Addiction and Personality Distortion

Addiction has a negative affect on personality and relationships.  It distorts oneself and leads to a variety personal relationship issues.  Individuals who become addicted become more self centered and place all others underneath their need. It can drive them to steal, cheat, and abandon others.  This distortion also leads to irresponsible behaviors that usually may not be part of the person’s regular self.  In turn, this will break down others around the person.  It will break friendships and families.

Addiction has numerous negative effects on one’s personality and relationships

The urge is seen as the reward or feeling of the drug.  The addiction to that “reward” or feeling becomes so strong and interlocked with functioning that individuals put it above everything else.  This corrupts one’s normal personality and puts values and morals secondhand to fulfilling the urge.

It is important for families to still be able to be empathetic to another’s addiction without becoming overwhelmed and used and manipulated by the addicted person.  Tough love is sometimes the only cure and allowing someone to hit rock bottom sometimes is the only way to wake the person up.  When the person realizes the distortion of his or her personality then they may finally see the need to impose change into life.  Substance Abuse Counseling is the first step to finding control.

The article, “The Relationship Between Addiction and Personality” by Timmen Cermak takes a closer look at addiction and how it distorts personality and relationships.   He first discusses the negative aspects of addicted personality and then looks at how these negatives affect families and friends.  He also identifies ways families and friends can help their addicted loved one while also protecting themselves.   He overall states that personalities are overtaken by addiction by the need to protect the habit.  He points out that,

“Once addiction occurs and the brain’s reward circuitry is hijacked by alcohol and/or other drugs, many people’s personalities are seriously altered. Common changes include increased self-centeredness, irresponsibility, and a tendency to blame external factors for one’s failures and suffering. While these traits often exist prior to becoming addicted, as they do to some degree in all of us, they become greatly exaggerated during addiction. The cause of this exaggeration lies in how addictive substances change the brain. When people’s motivation to drink or use drugs becomes too high a priority in their reward center, traits stereotypically seen in addiction develop to deny and protect the alcohol and/or drug use.”

“The Relationship Between Addiction and Personality”. Timmen Cermak. February 13th, 2023. Psychology Today.

To review the entire article, please click here



Addiction and personality are often intertwined, as evidenced by research suggesting that certain personalities may be more susceptible to addictive behaviors. It has been suggested that individuals with a higher level of impulsivity or low sensitivity to reward are more likely to become addicted due to their tendency towards risk-taking and difficulty in understanding the implications of their decisions.  The degree to which addiction is present is likely dependent upon the constellation of these traits and how they interact with the environment.

The ability of addiction to alter personality is due to the neuroadaptation of the reward system it induces in the central nervous system. Through this adaptation, addiction modifies a person’s sense of self-control and impairs their executive functioning, particularly when it comes to decision making and impulse control.  Specifically, it is thought to predispose individuals to engage in a range of maladaptive behaviours and cognitive processes, leading to the emergence of traits such as impulsivity and compulsivity, which ultimately affect an individual’s overall personality.

Obviously, the desire to meet the demands of addiction lead to a variety of impulses that create an aura of self centeredness and irresponsibility.  The need to meet the urge overcomes all other needs, putting job, family and friends last.  The urge can also cause destructive behavior, pushing individuals to dangerous solutions and illegal endeavors to meet the urge of the addiction.

Families dealing with an addict are often confronted with a particular set of social and psychological challenges, as addiction can have a variety of deleterious effects on both the individual and the family unit. The multifaceted nature of addiction is further complicated by its intersection with numerous systemic inequalities, such as income disparity, access to health care, and exposure to trauma. Families must undertake the difficult process of navigating these obstacles in order to provide appropriate support for their addicted loved one.  The behavioral, social and psychological impacts of addiction can present difficulties for those family members, who are oftentimes left feeling helpless and without recourse. This may lead to feelings of guilt, shame and even blame among family members in some cases.

Families can lose hope, empathy and even completely walk away from an addicted person.  Sometimes, it takes this type of tough love to convince someone to change.  Through Substance Abuse Counseling and other therapy, one can find control of one’s life.  Addiction can be defeated but it takes choice.  When someone no longer likes what one sees in a mirror and the individuals hurt, then one can begin the long process of fixing the problem.


Addicted individuals need to seek help. Certified Substance Abuse Practitioners can guide one away from addiction


In conclusion, addiction can have a profound effect on a person’s personality. It can lead to changes in behavior, emotions, and thoughts that would otherwise not occur. It is important for those struggling with addiction to seek help from a qualified mental health professional who can provide treatment tailored to the individual’s needs. Additionally, it is also important for family members and friends of an addict to reach out and offer support during their recovery journey.

Professionals can help.  Individuals looking to help others can become certified in substance abuse counseling.  Please review AIHCP’s Substance Abuse Practitioner Program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

Additional Resources

“What Are the Traits of an Addictive Personality?”. Marissa Crane. January 11th, 2023.  American Addiction Centers.  Access here

“6 WAYS ADDICTION CHANGES YOUR PERSONALITY”. Burning Tree Ranch: Authentic Long Term Treatment.  Access here

“Addiction and the Brain”. Psychology Today Staff.  Psychology Today.  Access here

“What is an addictive personality?”. Zawn Villines. February 13th, 2022. MedicalNewsToday.  Access here