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Narcissism and Drug Addiction – What Happens When Two Disorders Meet

Narcissism and drug addiction often go hand-in-hand since individuals with narcissistic personalities need to find a way to escape their overwhelming emotional anxiety and pain. Similarly, most addicts have narcissistic traits.

Do you know someone who appears to be completely absorbed in their own charm and greatness? If so, you probably think of them as a narcissist. It is normal for people to become overly proud of themselves on occasion, but it is an entirely different problem if they have narcissistic personality disorder. A person with this disorder will do whatever it takes to defend their fragile perception of themselves, typically by exaggerating it and forming a group of admirers that they can rely on.

What is narcissistic personality disorder?

Individuals with narcissistic personalities tend to get admiration from others while also making sure they maintain emotional distance from them. Their narcissistic behaviour intensifies if they feel threatened or as though someone is getting too close to them. This behaviour often irritates or offends the other person thereby creating space between them. A narcissist will blame other people for their anger, allowing them to disregard reality and preserve their elevated sense of self.

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder tend to be:

  • Boastful
  • Pretentious
  • Emotionally distant
  • Jealous
  • Devaluating of other people

They often display problematic and maladaptive behaviours that cause significant damage to their lives.

How do narcissistic drug addicts behave?

One study in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) highlighted the development of individuals with narcissistic personality disorder who went through an outpatient cocaine treatment course. The narcissists mostly had unrealistic demands for the therapist, other patients and anyone else involved in the treatment programme. When their criteria of perfection failed to be met by others, the narcissists usually quit treatment. Narcissists tend to deny that they are addicted to drugs, regardless of what it looks like. They describe their drug use as boosting their energy and life.

How are narcissism and drug addiction related?

The cycle of narcissistic personality disorder and addiction are quite similar. The cycle of addiction involves cravings, growing tolerance and withdrawal. Narcissists crave the feeling of superiority and they are always seeking new and better triumphs that lead to greater glory. When narcissists do not receive the admiration they crave, such as through criticism, indifference or disrespect, they exhibit significant distress.

The similarities between narcissism and drug addiction

The similarities between narcissism and drug addiction are that the individual depends on something external to fill the emptiness inside. The narcissist relies on admiration and attention from other people, which can be real or imagined, for their well-being. They create situations of accomplishment so that people will congratulate them, or even become envious of them, and act in ways that make others pay attention to them. This is accomplished in a similar manner to the way an addict ensures their drug supple is constant and secure.

They put a lot of time and effort into crafting the situations and keeping up appearances in order to fill their emptiness. Nevertheless, the attention and admiration that their require increases over time, just like how an addict needs to increase their dose. When they feel as though they are not receiving the adequate amount of attention and admiration, they experience anxiety and, ultimately, depression.

Other overlapping characteristics between narcissism and drug addiction include:

  • Self-medication
  • Emotional avoidance
  • Shame
  • Denial
  • Minimising
  • Normalising
  • Blaming
  • Low self-esteem
  • Controlling behaviour/manipulation
  • Codependency
  • Black & white thinking
  • Anger/rage

Ultimately, both narcissists and addicts only pay attention to the possibility of the reward and disregard the potential downside of their behaviour.

What happens when a narcissist uses drugs?

When an addiction and mental disorder coexist, the person suffers from a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis. Narcissism is a type of personality disorder that is commonly linked with addiction, therefore comprehensive treatment is often required to achieve the best results.

A standard inpatient dual diagnosis programme includes many of the same components as an addiction treatment programme. However, there is a greater emphasis on intake evaluation, which requires proper assessment before creating a tailored treatment plan, and therapy that addresses both issues. Comprehensive treatment often includes:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Counselling
  • 12 Step programmes
  • Holistic therapies
  • Psychodynamic therapy

It is important for those with dual diagnosis to find a treatment centre that specialises in co-occurring disorders in order to be effective.

How to help a person with narcissism and drug addiction?

It can be very challenging to get a person with narcissistic personality disorder into treatment, especially because it is highly unlikely that they will admit they have a problem with addiction. Yet, if you know a person with this disorder who really requires help, look for a way to offer them a helping hand. They may be reluctant to admit that they need you, even if they know it.

If you have noticed signs of narcissism and drug addiction in yourself or someone you love, it is time to get help. The Dawn Medical Rehab & Wellness Centre offers highly-personalised and integrated treatment plans for co-occurring disorders, addiction and other issues. Our team of addiction professionals uses evidence-based techniques to help you achieve the best possible solution.

Contact The Dawn today to receive a no obligation assessment and find out what help is available. You can also call us on one of our toll-free numbers.

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