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Self-Centredness and Addiction: Exploring the Connection and Path to Recovery

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Self-centredness and addiction are conditions that can be highly problematic on their own, and in combination can cause significant damage to one’s personal and professional success. Understanding how they relate is an important part of getting the right kind of support.

Does extreme self-centredness cause addiction? Or does addiction cause self-centredness? When someone is caught in the haze of addiction, what often remains in the sharpest focus is the object of their dependency. Addiction concentrates all energy on that priority, which negatively impacts the ability of people to consider the feelings or needs of others. 

Additionally, people who often make selfish decisions or are prone to self-serving behaviour may have an underlying psychological disorder that can put them at a higher risk for addiction. Understanding the link between self-centredness and addiction is important in getting the right kind of treatment.

What Does Self-centredness Look Like?

Self-centredness refers to an intense focus on one’s own personal needs and wants to the exclusion of anyone else’s. People who are extremely self-centred may be aware of the needs of others but continuously prioritise their own even at the expense of others’ wellbeing, a quality also known as selfishness. Some characteristics of self-centredness include:

  • Feeling entitled 
  • Having a sense of self-importance
  • Exceptionalism; i.e. “I am completely unique and more therefore more deserving”
  • Tending to seek pleasure and avoiding pain, hardship, or criticism
  • Having a perspective based solely on one’s own experiences 
  • Difficulty being gracious, compassionate, or sympathetic
  • Having a rigid sense of self that persists over time

Self-centredness can also manifest as self-abuse, with a person’s actions or thoughts focused on punishing or degrading themselves despite caring interventions of others. This not only harms the individual, but also hurts those who love and care for them. 

What is the difference between self-care and self-centredness?

While both self-care and self-centredness focus on prioritising one’s needs, there are critical differences between the two. Self-care involves looking after your own health, ensuring that your basic needs are met, and that space and resources are devoted towards personal growth and wellbeing. This not only counteracts the effects of self-abuse as a form of self-centredness, but also establishes a healthy platform by which to build good relationships. Self-centred behaviour, on the other hand, tends to be destructive to interpersonal relationships, ultimately isolating an individual and limiting the benefits gained from healthy, positive connections with others.

The Link Between Self-Centredness and Addiction

Self-centredness and addiction are linked in several distinct ways. Understanding the possible connections between them can help narrow down what may be needed for effective treatment.

Self-centredness as part of a mental health disorder

In some cases, self-centredness is a symptom of a significant mental health disorder like antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, depression or anxiety. Conditions such as these can result in an intense focus on the self, and cause a variety of other symptoms that are mentally or physically uncomfortable. This can lead to self-medication with substances in order to try and manage symptoms. In cases where there is a dual diagnosis of a mental health condition alongside a substance use disorder, treatment for co-occurring disorders is necessary in order to fully address both the causes and effects of addiction.

Self-centredness as part of addiction

Those living with a substance use disorder often become increasingly self-centred due to the effects of addiction on the brain. When we take in something that is potentially addictive, this activates the brain’s reward centre and triggers a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine stimulates positive, motivating feelings about the addictive substance or behaviour that propel us to continue using it.

When this process is repeated over time, the brain adapts to the increased levels of dopamine, leading to the development of tolerance and a pressing need for more of the addictive substance that overrides other interests or concerns – including the needs and wellbeing of loved ones. This “rewiring” of the brain is part of what makes addiction so difficult to break without professional support.

Self-centredness as a coping mechanism

For some, self-centredness occurs as a reaction to underlying psychological stress caused by issues like trauma, low self-esteem, adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, bullying or neglect, or societal pressures. These factors can result in a preoccupation with one’s own needs as a form of survival or self-preservation. The discomfort of these stressors may also lead to substance use in order to alleviate stress, numb negative feelings, or hide insecurities.

What are the Impacts of Self-Centredness and Addiction?

The combination of self-centredness and addiction can be devastating to both personal and professional relationships. Broken promises, inattention to others’ needs, and lack of care about responsibilities to others can wreak havoc and cause permanent damage to relationships. These issues are further compounded by an inability to accept criticism or identify areas of personal improvement, which entrenches interpersonal issues and can result in the total breakdown of once important relationships.

Over time, self-centredness and addiction can result in growing isolation, which in turn worsens underlying mental health conditions and addictive behaviours and increases the risk of severe consequences. This underscores the need to address both self-centredness and addiction in order to develop a better quality of life and avoid negative physical and mental health impacts.

How to Recover from Self-Centredness and Addiction

Recovery from self-centredness and addiction starts with identifying that you have a problem, thereby overcoming the denial that is a hallmark of many disorders. However, recognising that you’re overly focused on your own needs can be challenging. If you’ve been

  • accused of being self-centred 
  • confronted with concerns about your substance use
  • had difficulties in maintaining relationships 

These are signals that you may be struggling with self-centredness and addiction. Remember that while a healthy sense of self-worth and value are important, an inflated sense of these things can be destructive to your wellbeing. Changing unhealthy patterns is critical in finding genuine success and satisfaction, and overcoming addiction.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, is an effective and widely-practised method of therapy often used for those looking to overcome addiction and mental health issues. CBT identifies the root causes of addiction, explores problematic patterns of thought and behaviour such as self-centred thinking, and elicits ways in which to constructively address and shift these patterns. As part of this method, clients and therapists also discuss and practise alternative, healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress and dealing with challenging situations to improve resilience, lower the risk of relapse and broaden healthy perspectives.

Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy or group therapy can also be a useful tool in overcoming self-centredness and the mental health issues that may be underlying it. This highly effective form of group therapy, also known as a process group, is where people can come together to begin to understand their interactions with others, and practise new ways to interact in order to more fully connect with other people with the guidance of a therapist.

Embracing a balanced self

Self-reflection and self-awareness are critical to the recovery journey. Creating space by which to constructively examine your thoughts and actions, as well as your engagement with others, allows you to grow and change in a way that connects you to others rather than isolates you. Some strategies by which to cultivate this positive development include:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Journaling
  • Yoga and other exercise which fosters a mind-body connection
  • Psychoeducation 

These strategies are most effective when coupled with a strong self-care routine that involves regular exercise, good nutrition, and proper sleep hygiene.

Finding Balance at The Dawn Rehab Thailand

Finding Balance at The Dawn Rehab Thailand

The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Thailand has helped over 1,000 individuals from around the world overcome addiction and co-occurring mental health problems. Here, far from the stressors of home, you’ll be able to focus completely on your needs, heal old wounds, and learn new ways to regain your health and build healthy relationships. 

Internationally accredited by (CARF), The Dawn offers personalised programmes that cater to each individual’s needs by using a comprehensive, holistic treatment method and modern techniques with proven results.

Call us today to learn more about how we can support your journey of self-discovery and healing.

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