A personality disorder can make life and social interactions a huge pain to deal with. This pain is compounded when a serious personality disorder like narcissism is matched with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
These struggles have a symbiotic relationship of sorts, as they feed off and interactive with the other.
If you think that you or a loved one are dealing with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), you should be vigilant about understanding its links to drugs and alcohol. Below we’ll explore that topic and more.
What Exactly Is Narcissism?
The very first thing that you need to do is learn exactly what narcissism is. You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression of someone being called narcissistic before.
This is a turn of phrase that a lot of people throw around to describe someone that is self-centered or self-absorbed. However, this is actually a clinical condition that is fairly common.
The condition, like most of its kind, is centered around trauma in most cases. It involves a person buying into fantasies and delusions in order to cover up and cope with their actual traumas or insecurities.
As you might expect, a condition that permeates so deeply into a person’s psyche can affect every aspect of their life.
Diagnosing and Recognizing Narcissism
In order to know for sure whether you or a loved one is living with a narcissistic personality disorder, you’ll need to get a thorough doctor’s examination.
This involves both a physical and mental evaluation. The physical evaluation is done to see if there are any ailments that are contributing to this condition. After a psychological evaluation, a doctor will diagnose a patient with NPD, and will then suggest some treatment methods.
It’s definitely best to get an evaluation if the symptoms of NPD are permeating the rest of life and making it difficult to deal with.
The signs and symptoms include:
- Grand feelings of superiority
- Compulsive exaggerations about ability and good fortunes
- The need to look down on others
- Living and speaking of fantasies that never happened
- Paranoia about others being jealous, and being intensely jealous of others
- Unbalanced moods and throwing emotional weight around
Diagnosing this issue helps people go through the stages of addiction much more smoothly than one otherwise would.
When making this initial appointment, the patient should come to the doctor with a list of questions about what treatments are recommended, how they should restructure their lives, and what sorts of specialists are available.
Keep an open mind and feel free to get a few different medical opinions. Getting a handle on NPD is especially crucial once the use of alcohol or drugs comes into play.
Addictions aside, even recreationally using drugs and alcohol could have severe effects for a person already living with a behavioral disorder.
A person living life through a narcissistic lens exists in a false mental paradigm. Introducing brain chemistry-altering substances like drugs and alcohol can deepen or exacerbate this unbalanced mental paradigm, sending a person with NPD deeper into a spiral.
Substance abuse and narcissism have a lot of links, which is why it’s so important to explore them.
In What Ways Does Narcissism Coincide With Alcohol and Drug Use?
There is a deep link between the behavior patterns of a person living with NPD and someone dealing with substance abuse issues. Because the patterns are so similar, a person living with narcissism is likely to also have substance abuse issues.
Since this link is so strong, getting the proper therapy can create total healing from both issues.
When a person gets clean of alcohol and drugs, they often become more fit, have better immune systems, sleep better and find that they are more hydrated. This allows for clearer thinking, which can be productive when going through therapy for a narcissistic disorder.
Here are a few key ways that these conditions are linked:
1. The Addiction or Risky Behavior Could Feed the Need For Attention
In many cases, a narcissist’s drug or alcohol problem has nothing to do with a physical dependency. Rather, the substance abuse issue is the outlet they use to get attention.
This need for attention, even negative attention, is foundational to the narcissist personality. An inflated sense of self-importance is one of the primary symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, and sometimes that sense of importance can even mean making their drug or alcohol addiction the most important thing in the world.
Risky behavior can be seen as a cry for attention since the people that care will feel compelled to come pick up the pieces and prove that they care.
2. Narcissists are More Impulsive
The impulsiveness factor is another way that these conditions are linked. A person that is more prone to impulses will also be less likely to think twice about binge drinking or using drugs.
When a person is living this cycle of impulsiveness, they are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem.
In many cases, narcissist’s addictions undermine their relationships and put them in situations of personal harm.
3. It Acts as a Mirror in Relationships
More often than not, narcissists attract each other in relationships.
Mental health professionals are quick to point this out since narcissistic relationships can only exist when there is some level of co-dependency. If you are in a close relationship with someone that you suspect has NPD, this is an important time to reflect on how you may also be displaying some of those traits by enabling them.
For instance, the person who ends up being the primary “fixer” for a narcissist, with deep reflection may find that they relish the role of being needed. When it is expressed in such an unhealthy and unbalanced way without boundaries, the enabler is exhibiting their own inflated sense of self-importance.
Because of this, the end game should always be total healing of these relationships, including therapy with those that helped co-create it.
4. Drug and Alcohol Addiction Acts as a Self-Imposed Barrier
It’s also important to realize that narcissists often create a drug or alcohol problem to subconsciously put up barriers.
