Self-esteem refers to the way that people evaluate themselves in regards to self-worth. It is often the case that addicts will have low self-esteem. This means that they may not have much belief in their own ability to escape addiction; they may also be convinced that they are not worthy of a better life. As well as suffering from incredibly low self-esteem the addict can also experience periods of grandiosity; this is where they act as if they are better than every else. Both grandiosity and low self esteem can be obstacles in the path away from addiction.
Those individuals exhibiting grandiosity will have an unrealistic sense of their own importance. This person will appear pompous and pretentious to other people. They will have feelings of superiority and may even believe that nothing bad can happen to them. In severe cases this grandiosity can be mixed with religious overtones ; for instance, the individual may believe that they are on a special mission from God. If people have lost touch with reality so much that they are fully convinced of their specialness then this is usually referred to as delusions of grandeur or grandiose delusions.
The symptoms of grandiosity can include:
* Feelings of superiority over other people
* Feeling of specialness
* A feeling of invincibility
* The individual who is experiencing grandiosity due to mental illness may believe that they have a special connection with God or a supernatural force.
* They may believe that they have supernatural powers
* There can be feelings of euphoria
* The individual will believe that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. They may even believe that they can literally move mountains with their thoughts.
Grandiosity is one of the main symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, but it can also be due to bipolar disorder. The individual with narcissistic personality disorder will:
* Have grandiose fantasies
* Be boastful
* Have an exaggerated appraisal of their own talents and capabilities
* Be completely self-absorbed
* Will not feel like they need other people
* They will feel invulnerable
* They will have a low opinion of other people
Addicts tend to share certain characteristics that are referred to as the addictive personality. It is suggested that it is these personality traits that make the individual more susceptible to falling into addiction. One of the characteristics that addicts tend to exhibit is grandiosity. Most of those who abuse alcohol or drugs will have low self-esteem a great deal of the time, but they can use grandiosity as a defense mechanism to hide their feelings of vulnerability and low self-worth. The addict is somehow able to manage to have low self-esteem yet still believe they are better than other people – this can be described as lying in the gutter but still looking down on everyone else.
Grandiosity can be a difficult obstacle that prevents the addict from finding their way into recovery. It makes it hard for the individual to accept help, and if they have feelings of invincibility then they might not even see the need to put an end to their addiction. If this grandiosity is due to a mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder, it may prevent the individual from ever gaining insight into their problems. The best option will be for such individuals to undergo dual diagnosis treatment where their mental health problem and addiction can be dealt with together.
Even after people have managed to escape their addiction they may still be faced with problems due to grandiosity. Terminal uniqueness is the belief that the individual has that they are a special case. This means that they may refuse to believe that because something worked for other people that it can work for them. Terminal uniqueness can prevent people from making use of the resources available to them in recovery. Their unwillingness to learn from other people means that they increase the risk of relapse; even if they remain sober they are unlikely to find that life is particularly satisfying – they are likely to become a dry drunk.
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