Ever wonder why that one friend who constantly posts selfies and talks only about themselves reminds you so much of your uncle who can’t stop after just one drink? Turns out there are some striking similarities between narcissists and alcoholics.
Before you start diagnosing people in your life, know that narcissism and alcoholism are serious issues, and we’re just exploring some tendencies here. But if you’ve felt drained or frustrated by someone’s selfishness or drinking, you may recognize some of these 18 ways narcissists and alcoholics are cut from the same cloth. Buckle up, this is going to be an eye-opening ride.
1. Impulsive behavior
Impulsive behavior is a hallmark of both narcissists and alcoholics. They act first and think later, if at all. Consequences be damned.
- Narcissists follow their every whim and desire without regard for how their actions might impact others. They see themselves as the center of the universe and believe their needs supersede everyone else’s.
- Alcoholics struggle with impulse control and delayed gratification. When they crave a drink, very little will stand in their way. They’ll drop everything to satisfy their thirst, even if it means alienating friends and family or jeopardizing their jobs, health, and safety.
Both narcissists and alcoholics lack empathy and live entirely self-centered lives. They fail to consider how their impulsive actions and hurtful words might affect those around them. It’s always about them and their needs, wants, and cravings at the moment.
“Narcissistic personality disorder is named for Narcissus, from Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own reflection. Freud used the term to describe persons who were self-absorbed, and psychoanalysts have focused on the narcissist’s need to bolster his or her self-esteem through grandiose fantasy, exaggerated ambition, exhibitionism, and feelings of entitlement.”
― Donald W. Black
Over time, impulsiveness and lack of empathy destroy relationships. Friends and family eventually tire of the broken promises, inconsideration, irresponsibility, and emotional turmoil. The narcissist or alcoholic is left alone, clinging to their vices for comfort and validation since no one else remains to fill that role. A sobering reminder of the long-term costs of living life on impulse alone.
2. Manipulative tendencies
Manipulative tendencies are common traits of both narcissists and alcoholics. They will say or do whatever it takes to get what they want, with little regard for how their actions affect you.
Lying and Excuse-Making
Narcissists and alcoholics are prone to lying and making excuses to cover up their behavior or manipulate a situation to their advantage. They will lie even when the truth is obvious and constantly make excuses for their actions to avoid responsibility.
- Narcissists lie to make themselves seem more important or talented. Alcoholics lie to hide their drinking or make excuses for the negative consequences.
- Their lies and excuses are so frequent that you start to question your own perception of events. This “gaslighting” technique undermines your confidence and makes you easier to control.
Playing the Victim
Both narcissists and alcoholics are adept at playing the victim. They blame external factors for their problems and expect you to feel sorry for them.
- Narcissists claim their failures or shortcomings are due to your lack of support. Alcoholics blame their drinking on stress, difficult life events, or relationship issues.
- Their pity ploys and blame-shifting are meant to excuse their behavior and manipulate you into enabling them or doing damage control. Don’t fall for these victim tactics — hold them accountable for their actions instead.
With awareness and strong boundaries, you can defend yourself against the manipulative tendencies of narcissists and alcoholics. Recognize their lies, excuses, and pity plays for what they are — tactics to serve their selfish needs, not the truth.
3. Difficulty with empathy
Narcissists and alcoholics alike struggle with empathy — the ability to understand how others are feeling. They have a hard time seeing things from another person’s perspective or showing compassion.
Some signs of a lack of empathy include:
- Only focusing on themselves and their own emotions
- Not acknowledging how their actions or words might affect others
- Blaming others for relationship problems rather than accepting any responsibility
- Having a hard time listening to others or showing interest in their lives
The lack of empathy can damage relationships and cause hurt to those around them. Partners, children, family, and friends often feel unheard, uncared for, and unimportant.
“Being a control freak is a weakness, not a strength. If you can’t allow others to shine, you’re exhibiting signs of narcissism and showing a lack of self-confidence. It is isolation through ego.”
― Stewart Stafford
Unfortunately, increasing empathy is challenging for narcissists and alcoholics. Professional help from a therapist who specializes in empathy training and relationship counseling may be needed to help build this skill.
Without empathy, it’s difficult to have mutually caring and respectful relationships. However, with awareness and effort, empathy can be strengthened over time.
