Did you know that there are certain personality traits that might make an addiction more likely? While these individual traits in no way absolutely predict a future addiction, having a combination of these characteristics could mean that your teen is more at risk for developing one. Read through this list of nine traits of an addictive personality and find out if your teenager might have these characteristics.
1. Impulsive Behavior
One trait of an addictive personality is impulsivity. While many teens can act impulsively at times, if your teen is always or nearly always impulsive, he or she might be at greater risk of developing an addiction. Impulsive behavior can sometimes be linked to thrill-seeking; people who take big risks or are frequently looking for ways to feel excitement might be more likely than others to seek (and become addicted to) the dopamine surges that accompany drug use, gambling, and other high-inducing substances or behaviors.
2. Previous or Current Addictions
Many people picture drugs and alcohol when they think about the word “addiction,” but keep in mind that people can become addicted to nearly anything. A teen who is addicted to the Internet, a smartphone, video games, or even something healthy, like exercising or eating only healthy foods, is more prone to developing another addiction over time. Many adolescents spend a lot of time on their phones or surfing the ‘Net; if it’s interfering with other parts of their life, such as schoolwork or socializing, they might have a problem.
3. Low Self-Esteem
Another trait of an addictive personality is low self-esteem. A teen with low self-esteem might be more likely to turn to vices such as drugs or gambling as a way to cope with those negative feelings. If your teen is very sensitive or tends to dwell on small mistakes or social faux pas that they have made, they might have low self-esteem. Here are a few things that can help improve a teen’s self-esteem:
- Counseling can often help
- Learning how to be assertive
- Spending time engaging in self-care
- Saying positive affirmations on a regular basis
4. A History of Obsessions and Compulsions
Has your teen been diagnosed (or do you suspect that he or she has) obsessive-compulsive disorder? OCD is made up of two features:
- Obsessive thoughts
- Compulsive behaviors
The same brain pathways are stimulated when someone has an addiction. They think obsessively about the object of their addiction and then they compulsively pursue it. If your adolescent has obsessive-compulsive tendencies, they should understand that they might be at a higher risk than usual of developing an addiction.
5. Relatives That Have Addictions
Whether it’s nurture or nature (or likely both), addiction can seem to run in families. Part of this has to do with genes and a predisposition to developing an addiction. Another part has to do with the emulation of behavior. No matter what it is, it’s important that you and your teen are aware if addictions run in the family. This is also something to share with doctors and mental health practitioners who might be evaluating your teen for an addiction or other mental health issues.
6. Lying Comes Easily
While this does not apply to all people with addictions, if lying and covering up activities come easily to a person, they might be more able than others to hide a reliance on a vice. This can make it hard for family members and close friends to detect a problem, which can, in turn, make it possible for an addiction to develop without anyone knowing about it. Many (though not all) people with addictions become very good at lying and manipulating others in order to hide their problem; if lying comes easily in the first place, it makes it all the more possible for the addiction to go unnoticed by others for a long time.
7. Unable to Take Responsibility for Consequences
Many teenagers try to pass the buck; that is, they try to not take responsibility for their own shortcomings and instead blame teachers or parents. While this is, in many cases, a developmental phase, a teen who can’t manage to take any responsibility for their actions could be at an increased risk for developing an addiction. Encourage your teen to step up to the plate and take responsibility for his or her grades, chores that weren’t done, curfews that were broken, and other transgressions.
8. Social Alienation
A teen who is socially alienated and not part of a group of friends could be more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous behaviors. First, these behaviors and substances can give a teen a sense of belonging; he or she might bond with others who have the same vice. Secondly, these vices can ease the pain of being isolated or left out. If you think that your teen has social anxiety, is the victim of bullying, or is struggling with relating to others, talk to them about it and seek help, if necessary.
9. Stress and Anxiety
Teens who are dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety often look for a coping mechanism. Sometimes, they fall into those that are unhealthy, such as drugs or alcohol. The substances (or, in the case of gambling or Internet addiction, behaviors) can take the edge off of their anxiety and temporarily relieve the pressures of stress, but they can also lead to an addiction. Teach your teen healthy coping strategies, instead. For example, practice various relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga. You could also encourage them to get enough sleep, as sleep deprivation can make stress and anxiety worse. Eating well and exercising regularly can help, too. If you believe that your teen has too much stress or is exhibiting the signs of an anxiety disorder, seek mental health counseling.
Keep in mind that if your teen has these addictive personality traits, they are not destined to struggle with an addiction, but it might be more likely. Watch for these characteristics now so you can help your adolescent overcome them. Don’t be afraid to consult with his or her primary care doctor or a mental health specialist if you aren’t sure how to help your child through these addictive personality traits or if you think they might have already developed an addiction.