Common Ways Addicts Manipulate

Addiction is challenging for both the individual with addiction along with their loved ones, as there are many ways addicts manipulate those around them.

Table of Contents

What Is Addiction?

Doing anything and everything to achieve a goal doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad thing. However, when such determination is aimed solely at manipulating loved ones, all in the bid to continually feed an addiction to substances like alcohol or drugs, there is cause for alarm.

Usually, people with addiction use various emotional manipulation tactics like lying, stealing, cheating, and even suicidal threats to get what they want. Unfortunately, they often succeed because their loved ones are generally unaware of what is happening or clueless about how to deal with it.

Understanding Addiction

With addiction, there is a physiological dependence on a substance such as heroin or alcohol, which is often coupled with a compulsive need to find drugs. This may also be followed by certain physical and psychological symptoms upon withdrawal from the drug, along with considerable health, social, and economic problems.1

Simply put, substance abuse is a chronic disorder of the brain characterized by an obsessive pursuit of “reward” without any regard for the consequences. 2

What Are the Stages of Addiction?

Addiction generally involves a habit of compulsively engaging in activities such as gaming, drinking, taking drugs, gambling, eating, shopping, or having sex in a way that displays a lack of self-control. It is, however, important you know that addiction often occurs in a predictable cycle, and this cycle can be broadly classified into three stages; these stages will be detailed below.

Binging and Intoxication

After experimentation with addictive substances, usually out of peer pressure or curiosity, people experience exaggerated feelings of pleasure from the heightened amount of dopamine in the brain triggered by the drug or alcohol. In a bid to experience this intoxicating feeling over again, people tend to binge the usage of the substance or experience, which then leads to the start of an addiction.

Withdrawal and Negative Effect

With repeated drug use comes tolerance and dependence, where the affected person experiences withdrawal symptoms in the form of physical and psychological stress if they stop using the drug for a while. This happens because the body and mind have become accustomed to the presence of the drug in the system.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms may vary widely among individuals. In addition, these symptoms can be influenced by factors such as the duration of use, route of administration, and type of substance used. Some of these negative effects include depression, anxiety, and fatigue, among many others.

Preoccupation or Anticipation

In this final stage of the addiction cycle, there first is a preoccupation where the individual often spends a lot of time using drugs. This also generally comes with anticipation, which involves thoughts of using drugs and how to get their next fix. By now, the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is critical for decision making, is affected, and the drug use has finally gone beyond the user’s control and has become an “involuntary” reflex due to these chemical changes in the brain.

What Causes Addiction?

Humans are typically wired to want to repeat experiences that make us feel good. Hence, there is usually a motivation to do things that bring pleasure, which, unfortunately, may include unhealthy behaviors such as using drugs repeatedly. This use of drugs can eventually lead to an addiction that is difficult to stop. The part of the body most affected by addiction is the brain.3

The Brain

Scientific evidence has shown that three areas of the brain – the basal ganglia, extended amygdala, and prefrontal cortex – are actively involved in the onset, development, and continuance of addictions and substance use disorder.

The effects of disruption to each of the three areas of the brain include: 4

  • Basal Ganglia: This region serves as the major center in the brain’s reward circuit. Also, it is involved in learning routines and forming habits. This region will enable drug-associated cues when impacted by substance use and create near-constant drug-seeking behavior.
  • Extended Amygdala: Substance use usually disrupts this area, which results in stress, anxiety, and irritability. These symptoms arise from substance withdrawal.
  • Prefrontal Cortex: When there is an interference with the prefrontal cortex due to the use of substances, it leads to reduced executive functioning of the brain. This means an impaired ability of the affected individual to make sound decisions and regulate their actions, impulses, and emotions. This means they can no longer exert any firm control over their drug use.

Finally, keep in mind that these changes in the brain usually remain even long after substance use has been stopped.

Early Exposure

Early exposure of drugs to people during their childhood and adolescence significantly increases their risk of being addicted as they grow older, as their developing brains can be affected by these chemical changes. Other addiction risk factors include environment, genetics, and family history.

Why Are People With Addiction Problems Often Manipulative?

Those with substance abuse disorders will often do anything to continually feed their addiction and avoid withdrawal symptoms, including manipulating those around them to cater to their unhealthy behaviors. While this is usually the primary motivation for manipulation, there are other reasons why people with addiction may try to manipulate their loved ones, including:

Need for Control

As discussed earlier, addictions often go beyond the control of users once they reach the final stage in the addiction cycle, meaning they usually try to compensate by controlling their environment and those around them.

Intense Cravings

When it comes to those with substance abuse disorders, their intense cravings usually lead to manipulative behaviors. Addiction is characterized by a compulsive physical and psychological need for substances, or to engage in a particular activity such as gambling. A person who manipulates capitalizes on this by lying to and cheating those around them.

Reduced Capacity for Sound Reasoning

The prefrontal cortex of the brain of people with addiction is affected by drug use, often hindering them from making sound and educated decisions. They have a reduced capacity for objective thought and heavily fixate on their substance of choice.


In many cases, desperation for the substance takes over people’s mindsets in ways they might not have thought previously possible. This can lead to manipulative tactics as well, even though those with addiction don’t want to hurt their loved ones.

