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Rehab and Alcohol Addiction - Inside the addictive personality

Published 10/11/2008

Are some people more prone to addiction than others? We often hear the term "addictive personality" used in the media to describe individuals who engage compulsively in certain  (often harmful) behaviours such as excessive drinking, but it's a controversial one among treatment specialists.

That's because personality is complex and the role of personality in addiction is hard to pin down. Most alcohol rehabilitation specialists will acknowledge that they see a wide range of personality types among the people who seek their help with drinking problems.

Most agree, however, that excessive drinking correlates closely with certain characteristics, and in particular, problems with trust, dependency, abandonment, shame, guilt and an inability or reluctance to express difficult emotions.

"Problem drinking is often an attempt to avoid dealing with unpleasant and painful experiences," explains Sue Allchurch, research director at Linwood Group. By using alcohol to 'escape' their issues, however, individuals can quickly find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction, she says. "A person who drinks to reduce anxiety or alleviate feelings of depression will feel guilt or shame about their drinking, leading to more anxiety and depression and thus more drinking."

That's why tackling wider emotional issues is a vital part of any rehabilitation programme, she says. "Once an addiction is acknowledged, it's not enough just to eliminate alcohol from your life. You need to get to the root of the emotions and experiences that lead to the dependence in the first place and to develop strategies for addressing them that don't involve alcohol."

If you or someone you know is drinking too much, experienced help and support is available to tackle whatever issues lie at the heart of the problem.



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