Research suggests there is a connection between alcohol use disorder and pathological narcissism. While many factors contribute to alcohol use disorder, it is vital not to underestimate how a maladaptive appetite for validation and attention can drive some individuals to engage in behaviors that harm themselves and others. Sadly, it can lead to a dangerous cycle of alcohol abuse as they seek to escape their problems or cope with feelings of inadequacy. A peer-reviewed study called The Relation Between Pathological Narcissism and Alcohol Use Disorder explores the complex and intricate relationship between the two disorders, concluding that:
“Psychologically fragile individuals’ use of alcohol may be related to their attempts to cope with discomfort created in their internal worlds by [a] pathological narcissistic structure. In this case, such individuals see alcohol as a source of power […] to be merged [with] against stressful events experienced in adulthood.”
In other words, whenever reality is in conflict with a narcissistic person’s self-concept, it can trigger an identity crisis which causes them to self-medicate.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease marked by excessive consumption of and preoccupation with alcohol. The use and abuse of alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. According to research by the World Health Organization, every year it is responsible for 3 million deaths globally. Greater understanding of the common denominators may help lead to the development of more effective strategies for recovery and growth.
Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
Some of common symptoms of alcohol use disorder are:
- Inability to restrict alcohol consumption.
- Failure to limit alcohol consumption.
- Alcohol consumption, procurement, and recovery occupies a great deal of time.
- Powerful cravings to consume alcohol.
- Reduced performance at work, school, or home due to regular alcohol consumption
- Ongoing consumption of alcohol despite adverse health and socio-economic outcomes.
- Alcohol consumption rakes precedence over work and leisure activities.
- Consumption of alcohol in high-risk contexts, i.e. drunk driving, caring for children.
- Increased tolerance of alcohol requires consumption of greater quantities.
- Not consuming alcohol leads to withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, shaking, and sweating, that can only be alleviated by consuming alcohol.
What is Pathological Narcissism?
Pathological narcissism is a complex and often misunderstood condition that can lead to destructive behaviors that impact oneself and others. It can be thought of as an addiction to external forms of validation, and frequently manifests in tandem with i.e. alcohol abuse disorder, gambling addiction, shopping addictions, addiction to work, etc.
Discussions on the topic frequently overlook that it is a post-traumatic stress adaptation and that people with the condition compulsively seeking external stimuli, usually in the form of attention and adulation, to prop up a fragile ego. However, discussions about the comorbidity of maladaptive narcissism and substance dependency are rare despite the reality that highly narcissistic people are prone to self-medicate through substance use to fill the inner void that is a source of torment for them. Understanding the link between maladaptive narcissism and substance dependency is crucial to providing holistic support and treatment for those who struggle with these challenges.
What is the Link Between Alcohol Abuse Disorder and Pathological Narcissism?
Alcohol use disorder and pathological narcissism are compulsive shame-based behaviors. Both share a ravenous appetite for pain relief through escapism. Furthermore, the words narcissism and narcotic are derived from the Greek word narkao which means “I numb myself.”
Dr. Joseph Burgo, author ofThe Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age, explains:
“Because their shame is so much deeper and more agonizing, extreme narcissists will stop at nothing to avoid feeling it. In fact, almost everything they say and do is intended to avoid the experience of shame.”
It is important to remember that pathological narcissism is a mental health condition. Those who suffer from it often struggle with a great many insecurities and fears. It is also why many people with this orientation also suffer from addiction issues as they use maladaptive coping mechanisms to relieve the pain of their psychological wounds. Let’s continue to acknowledge and discuss the adverse aspects of pathological narcissism to foster thoughtful, compassionate discussion and reduce stigma.
- Can, Y., Cüneyt, E., Anli, I., Öznur, U. (2016) ‘The Relation Between Pathological Narcissism and Alcohol Use Disorder.’ Addicta: The Turkish Journal on Addictions. The Turkish Green Crescent Society.
- Vaknin, S. (2018) ‘Narcissistic Disorders of the Self as Addictions.’ Journal of Addition Research, Volume 2, Issue 2.
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