Children can show signs of addictive behavior as early as three years of age. This may surprise you, but it’s not all that surprising when we look at teenagers and see how addictive they can be with smartphones, tablets, and even drugs and alcohol these days. In one study, researchers believe addictive personalities are caused by two factors: a genetic disposition and under-controlled children. Children who lack emotional and behavior control are more likely to exhibit addictive personalities later in life.
When considering genetic disposition, research has shown consistently that children whose parents abuse alcohol and drugs are more likely to try and become addicted themselves. This could be both from having a biological propensity AND learning the behavior from their parents. Does this mean children whose parents are addicts are destined to become addicts themselves without any hope of escaping it? No, not necessarily.
About Addictive Personalities
People with addictive personalities are more likely to become psychologically and physically addicted to just about anything. It could be substances or certain behaviors. Most of the time, these addictions are used as a way to cope with difficult situations or a mental health issue such as depression. These types of responses come both from the lack of learning effective, positive coping skills and the biological need to grab just about anything that calms their anxieties. Physiological research has shown that people become addicted when dopamine levels in the brain are high. Addiction arises when people become excited or calmed by certain behaviors, and to keep the levels of dopamine high, they must continue to act in those ways. This was shown in a study in which Parkinson’s patients were given a dopamine drug to help decrease their symptoms. A side effect of the drug was gambling addiction.
Since most people with addictive personalities seem to gravitate to certain behaviors that calm them, half of the people seeking addiction treatment have a mental disorder. However, there are other reasons for addiction:
Denial of life problems
Unregulated emotions as mentioned with children who have uncontrolled emotions
Impulse control issues
Many would argue just because someone is addicted, it doesn’t mean he or she has an addictive personality. Although, when people seem to go from one addiction to the next whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling, or anything else, a personality disorder may be to blame.
Treatment for Addictive Personality Disorder
Personality disorders can be treated. Psychologists have been studying treatments for personality disorders for many years because 70 percent of those who seek treatment end up dropping out because of their disorder. Fortunately, Marsha M. Linehan PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, has developed a program that is much like the treatment we offer to troubled teens. She has found weekly one-on-one counseling and group training sessions on skills such as distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation and mindfulness skills can greatly decrease behaviors resulting from a personality disorder.
At our troubled boys boarding school, we offer a program that can help teens with addictive personalities. We work on coping skills, emotion regulation, impulse control, and much more to help teens with their addiction. Contact us now for more information on how we can help.