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11 Ways Narcissists and Alcoholics are Similar

Narcissists gratify themselves despite the costs to those around them. Alcoholics not in recovery continue drinking even when it hurts loved ones.

While alcoholism is an addiction and extreme narcissism is a personality disorder, narcissists and alcoholics tend to share 11 similarities. Knowing these can help you cope with people in your life who have narcissism or alcoholism.

1) Denial

Narcissism is characterized by iron-clad denial. From a narcissist’s point of view, he or she has no problems and can do no wrong. Bragging and a damn-the-consequences-swagger are essential parts of many narcissists’ personae.

Similarly, denial keeps addiction in place. Denial manifests for alcoholics in many ways, such as saying they can stop drinking anytime they want, lying about when they drank, or refusing to acknowledge that their drinking has costs.

That’s why participants in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous introduce themselves with their name and say “I’m an alcoholic.” It’s a step in breaking denial.

Narcissists don’t enter a room saying “Hi, I’m Jack, I’m a narcissist.” However, their dramatic, manipulative or entitled behaviors often announce their narcissism beyond a doubt.

2) Lack of introspection

Few narcissists are interested in self-reflection. Doing so would risk encountering the deep shame and emptiness they carry.

Similarly, addiction can cover inner conflicts and uncomfortable feelings. As long as an addict uses, those feelings go unaddressed. The longer the feelings are unaddressed, the more daunting it can become to look inward and face them.

3) Refusal to take responsibility

Narcissists are quick to blame others for making them act as they do. Alcoholics have plenty of excuses for why they drink.

Narcissists almost never apologize or promise to change their ways. That would feel like weakness, which is anathema to narcissists, sullying the image they desperately seek to cultivate.

While some alcoholics apologize for their behavior and promise to turn over a new leaf, if they only talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, their repeated apologies and broken promises eventually carry little weight with those around them.

4) Entitlement

Narcissists are defined by entitlement. Lacking empathy and feeling superior, they give themselves full permission to do whatever the want despite the rules or costs to others.

Alcoholics’ sacred entitlement is drinking. They may lose everything and everyone in their lives before they will give up alcohol.

5) Self-destructiveness

Narcissists are trapped in a non-stop holding action devoted to preserving their image and preventing anything from making them feel unworthy.

By the same token, alcoholics sacrifice their health, well-being, reputation, relationships and self-esteem unless they seek help.

6) Behavior is at others’ expense

Those close to both narcissists and alcoholics experience deprivation, abandonment, shame, rejection and feeling used. Loved ones of both alcoholics and narcissists may withdraw emotionally or eventually leave the relationship.

7) Behavior can switch rapidly

Narcissists can go from charming to threatening in a heartbeat. Feeling slighted or a lack of adoration can send a narcissist into full battle mode.

Similarly, an alcoholic’s behavior and personality can change drastically, especially when under the influence. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, leading to outrageous, dangerous or abusive behavior.

8) Superficial relationships

Trying to have a reciprocal, honest conversation with a narcissist is a hit-or-miss proposition. Similarly, trying to make a meaningful connection with someone who is drunk is a fool’s errand.

A narcissist’s dysfunction and an alcoholic’s addiction make it difficult for them to sustain deep, meaningful relationships in any consistent or lasting way.

9) Manipulation of others

Both narcissists and alcoholics will use anybody they can to get their fix.

For a narcissist, the fix is attention or gratification. Narcissists view others in terms of what they can do for the narcissist.

For an alcoholic, the fix is a drink. Others are viewed as either enabling their drinking or as potential threats to their freedom to drink. Alcoholics seek enablers to cover for their drinking.

10) Self-absorption

For both narcissists and alcoholics, it’s all about me. Their needs are primary. While both may function relatively normally in many settings (particularly if not drunk or triggered by the loss of narcissistic supply), their self-focus inevitably re-emerges.

11) Shame

Avoiding shame drives much of narcissists’ behavior. They often cope by dishing out shame to others.

Alcoholics carry immense shame. Their drinking numbs or masks their shame.

Some individuals have both narcissistic personality disorder and an active addiction. If someone in your life has such a dual diagnosis, you may find coping with them much more difficult than if that person had just narcissism or addiction.

The following actions can help you cope with someone who is an alcoholic, a narcissist, or both:

  • Recognize that you don’t cause their narcissism or alcoholism
  • Recognize that you can’t stop their narcissistic or alcoholic behaviors
  • Don’t make excuses for their behavior
  • Be clear on what you will and will not accept from them

Copyright © Dan Neuharth PhD MFT

Couple drawing by Lorelyn Medina

Bottle and chain by Iconic Bestiary

Self admirer by Pathdoc

11 Ways Narcissists and Alcoholics are Similar

Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., MFT

Dan Neuharth, PhD, is a marriage and family therapist and best-selling author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has more than 25 years’ experience providing individual, couples and family therapy. Dr. Neuharth is the author of If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World. He writes two blogs for PsychCentral: Love Matters and Narcissism Decoded. He is licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California, Florida, Texas and Virginia. His website:

Please note: Dr. Neuharth's posts are for information and educational purposes only. These posts are not intended to be therapy or professional psychotherapeutic advice, and are not a replacement for psychotherapy. I cannot give psychotherapeutic advice about your individual situation outside of a therapist-client relationship. The posting of these blogs and the information therein does not constitute the formation of a therapist-client relationship. Please consult your physician or mental health provider for individual advice or support for your health and well-being. If you are in crisis, please call your local 24-hour crisis or mental health hotline or dial 911.

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APA Reference
Neuharth, D. (2019). 11 Ways Narcissists and Alcoholics are Similar. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jul 2019
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