Narcissism

Is the Addict in Your Life Also a Narcissist?

I am frequently asked by family members what they should or should not do.

Posted May 18, 2019

It is not uncommon to enter into a relationship with someone who seems like Mr. or Mrs. Right during the dating phase only to find out they have an addiction problem once you are married or living together as partners. Unfortunately, many addicts are experts at hiding their addictive behaviors. Addictions to pornography, sex, shopping, gambling, and work are much easier to hide from dating partners than addictions to alcohol or drugs. 

However, there is another factor that can occur in people with addictions, and specifically with drug or alcohol addictions. This includes an increased risk for personality disorders in those with alcohol or drug addictions. In a 1993 study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry, researchers Cor A.J. DeJong et al. found that of 178 alcoholics and 86 drug addicts hospitalized, 78% alcoholics had at least one personality disorder. Within the 86 drug addicts hospitalized, there was a 91% rate of individuals meeting the criteria for at least one personality disorder. 

The Link

Interestingly, a 2017 study on the combination of smartphone use, addictions and narcissism found that of 256 smartphone users, 13.3% self-reported as addicted to their device, and they had a higher narcissism score than those participating in the study without an addiction. Similar results were also found in a September 2017 article in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions titled, "An Investigation into Problematic Smartphone Use: The Role of Narcissism, Anxiety and Personality Factors." In this study, 640 smartphone users were asked to respond to a modified survey using the criteria based on the DSM-5 Internet Gaming Disorder, with the same link between addition and narcissism reported. 

In traditional types of addiction recovery programs, it is not unusual to find people that meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder NPD, even though they may never have been diagnosed. 

While this may seem confusing as narcissists seem to be in full control, the risk of addiction is based on the underlying factors of narcissism. What appears to be arrogance, superiority, self-control and focus on self is really a sign of deep, underlying insecurity. Narcissists are very emotionally fragile and can have extreme reactions to any type of negative criticism. They have to continually be seen at the center of attention and to deny that anyone is equal or better. 

This internal stress creates an increased risk for the development of an addiction. Many of the people I work with as a recovery coach and psychotherapist are struggling to understand the behaviors of their partners. As a general list, your partner may be both addicted and be a narcissist if:

  • The individual has an extreme view of themselves as superior, more important than others or constantly boasts of achievement and success. 
  • Demands the position as the center of attention.
  • Whats to be recognized for all success, even if he/she was not the cause of the success
  • Highly offended by correction, criticism or being ignored
  • Only wants to be around people who are seen as being important, affluent or influential

The rate of drug and alcohol addiction and narcissism is significant. According to a 2009 article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the rates of drug addiction and alcoholism with NPD are 21.7% and 9.3% respectively, which is over 3% of the general population. While the two are not always linked, they are often related.