46 thoughts on “11 Ways Narcissists and Alcoholics are Similar

  • July 7, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    This is absolutely spot on!

    I’m the alc, she is the narc.

    Can identify with the majority of things you’ve said!

    Helps

    Reply
    • February 20, 2019 at 5:19 am

      Hi fellow alcoholic
      Go to AA meeting it’s much quicker more deeply profound ( no it’s not a religion), it’s FREE and it works. Happy Joyous and free!!❤️ I did not continue in my studies as psychotherapist as I realised my 12 step program was more effective and quicker. Why prolong the agony and lack of insight?

      Reply
  • July 8, 2017 at 7:23 am

    I have seen the two progressing together in my life partner. I was too close at the time, but he has gone from a self-confident regular drinker to an arrogant habitual drinker to a narcissistic addict. Now, 30 years from the start, it is what it is and I am trying to reclaim myself from my role as a lesser add-on to his life. The ‘wake-up-call’ for me is that, for the narcissist, it’s no longer enough to be among equals. For him, even if he does the same thing as someone else, in his mind he is right and the other is wrong.

    Reply
    • July 8, 2017 at 11:10 am

      Serendipity,
      It is disheartening to be viewed as a “lesser add-on” by someone you care about. Sadly, that frequently comes with the territory in being with a narcissist. Thank you for posting your story.
      Dan

      Reply
  • July 8, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Thank you for the comparison. I have always struggled with wether my husband was both a narc and alcoholic. I feel someone call control their alcoholism with help but not with being a narc.

    Reply
    • July 9, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      Hi Tammy,
      You raise an important point. Because alcoholism is an addiction, people can go into recovery and stop drinking. But Narcissistic Personality Disorder is different from an addiction in that personality disorders generally persist for life.
      Dan

      Reply
  • July 10, 2017 at 6:31 am

    Thank-you for this article. A family member is an alcoholic, this gives a clear structure to understand her behavior, and some of what motivates it. The points about denial, lack of introspection, and refusal to take responsibility are particularly applicable to her.

    Reply
  • July 10, 2017 at 9:17 am

    This article has helped me breathe a huge sigh of relief. I had been advised by a counselor that a man/friend (not lover) in my life was a narcissist. I confirmed this by researching narcissistic personality disorder. He frighteningly fits the profile in all its symptoms. After reading your article on similarities between alcoholics and narcissists, I am confident that my bringing what was to be only a friendship to an abrupt end is the only action to be taken. Selfish beyond description, self-absorbed, Jekyll/Hyde when he doesn’t get what he wants as soon as he wants it, forcing himself upon me sexually despite my informing him to look elsewhere, jealous of his sons and the attention his deceased wife gave to them when they were mere babies. I could go on and on but I won’t. This person is both a narcissist and an alcoholic. He gets forcefully physical despite my protests. He will be out of my life today. Thank you.

    Reply
    • July 11, 2017 at 2:11 am

      Hi Mary Ellen,
      When someone gets forcefully physical despite your protests, taking action to set boundaries and protect yourself is crucial. Thank you for sharing your story.
      Dan

      Reply
      • July 12, 2017 at 12:16 pm

        Thank you for your wise counsel, Dr. Neuharth. Happy to say I abruptly ended the friendship yesterday. And, YES, I sighed a long sigh of relief!

        Reply
  • July 10, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Like the context, you shared here. Absolutely a great post with some fabulous ideas and the ways about which you talked here are really important to understand. A very educative post.

    Reply
  • July 11, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Based on all your criteria Donald Trump is a text book hardcore narcissist/psychopath. He’s NEVER WRONG. Entitled to the Presidency. Screw the current Legislation! Are there 2 other branches of government? Hell, with checks and balances, That is Fake news. Nah, it is all about him and his family, his destructive lies don’t matter to him no matter what the cost to the country or the abstract concept of how he is currently destroying the marketing “brand” called American democracy. There is not one trait he doesn’t fit to a T. His whole cabinet is full of venal, corrupt and vile people manipulating a system for self-serving purposes.

    Your next post should be a psychological profile on his supporters, because that is even more baffling to rational thinkers. Even Hitler had greater intelligence and foundational principles to drive his decision making. This guy is a loose cannon who threatens the existence of humanity. Is NPD treatable? Ship a TRUCKLOAD of meds to the White House ASAP.

    Reply
    • July 12, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      I disagree.

