Addicted to a narcissist

Are You Addicted to a Narcissist (and if so, What Do You Do About It?)

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You can become a slave to alcohol or gambling or cocaine, and you have likely seen how people have destroyed their entire lives in the face of such harrowing addiction.  But can you actually be addicted to a narcissist?

Can a relationship be just as toxic as hard drugs or other dangerous compulsions? Can this dynamic be just as severe or life-threatening? 

What Does Addiction Really Mean?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic medical disease that entails complex interactions within brain circuits, environmental factors, and unique life experiences. They continue to say that people with addiction use substances or participate in compulsive behaviors regardless of dangerous consequences. 

If you consider addiction using their framework, compulsive behaviors in your relationship can include:

  • Continuously rescuing the narcissist from their problems.
  • Repeatedly giving the narcissist money (even if you don’t have much or any to give).
  • Making excuses or lying about the narcissist’s behavior.
  • Obsessing about the narcissist’s behaviors or whereabouts.
  • Using drugs, alcohol, or food to cope with the stress of being with a narcissist.
  • Allowing the narcissist to be in your life despite the negative consequences. 

These behaviors can interfere with normal functioning, and that’s when a dynamic often transforms from problematic to addictive. 

Think about it. Instead of balancing your relationship with other responsibilities like work or taking care of your children, the narcissist consumes almost (or all) of your daily energy. They leave little room for anything else, and your relationship becomes the center of your world.

Is Addiction to a Narcissist a Real Thing? 

Although it isn’t recognized as an official diagnosis, many mental health professionals use the term love addiction to describe dysfunctional relationship patterns

Love addiction can be a controversial topic- most people are not really love addicts outside of a toxic relationship. Additionally, narcissistic abuse syndrome can mimic addiction, as it can release similar chemical reactions as other compulsive issues. In this case, narcissistic abuse can certainly feel just like (and in most cases IS) a biochemical addiction. 

When you’re with a narcissist, you might obsess over the relationship, just like another person might obsess over heroin. Similarly, a breakup or divorce can result in highly intense withdrawal symptoms. 

Your relationship may begin as a shield against unresolved pain. For example, you may have endured trauma or have low self-esteem, and you hope that the relationship will heal that distress. Unfortunately, the relationship continues to cause more pain. 

Many partners tend to cling to relationships because they fantasize about what could be. For example, you might romanticize the narcissist and see them for their potential. Or, you might experience tremendous empathy for their upbringing, causing you to feel responsible for helping them heal. 

In psychology, these fantasy assumptions are called magical thinking. You assume you can change the outcome of something based on a specific behavior or decision you make. Magical thinking can have its benefits (it can feel good to be optimistic), but it often leads to resentment and animosity regarding relationships. 

Are You Struggling With Addiction To The Narcissist?

Narcissistic addiction intersects with narcissistic abuse. A vulnerable partner seeking love and validation may unconsciously enter relationships with emotionally avoidant people (like narcissists). 

This biochemical addiction can happen if you have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Becoming obsessed with new relationships quickly.
  • Trying to cause drama or conflict in the relationship to keep it exciting.
  • Struggling with being alone or single.
  • Needing ongoing validation from your partner and others. 
  • Wanting to evoke feelings of jealousy in your partners (to test their loyalty).
  • Playing games with your partner to keep them “guessing” and interested.
  • Enduring abuse because it feels better than being alone.
  • Feeling immense loneliness or anger when your partner is physically absent.
  • Sacrificing your own needs or interests for your partner’s.
  • Ignoring blatant red flags in the relationship.

At first, it can seem like the narcissist is also addicted to the relationship because of all the drama and excitement. 

Narcissists may use many manipulation techniques to keep the relationship afloat. But the fear isn’t necessarily about abandonment- their motives are about having control and power. It isn’t about keeping you and avoiding your rejection- it’s about them feeling important and worshipped. 

Why Do We Get Addicted To A Narcissist? 

It can seem so strange- why would you intentionally seek harm? Why would you ever want to feel belittled or condemned?

There are a few explanations for why this addiction to a narcissist happens. Let’s review them.

Love-Bombing Feels Good 

Who doesn’t love feeling like they’re absolutely perfect? 

Love-bombing can be intoxicating- you feel this sense of unconditional love coupled with euphoric spikes of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. At first, the narcissist seems like the person of your dreams! They’re so different from your previous partners, and you may even feel as obsessed with them as they are with you.

It’s easy to get hooked to this captivating feeling. It can be incredibly seductive if you’ve had trauma or poor relationships in the past. Feeling like someone completes you- even if the love-bombing phase is short- becomes a feeling you want to chase again and again. 

Devaluing Compels You To Want More Love-Bombing

All love-bombing eventually ends. At some point, the narcissist realizes that the relationship can’t “save” them from themselves. But this realization isn’t about you- it happens when your connection no longer fuels their entire narcissistic supply.

