Narcissist's Addiction Atypical

Uploaded 4/20/2011, approx. 6 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Of a luminous literature notwithstanding, there is very little convincing empirical research about the correlation between personality traits and addictive behaviors. Substance abuse and dependence in the forms of alcoholism or drug addiction, that is only one form of recurrent and self-defeating patterns of misconduct. People are addicted to all kinds of things, gambling, shopping, the internet, reckless, life-endangering pursuits, and more.

Adrenaline junkies are all around us and abound. The connection between chronic anxiety, or histological narcissism, depression, obsessive-compulsive traits, and alcoholism and drug abuse, this connection is well-documented, well-established, and very common in clinical practice.

But not all narcissists, compulsives, depressives, and anxious people turn to the bottle or to the needle.

Frequent claims of finding a gene complex responsible for alcoholism have been consistently cast in doubt, not to say refuted.

In 1993, Berman and Noble suggested that addictive, reckless behaviors are mere emergent phenomena and may be linked to other more fundamental traits, such as novelty-seeking or risk-taking.

Psychopaths, patients with antisocial personality disorder, have both qualities in ample quantities, both novelty-seeking and risk-taking. We would expect psychopaths, therefore, to heavily abuse alcohol and drugs.

Indeed, as Lewis and Buchholz convincingly demonstrated in 1991, psychopaths do abuse drugs and alcohol in an inordinate proportion. Still, only a negligible minority of alcoholics and drug addicts are psychopaths.

In my book, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, I have written, Pathologic Narcissism is an addiction to narcissistic supply. It is the narcissist drug of choice.

It is therefore not surprising that other addictive and reckless behaviors, alcoholism, alcoholism, drug abuse, pathological gambling, compulsory shopping, or retro-driving piggyback on this primary dependence.

Narcissist, like all other types of addicts, derives pleasure from these exploits, but they also sustain and enhance his grandiose fantasies as unique, superior, daring, entitled, or chosen. They place him above the laws and pressures of the mundane and away from the humiliating and sobering demands of reality.

This kind of behaviors, reckless, addictive, render the narcissist the center of attention, but also place him in splendid isolation from the maddening and inferior crowd.

Such compulsory and wild pursuits provide a psychological exoskeleton. They are a substitute to quotidian existence. They afford the narcissist with an agenda, with timetables, calls, schedules, and four achievements.

The narcissist, an adrenaline junkie, feels that he is in control, alert, excited, and vital. When he engages in these behaviors, when he pathologically gambles or recklessly drives, he does not regard his condition as dependence.

The narcissist firmly believes that he is in charge of his addiction, that he can quit at will and on short notice, which of course is not true.

In our attempt to decipher the human psyche, in itself a mere construct, not an ontological entity, we have come up with two answers.

The first one is that behaviors, moods, emotions, and cognitions are wholly reducible to biochemical reactions and neural pathways in the brain. This medicalization of what it is to be human is inevitably hotly contested and disputed.

The second answer is that behaviors, moods, emotions, and cognitions can be explained and predicted by the introduction of scientific theories based on primary concepts.

Psychoanalysis is an early and now widely disregarded and discarded example of such an approach to human affairs.

So the concepts of addiction and pathological narcissism were introduced in order to account for oft-recurring amalgams of behaviors, moods, emotions, and cognitions.

Both concepts are organizing, exegetic, explanatory principles with some predictive powers. Both concepts, pathological narcissism and addiction, hark back to Calvinist and Puritan strands of Protestantism where excess and compulsion considered to be inner demons were important topics of conversation.

Yet though clearly umbilically connected, as I've demonstrated elsewhere, addictive behaviors and narcissistic defenses also differ in some critical ways.

Consider the following.

When addicts engage in addictive behaviors, they seek to change the perception of their environment.

As the alcoholic Inspector Morse says, once he had consumed his single moths, the world looks a happier place.

Drugs make things look very colored, brighter, more hopeful, and fun-filled.

In contrast, the narcissist consumes, addictively, narcissistic supply, not in order to change his external environment or his perception of his external environment, but in order to change his inner universe.

Narcissists care little about the world out there, except as an ensemble of potential and actual sources of narcissistic supply. They don't give a fig about the universe, other people, or the environment.

Narcissist's drug of choice, attention, is geared to sustain his grandiose fantasies and senses of omnipotence and omniscience.

In other words, his addiction, the narcissist's addiction, is aimed at an internal process. It is aimed at regulating his sense of self-worth by consuming narcissistic supply.

Classical addiction, the drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other compulsive behaviors, classical addiction provides the addict with an exoskeleton, an external skeleton, boundaries, rituals, timetables, in order, in an otherwise chaotically disintegrating universe.

But it's not the same for the narcissist.

Admittedly, like the addict's search for gratification, the narcissist's pursuit of narcissistic supply is frenetic, compulsive, and ever-present.

Yet, unlike the addict's behavior, the narcissist's conduct is not structured, rigid, or ritualistic. On the very contrary, it is flexible. It's very inventive and creative.

Narcissism, in other words, is an adaptive behavior, albeit one that has outlived its usefulness.

Addiction is merely self-destructive and has no adaptive value or risen or redeeming features.

Finally, at heart, all addicts are self-destructive, self-defeating, self-loathing, and even suicidal. In other words, addicts are predominantly masochists.

Narcissists, in contrast, are sadists and paranoid. They lapse into masochism only when their narcissistic supply runs hopelessly dry.

