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  • Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition describing an inflated sense of grandiosity and self-importance, as well as a lack of empathy. 

    It’s named for the Greek character Narcissus, a beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and stared at it until he died.

    Many of the behavioral changes associated with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and other substance use disorders have much in common with narcissism. In fact, so much so that some may reflectively declare that all alcoholics are, by definition, narcissists.

    1. Denial

    Why are 12-step programs famous for the phrase, “and I am an alcoholic?”

    Because this admission breaks the narcissistic tendency of alcoholics to deny that they have a problem.

    In fact, denial and deception are common signs of drug addiction and those who misuse alcohol may: 

    • claim to have drunk less than they really did
    • claim that they can stop anytime they want
    • resist the notion that their drinking is problematic
    • resist the notion that it harms anyone besides themselves

    2. Lack Of Self-Reflection

    Narcissists are self-absorbed, but not self-reflective.

    Self-absorption is a fixation on one’s self-image—on your needs, your wants, your feelings, and your problems—at the expense of others. 

    In contrast, self-reflection is a process of trying to see and understand yourself, usually with positive effects for those around you.  

    Those suffering from addiction can likewise become consumed by their own circumstances while resisting the urge to look inwards or make a moral inventory. 

    This is likely due to the distress, emptiness, loneliness, guilt, shame, and despair that’s often lurking just below the surface. All of which are feelings that alcohol, conveniently, can smother.

    3. Entitlement

    When someone develops an AUD, they will naturally and narcissistically come to believe that having a drink is their right—I earned it, I need it, I deserve it, and I will do whatever I have to to get it.

    This sense of entitlement can cause many to refuse to apologize or make empty apologies for their drinking, break promises not to drink or not to drink too much, and invent excuses or blame others to avoid responsibility.

    4. Self-Destruction

    Narcissists are famously impulsive, often lacking the discipline to achieve their own goals. Many also self-sabotage, choosing to intentionally fail rather than collaborate with others and struggle, change, learn, or grow.

    In the same vein, AUDs cause individuals to get stuck in harmful patterns of behavior, drinking alcohol while knowingly surrendering their own physical health, mental health, favorite interests, relationships, responsibilities, and self-esteem.

    5. They Struggle With Relationships

    Many narcissists are very social, and so are many alcoholics, at least while under the influence.

    But narcissists lack the empathy required to value or show interest in others and have difficulty making meaningful connections.

    In the same way, those with AUD can get so wrapped up in feelings of entitlement, loneliness, rejection, and shame that they emotionally retreat, turning inward and losing the capacity to build or maintain real friendships.

    6. Opportunism

    Both narcissists and alcoholics often use others to get what they want, whether it’s money to enable their drinking or an audience for their drama.

    In both cases, this opportunism can include harmful emotional manipulation, verbal attacks, shame, lies, empty promises, theft, threats, and more.

    7. Unpredictability

    Narcissists are prone to dramatic mood swings and may change their behavior and attitudes without warning, especially if they feel they’ve been wronged in some way, real or imagined.

    In the same way, those with AUD can be emotional, irritable, unpredictable, and impulsive, especially when inebriated or when they feel attacked or pressured to stop drinking.

    What To Do When A Loved One Has AUD

    AUD can bring out the worst in people, and the pain, guilt, and helplessness you may feel watching a family member or friend struggle with a drinking problem can be indescribable.

    But there are steps you can take to help your loved ones while protecting your own well-being and self-worth:

    • recognize that you are not responsible for other’s choices
    • recognize that you did not cause anyone’s drinking problem
    • stop making excuses for other people’s behavior
    • stop enabling or participating in problematic behavior
    • set clear boundaries and stick to them
    • clearly express your concerns and offer solutions, especially addiction treatment options 

    Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

    If you or a loved one are ready to get professional help and address alcohol abuse or other mental health disorders, Ark Behavioral Health can help.

    With four treatment centers located in Massachusetts, our team offers detox support for alcohol dependence and withdrawal symptoms, as well as other evidence-based recovery services for co-occurring disorders, including dual diagnosis programs.

    Please contact our helpline today to learn more about our substance abuse treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
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