      Reply
    • July 14, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Red,
      In my clinical experience, narcissistic personality disorders do not respond well to psychotherapy nor psychotropic medications. It falls within a personality cluster considered the “wilds”. Typically, they are egosyntonic, which means they are comfortable with how they are. The “weirds” are more amenable to both interventions; and the “warys” the most amenable.
      The prevalence of disordered personality is about 1 in 8.
      Rich, MSW

      Reply
  • July 11, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    There is a huge difference—personality disorders are genetic and neuro problems. What is generated in behavior comes from the neuro impact. All behavior is not created from the same source so the solution for it is different as such other people’s expectations. I would put more hope in an alcoholic coming to have insight than a Narcissist whose insight-orientation is impacted by neuro deficits. Alcoholics gain insight as they get sober. That is not true for NPD.

    Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 3:10 am

      I’ve been wondering if genetic and neuro problems that result in narcissism stem from genes that changed (as in epigenetics) as a result of alcoholism (or other drug addiction) – meaning that maybe narcissists had ancestors who alcoholic (or other drug addict). Another idea is that narcissists are addicts themselves (of narcissistic supply) and so this explains the similarity.

      Reply
  • July 11, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    I agree for the most part. I have some disagreement with the concept that the narc feels shame for their behavior. It might be easy to imagine their rages and lies actually cover a deeper shame, but if someone feels bad about something there is some drive to change. Narcs have no drive to change and I’ve witnessed them reminisce and smile about cruel behavior. The rages, the denial, may not actually be because they are ashamed but instead just a ploy to further dominate. The narcs “disorder” is in alignment with their ego, it makes them feel good about themselves and like they are winners. Alcoholics might actually feel intense regret and because of this real shame, they may be driven to actually change.

    Reply
    • July 12, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Rainy,
      Thank you for your comment. You make many important points. My view is not that most narcissists feel shame; rather, they carry great shame, though this is often out of their conscious awareness or experience. It is precisely because they are not aware of the shame they carry that they tend to do many of the behaviors you aptly described.
      Thanks for contributing,
      Dan

      Reply
  • July 12, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Very interesting comparisons and they do show many similarities from a clinical perspective. On the FIX addiction site, we recently had a very robust discussion about Donald Trump. An author of the article, described him as a “dry drunk” and did not present his obvious narcissism.
    From my clinical experience over 40+ years, and 13 years as a psychology professor, I add a few observations here.

    Based on extensive review of the clinical literature, a clear genetic link to personality disorders has not been established beyond what is referred to as temperament. Personality shows itself around age 3 and is dynamically formed via multiple interactions with others. It begins to consolidate in our early 20’s; and by the 3rd decade of life, it becomes relatively fixed. A persons attachment sub-type is believed to contribute much more to psychopathology.

    As far as addictions, there is more of a polygenic basis for Type 2 alcoholism. Again, a person’s attachment sub-type places a person at greater risk. Those who exhibit a secure attachment are much more protected.

    Great discussion,
    Rich, MSW

    Reply
    • July 12, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Hi Rich,
      Thank you for adding your valuable observations from the research. That’s a welcome contribution.
      Dan

      Reply
  • July 12, 2017 at 11:35 am

    And what do you say about the narcissist who is ALSO an alcoholic? I had such a friend, after over 35 years (yes, I’m that slow) I realised she was poison, and I was the butt of most of her rage, anger, accusations, denial etc etc etc. I finally understood that if she wasn’t capable of reasoning her bad behaviour out for herself, she was never going to accept my words, so I ditched her, blocked her on social media, forgot her. I HAVE NEVER FELT BETTER. She can find someone else to get her supply from, but it ain’t going to be me!
    I believe that because my own mother is a self obsessed narcissist I have had a propensity to accept other peoples’ manipulations. But thankfully I’m no longer a victim of this intransigent behaviour.

    Reply
    • July 12, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      Greendog,
      You are certainly not alone in taking time to fully recognize the dysfunction of narcissists in your life. An eastern proverb I like says, “Be not afraid of going slowly; be afraid of not moving at all” Congratulations on taking healthy steps for yourself.
      Dan

      Reply
  • July 13, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Just had to comment on the Trump comments. Yes, I do believe Trump has narcissistic traits. I also believe that Obama also has them. Hillary Clinton too. Many of our leaders have these traits which is why the power of government appeals to them.

