Going through sudden personality changes is a jarring experience both for oneself and one’s friends, family, and loved ones. These rapid shifts in personality can make it seem like an individual is becoming an entirely new person.
While personality changes are normal when happening over prolonged periods of time, noticing the rapid shift of new interests, language, and moods can be a sign of external factors affecting an individual in unexpected and dangerous ways. Being able to identify rapid personality changes can prompt a person to find the necessary help they need to begin addressing this sudden change in a healthy manner.
What Are Sudden Personality Changes?
Personality change refers to a shift in the way you think, act or feel. It may be noticeable to you, or it may be evident to people close to you.
Sudden personality changes can include a number of different aspects. Exactly how long it takes for an individual to transition into a seemingly entirely new personality can vary from case to case. Individuals who have experienced trauma may begin to exhibit entirely new personality traits immediately after the event transpired. Events such as the death of a childhood caretaker can fundamentally impact one’s worldview. Others may experience personality changes over time, often due to a rapid onset of mental illness. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before the new personality sets in.
These changes can also include a fundamental change in the way someone views the world. Those who experience these changes may move from a cautiously optimistic mindset to one that is wholly pessimistic, ambivalent, or fearful of the potentials in their environment. They may also harbor resentments that can change their frame of view and how they interact with previous interests. Suddenly adopting new hobbies or dismissing old hobbies can also be indicative of a change in one’s priorities, interests, and values, working to portray what can feel like an entirely new person.
What Can Cause a Sudden Personality Change?
There can be many different reasons why an individual may experience a sudden change in their personality. Traumatic experiences can reframe a person’s worldview, and the development of mental health disorders can also affect every aspect of one’s life — from their interests to their mood and personality. Anxiety, panic, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others can all fundamentally change how a person perceives and interacts with the world around them.
Lastly, addiction can play a large role in these sudden personality changes. The introduction of addictive substances, especially if they are being used while coping with mental health disorders or traumatic events, can accentuate these changes and introduce new hurdles and even greater feelings of anxiety and depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Sudden Personality Change
Personality change may accompany other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the brain may also affect other body systems. These include:
Anxiety and Depression
Harmful Behaviors and/or Hostility
Recurrent, Unwanted, Suicidal thoughts
Repeated, Uncontrollable Actions (compulsions),
Unstable and Unpleasant Moods
Change in Appetite
Changes in Consciousness
The Impact of Addiction on Personality
Addiction is a dangerous disease that can fundamentally alter a person’s attitude, interests, and priorities. Addiction affects an individual’s brain chemistry. By acting on dopamine receptors to reinforce the use of these dangerous substances, the brain believes that they are not just welcome parts of the day, but that they are necessary for the body’s survival and basic functions. Altering the brain in this manner can cause an inherent restructuring of one’s personality and values as a result of addiction, and could be wholly different from what they were before.
Those suffering from addiction can begin to prioritize the use of drugs or alcohol over other aspects of their lives, including their education, workplace attendance and performance, or relationships. An individual can become disinterested in activities they previously enjoyed, in an effort to find more time and energy to engage with addictive substances. Furthermore, they can become increasingly defensive or begin to isolate themselves regularly, even when such acts may have been uncharacteristic of the individual before.
The emotional impact of addiction can further cause this sudden change in personality as those who suffer from addiction can feel increased levels of anxiety, depression, panic, paranoia, or other complicated mental health issues. These aspects, compounding together, can all give the impression that an individual’s personality has rapidly changed, or that they are unrecognizable compared to the person they once were.
Taking the First Step
Addressing these rapid personality changes is a complicated endeavor, and it can be difficult to know how to talk to a loved one who may be experiencing this incredibly tumultuous time. Starting an honest dialogue and providing space for all parties to speak is essential. It is also important to address the potential use of addictive substances that may be further complicating the underlying problems.
Treatments can include but are not limited to psychotherapy, medications, residential treatment programs, and hospitalization.
Finding a program that can address the sources of one’s trauma, mental health, and substance use is paramount for creating a holistic approach to one’s recovery while addressing the unique personality changes therein. Detoxing and moving towards specialized, pertinent programs focused on your individual needs and struggles in recovery is the first step towards rediscovering your identity and creating new, sober values going forward.