Many narcissists have success barriers that keep them struggling and prevent them from fulfilling their life’s goals. They may also have emotional barriers to keep someone from getting too close in fear of getting hurt.
Indulging in drugs and alcohol is a go-to way that narcissists impose these barriers so that they can stick to the story that their pain or lack of fulfillment was someone else’s fault.
5. It Can Be Tough to Deduce Whether the Narcissism or Addiction Is the Primary Factor
When a person that abuses alcohol and drugs also exhibits narcissistic traits, it can turn into a chicken and egg situation.
Because these behavioral patterns are so intrinsically linked, it can be difficult to know whether they are a narcissist who drinks too much or a person with an alcohol problem that becomes more narcissistic when they drink.
Understanding these subtle differences can better help a medical professional get to the root cause of the issue so that the person in question can get help through treatment.
There are usually some tells that will let you know if the narcissistic personality trait is the foundational piece of the puzzle.
For instance, if they are willingly going through alcohol addiction treatment, but are often bragging about being the best person in the class or otherwise boasting about how big a life achievement overcoming addiction will be, it would reveal the issue of narcissism is more deeply tied to their core.
6. Cocaine Is Often the Drug of Choice
When people with narcissistic personality disorder abuse drugs, they typically have a substance of choice. For many, cocaine is the go-to drug.
This makes sense because cocaine is a drug that supercharges a person’s sense of ego and makes them feel more untouchable. For a lot of narcissists, their substance addiction looks and feels more like the Wolf of Wall Street than a sad and damaging spiral.
So when you notice that the person in question is abusing cocaine more than other substances, it could also be a key indicator that NPD is their root issue.
7. They Will Need Extensive and Dedicated Behavioral Therapy
When addiction and personality disorder become so deeply intertwined, it will take some extensive therapy to get back to normal living and a healthy state of mind.
In this case, the patient will need to undergo a medical detox and substance abuse therapy simultaneously with behavioral therapy related to narcissistic personality disorder.
By tackling both the personality disorder and the addiction, the patient will begin to experience breakthroughs in their drug and alcohol abuse recovery, and in their personality disorder challenges. It helps to bring about a more balanced state of mind and gets to the root cause of both issues.
8. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder Are More Likely to Hide Their Addiction
A person’s addictive behavior may not be readily noticeable if they’re a narcissist.
Narcissists are obsessed with the idea of their public image, so many become good at hiding the addiction, to the point that you may see them often and never know it. They may also be the type to rationalize their overconsumption and risky use, or never admit that they have a problem.
Because of this, it’s important to become more deeply attuned to the warning signs, rather than simply focusing on what they say.
9. The Risk of Overdose Is Multiplied
Substance abuse is an even greater medical emergency when the person is a narcissist.
Because narcissists are so impulsive and even willing to live destructively for attention, they are also more likely to overdose. An addiction of this magnitude requires constant monitoring by professionals.
This is especially important since narcissists are also master manipulators that can guilt trip enablers.
Since this downward spiral can be so severe, it’s important to get a person with NPD immediate and complete medical and addiction recovery attention to save their life and their health.
10. They Often Develop Other Personality Disorders
When a narcissist abuses drugs and alcohol, they are also far more likely to cluster other personality disorders.
For instance, they may also begin developing anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder and deep depression. All of these conditions are only exacerbated by the consumption of drugs and alcohol.
How You Can Help Your Loved One
If you’ve suffered from NPD and think that you might also have an addiction problem, it’s important that you immediately get the full treatment that you need.
When the person in question is a friend or family member, it can be more difficult watching them hurt themselves from a distance. The key is to recognize the addiction signs.
If a person’s life balance is thrown out of whack over a substance they’re overconsuming, and if they are constantly failing attempts to quit, they most likely have an abuse issue. This substance abuse is only multiplied when they’re also seeking relief from cognitive perceptions that aren’t aligned with reality.
The best thing you can do is direct them to treatment options and offer to take them in. In the meantime, cut out any co-dependent and enabling behavior. This means allowing them to either accept your offer or deny it but refusing to play a part in fueling their addiction either way.
Understanding Narcissism and Substance Abuse
Narcissism can play a huge role in a person’s drug or alcohol addiction. In order to get healing, you’ll need complete medical help that addresses both issues.
If you or a loved one are in need of drug detox and addiction treatment, contact us online or give us a call at (844) 467-3848.
Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley is the CEO and Founder of Revive Detox, a Joint Commission Accredited and Legit Script Certified Addiction Treatment Center in Los Angeles, CA. She earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University in Los Angeles in 2007 and has extensive experience working in the addiction and recovery field and the LGBT community. To learn more about Dr. Calvert-Conley click here.