Understanding the Link Between Alcoholism and Narcissism

Get started on your road to recovery. Reach out today

Narcissism is a term used to describe the personality displayed by those with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with this mental health condition often experience a lack of empathy, struggle to experience the typical range of emotions, and have an inflated sense of self-importance. What many do not understand about NPD is that individuals struggling with this disorder have extreme feelings of shame that contribute to their symptoms.[1]

Having these inner feelings of shame coupled with an inability to connect with others genuinely can cause someone with NPD to begin self-medicating. For this reason, alcohol use disorder commonly co-occurs with narcissism.

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), 21.7% of people with NPD also suffer from an alcohol use disorder.[2]

Understanding the connection between narcissistic personality disorder and alcoholism can motivate people struggling with these conditions to seek professional help.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What narcissistic personality disorder is
  • How narcissistic personality disorder is connected to alcoholism
  • How co-occurring alcohol use disorder and NPD are treated in a dual diagnosis program

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition), narcissistic personality disorder is a “pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.”[3]

Narcissism is a personality disorder that is characterized by an inflated sense of self, an inability to empathize with others, and trouble experiencing a “normal” range of emotions. Typically, this condition is caused by a pattern of trauma, rejection, and a lack of support during childhood.

The symptoms of NPD might include:[3]

  • Inflated sense of self or importance
  • Being obsessed with ideas of success, power, or beauty
  • Believing they are special and can only be understood by other special people
  • Needing an excessive amount of admiration or frequent compliments
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Taking advantage of others to suit their own needs
  • Lacking empathy and being unable to identify with the needs of others
  • Being envious of others or believing people envy them
  • Displaying arrogant behaviors and attitudes

Narcissistic traits can be difficult to spot. People often use the term narcissism sparingly, characterizing people who have harmed them as narcissistic. That being said, NPD only occurs among 0.5% to 5% of people in the United States.[3]

People with NPD have a hard time connecting with others. When they do make connections, they are usually masking emotions that they have learned from the behaviors of others. As a result, having NPD can be incredibly lonely.

Is Narcissism Connected to Alcoholism?

Individuals with NPD might be more likely to abuse substances than other people. Since they struggle to connect with those around them, they might begin abusing drugs or alcohol. Over time, this can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.

Once someone with NPD begins drinking, they might have a hard time stopping. The symptoms of their mental health condition make it hard for them to admit that they have a problem, even to themselves. As a result, drinking alcohol can easily lead to an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Alcoholic narcissists might display the following signs:

  • Drinking to feel more social
  • Using alcohol as a way to connect with others
  • Being unable to admit that their relationship with alcohol is toxic
  • Boasting about being able to drink more than others
  • Being more open about their self-importance while they are drunk
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while drinking

Narcissists might be more likely to continue drinking until they black out. Binge drinking in this manner increases a person’s chances of becoming an alcoholic. Thankfully, NPD and alcoholism can be treated at the same time.

How is Co-Occurring NPD and Alcoholism Treated?

People with both NPD and alcohol addiction need to attend a dual-diagnosis rehab center. During dual diagnosis rehab, individuals will undergo services for both of their conditions.

Alcoholism is often treated using medical detox, behavioral therapies, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment. On the other hand, NPD requires extensive and ongoing therapy to learn to manage symptoms over time.

Treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder

There is no cure for NPD. People with this condition usually need ongoing and long-term therapy. During therapy, they will learn how to reduce their narcissistic traits and develop empathy for others.

Additionally, people with NPD often experience anxiety, depression, impulse control issues, and mood swings. Therapy will help them learn how to cope with these symptoms healthily. Sometimes, medications are used to treat symptoms like anxiety and depression, however, there is no medicine intended to treat NPD.

Addressing Alcohol Use Disorder

Medical detox is the first step in treating alcoholism. Medications will be used to manage withdrawal symptoms. After the client overcomes withdrawal, they will move on to behavioral therapy and relapse prevention planning.

Treatments used for alcoholism include:

  • Behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Group counseling to develop social skills
  • Medications that lessen withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse
  • Relapse prevention planning and learning to avoid triggers
  • Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholism treatment programs rely heavily on behavioral therapy to help clients recover. This technique allows people to address the root causes of their alcoholism and learn vital coping mechanisms to replace substance abuse.

Finding Help for Narcissism and Alcoholism

Dealing with NPD and alcohol abuse is never easy, but dual-diagnosis rehab centers can help you recover. With a combination of therapy for NPD and alcohol use disorder treatment services, you can regain control over your life.

At New Jersey Interventions, we can connect you with a dual-diagnosis rehab program. To learn more about NPD and alcoholism treatment, contact us today.


  1. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Shame in patients with narcissistic personality disorder
  2. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Results from the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions
  3. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Medically Reviewed: May 9, 2024

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

0 replies on “Understanding the Link Between Alcoholism and Narcissism”