Narcisstic man smoking a cigarette - Addiction and Narcissism

You might be taken aback to know that most people who struggle with addiction, also exude narcissistic traits or are full-blown narcissists. These people might have a heightened view of themselves and will only focus on their own greatness before thinking about the needs of others. For those with narcissistic personality traits, they are walking a fine line between stable and unstable, especially when addiction is factored into the equation. They are often misguided and believe they are more than capable of handling the effects of drugs and alcohol, and might have a stronger tolerance to it over their peers. What these feelings do is cause them to get caught up further in the cycle of addiction, with the issue frequently augmenting at a faster pace than they realize. Understanding the role of addiction and narcissism can help you or a loved one get the help they require, before it’s too late. Today, we will be determining if there is any confluence between the two.

Seeking To Understand Narcissism

In our world today, with a culture that is inundated with selfies and oversharing aspects of our personal lives via social media, the word “narcissism” gets thrown around, quite a bit. However, very few are actually familiar with what the psychological definition means. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is less known among the public due to the widely held stigmas and stereotypes that have surfaced. These individuals are typically misunderstood and are brushed to the side. However, symptoms can interfere with daily life and your cultivated interpersonal relationships.

To provide those with a better understanding of narcissism, here is the go-to clinical definition from Mayo Clinic: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of self, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. 

The Symptoms Of Narcissism

Those suffering from NPD will usually struggle with an “excessive sense of self-importance.” They focus inwardly on themselves, their wants, needs, without much regard if any at all for others. Exuding these traits will, over time, take a drastic toll on your interpersonal relationships. NPD sufferers might be overcome with idealized fantasies of success, beauty, power, grandiosity, intelligence, all while seeking constant reassurance in the form of attention and admiration. The self-interest eventually amplifies and becomes a behemoth of an issue, often leading to that person becoming more and more self-obsessive, which might mean that they take advantage of others to reach their goals. As far as criticism is concerned, a narcissist will not handle it well, and will regularly respond back with rage, shame, or humiliation. Their successes are almost always embellished in order to feel better about themselves. 

Addiction And Narcissism

When a narcissist does not receive the attention they require, expect them to act out in extreme ways. As a result, it can cause them to seek out drugs and alcohol in an attempt to deal with their emotional distress. However, as our team at North Jersey Recovery Center knows, this is a temporary solution to a lingering issue, if not addressed correctly. Once symptoms of addiction start to set in (i.e., cravings, heightened tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and negative impacts on the person’s life). The narcissist will usually deny that a problem exists in the first place. They do not want to believe that they could be putting themselves in harm’s way, and instead try to show those around them that they can handle the substances, leading to an entrapment in the vortex of addiction.

Are There Similarities Between Addiction and Narcissism?

One could make the argument that those who are afflicted by NPD and addiction might be seeking something external to fill that internal void. The individual struggling with addiction seeks this from drugs and alcohol, while the person with NPD seeks it from other people’s praise and attention. Just like how people with narcissistic personality disorder manipulate situations to ensure that they get the recognition they so need, those with addictions will commonly do the same to ensure their supply is both secure and consistent. Both types of patients will struggle with symptoms of anxiety and depression if they do not receive what they are seeking out.

Treatment Options For Co-Occurring Disorders

Anyone that has an addiction and another disorder present are struggling with a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders are not at all uncommon in the recovery space, as the two disorders will often feed off of each other while the person is actively struggling. The best treatment option will always be to treat both disorders simultaneously. Doing this will help the person heal from both issues at the same time. If you only address one disorder at a time, you are more likely to relapse due to unresolved, underlying causes.

When pursuing addiction treatment programs, it is best to look for a facility with an inpatient dual diagnosis program. Under this program type, it will ensure that the facility is well-versed in co-occurring disorders and utilize the appropriate tactics for treating patients with more than one ongoing disorder. The majority of these programs will use several treatment modalities that are tailored to the needs of that person. Common treatment methods will include the following:

  • Medical detox
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Somatic therapy
  • Experiential therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Mindfulness/meditation
  • Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • Relapse Prevention

Addiction And Narcissism: The Need For A Multi-Faceted Addiction Treatment Approach

On the subject of addiction, many are unaware that narcissism can play a pivotal role in the development of the disorder. The two can be interconnected as people struggling with narcissism have similarities to those struggling with addiction. At North Jersey Recovery Center, we are no stranger to treating co-occurring disorders. Our diverse range of treatment programs will certainly help you overcome the grip it has taken on your life, including for those dealing with addiction and narcissism. Contact us today to discuss next steps for treatment!