The narcissist's masochism is aimed at restoring his sense of moral superiority as a self-sacrificial victim and to prod him into a renewed effort to reassert himself and hunt for new sources of narcissistic supply.

The addict's masochism is aimed at the self-destruction of the addict.

Thus, while the addict's brand of masochism is nihilistic and suicidal, the narcissist's masochism is about self-preservation and about prodding him into further attempts and efforts to obtain narcissistic supply.

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Idealized, Devalued, Dumped

Narcissists have a cycle of overvaluation and devaluation, which is more prevalent in borderline personality disorder than in narcissistic personality disorder. The cycle reflects the need to be protected against the whims, needs, and choices of other people, shielded from the hurt that they can inflict on the narcissist. The overvaluation and devaluation mechanism is the most efficient one available to the narcissist, as the narcissist's personality is precariously balanced and requires inordinate amounts of energy to maintain. The narcissist's energies are all focused and dedicated to the task concentrated upon the source of supply he had identified.

Narcissist: Is He or Isn't He?

Narcissism is a spectrum of behaviors, from healthy to pathological, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual specifies nine diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). A malignant narcissist is someone who has NPD and wreaks havoc on themselves and their surroundings. They feel grandiose and self-important, exaggerate accomplishments, and demand recognition as superior without commensurate achievements. They require excessive admiration, adulation, attention, and affirmation, and are interpersonally exploitative, devoid of empathy, and constantly envious of others.

Addict Narcissists: Substance Abuse and Reckless Behaviors

Pathological narcissism is an addiction to narcissistic supply, which is the narcissist's drug of choice. Other addictive and reckless behaviors such as war-camelism, alcoholism, drug abuse, pathological gambling, compulsory shopping, reckless driving, and even compulsive lying, piggyback on this primary dependence on narcissistic supply. The narcissist's addictive behaviors take his mind off his inherent limitations and bridge the gap between his unrealistic expectations of life and his inflated self-image. There is no point in treating the dependence and recklessness of the narcissist without first treating the underlying personality disorder.

Depressive Narcissist

Pathological narcissism is often considered a form of depressive illness, with the life of a typical narcissist punctuated with recurrent bouts of dysphoria, sadness, hopelessness, anhedonia, loss of the ability to feel pleasure, and clinical forms of depression. Narcissists react with depression not only to life crises but to fluctuations in narcissistic supply and to the internal dynamics that these fluctuations generate. There are several types of dysphoria and depression in pathological narcissism, including loss-induced dysphoria, deficiency-induced dysphoria, self-worth dysregulation dysphoria, grandiosity gap dysphoria, and self-punishing dysphoria. Many narcissists end up delusional, schizoid, or paranoid to avoid agonizing and knowing depression.

Narcissism is Tiring Energy-depleting

Personality is a dynamic, ongoing process that is ever-evolving. The more primitive the personality, the less organized, the more disordered, the greater the amount of energy required to maintain it in a semblance of balance and function. Narcissists externalize most of the available energy in an effort to secure a narcissistic supply. The narcissist's constant fatigue and ennui, his short attention span, his tendency to devalue sources of supply, even his transformed aggression.

Narcissist Loves his Disorder and Narcissistic Personality

Narcissists may modify their behavior to become more socially acceptable, but they never heal or get better because they have an emotional investment in their disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder serves two critical functions: it endows the narcissist with a sense of uniqueness and provides an alibi for their misconduct. Narcissists reject the notion that they are mentally ill or disturbed, and their disorder becomes an integral and inseparable part of their inflated self-esteem and grandiose fantasies. The narcissist is emotionally attached to their narcissistic personality disorder and loves their disorder passionately.

Collapsed Narcissist, Collapsed Histrionic

Pathological narcissism is a post-traumatic condition that is a result of severe abuse by primary caregivers, peers, or authority figures. Narcissists require a form of narcissistic supply, and when the supply is deficient, they resort to several adaptive solutions. These solutions include the delusional narrative solution, the antisocial solution, the paranoid schizoid solution, the paranoid, aggressive or explosive solution, and the masochistic avoidance solution. In extreme cases, the collapsed narcissist or collapsed histrionic falls apart in a process of disintegration known as decompensation, which is accompanied by acting out.

Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.

Signs You are Victim of Narcissistic Abuse, Not Common Abuse (Stress, Depression Management Webinar)

Narcissistic abuse is a subtype of abusive behavior that is pervasive, sophisticated, and can be practiced either covertly or overtly. Victims of narcissistic abuse often experience depression, anxiety, disorientation, and dissociative symptoms. This type of abuse can lead to complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) and even elements of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The way individuals process and react to trauma can lead to either regression into infantile behaviors or personal growth and maturation, depending on their emotional regulation and maturity.

How Narcissist Experiences/Reacts to No Contact, Grey Rock, Mirroring, Coping, Survival Techniques

Narcissists are victims of post-traumatic conditions caused by their parents, leading to ontological insecurity, dissociation, and confabulation. They have no core identity and construct their sense of self by reflecting themselves from other people. Narcissists have empathy, but it is cold empathy, which is goal-oriented and used to find vulnerabilities to obtain goals. Narcissism becomes a religion when a child is abused by their parents, particularly their mother, and not allowed to develop their own boundaries. The false self demands human sacrifice, and the narcissist must sacrifice others to the false self to gratify and satisfy it.

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