personality traits

What Personality Traits are Linked to Addiction?

Although no one personality type can lead to addiction, researchers believe certain personality traits may be linked to an increased risk for drug or alcohol use. Having one or more of these traits does not mean you will develop a substance use disorder, and vice versa. Addiction can happen to anyone. 

However, being aware of the personality traits linked to addiction can help you identify potential risk factors early on. For example, if you have one or more of these traits and live in a house where substance use is common, the combination can put you at risk. Let’s explore six personality traits that researchers believe are commonly linked to substance use disorders. 


Addiction is both impulsive and compulsive, with the beginning stages driven by impulsivity. Therefore, someone with an impulsive personality is more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol due to their spontaneous nature. They tend to not think things through as well as others, and instead do things that feel or sound good in the moment. However, once a person becomes addicted, compulsivity drives their actions. 


People plagued by anxiety often self-medicate to manage their symptoms. Drugs and alcohol can calm the chatter in their minds, help them loosen up around others, and make things seem less serious than they are. At first, it may seem like substances take the edge off and help erase anxious thoughts and feelings. But over time, substance use creates its own problems and only adds to anxiety. 


People who seek treatment often admit they are nonconformists. They consider themselves different from their peers, but not always in a good way. Instead, this nonconformist behavior is often carried out in rebellious ways, such as by not following rules, rebelling against authority and being socially isolated. Unfortunately, living in this manner can distance a person from the support and guidance they need. 

Low Stress Tolerance 

Stress is a normal part of life, and some people handle it better than others. However, some people feel they are always under enormous pressure and keep themselves in fight-or-flight mode. Since even the little stuff builds up, these people are more likely to turn to substances to cope. Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals with low stress tolerance find better coping strategies. 


A compulsion is an urge to do something, and it’s a hallmark symptom of addiction. Compulsivity can lead to self-destructive behaviors, including substance use. People who struggle with compulsivity tend to do the same things over and over again, even though they know their actions lead to negative consequences. 

Sensation Seeking 

Sensation seeking refers to the desire to seek out new experiences, feelings and sensations. While sensation seeking is normal, people who report high levels of this are most likely to substance use disorders. They like the thrill of using substances, meeting new people, driving recklessly and more. This can be especially dangerous when coupled with a trait like impulsivity. 

Get Help for a Substance Use Disorder 

For the most part, personality traits are inherited and cannot be changed. However, being aware of them, as well as other risk factors for addiction, can help assess your risk for developing a substance use problem.

If you or someone else is struggling with addiction, Awakenings Treatment Center is here to help. Contact our admissions department to speak with one of our caring, compassionate team members!