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How to cope with an addicted person’s emotional manipulation

Emotional manipulation is a common theme in the behaviour of people who are addicted and can still be present in the early stages of addiction recovery.

Manipulative behaviour can be extremely hurtful and can cause irreparable damage to some relationships between addicts and their loved ones.

Often, the addicted person becomes an expert manipulator and can get away with manipulating people and situations to suite their desired outcomes.

Emotional manipulation and addiction recovery South Africa

However, if you are able to identify when you are being manipulated, you will be able to develop ways in which you can prevent falling victim to such manipulation.

Preventing yourself from being manipulated is the best method to eradicate this behaviour and this can be done in a loving and non-confrontational manner.

Why do addicts manipulate their loved ones?


  • - Their uncontrollable physical and mental addiction justify their behaviour which can be destructive and manipulative. A person who is addicted will do whatever they need to do in order to obtain their next fix.
  • - Because addicts often feel internally powerless, they externalise these feelings by expressing an overbearing desire for control. This compensates for their internal struggle against their addiction.
  • - Desperate times call for desperate measures – this is especially true when someone is addicted. Their addiction can be so controlling that it causes them to lose touch with their morality, causing them to jeopardise any loving relationship through manipulation and deceit.
  • - The guilt they experience can often be paralyzing and the overwhelming shame prevents an addicted person from asking for help. So, instead of seeking help, they continue to manipulate the ones around them.


6 Types of emotional manipulation

A person who is addicted may use different approaches when trying to manipulate their friends or family.

Often, they are able to identify which methods work in specific situations or with particular people.

The following are some examples of the different methods of manipulation – the addicted person may:


  • - Cause an argument between two people so that they can act as the peacemaker. This allows them to step into a position of power – even though he or she was the instigator.
  • - Threaten you with suicide or other methods of self-harm so that you will respond in a way that they want you to.
  • - Throw tantrums, shout at or insult you, slam doors or break things. This is so that you will do what they ask you to in order to keep the peace.
  • - Blame their addiction or behaviour on other people or their life’s circumstances instead of taking responsibility for it.
  • - Threaten to hurt or humiliate you if you don’t do what they are demanding of you.
  • - Remind you of your own flaws or failures or make you feel guilty about things you have done in the past which have contributed to their addiction.


5 Signs of emotional manipulation

It’s not always easy to acknowledge when you are being manipulated, especially when it’s coming from someone that you love.

However, paying attention to how you feel during or after an interaction will give you a clear indication.

If you feel bullied, ashamed, confused or used then it’s likely that you are being manipulated.

The following are signs to look out for – a manipulator will:


  • - Constantly remind you of his or her importance so as to retain the position of power in the relationship.
  • - Attack your personal fears with his or her words or actions.
  • - Never give you an opportunity to respond during conversations and will talk over you.
  • - Be kind to you only when he or she is expecting something in return.
  • - Exaggerate situations to make it seem that they are the victim.


How to deal with an emotional manipulator

It’s important to remember that you have the right to protect yourself from potential harm. Once you recognise that you are being manipulated, you can find ways to prevent it from happening further.

Furthermore, you can still love and support someone who is addicted while not allowing them to manipulate you.

In fact, by standing up for yourself you may encourage your loved one to recognise that they are causing harm to themselves and others which may prompt them to seek help.

You can immobilise manipulative behaviour by:


  • - Openly communicating the fact that you feel disrespected by their behaviour.
  •  - Calmly saying “no”.
  • - Constantly reminding yourself that you are not the problem and that they addicted person needs to own up to their choices and actions.
  • - Clearly and confidently stating your personal boundaries and consistently sticking to them.
  • - Avoiding interactions with the addicted person as far as possible and when necessary.
  • - Practicing emotional and spiritual self-care so that you can be strong enough to face manipulation without falling into its trap.


Watching someone you love self-destruct through addiction can be extremely painful. However, with the right support and treatment, recovery from addiction is possible.

Step Away Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa

We understand the role of emotional manipulation in addictive behaviour. We work closely with patients and family – helping both understand how to identify and manage different behaviours associated with addiction.

Contact us to find out more about our addiction recovery programs.

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