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Narcissists and addiction tend to go together, which further complicates each disorder.
You or a loved one may have found yourselves in the crosshairs of a narcissist. If so, then you already know the awful impact of this mental health disorder on its victims. What you may not know is that narcissists and addiction are often co-occurring disorders. Read on to find out why.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
A narcissist may or may not have a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The distinction is made by a mental health professional based on how many traits or symptoms the patient displays.
NPD is a complex mental health disorder that is difficult to treat. The key feature is a cold, emotional detachment from the host, or victim, and not admitting the pain they inflict.
Symptoms of NPD include:
- Concerned only with him or herself.
- A grandiose sense of self, oversized ego, and sense of entitlement.
- Exploits other peoples’ weaknesses.
- Mood swings.
- Unpredictable anger; explosive fits of rage.
- Doesn’t take criticism well, and lashes out when corrected.
- Looks down on others, boastful and arrogant.
- Does not admit blame for cruel behavior; do not apologize.
- Lacks empathy and compassion.
- Feels no guilt, remorse, or shame for his or her actions.
- Manipulates others to achieve their objectives.
- Wants to isolate the victim from family and friends.
Some narcissists are driven by very low self-esteem and have a deep need to be revered and respected. At their core, though, they have a low opinion of themselves, even loathing themselves.
Other narcissists are driven by an inflated sense of self and worth. They exaggerate their abilities and background and behave in a more dominant manner based on their high sense of self.
A narcissist sets their sights on a host or someone who will feel their ego and affirm their sense of superiority. This ends up being very harmful to the victim, as they become the source of power from which the NPD feeds. Over time, the victim is emotionally abused and left as a shell of who they once were.
Traits of a Narcissist with an Addiction
There are many similar traits between someone with NPD and someone with a substance use disorder. In many ways, the substance is accessed as a way of self-medicating the negative emotions the NPD wants to deny. These might be feelings of shame or guilt, low self-esteem, or a sense of inadequacy. To maintain a sense of superiority they must hide these feelings, so a substance becomes a tool to that end.
The use of alcohol in particular can boost the NPD’s sense of superiority. While drinking, they feel invincible and even feel they can yield power over others. So, alcohol can make the NPD traits that much more potent and cruel.
What Is the Link Between Narcissists and Addiction?
There has been research into the link between NPD and substance use disorder, especially alcohol addiction. A recent study looked at the personality traits that exist both in those with alcohol problems and in narcissists. There is an overlap that shows people that drink are prone to devaluing others, a key trait of NPD.
In fact, A.A. has noted the fact that “pathological narcissism” is a central problem among alcoholics. The idea is that both the addict and the narcissist are self-absorbed. Also, someone with NPD whose ego is threatened may feel vulnerable, and therefore uses a substance to numb that negative affect.
The Narcissist-Addiction Dual Diagnosis
A dual diagnosis is a state in which a person has a mental health disorder and a co-occurring substance use disorder. Narcissists and addicts have just this type of dual diagnosis. There is a need to address both disorders in treatment, not just addiction.
Dual diagnosis treatment combines psychiatric interventions with addiction treatment protocols. These are specialized programs that have psychiatrists on site. Treatment will include an array of therapies, as well as education. These include:
Detox. Someone with a dual diagnosis will first need to go through the process of detox and withdrawal. This step clears the substance from the system and allows the person to engage in treatment with a clear head. Detox takes about one to two weeks to complete.
Psychotherapy. When the person begins the therapy process they will address the NPD head-on. Because narcissists and addiction are often interlinked, it is crucial to offer treatment for both of these complex disorders.
Medication. When there is a co-occurring mental health disorder, meds may be prescribed. As for NPD, there is not a specific drug to treat it, but some patients benefit from antidepressants.
Group sessions. Chatting with peers in recovery during group therapy sessions can really help. A clinician leads the topics of discussion, which will revolve around a dual diagnosis and recovery.
12-step program. Many treatment programs weave A.A.’s 12-step program into the schedule. Some centers also offer alternative programs, like SMART Recovery.
Classes. Recovery success depends to a great extent on making lifestyle changes. In treatment, there will be classes to teach about how addiction transpires, and ways to avoid relapse. Life skills classes help with gaining employment and interpersonal skills.
Holistic. Holistic methods can aid the person in delving into their psyche and discovering new insights about why they behave the way they do. These methods include art therapy, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness.
Hope for Narcissists with Drug or Alcohol Addiction
When someone is battling narcissism and addiction, they are on a destructive path. Not only will their relationships suffer, but their health will suffer, too. Get on the path to recovery today, and reach out for help.
Capo by the Sea Luxury Treatment Center for Dual Diagnosis
Capo by the Sea offers the utmost in luxury along with evidence-based treatment methods to assist people with dual diagnosis. If you or a loved one has NPD plus a substance use disorder, they will benefit from our comprehensive program. Call (888) 529-2114 today for more details about our program.