    Reply
  • July 13, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Dear Dr. Neuharth,

    Great Job of comparing and contrasting the two constructs in an accessible way-not easy!
    The problem that arises in parting out the two diagnoses is it is becoming clearer that addiction and mental health issues(both chemical and personality disorders) take place on a neurological grid with a large degree of overlapping malfeasance’s. For example we know sociopaths, ADHD clients,some mental illnesses and all addictions often have an abbe ration in the frontal lobes that compromises their executive function. As the subject of a very dysfunctional genealogy that has smatterings of “the superfacta”-addiction, depression, ADHD,and narcissism I have alot of cross talking going on. However, if I do look at my genogam several generations back their are very brilliant manifestations as well as empathy-of course addiction and empathy usually skip generations. As a recovering cross addicted alcoholic and compulsive gambler, I had a loving childhood but what kept me back was my ADHD. Growing up in the 60’s ADHD was not on the radar. Even though my mom who was a third grade teacher in the school I went to told me years late I had the highest score on the Iowa Aptitude Tests. My report cards are a manifest to what ADHD looked like. Long story short when I was in my Thirties I got Ritalin and that saved my life. As Doc Holloway says in his epic books on Adhd I was a bicycle going down a hill without breaks. Not surprisingly Gambling almost killed me and I at 55 am still recovering after 15 years of paying everybody back including the mob Their was no question I was a Narcissist in action-but in recovery I am a lamb,counseling, interventions and service to the 12 step programs and am a former national trustee for GA. I will tell you conclusively from attending more than a 1000 12 step Meetings, the narcissists by a large margin are in the Ga rooms,but the AA rooms have incredible empathy. One interesting thing is I wound up sponsoring two kids in their 20’s in GA and both became schizophrenics-1 is doing well, the other one commited suicide. While I am on this vaguely tangential diatribe, I must say one of my good GA friends who is a therapist, who treats Borderline Young Adults, turned to me after a meeting and said “these gamblers are very much like my Borderline People. I think you just about hit every aspect of your duality discussion on the head I feel the major distinction to me(you alluded to this): addiction is a passive suicide dance that can be rewired in the brain and narcissism(especially malignant)just regresses over time-and the disorder from a social, economic and political standpoint is why corporations,religious groups,and politicians have destroyed empathy and created a Melanie Klienesque paranoid schizoid society. I apologize for going a tad Gonzo on you, lol, my mind isa box of rocks today. By the way since the underlying theme is Ego-Mania
    you can read several of my articles on “The Fix”. The link is https://www.thefix.com/bio/kenneth-gaughran Stay loose and Thank you for helping me re-wire my brain-Kenneth Gaughran

    Reply
    • July 13, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      Kenneth,
      You make several thought-provoking observations. Your experiences on the prevalence of narcissism in some Gamblers Anonymous meetings vs. your experience of the empathy present in many AA meetings is striking. And, as you point out, the interplay between genetics, medication, mental health, personality, and efforts at recovery is quite rich and complex. Thank you for posting.
      Dan

      Reply
  • July 18, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    I’m KJ and I’m an alcoholic. Sadly, my wife is a narcissist but has been diagnosed bipolar … whether the two are intertwined is another question. For the good, I have quit drinking and am in recovery. Just dropping Alc. is quite simply the easiest thing ‘for me.’ The deeper stuff though is much harder.

    While I can stop drinking, she is still a narcissist, and the behavior is a trigger of mine – escapism from the narcissist. Any help on how to handle that would be really appreciated. Three kids and I’m seeing it rub off on them, alarmingly.

    Reply
    • July 18, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      KJ,
      That sounds like a difficult situation, and if you are seeing the effects on your three children it is important for you and your wife to do all you can to help your children cope more successfully. If your wife has bipolar illness as well as narcissistic tendencies, and if her behavior then triggers you to either drink, or react in less than healthy ways, I would recommend couples and/or family therapy. Family therapy with a qualified therapist who specializes in addiction, mood disorders, and personality disorders could be particularly helpful and could provide all five of you some relief and support, along with tools to interact in healthier ways.
      Thank you for sharing your situation with the community.
      Dan

      Reply
  • July 19, 2017 at 11:39 am

    One of the commentators inquires about a possible link between narcissism and bipolar disorder. In my clinical experience it is rare to find a link between these
    distinct disorders. However, persons w/ bipolar experience alternate phases of clinical depression and mania. A depressive episode can last 7~11 months. A manic episode lasts a few weeks at most. During this phase persons exhibit inflated self esteem, entitlement, and arrogance and sometimes delusions of grandeur/grandiosity.
    But these symptoms are short lived.
    Hope this clarifies some.
    Rich, MSW

    Reply
  • July 20, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Perhaps the reality is that “addicts” of every stripe, not just those who abuse alcohol start out being very self-absorbed even if they don’t get diagnosed with a full-blown personality disorder. I disagree with the assertion that these people feel shame, however. I think the problem is that they don’t feel shame for their behavior, as shame is a driver for change.

