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Narcissists and Alcohol

Updated: May 26, 2023

Over the many years of running Your Divorce Coach, I have had a number of people tell me they are not sure if their partner has narcissism or is an alcoholic — or both! So, if you are wondering or frantically googling symptoms trying to work it out, you are not alone! But if you are at the point where you are googling to try and figure it out, it is clear that either problem is out of hand. The truth is alcohol abuse and narcissism have similar symptoms, and the two frequently occur together.

How are Narcissists and Alcoholics Similar?

Alcoholism is a disease that involves and chemical and psychological reliance on alcohol. They will continue to drink, even when alcohol impacts their life negatively, and it's a progressive illness, meaning it gets worse over time. Narcissism is a disorder in which a person has an incorrect perception of their life. They will have a lack of empathy and be manipulative.

Both conditions can cause arrogance, manipulation, lack of empathy towards their loved ones. They also both exhibit inexcusable behaviours such as

  • Denial

  • Refusal to take responsibility

  • Entitlement

  • Self-destructiveness

  • Self-absorption

  • Manipulation of others

  • Shame.

According to psychotherapist Joseph Burgo, 'a deep-rooted sense of shame is at the core of both narcissistic and addictive behaviours.'

With both conditions, the narcissist and the alcoholic believe that everyone else has the problem and cannot see problems as their fault.

Why do Narcissists become Alcoholics?

There are a number of theories over why narcissists become alcoholics. Narcissism may lead to alcoholism in some patients due to their exaggerated view of themselves and denial of a negative outcome occurring. In addition, a person with NPD might be distrustful of, insecure about or feel superior to people around them to the point of failing to connect with their peers and use alcohol as a way to hide their difficulties connecting with others.

According to the Clinical Addictions Specialist Denise-Marie Griswold, 'Substance use can exaggerate some narcissistic personality disorder symptoms, including lack of empathy, feelings of superiority and invincibility, and a sense of grandiosity.'

Since the core emotion of a narcissist is shame, they are at high risk for addiction to substances. The more internal shame a person feels, the more likely he will be attracted to anything that promises relief from pain and emptiness.

Is every alcoholic a narcissist?

Although there are many crossovers, this doesn't mean that all alcoholics are narcissists. They will exhibit some traits, as everyone with addiction has to act selfishly, with a lack of empathy or disregard for the pain they cause their loved ones, which may come across as narcissistic.

What should I do?

You can never stop an alcoholic from drinking — you know this! You know that the change has to come from the alcoholic themselves; they need to reach the conclusion that they want to stop drinking on their own before they can even think about taking the first step. Equally, you can never hold a narcissist accountable, so you need to leave behind that desire to make them "get it" or "change."

Sadly, even if your partner is able to stop drinking, if they are an alcoholic narcissist, they will still be left with behaviours that won’t disappear. All you can do is focus on the positive steps you are taking in your life while separating from your ex.

That is why I offer a free 15-minute discovery call to see how we can work with each other and how I can help you reduce the cost, confusion and conflict in your divorce. Email me at to book your free 15-minute discovery or visit my website for more information.

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