When that happens, because the narcissist cannot look inward to change themselves, they project their rage onto you. You’re why the relationship isn’t working. You’re the problem. 

This devaluing can occur suddenly- and it often feels downright confusing- but it always hurts. And so, because you probably want to keep your partner happy, you naturally start reflecting on how you can be a better person. 

Instead of working together to make a healthier relationship, you assume responsibility for the problems. You try to guess what the narcissist needs, and you attempt to make different changes based on these wild guesses.

They Keep You Trapped 

Narcissists often identify cooperative partners to create codependent relationships. Then, they prey on your good nature and empathy to keep you hooked on them.

This abuse often happens subtly. For example, the narcissist might insist they make enough money and encourage you to quit your job and focus on yourself. At first, this gesture can seem innocent and even generous. But they may be trying to foster your dependence on them. If they can remove you from external resources (and validation), you become more reliant on the relationship.

Narcissists also tend to play the victim with loved ones. For instance, they may threaten to kill themselves if you leave. Or, they may insist that they just need another chance for them to prove that they can change. 

These manipulation techniques are often incredibly effective. They pull at your heartstrings- they make you feel like you have no other choice but to stick it out. The narcissist knows how this dynamic plays out, and that’s why they continue harming you this way. 

The Relationship Becomes Your Identity

Toxic relationships feel so addictive because you don’t know where you end and the person begins. If you have spent years with the narcissist, you have built a life together. You may only know yourself as their partner or spouse.

If you’re with a narcissist, you probably struggle with your self-esteem. You may falsely assume that you need the narcissist. To make matters worse, they might have convinced you that you can’t function without them.

When this happens, the idea of leaving the relationship can feel impossible. You may surrender to the mindset that this is your life now. And so, you continue enduring the chaos. No matter how much it hurts, it feels better than the thought of being on your own.

It’s a Familiar Cycle

If you’ve been with a narcissist in the past, you may recreate the relationship over and over again. 

Unfortunately, this pattern is often subconscious. Because narcissism can manifest in different forms, you might not recognize the abuse until you’re already invested in the relationship.

You might be more prone to repeating the narcissistic abuse cycle if:

  • One or more of your caretakers was narcissistic.
  • You struggle with a substance addiction.
  • You have low self-esteem.
  • You have limited financial resources.
  • You lack solid interpersonal support.

While you can’t control all of these risk factors, it’s essential to be aware of them. Developing insight is the first step towards making change. Once you know your triggers, you can create a plan for how you intend to cope with them. 

Breaking Free From Your Addiction 

Have you ever heard the famous line, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Think about how this quote applies to your relationship. It all feels a bit insane, doesn’t it? 

Many times, people must quit their addictions cold-turkey to heal. The same mindset applies in relationships with narcissists. 

Because they cannot meet your needs, you will continue feeling underappreciated and disrespected if you stay together. 

Of course, this process feels exhausting. And just like any other addiction, it can destroy your livelihood and ravage your self-esteem. 


Going no-contact is the best approach for breaking free. When you cut off all ties with the narcissist, you allow yourself to reclaim your identity and start a new life. 

The best course of action is to find a therapist who specializes in emotional trauma therapy and an online program to keep you on track in between sessions and to offer support.  The Essential Break Free Bootcamp has been vetted by therapists and neuropsychologists as an effective step towards getting over narcissistic abuse. 

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Caryl says September 15, 2021

Hi Kim. I cant thank you enough to save me from my narcissist male friend in platonic relationship. I knew their is something wrong especially when he started with silent treatment suddenly. After he used to reply back, I used to feel as if joy is back. Later on I realised I was addicted with him. I prayed to God to stop this addiction. I was searching for answers as to why I am craving so much for him. Is it some sort of soul cycle connection like that of soul mate relationship. He showed me that he is making a soul mate painting through the visions in his subconscious mind. Somehow he started playing these kind of mind games with me.

I thought whatever he is I don’t want to lose him as I cannot live without getting his messages. He is a very caring and kind. But at the same time I knew he was in touch with many females. He created confusion in my mind.

I was not able to cut that bond with him and I thought it would never be possible.

Just one lucky day when I gone through couple of your articles, I read the same lines that I was already going through. You made me unattached with him.

Please congratulate me that I have been able to be on no contact from last 2 months already. Its been a big achievement for me because their was a time I used to get so anxious when I didnt talk with him for more than 2-3 days.

I prayed to god sincerely to show me the way. It took 2.5 years to finally discover your articles.

It is a waste of time to try to make others understand what we are going through. I am glad here is a community which you have developed who are spreading awareness and understand.

Attracta Rattigan says July 9, 2021

How to deal with 2 Narcs at Settlement Agreement meeting with legal teams present

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