The first step is acknowledging how the lack of empathy impacts others, and making the choice to change by putting in the necessary work. It won’t happen overnight, but with commitment real progress is possible.
4. Inflated egos
Narcissists and alcoholics both struggle with inflated egos and unrealistic views of themselves. They believe they are more intelligent, talented, and attractive than they really are.
Narcissists and alcoholics think everything revolves around them. They believe that they are special or unique and expect constant admiration and praise from those around them. They live in a fantasy world where they are the star and everyone else is just a supporting character.
Do the narcissists and alcoholics in your life act like they are the center of the universe? Do they frequently steer conversations back to themselves and rarely show interest in others? Their oversized egos and exaggerated sense of self-worth are signs that they likely struggle with unhealthy self-absorption and lack empathy for how their behavior impacts you.
Don’t feed into their delusions of grandeur. While narcissists and alcoholics crave compliments and accolades, providing them too much praise only serves to inflate their egos further.
Instead, offer constructive criticism and hold them accountable for their actions. Let them know their behavior is unacceptable when they cross the line. Deflate their ego bubbles in a compassionate yet firm manner.
With professional help, narcissists and alcoholics can gain more realistic self-perceptions and learn to value others. However, change is difficult and often only happens when they are willing to acknowledge the problem and commit to self-improvement. You can encourage them to seek counseling or therapy, but ultimately, the motivation to change must come from within.
“But both the narcissist and his partner do not really consider each other. Trapped in the moves of an all-consuming dance macabre, they follow the motions morbidly — semiconscious, desensitized, exhausted, and concerned only with survival.”
― Sam Vaknin
5. Prone to lying
Narcissists and alcoholics both tend to lie frequently to manipulate situations and people. They lie for their own gain without regard for who they hurt.
Prone to lying
As a narcissist, lying comes second nature. They lie to make themselves seem more important or talented, to get what they want, or just for sport. An alcoholic will lie about how much they’ve had to drink to hide their addiction or avoid consequences.
Both narcissists and alcoholics lie so often that they start to believe their own lies. They live in a fantasy world that they try to pull everyone else into. Don’t expect honesty or sincerity from either a narcissist or an alcoholic. Their lying knows no bounds and the truth is whatever currently serves them best.
The only way to deal with the lying is through vigilance and verifying facts. Don’t take anything a narcissist or alcoholic says at face value. Their lying ultimately undermines trust and the relationship. The sad part is, they usually don’t even realize the damage their lies cause to themselves and others. Lying becomes such an ingrained habit that the truth feels secondary.
“For some, life may be a playground to undermine the brainwaves of others or simply a vainglorious game with an armory of theatrics, illustrating only bleak self-deception, haughty narcissism and dim deficiency in empathy. (“Another empty room”)”
― Erik Pevernagie
6. Blaming others
Blaming others is a hallmark of narcissists and alcoholics alike. Rather than accepting responsibility for their actions, they point the finger at everyone around them.
It’s Always Someone Else’s Fault
Narcissists and alcoholics rarely admit when they’re wrong. Instead of sincerely apologizing, they make excuses and blame others for their mistakes and bad behavior. In their minds, they are perpetual victims and everyone else is at fault. They refuse to be held accountable for the pain and damage they’ve caused.
Manipulation and Gaslighting
To avoid blame, narcissists and alcoholics will twist the truth and manipulate people and situations to suit their needs. A common tactic is gaslighting — making you question your own sanity and perception of events.
They will deny that something happened when it did, insist you said or did something you didn’t, or vice versa. Over time, this can make their victims feel confused, anxious, and powerless.
The tendency to blame others and avoid responsibility is harmful and damaging. But by recognizing these behaviors, you can stand up for yourself, set clear boundaries, and avoid further manipulation.
Don’t engage in their games or make excuses for them. Hold them accountable for their actions and protect yourself from further harm. You deserve to surround yourself with people who treat you with honesty, empathy, and respect.
7. Refusal to accept responsibility
When it comes to accepting responsibility for their actions, narcissists and alcoholics are strikingly similar.
“Stay away from lazy parasites, who perch on you just to satisfy their needs, they do not come to alleviate your burdens, hence, their mission is to distract, detract and extract, and make you live in abject poverty.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson
They blame others
Rather than own up to their mistakes or hurtful behavior, narcissists and alcoholics are quick to point the finger at anyone else. It’s always someone else’s fault. They blame their family, friends, colleagues, or society in general for their problems and poor choices.
