression because they temporarily increase focus, attention, and energy levels.
  • Benzodiazepines or prescription sleep aids may be abused by someone suffering from PTSD as a way to cope with the anxiety and insomnia associated with the condition.

Self-medicating may be done for several different reasons. Some people lack the resources necessary to obtain a proper diagnosis, while others are simply afraid to discuss their symptoms with a healthcare provider due to the societal stigma surrounding mental illness. In the case of severe illnesses such as schizophrenia, self-medicating can also be a response to unpleasant side effects associated with certain prescribed medications.

Self-medicating mental illness with drugs and alcohol is problematic because it’s only effective in the short term. Tolerance quickly develops, requiring higher doses of the abused substance to achieve the same effect. This leads to withdrawal symptoms when the substance is no longer being used and will eventually intensify the symptoms associated with the underlying mental illness.

Other factors that contribute to the high percentage of mental illness in people who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction include:

  • Effects of adolescence: The teen years are the time when signs of mental illness most often begin to appear. This is also the time when peer pressure and societal influences can lead vulnerable young people to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Since the brain is still developing during adolescence, substance abuse during this time can worsen the symptoms of mental illness.
  • Overlapping genetic risk factors: Research is still being done to understand how our genes affect addiction, but there appears to be a significant overlap in the genes linked to higher risks of addiction and those linked to a higher risk of mental illness.
  • Involvement of similar brain regions: Certain parts of the brain are affected by both substance abuse and mental illness. For example, depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders are linked to abnormalities in the circuits of the brain that process the neurotransmitter dopamine. Addictive substances flood the brain with dopamine, creating a powerful motivation to continue using.

Mental Illnesses Caused by Addiction

While most people with co-occurring disorders exhibited symptoms of mental illness before developing drug or alcohol addiction, it’s possible for addiction to create symptoms of a mental illness. For example, long term abuse of ecstasy can create changes in the brain that lead to issues with depression and anxiety. There is also some evidence to suggest that substance abuse in the teen years increase the risk of developing a mental illness later on in life, since drugs and alcohol can affect the growth of brain.

Seeking Treatment

When seeking addiction treatment, it’s vital that you choose a program that addresses both substance abuse and the underlying mental illness. If you treat the substance abuse as an independent and unrelated problem, it’s difficult to maintain long-term sobriety because you’re not addressing the underlying issues that led to your addiction in the first place.

A recovery plan for someone suffering from a mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction should include the following:

  • Medically-supervised detox to rid the body of the abused substance while minimizing withdrawal symptoms
  • A complete mental health evaluation and diagnosis
  • A personalized treatment plan to address both mental illness and substance abuse concerns
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy to encourage connections with others and learn from the experiences of people struggling with similar issues
  • Family therapy to promote a stronger support system
  • A detailed aftercare plan with referrals to resources necessary to maintain sobriety while addressing ongoing mental health concerns

Making the decision to seek addiction treatment can feel a bit overwhelming, but know that is the first step in regaining control of your life and planning for a brighter future.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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