    Reply
    • July 29, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      Anon,

      Your point is well-taken; narcissistic people generally do not consciously feel shame for their behavior. However, that does not mean shame is not present. Narcissists carry tremendous shame but it is generally walled off and well defended against. That allows them to do so many selfish and outlandish behaviors.

      Dan

      Reply
  • October 13, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    What if you’re a teenager who can’t leave the relationship because it’s your parent? What if you still have several years of verbal/emotional/sometimes physical abuse before you’re 18 and can leave? It just feels hopeless.

    Reply
    • October 13, 2017 at 9:26 pm

      Hi Terry,
      If you’re a teenager, find support the best way you can. Abuse is wrong and illegal and can be reported to a teacher, other responsible adult or the police. Seek therapy, perhaps with a school counselor to start. Trusted peers, friends, relatives, friends’ parents, teachers, coaches, or other responsible adults may be able to offer support and healthier interactions even if you still have to deal with a dysfunctional family. You are not alone. You deserve allies.
      Dan

      Reply
  • November 1, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Is there no help for them then? I keep reading things on narcissism and the answer always seems to be,just leave them!what if they want too change,what help is offered to them?

    Reply
    • November 2, 2017 at 8:04 am

      Dear Debbie,

      I am not a psychologist. In fact, I sought out this website to help me cope with a narcissist/alcoholic in my life. As a counselor pointed out to me, stay away from him. He will always be a narcissist. The situation got worse. He fits all the symptoms of NPD except the shame. If he feels any shame, it is an amazingly well-kept secret. As Dr. Dan points out above, just because we do not see signs of shame doesn’t mean that shame is not there. This person of whom I write was able to stop drinking for 15 – 20 years before resuming his drinking, but the NPD never diminished nor did he show any signs of realizing his antisocial behavior. See the blog on egosyntonic behavior above. To add to that, this person holds himself in higher esteem than he holds others. Except for his extreme respect for great musicians, this individual really thinks he is more than a cut above the rest of us, and is very quick to mock others. You ask what can be done if a narcisstic wants to change. Interesting. How many narcissists actually want to change? You have a kind and compassionate heart as I do. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way to accept the “things” we cannot change. I wish you peace.

      Reply
  • July 13, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    I have been in an on/off relationship for 30 years with an alcoholic/addict. We are now divorced and have 2 kids. Alcohol has been his biggest problem and caused the most damage in his life, and of course the lives of all of us as a family.
    For a long time, while his addiction was at it’s worst, I had decided he was a narcissist. A counselor once told us he might be bi-polar but in my experience with a bi-polar sister, I hadn’t seen the “inflated self esteem, entitlement, and arrogance and sometimes delusions of grandeur/grandiosity” that Richard mentions above so I did not make the connection but perhaps it was being bi-polar that caused what came across as narcissism.
    He had also been diagnosed with something as a child and had been briefly on medication (I think it was ADD or just being a hyperactive child, as was more common in the 80’s).
    Last fall this man quit drinking cold turkey. He was never a daily drinker, but more a binge drinker who raged and became violent. For 9 months he was sober and the change in his personality was undeniable. Even my family, who had been there through the divorce, restraining orders, destroyed property, kids in counseling, etc and pretty much hated him, were impressed and supportive. He had moved back in, everything seemed near perfect. He seemed very real, introspective, when he spoke about his mistakes, his drinking, his past, everything he said made sense, he was sorry, he was ashamed and he was making great strides in mending the relationships with me and his kids.
    I had seen him fake cry, shift blame, project and twist the narrative many times in the past and this was not him doing that. If this was a performance, it was the best one of his life. But I don’t believe that’s what it was. And this is why it was such a shock that he relapsed recently out of the blue and with a vengeance.
    Given his propensity for violence, abuse, sabotage, dangerous behavior and since I had a zero-tolerance condition on him being back in our family home, I felt that I had to stick to my boundaries and protect myself and our kids and I kicked him out. This has never gone smoothly in the past and though this time he was happy to go off and stay with a “friend” who was pleased to have him back around to drink with, he came back this morning to “talk”. He is still blaming me, unapologetic, telling me I’m shooting myself in the foot by not taking him back, demanding property that was never his, making threats, etc. This is part of a pattern/cycle that I’m very familiar with. His behavior, even after supposedly not drinking the last couple of days, is back to being narcissistic.
    But in my experience with him, it usually takes a couple of days before he dries out completely and he even made the comment that he still feels hung over. During this time, he may as well be using.
    My question is: if the traits I have always seen as narcissistic were actually his alcoholism, bi-polar-ism or was the last 9 months of sobriety part of the cycle of him being a narc?
    I read in another article that a narc will use recovery for attention but I honestly didn’t see that, he didn’t go to meetings, he seemed uncomfortable with the accolades that he was given for being sober.
    I don’t feel I can trust him or my own perception of him at this time. I don’t know if I’m grasping at straws that his abusive traits are just a result of his alcoholism because I have always wanted to believe that deep down, he was a good person (thus the decades of on/off relationship) and the last 9 months of sobriety were all I ever hoped for him to be. I guess I am working through this as best I can and the guilt, reinforced by him, that I’m not giving him another chance and, as he puts it, being there for him when he really needs me. I know that neither his drinking nor his success in recovery are my fault or responsibility but the guilt is still there, along with the grief of what feels like the death of his Dr. Jekyll side and the exhaustion of the emotional roller coaster.