They make excuses
There’s always an excuse or justification for their behavior. Maybe they had a rough childhood, they’re under too much stress at work, or they just can’t help themselves. The excuses allow them to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and continue unhealthy patterns of behavior.
They deny there’s a problem
Even when their behavior clearly causes harm to themselves or others, narcissists and alcoholics will deny they have an issue that needs to be addressed. In their minds, the problem lies with everyone else, not them. They refuse to acknowledge their own flaws, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities.
They expect special treatment
Rather than face consequences, narcissists and alcoholics believe they deserve special treatment and leniency. The rules that apply to others shouldn’t apply to them. They expect friends, family, and colleagues to make endless allowances and cover for their irresponsibility and poor choices.
In the end, refusing to take responsibility allows narcissists and alcoholics to continue unhealthy behaviors without consequence. Until they can honestly accept responsibility for their actions and choices, real change will remain out of reach.
8. Emotional volatility
Living with a narcissist or alcoholic often feels like riding a rollercoaster of emotions. Their moods can change in an instant, swinging from cheerful and loving to angry or despondent. These emotional highs and lows leave you feeling unsteady and anxious, never knowing what might trigger the next outburst or cause them to withdraw.
You may find yourself walking on eggshells, careful of saying or doing anything that might provoke a reaction. Yet even when you do your best to please them, their volatile emotions are often unreasonable and disproportionate to the situation.
A minor annoyance that wouldn’t bother most people can send a narcissist or alcoholic into a rage. Likewise, not getting their way in some small matter may plunge them into self-pity or depression.
Their extreme emotional reactions tend to dominate the environment and dictate the emotional climate of the relationship. You’re left reacting to their ups and downs instead of having your own normal emotional range.
Over time, living with this continual chaos and instability can be psychologically and physically damaging. The healthiest choice is to establish clear boundaries and avoid being drawn into the vortex of their volatility.
9. Feelings of entitlement
As a narcissist, you likely feel entitled to certain benefits and privileges in life without putting in much effort. You believe you deserve special treatment, admiration, and rewards just for being you.
Like an alcoholic, you rely on external sources to boost your self-esteem and feel good about yourself, rather than doing the hard work required for real self-improvement and achievement.
You expect friends, family, and coworkers to cater to your needs and desires. You get angry or upset when people don’t give you what you think you deserve. Compromise and sacrifice are foreign concepts. Your needs come before anyone else’s.
“The sadistic narcissist perceives himself as Godlike, ruthless and devoid of scruples, capricious and unfathomable, emotion-less and non-sexual, omniscient, omnipotent and omni-present, a plague, a devastation, an inescapable verdict.”
― Sam Vaknin
Rather than showing gratitude for what you have, you concentrate on what you don’t have and believe life owes you more. You fail to appreciate how your behavior and poor treatment of others drive people away and negatively impact your relationships and success.
Until you recognize your part in these patterns, make a conscious effort to change, and start showing empathy and respect for others, your feelings of entitlement will continue to isolate and limit you.
Overcoming entitlement is challenging but necessary for healthy relationships and real happiness. It requires developing humility, accountability, and an attitude of service towards others.
Rather than demanding respect, admiration, and rewards you haven’t earned, focus on giving those things to the people around you.
10. Charming when it suits them
Charm is one of the narcissist’s most effective weapons. When they want something from you or want to get their way, they turn on the charm and charisma.
You feel like the center of their world like you’re the most fascinating and important person to them. But as soon as they have what they want or you call them out on their behavior, the charm quickly fades.
The alcoholic behaves similarly. When drinking, their personality changes and they become the life of the party. They shower you with affection, compliments, and generosity. But once sober or called out, the charm disappears, and the moodiness, irritability, and even abuse return.
Both the narcissist and alcoholic are adept at manipulating people and situations to suit their needs. Their charm and charisma are not genuine but rather a means to an end. They don’t actually care about you or your feelings — they care about getting their ego stroked or getting another drink.
This hot and cold behavior is emotionally exhausting and damaging. One day you feel like everything is perfect and the next you’re wondering what you did wrong.
