Narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder, is a mental illness in which someone suffers from a debilitating sense of self-entitlement. Whether they have a grandiose personality or a vulnerable personality, those with narcissism have the unique ability to turn the world toward themselves. Avoiding blame, manipulating others, and exaggerating the extent of their ego are common characteristics of narcissism. Often falling into relationships with more vulnerable and codependent types, someone with narcissistic personality disorder likes to maintain as much control over the people and environments in their life. Though on the surface narcissistic personality disorder sounds like a personal vendetta, it is often deeply rooted in shame, trauma and insecurity.
However someone with narcissistic personality disorder demonstrates their narcissism, it is the responsibility of the co-narcissist to be the enabler, witness, and audience. For example, when someone with narcissism is exercising control, the co-narcissist will be subservient and encourage others to do so. If someone with narcissism is leading, the co-narcissist will follow. Part enabling and part codependency, the co-narcissist refuses to speak up against the actions and behaviors of the narcissist they are in any kind of relationship with.
Refinery29 explains that the co-narcissist validates the narcissist in all of their behaviors. “As a co-narcissist child,” the article describes, “you’ll grow up believing that the only way to feel validated– loved, accepted, understood– is to give in to your narcissistic parents need.” Consequently, the co-narcissist learns to put the needs, wants, desires, and goals of the narcissist ahead of themselves. In adulthood and in relationships, the co-narcissist can become lost in their ability to identify their feelings, wants, and needs. “Co-narcissists also tend to take the blame for relationship issues, have feelings of low self-worth, and feel selfish when talking about their feelings.”
Substance Abuse, Narcissism, and Co-Narcissism
Narcissistic personality disorder is a high risk for developing a substance use disorder. Alcohol abuse and drug abuse are common. Being codependent in a narcissistic relationship can mean indulging in substance abuse just to keep up with or please someone with narcissistic personality disorder. It can also be a form of coping. When all of these factors combine- mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and codependent behavior- it can create a toxic and dangerous relationship.
If you feel you have become trapped in an abusive relationship and are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope, there is hope. Avalon By The Sea offers premiere dual diagnosis treatment for mental health and substance use disorders as one of California’s only treatment facilities providing primary care for both. For a confidential assessment and more information, call 888-958-7511.