Narcissism and Alcoholism: Similarities, Differences, Diagnosis

One limitation of this study is the lack of diversity in the sample’s age (18–25) and race (88% Caucasian). Some research has found racial differences in regards to college drinking. Multiple regression analyses were conducted in Stata 14 (StataCorp, 2014). Five covert narcissism and alcoholism outcome variables (alcohol use, problems, and problem recognition, expectancies and evaluations) were tested in steps. For each regression model, gender, social desirability, and alcohol use (in the models where it wasn’t the outcome) were entered at Step 1.

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While narcissism is a personality disorder and alcoholism is an addiction, narcissists and alcoholics share several characteristics. Recognizing these commonalities can help you understand and cope with people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, untreated alcoholism, or both. It’s possible to have a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as well as an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Overt vs. Covert Narcissist Traits

Covert narcissist traits may reflect a different subtype or more subtle presentation of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The traits remain consistent, though, with the overt grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy in NPD that’s described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Despite sharing core traits, in a sense, behaviorally the covert narcissist is the mirror image of the exhibitionist narcissist. While the latter demands to be the center of attention, the former feels slighted that they’re not, or gets attention by playing the victim.

And not all abusive behaviors, covert or not, are a result of narcissistic traits. But some people with covert narcissism do engage in actions that can be considered manipulative and toxic. That’s what makes covert narcissism a little more dangerous and a little more difficult to manage.

Signs of covert narcissism

The study commented that people who show grandiose traits may have feelings of importance in an environment of drinking where this quality may thrive. Narcissists with low self-esteem may gain acceptance from others or a sense of security through alcohol consumption or use it as a coping mechanism for dealing with distress. This might include joining Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs that offer nonjudgmental peer support to others living with AUD. You can also join a local support group offered by the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), which addresses substance abuse when NPD and other mental health disorders. Anyone living with mental health symptoms that interfere with their work or personal life should consider seeking help. These healthcare professionals can assess the problem and recommend treatments.

Also, people with AUD might seem to behave similarly to people with narcissistic traits. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 22.6% of people with a personality disorder also have a substance use disorder (SUD), which can include alcohol use. However, NPD includes other traits, such as needing constant praise and special treatment, reacting negatively to criticism, and manipulating others. People with NPD might be unwilling or unable to recognize others’ feelings and needs.

What Happens When An Empath Wants To Leave A Narcissist

There’s little data on whether people with both NPD and AUD have a different outlook than people who have only one of the conditions. However, it’s recommended that both conditions are treated at the same time to improve your likelihood of recovery. Although NPD can’t be cured, someone with NPD can change their behavior if they’re willing to put in the time and effort, according to research from 2018. People with NPD tend to have difficulty receiving criticism from others, and as such, they might find it difficult to commit to psychotherapy and lifestyle changes. In the United States, the DSM-5-TR is used to diagnose both conditions. In other words, those who had narcissistic tendencies were more likely to use alcohol and experience problems because of alcohol use.

  • A 2018 study found that people with personality disorders were more likely to have AUD at some point in their lives.
  • And this is just a sample of the impacts that a child raised by a covert narcissistic parent can experience.
  • People with a pattern of narcissism often turn to alcohol to reinforce a false sense of grandiosity.
  • In fact, empathy and support are actually not helpful in dealing with a narcissist.

For NPD, it may involve individual or group counseling using cognitive behavioral therapy, schema-focused therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. For AUD, group approaches such as AA and other twelve-step addiction programs are common. The treatment of NPD and AUD should ideally be delivered simultaneously, especially if there is severe addiction or depression. With that said, there are challenges to delivering appropriate care for the dual diagnosis. By way of example, a person must meet five of nine possible criteria for NPD to be diagnosed, ranging from grandiosity to a lack of empathy. NPD and AUD frequently co-exist and can increase the effects of each other.

What causes each condition — can one cause the other?

An overt narcissist comes off as self-absorbed, vain and outwardly expressive about their self-importance but tends to feel insecure, less-than and inadequate on the inside. When we hear that someone is a narcissist, we often imagine them as being overly assertive and outwardly aggressive. In an effort to proclaim they are, in fact, the most important person in the room, a narcissist might bulldoze over healthy boundaries and exhibit a sense of entitlement. Narcissism and alcoholism are two distinct conditions but share some traits. Individuals who are experiencing these symptoms would benefit from considering a treatment program for alcohol abuse. NPD is a personality disorder, whereas AUD is a substance use disorder.

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