Addict Behavior and Manipulation
If someone you love is living with an untreated substance use disorder, you may notice many marked changes in their behavior. Two of the most common characteristics of addiction are dishonesty and manipulation. Why would a person who cares about you want to deceive and play mind games with you? In many cases, the answer is that a worsening addiction compels people to go to extremes to shield themselves from any negative consequences. Here’s your guide to understanding addict behavior and manipulation.
How Substance Abuse Changes the Brain
An addicted person’s brain chemistry undergoes a series of changes as a result of their prolonged substance use. Typically, the human brain rewards healthy behaviors like exercising with a flood of feel-good chemicals. However, drinking and drug use rewires the brain’s reward pathways by providing nearly immediate gratification. As an addiction progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to derive enjoyment from any other source. At this point, trying to quit can also lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that drive the person back to their substance of use.
Addiction hijacks the natural reward system to the point that drinking or using becomes an addict’s top priority. When they run out of drugs or alcohol, an addict will feel stressed and anxious until they obtain more. These issues combine to completely shift your loved one’s goals, making them willing to steal, lie and cheat to sustain their addiction.
Tips for Identifying Addict Behavior and Manipulation
The patterns of addict behavior and manipulation are easier to spot once you know what to look for. No one wants to suspect a loved one is trying to control them, but recognizing the warning signs is critical for setting healthy boundaries. If you suspect someone with a substance use disorder is attempting to manipulate you, look for these characteristics in your interactions.
- Deliberately picking fights: Purposely starting arguments is a distraction technique intended to steer conversations away from the topic of a loved one’s addiction and discourage you from bringing it up again. They might also interrupt you frequently, not giving you adequate time to think or respond.
- Shifting blame: Another classic characteristic of manipulative behavior is a tendency for the addict to deflect blame away from themselves. In these cases, nothing is ever the addict’s fault or responsibility.
- Denial: Someone living with an active substance abuse disorder may try to convince others that they don’t have a problem. Sometimes, they might repeat this lie so often that they come to believe it.
- Isolation: If you try to come between an addicted loved one and their substance of use, they may punish you by withdrawing their contact and leave you in the dark about what and how they’re doing. They may also self-harm in the form of cutting, drinking and driving or refusing to eat.
How to Deal With Manipulative Behavior
Handling addict behavior and manipulation requires you to take specific steps to maintain your emotional well-being. You want to support your loved one and encourage them to seek treatment without compromising your mental health along the way.
1. Create Healthy Boundaries
Specific, unambiguous boundaries are essential for dealing with typical addict behavior and manipulation. Start by outlining what behaviors you will and won’t tolerate, and define what consequences your loved one faces for violating those boundaries. For example, if your loved one tries to start an argument by shouting you down, tell them that the next time they raise their voice, you will end the conversation and leave the room until they are back under control.
2. Avoid Enabling and Codependency
There is a fine line between being supportive of an addicted loved one and behaviors like enabling and codependency. Familiarize yourself with these patterns and ask yourself whether you are contributing to your loved one’s worsening addiction.
3. Don’t Neglect Your Needs
When someone close to you is struggling with the disease of addiction, your self-care habits might be the first thing to fall by the wayside. Sometimes, the healthiest thing you can do for yourself and your loved one is to step aside and take time to look after your needs. In doing so, you’ll renew your enthusiasm to encourage and take care of the person you care about.