Is there such a thing as an alcoholic personality?
One would assume that alcoholics would fall under the general and accepted definition of an “addictive personality” – trouble delaying self-gratification, antisocial tendies, a heightened sense of stress resulting in a heightened need for escapism. But research continues into the validity of the addictive personality label and raises the question of whether or not the proclivity towards alcoholism can be detected by observing a person’s personality traits.
Trying to specifically nail down who might be mores prone to alcholism based on their behavior is very difficult as alcoholics come in many different forms. Alcoholics can be “high functioning” – maintain a facade of normalcy, be an active member of their community, acheive high levels of professional success – while privately dealing with their all-consuming desire for drink.
Alcoholics cross over every racial, ethnic, class and economic line that exists. They can be young or old, they can spend their nights sleeping on park benches or own a 14-room mansion in a gated community, they are high-school dropouts and they hold Ph.Ds, they can be loners and they can the “life of the party.” The only common theme among them is rampant alcohol misuse and an unmanageable life to go with it.
The only genuine common thread that runs through all alcoholics is their genetic predisposition to the disease. While some mental health practioners like to pin the causes of alcoholism, and addiction in general, to the social conditioning the alcoholic was exposed to while growing up – physical and emotional abuse, neglect, unhappy marital relations between parents, etc. – and the resulting emotional make up of the alcoholic – low self-esteem, prone to depression, loneliness, etc. – this argument does not hold up as it does not explain why there are people who grew up under the same conditions but did not become alcoholics or drug addicts.
It would seem that if we truly want to gage whether or not an individual will grow to have a serious problem with alcohol it would be smarter to take their genetic and family history more into consideration rather than look for visible signs that relate to their behavior.