What is the Relationship Between Antisocial Behavior and Addiction?The exact association between antisocial behavior and addiction is unclear. Do people with antisocial tendencies feel more of an urge to begin using drugs? Or does chronic drug use cause a person to exhibit behaviors that are antisocial?The relationship is likely bidirectional, meaning that antisocial behavior may be both a risk factor and a consequence of addiction.
Lying and Defensive BehaviorDealing with drug addiction makes some forms of antisocial behavior particularly likely, even for those who did not have antisocial tendencies before their drug use. For example, people struggling with addiction often lie to loved ones or hide the extent of their problem.Understandably, feeling unable to control drug use may make you feel defensive or angry at others. Additionally, you may lose interest in the concerns of others as drug use takes a more central role in your life.
How Treatment Can HelpIt is important to recognize that these antisocial behaviors do not make you a bad person. Rather, they are symptoms of a larger problem of you struggling to manage your substance use. Treatment can help.
Medically supervised detoxification can improve acute symptoms of antisocial behavior.Some of the antisocial symptoms associated with substance abuse may naturally decline as you achieve withdrawal from the drug. Medically supervised detoxification is one of the best ways to undergo the withdrawal process. Medical and mental health professionals can help you cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Individual psychotherapy is a powerful tool for recognizing patterns of problematic behaviors.Overcoming antisocial tendencies is a lifelong struggle for some people, and the first step is recognizing the ways in which you may engage in these maladaptive behaviors. For many people, internal feelings of shame, guilt, or low self-esteem trigger anti-social behavior.Antisocial behaviors, in turn, may cause others to withdraw from you. Individual therapy can help you learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving to reduce antisocial behavior.
Interacting with others may be a useful way to reduce antisocial impulses.There is no better way to practice new skills than to interact with others. For example, group therapy in a treatment facility is a helpful way to hear others’ experiences and learn how their own antisocial traits have negatively impacted their lives.Additionally, new skills can be used to interact more positively with friends and family who have been negatively affected by addiction.
Medication can reduce urges to behave aggressively or impulsively.For some people, an imbalance in brain chemicals may contribute to aggression, irritability, impulsivity, and mood swings that underlie antisocial behavior. Medications to correct these mental health issues can dramatically affect your inner thoughts and feelings. For many people struggling with addiction, appropriate medication management provides a helpful framework for working through antisocial traits and learning new, more adaptive ways of relating to others.
- Skodol, A.E., Oldham, J.M., & Gallaher, P.E. (1999). Axis II comorbidity of substance use disorders among patients referred for treatment of personality disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(5): 733-738.
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