But the truth is, you didn’t do anything wrong. You’re simply dealing with someone who lacks empathy and is primarily focused on themselves. The charm is just a mask to hide their unhealthy tendencies and get what they want in the moment. Don’t be fooled by it.
11. Difficulty maintaining relationships
Narcissists and alcoholics often struggle to build and maintain healthy, long-term relationships. Their self-centeredness and erratic behavior drive others away over time.
You may find that any relationships you have with a narcissist or alcoholic eventually become unfulfilling or hurtful. Their need for control, excessive flattery, lack of empathy, and unpredictable anger spells doom for emotional intimacy or trust in relationships. Friends, family, and romantic partners often feel used, manipulated, or like they have to walk on eggshells.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who exhibits these traits, you probably feel lonely, unimportant, and unheard of. Don’t blame yourself — their disorder makes true closeness challenging.
You deserve relationships where you feel respected, cared for, and valued. Consider whether the relationship is salvageable through counseling or whether it may be best for your well-being to distance yourself.
Loving a narcissist or alcoholic often means loving in spite of their behavior, not because of it. Make sure to also nurture relationships with people who treat you well in return.
12. Prone to outbursts/tantrums
Narcissists and alcoholics are both prone to emotional outbursts and angry tantrums. Their fragile egos and impaired thinking mean they have trouble handling criticism or not getting their way.
You may experience explosive rage, yelling, name-calling, and even physical violence from a narcissist or alcoholic when they feel threatened or disrespected.
These fits of anger can come out of nowhere and leave you feeling confused and upset. The person may apologize and promise it will never happen again, but the cycle will likely repeat.
The outbursts are a way for them to regain control and power over you through intimidation and fear. Don’t engage or argue with the person during these episodes.
Remain calm and remove yourself from the situation until it cools down. Their behavior is not your fault and you don’t deserve to be treated this way.
Over time, the outbursts may become more frequent and intense. Stand up for yourself by setting clear boundaries and limits. Let the person know their behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. You may need to consider distancing yourself from them for your own safety and well-being.
13. Inability to handle criticism
It’s nearly impossible for narcissists and alcoholics to accept constructive criticism. Any feedback that doesn’t align with their inflated self-image is seen as a personal attack.
Rather than evaluating the criticism objectively, they get defensive and lash out at the person providing the feedback.
Some common reactions include:
- Blaming the other person for “misunderstanding” them or having unrealistic expectations.
- Dismissing the criticism as misguided or flat-out wrong.
- Making personal attacks and trying to undermine the credibility of the person providing the feedback.
At their core, narcissists and alcoholics struggle with insecurity and shame. Criticism only serves to heighten these negative feelings and threaten the false self they’ve built up.
It’s far easier for them to blame others rather than take an honest look at themselves. They lack the ability to accept they may have flaws and room for improvement like all humans.
The inability to handle constructive criticism also prevents narcissists and alcoholics from learning and growing. Without the ability to acknowledge mistakes and weaknesses, they are doomed to repeat the same destructive patterns of behavior.
For those in relationships with narcissists or alcoholics, it’s important to set clear boundaries and avoid harsh criticism, which will only make the situation worse. The healthiest approach is usually to distance yourself from their drama and chaos.
14. Obsession with image
Narcissists and alcoholics both have an unhealthy preoccupation with how others view them. They are obsessed with cultivating an image that makes them appear successful, popular, and important.
To feed their ego and portray a glamorous lifestyle, narcissists excessively post curated photos on social media, dropping hints about their latest accomplishments or lavish purchases.
They crave compliments and validation from followers. Similarly, active alcoholics may boast about their hard-partying escapades and post photos holding cocktails at trendy bars or clubs. They think this makes them look exciting or rebellious rather than someone struggling with addiction.
In reality, narcissists and alcoholics alike are often insecure, lonely, and lack a strong sense of self outside of the image they project to others. Their obsession with image is a way to compensate for inner emptiness and low self-esteem.
However, no amount of likes, fans, or followers can fill the void within. The only way to overcome this is through self-reflection, accepting themselves as they truly are, and finding purpose and meaning in life beyond what others think of them.
15. Risk-taking behaviors
Risk-taking behaviors are common in narcissists and alcoholics. Both tend to engage in thrill-seeking actions without regard for consequences.
