• Helen KC | Helen Kotonias

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Drug Abuse & Addiction

Updated: Aug 18, 2018

We've all heard of depression, bipolar and schizophrenia, we are sympathetic to what we know of these conditions and the hurdles one faces but when does labelling someone as a 'nasty piece of work', a fair judgement when they display signs of a mental health condition known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. How much do you know about NPD?




I write this lengthy blog entry on a day when the world announces the sad passing of soul queen Aretha Franklin, who's first hit single was titled R.E.S.P.E.C.T. As you proceed to read, you will realise that unfortunately respect is one of the traits lacking in a person with NPD.


For many suffering, they will not accept this diagnosis as a possibility or even admit they have a problem beyond anger management issues. They are suffering because the individual is not happy, it's a form of addiction of self taught behaviours which stems from a fear of rejection and abandonment which usually develops from childhood.


The word 'Narcissism' originated from Greek Mythology where Narcissus, an attractive proud young man fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to leave the allure of his reflection and having developed an unrequited love that could never be reciprocated, Narcissus lost his will to live and committed suicide.


Narcissists tend to be great at first impressions, their confidence is attractive and they can often be found in leadership roles. They tend to take pride in their appearance and come across as very charismatic and personable in the beginning but you will notice cracks in the facade over time.


Relationships with Narcissists


A narcissist will enjoy story telling, they will brag about their talents and accomplishments to anyone who will listen as they like to project an image of their own intelligence, success and self-importance but narcissists struggle to maintain healthy relationships leaving a trail of wreckage behind. They may have a disjointed relationship with their parents and / or siblings, a history of bad work experiences and romantic relationships leading to infidelity. Consider this a red flag. They will be certain to speak derogatory about their past encounters accusing them of the very traits that they themselves display. They will play the victim and it will never be their fault. Someone else 'wronged' them or wasn't fulfilling their need. If you try and see the other person's point of view, they will accuse you of being stupid or against them.


When you no longer serve a purpose to the narcissist they may have another person lined up to take your place as they require a constant source to feed their validation. By having a new working or romantic prospect in place to fill your shoes, it reinforces in the twisted mindset of the narcissist that you were no good for them and that you are dispensable. A narcissist is more likely to cheat because they won’t put the feelings of their partner above his or her's own. People with NPD lack empathy but can act caring but only if it will further their need for the relationship. There’s also the undeniable self-esteem boost that another person who isn't their partner is attracted to them, which feeds their ego. They will choose a partner that they admire in the hope that their qualities will rub off on to them or that they will benefit from what that person has to offer. If you break up with them, they will defame your character, fearing that you will be truthful when asked by others why you two have split up.


If a narcissist / addict is happy with you, you are probably enabling them. If the narcissist / addict is angry with you, you're probably trying to save their life.

When is someone's love hindering the narc / addict's recovery? By enabling someone by helping, assisting, supporting or bailing someone out so that they avoid natural consequences of their actions. The person may need to face unpleasant repercussions such as imprisonment or the loss of their business or home in order for them to want to seek help to live their life differently and start working a programme of recovery. Ever heard of the expression 'tough love?'. Over time a partner may break-free in order to regain come calm and serenity back into their life but a mother's love is different.


For the parental figure, even though their child is a grown adult, the person will always be their baby in their eyes. A mother's instinct is to nurture and protect but at what cost? Your own happiness? Many mothers are also victims of the narcissist / addict. The 'ill' person has the ability to convince their mother through half truths that they have been wounded and even though the parent is often at the receiving end of their abuse, they have an emotional connection that the narcissist / addict lacks*, the parent will do what they can to alleviate the problem in hope that things will right themselves. The issue here is that the recovery needs to start with the loved ones first to live their own lives and gain a better understanding of the mental health illness before the person can start their own recovery.


*When arguing with a narcissist they cannot see you as somebody they love, and someone who has angered them at the same time. They lack the capacity to recognise and tolerate the two emotions both loving and hostility towards the same object - you. Something traumatic could have happened in their early life, meaning they didn't develop "object constancy". Everything is personal. That there is defensiveness and reactive anger if they are not recognised or if they can’t get their own way. If you do something that he / she doesn’t like, it means you’re against them or you don’t understand them. No one likes criticism even of the constructive sort but the narcissist is particularly adverse to it. They are often resentful of others and consumed with bitterness, this is due to their sense of inflated entitlement.


