Ego and Alcohol: The Links Between Narcissism and Alcoholism
Few people will be surprised to learn there are links between ego and alcohol. After all, if we haven’t felt them ourselves, we’ve certainly seen them in others. What may be surprising to learn though is that hyper-inflated egos and excessive drinking are twin sons of a very disordered mother. Okay, so maybe the two aren’t that close – heck, they may not even be male – but they’re still siblings. And when both come together they can create a very intense rivalry – within your own body.
The sibs have names of course: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). They’ve also got traits. And that’s where the ties begin to bind.
Ego and Alcohol
Our binding traces to Beth Sissons and Matthew Boland, PhD over at Medical News Today. Sissons wrote the piece “What to know about narcissism and alcoholism”. Boland (aka Dr. Matt B) gave it a medical review. Together they’ve blessed us with insight we can truly sink our teeth into.
And our minds. In fact, Medical News Today provides medical insight that’s as heady as it is nutritious. Furthermore it does so in a manner you can easily – and readily – trust. Not only are MNT’s articles all reviewed by suitably-qualified professionals, but they’re written by the kind of aces who are well-versed in smartening up the layman. Complicated, unwieldy research and procedures are reconfigured into pleasurably readable articles without dumbing-down to anyone. Better still, links get tagged with “trusted” pop-ups, each and every one of which significantly bolsters the endeavor.
In this case the pop-ups included such trusteds as the National Institute of Health’s PubMed Central, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction and the National Institute of Mental Health. MNT also linked to the esteemed Frontiers in Psychology, as well as the equally revered National Alliance on Mental Illness. In other words, MNT not only does its due diligence, but it also duly references that diligence.
Here that due diligence covered the various similarities between ego and alcohol, as well as ways we might mitigate their affiliated disorders.
Ego and Alcohol: The Similarities
Most folks know the word narcissism traces back to the Greek mythological figure Narcissus, a hunter who was so beautiful he fell in love with his own reflection. What everyone might not know is that just as Narcissus couldn’t love anyone else, narcissists do not truly trust anyone else, especially in close relationships. That makes for a rather selfish life.
And that’s right where the links to drinking begin. Alcoholics are nothing if not selfish. Heck, most alcoholics have turned selfishness into an actual art. So whenever anyone’s looking for someone to represent the narcissist, well, they only need to find the closest excessive drinker.
Here’s what they’ll find:
There are more, of course. Many, many more. Including spending beyond one’s means and running roughshod over people, places and things. In fact, behaving recklessly should probably have topped this list, because the rate at which both narcissists and alcoholics misbehave isn’t just criminally high, it’s quite often actually criminal. Think about it. What’s behind a DUI but a drunk who cares only for themselves?
Treating Ego and Alcohol
First and foremost, it’s crucial to remember that alcoholism is a physiological condition, and any attempt to detox from the disease should be done under a physician’s supervision. Sure, it’s also a psychological disorder. And yes, there are behavioral remedies you can even try at home. But as for the physiological properties of the disease itself, please see a qualified medical professional.
Quitting drinking is serious business. Treat it that way.
In fact, you may need a qualified medical professional to treat your narcissism as well. Because if your NPD is at all as severe as your AUD, you’ll be dealing with dual-diagnosis.
Yep, dual-diagnosis occurs when someone is experiencing two disorders to a statistically severe degree. There are meds for that – and medical professionals who’ll prescribe them. There are also non-medical remedies. And some of those med-free remedies even echo those advocated by both Alcoholics Anonymous and the NIAAA.
The most reliable way to treat NPD has always been talk therapy, aka psychotherapy. MNT calls it “the process by which a person attends sessions with a therapist to talk through their experiences.” Those good folks will probably also tell you that talk therapy in many ways resembles the following types of behavioral treatments the NIAAA recommends for treating AUD.
Types of Behavioral Treatments
Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy can take place one-on-one with a therapist or in small groups. This form of therapy is focused on identifying the feelings and situations (called “cues”) that lead to heavy drinking (or grandiose thinking) and managing stress that can lead to relapse. The goal is to change the thought processes that lead to alcohol misuse (narcissistic behavior) and to develop the skills necessary to cope with everyday situations that might trigger problem drinking (selfishness).
Motivational Enhancement Therapy is conducted over a short period of time to build and strengthen motivation to change disruptive behavior. The therapy focuses on identifying the pros and cons of seeking treatment, forming a plan for making changes in one’s drinking (thinking), building confidence, and developing the skills needed to stick to the plan.
Brief Interventions are short, one-on-one or small-group counseling sessions that are time limited. The counselor provides information about the individual’s drinking pattern and potential risks. After the client receives personalized feedback, the counselor will work with him or her to set goals and provide ideas for helping to make a change.
People aren’t cookies, of course, so cookie cutter treatments won’t work. These however should provide a few good
ways to approach the problem(s). The rest is up to you and your therapist/counselor/sponsor.
Ego Doesn’t Just Favor Alcohol
As you probably suspect, ego also pairs quite nicely with opioids, stimulants and benzos, of every make and model. Ego then often spends a considerable amount of time engaging with its drug of choice too, no matter what it may be. And when it does – look out! Because you’ll have yourself a whole ‘nother Disorder.
Yep, we mean Substance Use Disorder (SUD), perhaps the most malignant of them all. NPD and SUD share many basic traits, of course. So does AUD and SUD, often simultaneously. In fact, addiction and alcoholism are hard to tell apart even when they don’t appear in tandem. The result makes for a rather thick and complicated stew. We dare not attempt to address the issue in this small space. We will say though that SUD is indeed 100% treatable. You’ve simply got to a) fully commit and b) solicit qualified medical supervision. Because like AUD, SUD includes serious physiological issues that no amount of talk can circumvent.
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