Narcissists and alcoholics often make poor choices that endanger themselves or others. Their impaired judgment and exaggerated sense of confidence lead them to believe that nothing bad will happen.
Things like drunk driving, unsafe sex, gambling, and criminal behavior are more likely.
The desire for excitement and pleasure-seeking can override any rational thoughts about the potential downsides of these risky behaviors. Narcissists chase the high of proving their superiority or gaining admiration, while alcoholics are seeking the buzz from their substance of choice.
In the end, the costs of these reckless decisions are often minimized or blamed on outside factors. Breaking the cycle of addiction and building self-awareness is key to overcoming these types of risk-taking behaviors.
16. Emotional immaturity
Emotional immaturity is a hallmark trait of narcissists and alcoholics. They tend to have the emotional intelligence of a child, even as adults.
Difficulty regulating emotions
They struggle to manage emotions in a healthy way. Minor frustrations or perceived slights can send them into a rage or tantrum. On the flip side, they rely on external sources like alcohol, compliments, or material excess to regulate their mood and feel good about themselves.
Learning emotional regulation is a lifelong process that narcissists and alcoholics often avoid through their addictions and unhealthy behavior patterns.
But improving this skill is essential to developing emotional maturity and sustaining healthy relationships. Recognizing emotional triggers, taking a pause, and choosing a constructive response are all strategies that can help in this area.
Professional counseling or therapy may also help address underlying causes for poor emotional regulation and provide coping strategies for managing emotions in a healthy way. The journey to emotional maturity is challenging but worth the effort to gain freedom from unhealthy dependencies and build self-confidence from the inside out.
17. Self-destructive habits
Narcissists and alcoholics often engage in harmful behaviors that sabotage themselves. They may gamble, overspend, or make poor financial decisions that leave them in debt. Their addictions and lack of self-control lead to unhealthy habits and poor self-care.
Some common self-destructive habits include:
- Binge drinking or drug use that causes health issues, legal problems, or damaged relationships.
- Compulsive lying to manipulate people or evade responsibility for their actions.
- Risky or thrill-seeking behaviors without considering the consequences.
- Poor diet, lack of exercise, and inadequate sleep which intensify symptoms of addiction or narcissism.
- Continuing behaviors that have previously led to negative outcomes, unable to learn from past mistakes.
- Pushing away people who genuinely care about them through cruelty, neglect, or betrayal.
Breaking these destructive patterns is challenging but necessary for overcoming addiction or narcissism. Professional treatment, a strong support system, developing self-awareness, and making better choices can help establish new healthy habits and ways of coping with life’s difficulties. The journey to recovery is a winding path, but with dedication, anyone can make positive changes in their life.
When confronted about their behavior, narcissists and alcoholics alike will deny there’s a problem. They are unable to accept responsibility for their actions or how their behavior impacts others.
You may point out their hurtful words or actions, but they will twist it around, blame you, and make excuses. “I never said that.” “You’re too sensitive.” “You misunderstood.” The mental gymnastics they perform to avoid accountability are astounding.
Rather than acknowledge the pain they’ve caused, they will attack you for even bringing it up. Their ego cannot handle criticism, so they deflect and retaliate. This denial and refusal to accept reality makes healthy relationships impossible.
The sad truth is that until these individuals admit there is an issue and commit to change, the cycle will repeat. As long as you stay, they have no reason to do the difficult work of self-reflection and personal growth.
The only control you have is choosing not to participate in their charade any longer. Walking away may be the wake-up call they need, but there are no guarantees.
All you can do is accept what you cannot change, find your own closure, and work to rebuild trust in healthier relationships where accountability, honesty, and mutual respect are the norm. Letting go of those who cannot or will not do the same will free you from the never-ending cycle of denial and pain.
So there you have it, 18 uncanny ways narcissists and alcoholics are cut from the same cloth. Both crave attention and instant gratification. Both lack empathy and think the world revolves around them.
And both will drag you down into their drama and chaos if you let them. The good news is, now that you know the signs, you can spot these toxic people coming from a mile away.
You deserve to surround yourself with people who treat you with kindness, respect, and compassion. Don’t waste another second of your precious time on anyone who makes you feel less than amazing. Life is too short for that. Choose you — you deserve nothing less.