The mother / parental figure will be added to the narc / addict's list of blame for their shortcomings when they withdraw from their support. Buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy ride but if your truly want what's best for your child then you will not focus on the current place you are at or the destination. Focus on the journey living in the present minute by minute. Be true to yourself, do you lie awake in worry wondering what will become of your child? Do you fear they couldn't cope without your support? If so ask yourself why, are you too in denial of their problem?


It's normal to fight with your significant other but narcissists can be incredibly cruel and launch a personal attack regarding your appearance, how you speak or dress, becoming threatening in heated situations. Where most arguments people have are a way of clearing the air voicing opinions which tend to blow over, an argument with a narcissist can escalate to physical abuse as well as verbal often reducing their partner to tears. A narcissist if in admission may say they had to 'restrain' you for your own / their own safety, again in an attempt to appear heroic. People with NPD and / or addiction will often be in a codependent relationship, maybe his or her partner doesn't have family nearby, is a single parent with a child from a previous relationship or has health problems. They need to feel needed and desired.


Most children are brought up to not answer back or argue with an adult, that there are respectable boundaries but what happens when a guardian accepts an aggressive mouthy child or teen's behaviour? They grow up into a problematic adult thinking that the world owes them something and they should be obeyed. I believe it's crucial to seek support in childhood via schooling by arranging a meeting with their form tutor, perhaps take them to boxing or karate classes to learn self discipline and that of others but also to help channel their anger in a controlled way. There is a saying that says "watch how a man treats his mother, because it's a good indicator of how he'll treat you."


You'll find that the narcissist won't listen with the intent to understand, they will listen only hearing key words with the intent to reply with aggression. Narcissists lack empathy and they lie, they also often end up believing their own lies having relayed them so much to others that in their minds fiction has become fact. If the truth is revealed and they are exposed and admit it, they then state that at least they are honest, but show little to no emotion. If anything they will resemble a wide-eyed child trying to proclaim their innocence but surrendered having realised they've done wrong.


Narcissists of the engulfing type, expect their partner to like and enjoy the same kind of food as they do and dismiss their partners wants and preferences insisting to order for them when dining out, if you put up a resistance it then causes severe psychological invalidation. They are creatures of habit and so instead of creating new memories in a new relationship they are custom to taking their new partners to the same places of interest and restaurants that they've shared with their exes.


Narcissist Personality Disorder & Drug Abuse / Addition


When a narcissist abuses drugs or / and alcohol, they will claim that the drug is enhancing them. If it's marijuana they use they will say it helps them to sleep, relax and switch off, 'it's only a herb' but in fact you may find that the user is more agitated when they can't smoke a joint as they have become reliant on it as their way to unwind. The narcissist believes that everyone else has their mindset; untrustworthy, devious, manipulative and out to undermine trying to control. They are hyper-aware of themselves, so the paranoia can be enhanced by drug abuse. If cocaine is their substance of choice, they may claim it's for recreational use at a weekend when out partying with mates, that they can pick it up or put it down as they wish or that they 'only use a gram' to help make them more productive work wise and they need it in order to stay awake to meet deadlines. What they are in fact doing is simultaneously chasing the high of drugs when they can’t get the admiration they demand. They may not be a daily user or even use vast quantities of drugs but if they use in toilets, in their car, bedroom, in their office alone and their life has become unmanageable... they're an addict.


The narcissist will devalue and discard a recommendation for treatment even from a medical professional due to their ingrained resistance to authority figures. The narc may own his own business because they cannot take orders or direction from an other person, making them incapable of maintaining employment as an employee. If they agree to attend a recovery group for their addiction(s), they may enjoy the story-telling part of the session when the floor is opened up to sharing, they will withhold vital information and not show the honesty needed in order for the recovery process to begin. They might enjoy being part of a group where they feel a sense of belonging however not willing to make their recovery a priority because for them thing's aren't that bad if they still have a roof over their head, food in their belly, transportation, and a career - usually supported by an enabler.


