Addiction takes a toll on your career, relationships, reputation, and your overall health. One of the areas that is not talked about as often is the impact addiction can have on your personality. When you abuse substances, your brain becomes hooked on drugs and/or alcohol until seeking that initial feeling of pleasure is the only thing on your mind. You might isolate yourself from your loved ones, start lying more often and have rapid mood swings. Though these changes can be spotted by your family and friends, you are likely oblivious to them. Learning how addiction changes your personality could be the push you need to get the help you deserve.
How Addiction Changes the Brain
Why is someone’s personality impacted? The reason is simple: drug and alcohol abuse destroys the brain. These substances flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. At first, the user may feel extremely happy, but once that euphoria goes away, they’re left with nothing but cravings. As the desire for the substance continues to increase, your loved one needs to consume more and more of it to feel its euphoric effects. This rapidly turns into a vicious cycle in which they are constantly using, yet never able to achieve that original high.
Another way addiction affects the brain is by exacerbating co-occurring disorders. Many people begin using drugs or alcohol to cope with their mental health issues. For example, if they’re struggling with depression, they might drink alcohol to suppress negative thoughts. While a substance user might have an initial rush of pleasure, it quickly wears off and those thoughts come back. Alcohol is a depressant that can actually worsen a person’s depression over time.
To sum it up, persistent substance abuse alters brain function and rewires it completely. Because the brain is consumed by thoughts about drugs or alcohol, your personality drastically changes. Someone who is normally quiet and reserved might become angry and have random outbursts. And another person who is typically caring might distance themselves from loved ones.
Oftentimes, if you’re struggling with addiction, you might morph into a completely different person altogether without even realizing it.
Ways Drugs and Alcohol Can Change Personality and Behavior
Erratic behavior and negative changes in personality can have devastating effects on your loved one’s overall well-being. Some common personality changes include:
You may notice all or a few of these changes in the person struggling with substance use disorder. If the addict keeps drinking alcohol or using drugs, their personality drastically changes as the addiction takes a tighter grip on their brain. Their negative behaviors can lead to problems in all aspects of their life such as:
1. Impaired Relationships
Frequent mood swings, secretive behavior, and anger management issues often cause riffs in relationships with significant others, family, and friends. You might want to do everything in your power to help your loved one overcome their addiction, but you must be careful not to enable them. If you’re in denial of their substance use or always accepting their lies, this might work in the short term. But over time, your relationship will bend and twist until it snaps like a rubber band.
Since addiction changes the brain, it’s extremely difficult to reason with an addict, especially while they are under the influence. The best thing to do is set boundaries. However, if they start acting disrespectfully and crossing boundaries, this severely damages your relationship. Addicts can also inflict financial strain on their families and other relationships by constantly “borrowing” money or spending their income on substances.
2. Poor School/Work Performance
Substance abuse causes many things to fall to the wayside. What starts off as a few mistakes at work or school, might snowball into a much bigger issue if things go unchecked. Someone dealing with addiction might frequently show up to work late or lash out at colleagues. They might also disappear for long stretches of time or just skip work and school entirely. If the person was always responsible and attentive prior to abusing substances, this can be a difficult personality and behavioral change to watch.
On top of this, many substance users might have trouble focusing and a lack of motivation to continue performing well. The only concern on their mind becomes when and where they can get high or drunk again. Poor career and school performance may result in suspension from school or getting fired from their job.
3. Legal Trouble
While it’s not guaranteed, addiction and legal problems often go hand in hand. Drug or alcohol use causes your loved one to act in ways they never would if they were sober. Theft may become a common occurrence where the addict will do whatever it takes to obtain a substance, including stealing from people closest to them and the general public. Your loved one may also get in trouble for driving under the influence (DUI), which not only puts themselves at risk but also others on the road. There is a greater chance that someone using illicit substances will be caught by police. Aggression and impulsiveness can often cause the addicted person to act erratically, take unnecessary risks, and break laws, resulting in legal trouble.
What If You Recognize These Changes in Your Loved One?
Realizing that your loved one is struggling with addiction is scary and overwhelming but know that you are not alone. During this difficult time, it’s important that you surround yourself with support ⎼ groups such as Nan-Anon can be a great resource for families whose loved ones are struggling. Family therapy and recovery coaches are great resources to help you work through your own issues. Educating yourself on addiction, what you can and cannot do to help your loved one, how you can encourage them to seek treatment, and what to look for in a treatment center is also important. Talking to your loved one about their addiction won’t be easy, but it is a necessary conversation that could save their life. Dealing with an estranged relationship is devastating, but there is hope to repair the connection you once had.
What If You Recognize These Changes in Yourself?
Recognizing addiction has changed your personality and that you are struggling with substances is the first step to a healthier future. Know that while overcoming addiction is not easy, it is possible. Talk to your loved ones about your substance abuse and let them know how they can support you during this time. It is normal for you to have questions about addiction and wonder if you need treatment or if you can do it on your own. Do your research, learn what your treatment options are, and most importantly, don’t give up. We’re here to help. If you or a loved one is struggling, call 888 510 8852. Our team of addiction experts is ready to help you reclaim your life.