    Reply
  • September 29, 2018 at 11:37 am

    This is/was my mother and brother to a tee-Thank you for what you do to help and educate others!!

    Reply
  • October 19, 2018 at 4:05 am

    I wish that I had the ability to understand your blog 40 years ago (which I find to describe my husband perfectly).

    Sadly I married an alcoholic narcissist some 38 years ago. His quiet personality and ability to function led me to a place I should never have gone. I was forced to stay by my own empathy. Firstly by my loyalty to my children secondly by my loyalty to my parents (whom I was caring for) and thirdly by financial deprivation and lastly by fear and personal illness.

    Now my children are married and have homes of their own. My parents are dead and I am a financial hostage. Every minute of my life is hell on earth and I can see no escape. My children don’t want to know and I live with empty loneliness.

    What have I learned from my journey? Answer that when I married my husband and we had children life took me on a journey I could never escape. I wish I had left him but I kept thinking he would change. The only change he made was to become much worse.

    Now I am praying for the end of time. I have learned to remain silent. He uses every thing I say against me. I have learned not to listen to him. Everything he promises is a lie. I have learned to stay away from him. He uses me to hide behind. I have come to realise that in order to have any life of my own then I have to take it.

    I now go absent without leave and do what I can with my limited resources. It drives him crazy when I disappear and refuse to say anything when I return. I live in my room behind a locked door in silence praying for early parole.

    I have noticed recently that others are starting to distance themselves from him. He uses people to spar with each other. For some crazy reason he enjoys seeing people fight with each other. He has mastered the art of creating kaos without fear of being caught himself.

    He has no respect for the rules of life or the law. Although he expects others to abide by them. He is beyond detection. I guess his agression acts as a shield. He is the master of spin. It is impossible to win an argument with him. He can turn everything arround to make the other person look foolish.

    He creates fear with a capital ‘F’.

    He drinks all night and goes to bed at 6am he gets up at 6 pm. He always has alcohol at his bedside and sips when he wakes.

    He lives on sweets and meat. I have never seen him drink water. He has continued on this path for decades.

    His facial colour changes from grey to red to tan to white. He has facial and body rashes regularly. He has severe back pain, crumbling nails, thinning hair, excessive itch, periods of fever and chills. He suffers memory lapses, agression, and mood swings. Recently his legs and feet have periods of extrem swelling. He picks at his crumbling bails permanently.

    I believe he is the devil.

    Reply
    • October 19, 2018 at 10:52 am

      Thank you for sharing your powerful post. I was struck by: “The only change he made was to become worse.” I am sure many in our community can relate to that, as well as to your poignant story and the ways you have coped. Dan

      Reply
  • February 18, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    I never really understand my husband on why he’s acting like how he acts until I read this. He is so mean to me.He always shouts at me, he always blames me for everything even if its not my fault nor with things that I dont have control of. One second we are okay but when he gets drunk like hardcore he calls me disgusting names. He changes mood in a snap! Calls me ugly and that no one will like me. I have never heard anyone degrades me so much than my husband. I am so concerned about my mental health because I feel like what he told me are true about myself.He is so manipulative also he thinks he is always right and that I am wrong and he NEVER apologize to me or say sorry.I have cried a million rivers for him but he dont really feel sorry, no empathy from him.

    Reply
 

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