You may have a preconceived idea of what a 'drug addict' looks like in your mindset, someone homeless in a crack den with needles hanging out of their arms laying in a pool of vomit on a floor covered in cigarette butts and silver foil? Those who are addicted to drugs can be highly functioning addicts, the CEO of your firm, lawyer or banker. The problem rarely stems from the drugs as the source but a mental health issue such as an overwhelming feeling of the inability to cope with life, depression, etc. They will convince you (or try to) that they have control of their addiction and it's not a big deal. Their addictive personality then finds a new adrenaline rush; online gambling, takeaways (if they are food orientated), shopping, porn, anything that's an outlet of escapism and releases endorphins.


The hardest part for the addict is staying abstinent from drink and drugs during their first 30 - 90 days. You may experience a drumroll of arguments that the addict initiates during that period as they are looking for a reason to relapse and use. I can only liken this stage to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.


They believe they are not at risk of developing any of the negative health problems associated with drug or alcohol abuse. My ex would say he had weak blood vessels from a rhinoplasty operation which was the reason for his nose bleeds, it was never due to the cocaine he would snort up it. Temporarily alcohol and drugs can dull their insecurities and fears, allowing the narcissist to continue with their self-admiration without being nagged by negative thoughts. However the great part of recovery is being in touch with your feelings and the bad part about recovery...is being in touch with your feelings.


What I have learnt from the twelve steps of recovery is that for both your sakes you need to be on your own for at least a year. So even if you were still together when your partner admitted he / she was an addict and seeks help, most relationships end whilst working the steps. Many articles on NPD I've read have been negative saying that you should save yourself as the narc will never change. I believe change can happen if the person wants it and then works at it with professional guidance.


Summary | Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms;


  • Attractive but can come across as arrogant and boastful regarding their talents.

  • Will inflate accomplishments and take credit for other people's work.

  • Has an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

  • Believe that they are better than others in their chosen profession.

  • Jealous of others and believe others envy them.

  • Find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships in work and romantically.

  • Unwillingness to recognise the needs and feelings of others, lacks empathy.

  • Self-absorbed and self-centred.

  • Requires constant praise and admiration.

  • Has a strong sense of entitlement.  

  • Expect special favours and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.

  • Lives in a fantasy world that supports their delusions of grandeur.

  • Makes poor decisions and sets unrealistic goals.

  • Expect others to go along with their ideas and plans.

  • Highly sensitive, particularly to criticism and rejection.

  • Quick to anger.

  • Monopolise conversations and demeans and belittle people they perceive as inferior.

  • Manipulate and take advantage of others to get what they want.


I remember the narcissist in my life shouting at me "are you stupid?" I looked at them and thought yes, YOU are proof! I voweled to be aware of the signs and never make that mistake again, for a mistake repeated more than once then becomes a decision.


I hope this blog entry of my own experience dating someone with NPD, addiction and dependancy helps others who find themselves in a similar situation. If your partner or loved one is only getting help for their drug / alcohol addiction and not their narcissism, there’s a slim hope of change. Remember you cannot control his / her behaviour, only how you react to it.


Where to seek help;


Your confidence can be low when leaving your partner, you may also experience insomnia and anxiety, if so please have a read of my Mindfulness post of self-help and meditation.


The Echo Society UK held a protest on the 13th July in Mayfair, London. It was a campaign to highlight Narcissistic Abuse Matters #NAMUK as there is currently no support system or preventative measures to help the people of the UK who are impacted. 


However, if you are a single parent or will become a single parent by leaving your partner, visit Gingerbread.org.uk for advise and support.


Relationship counselling can also be helpful, especially if your loved one agrees to attend too. Check out Relate.


If you feel you are suffering from NPD and or an addiction and wish to seek help, first discuss with your GP and ask about any local FREE support groups. If you have private medical care check your policy as it might cover you as an inpatient stay at a rehabilitation clinic such as; The Perry Clayman Project and The Priory.


More information can be found on the Mind Charity's website for addiction and dependancy.


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