Paralyzing Guilt

Often, when people realize the pain their addiction behaviors cause those around them, their guilt is paralyzing and too heavy to bear. This can lead to many ignoring this guilt and continuing with their previous behavior

How to Recognize Manipulation in Addiction

When your loved one is dealing with addiction, you might have to prepare yourself for manipulation attempts where the addicted person in your life will start saying and doing things that make you feel used, hurt, cheated, guilty, betrayed, and confused. In addition, you should know that while they may not be bad people, their addiction does tend to take a toll on them and alters their brain chemistry as well, making them do things they’d have rather not done were they not struggling with addiction.
It’s essential you’re able to identify these signs of manipulation so you can effectively guard against them. Listed below are some common manipulation tactics used by addicted persons.

Asking for Money

Those with a substance abuse disorder generally always need money to get substances to continually feed their habits. So, if you find your loved one frequently requesting money for a variety of reasons that sound suspicious, and you notice other common signs of addiction as well, they may be using this tactic to manipulate you or other loved ones for money for their addiction.

Causing Fights

Many of those that have an addiction will purposely start fights or disagreements. These fights often serve another purpose, like delaying discussing relevant issues concerning their addiction, or to elicit feelings of pity or the need to help in other ways.

Isolation and Self-Harm

Another tactic used by people with addiction is isolation and self-harm. If, after trying everything they still don’t get what they want, they may attempt to hurt you by withdrawing contact entirely. Also, active self-harm, like intentional starving, cutting, and even suicidal threats, may occur in extreme cases of addict manipulation.


Guilt-tripping could be in the form of those with addiction pointing fingers at you or other loved ones in their circle, calling them out on any direct or indirect role they “supposedly” played in their addiction.

Being Overly Nice

It is only natural for people to be on guard when someone in their life suddenly switches their behavior. This reaction is even more justified when it comes from someone with an addiction. Those with substance abuse disorders often pretend to be overly nice and remorseful to catch you off guard. However, these changes are often another manipulation tactic.

Shifting the Blame

People with addiction frequently shift the blame and responsibilities for their actions onto anyone but themselves. This is important to look out for, especially if it’s coupled with another tactic like guilt-tripping.

Tips for Coping With Addiction and Manipulation

Dealing with addicted family members or loved ones is never easy, so you must also pay attention to your well-being and mental health while supporting them to help them get better. Here are coping tips that should prove helpful while interacting with a loved one with addiction.

Create Boundaries

To cope with manipulation, you must re-evaluate the situation and determine what you will and will not condone. It may be tough but set clear boundaries, especially if you have a manipulative parent or child.

Avoid Enabling

Ensure you examine their needs thoroughly before granting them requests and favors like giving them money, rides, too much space or alone time, and so on. Avoid enabling them directly or indirectly, especially if you think you have a personality that is able to be easily manipulated.

Active Listening

Another thing you can do to cope with easy manipulation is to employ active listening. You can detect manipulative behavior and handle the situation appropriately through active listening, thinking things through, and avoiding answering rapid-fire questions immediately.

Care for Yourself

Caring for yourself cannot be overemphasized. Be mindful of your overall health and well-being to avoid burnout from stress, emotional turmoil, and manipulation.

Address Codependency

Being in a close relationship with an addicted person can lead to codependency, where one is dependent on the other to an excessive, unhealthy degree with no coexisting responsibility to self. While codependency can be addressed in therapy; it is best to try to avoid reaching this level in the first place.5

Say No

“No” is such a simple and powerful word that can sometimes be difficult to say. However, to cope with addiction manipulation, you may need to say no calmly, firmly, and with no compromise.

How to Help a Manipulative Person with Addiction Seek Treatment

It is understandable to feel hurt, betrayed, or even tired when dealing with loved ones who have an addiction. However, always keep in mind that people with addiction are not inherently bad people, and they can get better with the proper treatment and adequate support.

Methods on how to handle a manipulative person with an addiction to help them seek treatment are highlighted below.

Learn About Addiction

First, understand that addiction is a complex disease of the brain. Unfortunately, many people still think individuals battling addiction lack moral principles or believe they have the willpower to just stop their drug use simply by choice. However, due to the brain changes that addiction causes, those affected often cannot just stop or help themselves in the way they need. This means they need treatment via evaluation, detoxification, and therapy.

Also, learn about the particular substance the addicted person in your life is using so you’ll be as informed as possible on the matter and always know what to expect.

Face the Facts

Closely monitor and keep track of the person’s activities and identify some patterns in their behavior. This will help you prepare yourself, effectively deal with their addiction and ways of manipulation, and give you the courage to stand firm and help them.

Ignore Their Exceptionalism

People with addiction usually lie to others as well as themselves. They may think that they are different from others and be under the illusion that they can stop using drugs any time they decide to. Try to ignore this thought process and help them see that the patterns of addiction are generally the same for everyone, along with the fact that addiction requires treatment.

Show Them Options

After scaling through the lies and different forms of manipulation, it will most likely be easier to convince a person with an addiction to get treatment by providing them with options. Conduct thoughtful affected person-oriented research and show them options for treatment.

Get Help For Overcoming Addiction at Soledad House

If you’re a woman who’s currently dealing with addiction and looking for effective addiction treatment, Soledad House is the perfect place for you. Soledad House is a recovery center that offers high-quality treatment in a serene, healing environment to help women battling drug and alcohol addiction.

In Soledad House, there are various individualized treatment programs specifically tailored to meet the needs of those in addiction, so you can be certain you’ll be getting treatment perfectly tailored to your particular addiction condition.