The Similarities Between Narcissistic Abuse and Addiction
Why it’s hard to kick the habit
Why are we prone to return to anything as distressing and problematic as a toxic relationship or a substance addiction?
I have been considering the similarities between narcissistic abusive relationships and active substance addictions. There are many parallels that make it hard to kick either bad habit.
In either context, the poison has power over you. It becomes a compulsion to go back to the very thing that has brought you so much despair. Cognitive dissonance takes hold and logic goes out the door.
You return to the relationship, or the drug, hoping it is going to be different this time. And maybe you do have a few good days. But sooner than later, you end up right back where you were, in the depths of despair.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.”- Albert Einstein
The narcissist conditions the victim to take the abuse, using push/pull manipulation methods. Similarly, an addict’s tolerance increases as he/she keeps using. The longer one lives like this, the higher the stakes and the more deadly this can become.
Narcissists impair the victim’s psyche, erode their self-esteem, and isolate the victim in their own personal hell. This is not unlike the devastating effects of substance addiction.
Both the narcissist and the narcotic corrupt one’s health; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Both can wreak havoc on one’s financial stability. Both can cause legal problems.
As in addiction, the victim of narcissistic abuse spends way too much time thinking about the toxic relationship. It taxes your mood. And it taxes the rest of your life- work, family, friends, and hobbies all get pushed to the wayside.
Upon being devalued and discarded, the victim desperately seeks a reunion with the narcissist, usually for validation or closure. He/she feels they need to be seen as worthy to the narcissist. It is a very powerful compulsion with futile results.
The theory of peptide addiction seeks to explain the craving one feels for the narcissist once the intense highs and lows cease post-discard. Peptides are chemical formations, created in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain involved in emotional activity.
Peptides are created for every emotion, negative and positive. The more intense our emotional perceptions are, the larger the dose of peptides. These peptides then get distributed through the bloodstream and absorbed by our cells.
The body’s cells can become addicted to these large doses of high-intensity peptides, triggering withdrawal and craving. We misconstrue this as love and yearning when really it is a chemical response to the abuse ceasing and the cells seeking another dose of those neuropeptides.
Narcissistic abuse and narcotic addiction are both hellish ways to live. Neither will get you where you want to go. Staying in this delusion is like taking the same road that says “paradise- this way!” Then going down the same old bumpy road, loaded with potholes, killing your car. You keep driving down the same road that leads nowhere but hell.
Narcissists and addictions will take every single thing there is to take from you- your health, hopes, dreams, support systems, money, time, self-worth, confidence, stability, sanity… you name it. They never tire of dragging you down and ruining your life.
Take your life back. Get really logical and intentional about rebuilding your life. Go cold turkey. No contact. Find a qualified therapist or a support group to help.
We must stop playing with fire expecting not to get burned.
Life is short. Life is precious. You deserve so much more.