Manipulative Behaviour and Addiction

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Manipulative Behaviour and Addiction

28 October, 2020Articles, News

When you care about someone with an addiction, you may find some of their behaviours confusing and upsetting. Two common threads you can observe in nearly all addictions (gambling, food, sex, alcohol or drugs) are lying and manipulation on the part of the addict. How do you learn to deal with their manipulative behaviour and what are the most common tactics which feature in their manipulation?

So, why do alcoholics/addicts lie and manipulate?

How do you recognize when you are being manipulated, and what can you do about it? The answers to these critical questions will impact the way you handle typical addict behaviour in your relationships and the role you play in convincing someone with an addiction to seek treatment.


The most important thing to remember when someone you know is addicted is that addiction causes changes in the brain itself. It’s common to hear that addiction has “hijacked” the brain, and it results in people acting in ways they might never have considered prior to their struggles with drugs or alcohol.

Addiction begins when the brain begins to adapt to the frequent consumption of a substance. Normally, the brain rewards healthy behaviours such as bonding with friends and family, exercising or eating a good meal. Likewise, the brain’s ability to reason allows us to properly weigh consequences and decide which actions we shouldn’t take.

However, drugs and alcohol provide an immediate, artificial sense of gratification to the reward system that far outweighs the pleasure received from everyday activities. This results in the addicted person wanting more and more of the substance, regardless of the consequences.


Why do addicts lie and manipulate in certain ways?

If you have been exposed to more than one case of addiction in your life, you may have realised that drug addicts’ manipulative behaviour tends to look similar even in very different people.

Addiction behaviour patterns can be more easily spotted if you become familiar with these five common examples of alcoholic/addiction manipulation:

Asking for Money

No matter the substance, addiction is expensive. A person struggling with addiction will keep spending more and more to obtain drugs or alcohol at the expense of their other financial obligations. Asking for money or other favours is a hallmark of how alcoholics manipulate, and they don’t generally state that the money is going towards their addiction. Instead, they may say they are facing an unexpected bill, or just need a little help with rent. This is a tactic to try and stop you from asking further questions.

Causing Fights

Being deliberately argumentative is typical addict behaviour within relationships. It serves a purpose. The person may start a fight to distract from a pressing discussion about their addiction. If you are busy fending off emotional attacks, you aren’t able to address the root problem of substance abuse, and it may also be some time before you feel confident enough to bring up the subject again.

Isolating and Self-Harm

When addicts or alcoholics don’t get what they want, they may attempt to punish you by hurting themselves. They may withdraw contact, isolating themselves and leaving you to wonder how they are doing. They may even actively self-harm through actions like purposely going on a bender, drinking and driving or refusing to eat. In extreme cases, self-harm may manifest in actions such as cutting themselves.


Someone with an addiction will almost always blame everyone but themselves for their situation. You will have to contend with statements that imply or state outright that you are at least partially responsible for the person’s addiction and their manipulative behaviour. Whether the implication is subtle or the person flat out says it, the sentiment you will hear is “look what you made me do.”

Being Overly “Nice”

The cycle of addictive behaviour patterns usually contains a period where the addicted individual gives the appearance of changing for the better. They may suddenly seem contrite, sorry and genuinely remorseful — when in reality, this is just another tactic to keep you emotionally vulnerable and off-guard.

Shifting the Blame

Another example of an addict’s manipulative behaviour is their tendency to continually shift the blame away from themselves. They seemingly never take responsibility for their actions, and will always find ways to blame anyone or anything other than themselves. In their mind, their addiction isn’t their fault. Instead, it becomes the fault of family members who didn’t love them enough or a stressful job or the phase of the moon — anything to keep them from having to take responsibility themselves.

8 Tips to cope with an Addicts Manipulation

When you recognize that the addict in your life is manipulating you, it’s important to remember that you have every right to protect yourself from harm, physically, emotionally, and mentally. You are entitled to voice your own opinions and needs, and you deserve to be treated with respect. Although the person attempting to manipulate you will not like to hear these things, it’s essential that you start by setting boundaries.

You can still love your addicted friend or family member without sacrificing your own happiness or giving in to their manipulative behaviour. In fact, by standing up for yourself and refusing to be manipulated, you may even help them realize that they need to change and should seek help for their addiction.

  • Here are a few different ways you can immobilize the manipulation of an addict:
    • Calmly say “no.”
    • Clearly state your personal boundaries, such as, “I will not give you money.”
    • Communicate honestly with the person when you believe they are being disrespectful and let them know right away.
    • Remind yourself that you are not the problem and the addicted person needs to take responsibility for his or her own actions.
    • Keep a healthy distance and avoid engaging with the person if you can.
    • Prioritize self-care so you can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually well enough to face manipulative behaviours.
    • Remember that the addicted person is responsible for his or her own happiness, not you.
    • Join a support group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon and learn from other people who have been or are currently in the same situation.

Although these tips may feel harsh and unloving, the “tough love” approach may be the best thing for your friend and family member in the end. After all, if they can no longer manipulate the people around them into supporting their drug habit or excessive drinking, it will be much more difficult to continue living in their addiction.

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