The term “addictive personality” suggests a personality type that makes a person more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. But it’s not so black and white. No single personality type sets someone up for addiction, but there are a few personality traits common among people who have a substance use disorder: an inability to handle stress, impulsivity, unaccountability and a lack of empathy.

1. Inability to Handle Stress

Learning how to handle what life throws at you–including the negative stuff–is a part of growing up and becoming an adult. But people who repeatedly avoid confronting stressful, challenging situations or negative feelings are missing out of developing crucial coping skills.

If a person is using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate negative feelings and stress, especially as a teen or young adult, they aren’t learning healthy ways to deal with stress and manage their emotions. Drugs and alcohol offer a temporary escape from unpleasant feelings, but it could lead to addiction.

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2. Impulsivity

Everyone is bound to make a mistake from time to time, but risk-taking becomes impulsive when someone is repeatedly taking risks without thinking about potential negative consequences and continues to take risks even after experiencing negative consequences.

Impulsive, sensation-seeking behavior can mean anything from stealing from a family member, to experimenting with drugs or alcohol, to driving drunk. It’s the desire for novelty and an adrenaline rush that can predict a propensity for addiction.

Risk-taking and testing limits are normal parts of adolescent development, in particular, but they can indicate trouble.

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3. Unaccountability

Not taking accountability or responsibility for an outcome is a hallmark characteristic of addictive behavior. If someone is unable to acknowledge their own flaws and how they’ve contributed to a negative outcome, then they’ll likely be unable to recognize a substance abuse problem. In their eyes, it’s everyone else who has the problem–not them.

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4. Lack of Empathy

Empathy, or being able to acknowledge, understand and process another person’s emotions, is such a valuable skill. If someone isn’t empathetic, they don’t know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, nor do they care how their behavior could negatively affect someone else.

It’s a skill that many young adults, specifically, don’t possess inherently, but it can be cultivated over time. However, if a person never develops that skill, it can be a characteristic of narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, which are common among people with an addiction.

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It’s important to understand that these personality traits serve as potential risk factors for addiction and that addictive behavior varies from person to person. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, recovery is possible. Immersion Recovery Center’s addiction treatment programs can help you overcome addiction and learn healthy, more productive ways to cope. Contact us at (888) 693-1604 for more information.


Reviewed for accuracy by :

Serving as the Inpatient Clinical Director at Immersion Recovery Center, Susan will work directly with staff members, clients, and family members to ensure the clinical program remains as effective and individualized as possible. Susan is no stranger to the fields of behavioral health and addiction. She has over 25 years of experience, working in an inpatient setting, an outpatient setting, acute stabilization and nearly all other settings in the realm of addiction recovery.