Addiction changes people in deep, fundamental ways. This destructive behavior involves more than a bad habit or a poor choice, because chemical dependence actually changes the neurological shape of the brain, which radically alters how it functions. Addicts find themselves engaging behaviors they never imagined they would consider—in fact, they may make choices that make no sense, because their priorities become completely rearranged. The following are 3 specific ways that addiction can transform the personality and behavior of a disciplined and hardworking college student.
How Addiction Dominates Personality
The same part of the brain that substance abuse directly affects also manages the following personality traits:
- Appetite and eating
- Distress tolerance
- Patience and impatience
- Sexual attraction and response
- Ability to delay gratification
- Forming and recalling memories
- Comfort in social situations
As intangible as many of these personality issues seem, they are all directly managed by an intricate system of chemical signals in the brain’s pleasure center. However, drugs block negative emotions and induce euphoria that washes over the pleasure center, so these substances prevent any mental awareness of problems. Thus, a wide range of activities that once provided pleasure (such as laughing, relational bonding, intimacy and careful communication) are overpowered by the need to get drunk or high.
Many young people have experienced noticeable, problematic and deeply troubling personality changes when they first start experimenting with intoxication. They may become more irritable, belligerent or despondent as a result of the chemical transformation that their brains are experiencing.
Addiction Distorts Perspective
Another change that many people notice from a college student who abuses drugs is that their perspectives change on life, values and relationships. Addicts develop a one-track mind for finding and using whichever substance they like. Getting drunk or high becomes the most important thing in life, so the thought of getting and staying clean is completely inconceivable to them; small crises or challenges may cause disproportionate grief, irritation or rage. Like a dime held up close to the eye, addiction moves itself so close to the addict’s view that it blocks out almost everything else. Everything seems small and insignificant next to the need to get high. Pain seems more intense and unbearable, mild irritants become huge problems and previously important things (such as relationships and grades) become trivial. These changes are not the result of conscious decisions, but the neurological changes deep in the brain.
Addiction can profoundly change someone’s perspective on life and priorities in the following ways:
- Rejecting authority and accountability
- Decreasing distress and discomfort tolerance
- Spouses choosing drugs or alcohol over their loved ones’ needs
- Feeling uncharacteristically hopeless or fatalistic about life
- Abandoning relationships with people who avoid drugs
- Engaging in unwise and risky behavior
One of the deepest changes you might notice is that addiction can cause someone not only to reject any thoughts of sobriety, but also any systems, laws, institutions or people who stand in the way of access to drugs or alcohol. This attitude may manifest itself as anti-social and rebellious attitudes and behaviors that seem completely inconsistent with their previous character.
Addiction Masks Other Conditions
Another important thing to consider about the way addiction changes personality is that many people abuse drugs or alcohol as an unconscious way to self-medicate an underlying or co-occurring disorder. Unfortunately, while addicts may experience short-term relief due to drug abuse, this type of self-medication only makes matters worse. For instance, a college student who medicates underlying social anxiety by getting drunk or high will wind up feeling even more anxious when the high wears off. Also, a student who wrestles with depression or loneliness will find those symptoms returning with a vengeance once she stops getting high.
In order for someone to achieve long-term freedom from substance abuse and addiction, all underlying psychological and emotional disorders must be addressed in a comprehensive treatment center. The following co-occurring disorders often plague people who abuse drugs and alcohol:
- Anxiety disorders
- Borderline personality disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive behavioral disorders (process addictions)
It can be very difficult for a college student to come to grips with the reality of his underlying psychological disorder. Defensiveness, denial, blame shifting and dishonesty are extremely common when someone is confronted with one of these issues. Social stigmas related to mental health disorders and misunderstandings about how treatment really works contribute to the defensiveness many college students feel. In some cases, that defensiveness manifests as shame, anger and even rebelliousness.
Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day with free, confidential advice and access to the most effective treatment programs that are available. There are no strings attached when you call; you can even remain completely anonymous if you like. Our staff aim to answer your questions honestly and to connect you with the best recovery resources for your specific needs. Whether you are concerned about your own addiction issues or are worried about a friend or loved one, please call right now for instant, professional support.