Narcissism and Recovery

Narcissism, as it relates to addiction, presents a problem for the individual and society as a whole.  By definition, narcissistic behavior includes being overtly preoccupied with the satisfaction of self. This in essence, also describes the compulsive need to satisfy drug cravings.  Chronic drug abuse causes negative behavior that over time, can damage the individual’s self-worth. The narcissistic characteristics of addiction also put people in denial about their substance abuse.  As a result, they are typically highly sensitive to the slightest hint of criticism.  Narcissism and Recovery

Addiction mirrors narcissism in that it is obsessively preoccupying. The pursuit and use of drugs consumes and ultimately invades the person’s mind, body and soul. Loved ones can attest to the fact that addiction erodes everything, including responsibility for the well-being of children and relationships.  Much like living with a narcissist, everyone and everything that is not preoccupied with the needs of the addict comes second, even at the risk of causing harm to others.  As a result, addicts typically hang around people that do not challenge their opinions about themselves or their perceived need to use drugs. Whether they are aware of it or not, it threatens their narcissist equilibrium.

Narcissism and Recovery

Clinicians at the Mayo Clinic explain that behind narcissism lies a fragile and vulnerable self-esteem.   Addressing narcissism in recovery, beyond helping the person to move away from the constant need for self-gratification is also about developing a balanced self-image. Therapeutic interventions help people in addiction to better understand issues that may have contributed to addiction such as living with a narcissistic parent or sibling.  People in recovery learn how to develop healthy and balanced relationships.  Narcissism is also considered a mental disorder. Addiction therefore includes the impact of drugs and the symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder which include…

  • -Taking advantage of other people in order to get what they want
  • -Negative reaction to criticism which may include rage, avoidance behavior, humiliation and shame.
  • -Obsessive preoccupation with self and the pursuit of selfish goals
  • -Unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • -The need for constant attention and admiration
  • -Total disregard for the feelings of others with little ability to feel empathy
  • -Inability to sustain long term relationships
  • -Unrealistic expectations of others
  • -Assessment of others only in terms of their usefulness
  • -Predominantly exhibit an unstable view of self that fluctuates between the justification to satisfy themselves and self-contempt.
  • -Painful emotions based on a growing dislike of who they are and how they are perceived by others.  
  • -Encourage enabling behavior instead of taking responsibilities for themselves and their actions.
  • -Resistant to self-evaluation.

The use of drugs helps people with prior narcissistic behavior to dull painful or unacceptable feelings and emotions.  As such, treatment for people in addiction that are also exhibiting strong narcissistic traits is based heavily on psychotherapy. Through a comprehensive continuum of care that removes the brain fog caused by chronic drug use, the addict is able to regulate their narcissistic patterns of behavior that drive addiction.



About the Author