Co-Occurring Disorders: Alcoholism And Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A Co-Occurring Disorder is diagnosed when a person has a substance abuse disorder along with a mental health disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPS) is a pattern of grandiose beliefs and arrogant behavior. A person suffering from Alcoholism can often exhibit coinciding behaviors.
Alcoholism disease, defined by a person’s inability to stop drinking alcohol as soon as they start–or the phenomenon of craving. Sometimes a person suffering from alcoholism will have every excuse in the world to drink, even though their life’s consequences say otherwise.
We all have that friend who’s always right, and even if they’re wrong, they will still argue, or they will point your attention to somebody or something else. Arguing with a person who is always right can be a daunting endeavor.
Our friend may suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPS), which the U.S. Library of Medicine defines as, “An enduring pattern of grandiose beliefs and arrogant behavior together with an overwhelming need for admiration and a lack of empathy for (and even exploitation of) others.” A person who suffers from alcoholism can sometimes display the exact behaviors as seen in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
What Exactly Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissism is rarely the desired attribute, though it is often directly related to a personality disorder. Personality disorders fall into the mental health category, and can negatively affect certain areas of a person’s life. More accurately, Narcissistic Personality Disorder can affect a person’s relationships, school, work, and money. So essentially, NPS can affect nearly every part of a person’s life.
A person who is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder may not display a whole lot of empathy for other people. In other words, they seldom care about anyone but themselves. NPS is often similar to Substance Abuse Disorder–or more conclusive, in this case, Alcoholism.
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How Is Alcoholism Related To Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Alcoholism is more than just occasionally drinking too much and causing a scene. Alcoholism is an obsession with alcohol. It is the decision to drink when life’s circumstances tell you to do the opposite, no matter who gets hurt. It’s a disease where the person suffering lacks the ability to stop once they have started.
Alcoholism is best described as a progressive illness–so it gets worse over time. Sometimes a person suffering from alcoholism claim a perfectly good reason to drink, even if they have lost their job due to drinking, or if their spouse threatens to leave them if they don’t put down the drink.
To everyone else in his or her life, they are foolish for drinking. “Why doesn’t he stop?” They’ll ask. “The doctor told him that he would die of liver cancer, if he keeps drinking, yet he drinks anyways!” …and so on. A person fighting alcoholism doesn’t always see things that way.
In fact, they sometimes don’t see things any way but their own–this is where Narcissistic Personality Disorder can come into play. For even when important parts of their life are going to shambles, in the co-occurrence of alcoholism and narcissistic personality disorder, the sufferer believes that everyone else is wrong.
A Bit More About Alcoholism
According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, approximately 18 million Americans suffer from an alcohol use disorder, which includes alcoholism. This means that their drinking causes severe repercussions in their life, whether that it’s health-related – mental or physical, or financial instability.
Sometimes a person suffering from alcoholism can seem self-centered, arrogant, narcissistic, and self-righteous–but there is much more to understanding the mind of a person afflicted by alcoholism. Alcoholism can lead to a lot more than never-ending arguments, and urinated sheets. It can lead to death.
Common Signs Of Alcoholism
A person who is struggling with alcoholism can sometimes be easy to spot, but things aren’t always as they seem. A person with an alcohol abuse disorder such as alcoholism might be what you call a “functioning alcoholic,” and though their life seems to be in order, they might be battling withdrawals right to their next drink. If you’re concerned about someone’s drinking habits, here are a couple of distinguishable traits you might look for, in yourself, or in another person in your life. (From the U.S. Library of Medicine):
Craving – a strong need to drink.
- Sometimes a person suffering from alcoholism will want to drink at the strangest occasions–in the morning, before an interview, during class, or on the road.
Loss of Control – not being able to stop drinking once you’ve started.
- Oftentimes a person will continue drinking when everyone else has gone to bed, and stay up all night drinking. They may even drink alcohol until they blackout or pass out.
Physical Dependence – withdrawal symptoms.
- Withdrawals may include Delirium Tremens, Cold Sweats, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Night Terrors, or Loss of Appetite.
Tolerance – the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect.
- Some people suffering from alcoholism can seem like they can consume a lot more alcohol than everyone else. “How the heck aren’t you drunk yet?”
What If A Person Is Proud Of Their Drinking?
A person who is suffering from alcoholism and narcissistic personality disorder, might answer the question (How the heck aren’t you drunk yet?), with a false sense of pride or by stating anything other than “because I can’t stop drinking”, or by stating, “I have built up a tolerance.”
There are many accomplishments that deserve a person the right to be proud of themselves, but unfortunately, alcoholism is not one of them, and it’s dangerous to believe that it is. Intervention and treatment are very likely the only way to get a person on the right track towards recovery. Try to remember that Alcoholism is a disease and the person with it is very sick.
Is Relapse More Likely With Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
“Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, right?” This statement can sometimes be heard when slurred through the lips of a person who is drunk when they are confronted about their drinking. If confronted further, they may get highly defensive. Even when a person with narcissistic personality and alcoholism stops drinking, this defensiveness can continue growing. A person may seek treatment for one disorder, but not the other–according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; they go on…
“…People receive treatment for one disorder while the other disorder remains untreated. This may occur because both mental and substance use disorders can have biological, psychological, and social components.
Other reasons may be inadequate provider training or screening, an overlap of symptoms, or that other health issues need to be addressed first.” Though alcoholic relapse not a certain result of another personality disorder, a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder might find more reasons to hide a relapse from their loved ones.
What If A Person Suffering From Narcissistic Personality Disorder Relapses?
If a person is suffering from Alcoholism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they very likely have a fragile self-esteem, and will not let on that there is a problem. If they relapse, they feel like a failure and can be quick to blame others, but really need not focus on the incident as a failed attempt, but rather an opportunity to learn.
Everyone has a reason for the way they act, and whether or not those reasons are justifiable, a person with narcissistic personality disorder and alcoholism might tell you a perfectly good reason for why they should drink.
Treatment For Alcoholism And Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Treatment for co-occurring disorders is tailored to the individual because some of those affected by multiple disorders might exhibit more signs for one or the other. If you feel like you might be showing signs of alcoholism, there is hope, and there is no reason to be ashamed. Alcoholism is a very serious condition, and without treatment, it can lead to homelessness, failed relationships, and even early death.Article Sources
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders/co-occurring
U.S. Library of Medicine - https://medlineplus.gov/alcoholismandalcoholabuse.html
U.S. Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024871/
U.S. Library of Medicine - https://medlineplus.gov/personalitydisorders.html