Covert narcissists have symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) but hide the more obvious signs. Although it is more difficult to identify, covert personality disorder (NPD) can be just as destructive and damaging as more obvious narcissistic behavior.

It is not difficult to identify narcissists in crowded rooms. These people are the ones who work for the crowd and share amazing stories, which convey an air of accomplishment and importance, so they feel valued. This behavior is a sign that someone is not approachable.

Are there other people in this room with the same exaggerated motives for admiration or importance, but they are harder to identify? Yes. A narcissist might surround you. However, their Narcissism may not be obvious.

What is Narcissism?

A narcissist is a term that is used frequently in casual conversations to describe someone who appears to be a little self-involved. To be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, one must meet certain criteria.

People with narcissistic personality disorders are generally preoccupied with success and feel superior to others. This influences their decision-making as well as their interactions.

Narcissists have difficulty building or maintaining relationships with others due to their manipulative tendencies, lack of empathy, and lack of empathy. Narcissists often feel entitled and lack compassion.

  • A sense of self-worth or grandiosity
  • Imagine fantasizing about being famous, influential, or important.
  • Overestimating their talents and accomplishments
  • Seeking admiration and acknowledgment
  • Preoccupation with beauty, love, power, or success
  • Exaggerated feelings of being unique
  • Believe that the world owes it to them
  • Exploiting others to get what you want (regardless of how it affects others)
  • It isn’t easy to feel empathy for others.
Covert Narcissist

What is a Covert Narcissist, and How Can You Tell?

Behavior can be classified as either overt or undercover in psychology. Overt behavior is those that are easily visible to others. However, covert behaviors are subtler and less obvious to others.

It can be difficult to see how someone could be a narcissist while being inhibited in their approach or behavior when considering the behavior of narcissists. While covert narcissists might appear to be self-deprecating or withdrawing in their approach, the end goal is the same. 1

Imagine listening to your favorite song at a high volume and comparing it to the same song at a lower volume. The volume at which you listen to the song has not changed.

Covert Narcissism: Causes

Although the exact causes of covert Narcissism remain elusive, there may be many factors. Experts believe that narcissistic personality disorder (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is related to the following:

  • Genetics
  • Trauma and Childhood Abuse
  • Caregiver relationships and upbringing
  • Personality and temperament 2

One study showed that those with narcissistic personality disorders are more likely to have been raised by parents focused on their achievements and status. This belief may continue into adulthood.

However, it isn’t clear why narcissistic behavior sometimes manifests in covert rather than overt ways.

Covert narcissism traits

NPD is known for its many telling characteristics:

  • A false sense of self-importance.
  • Inapathy.
  • Excessive admiration is a need.
  • The sensibility of entitlement.
  • Avoid surrounding yourself with superficial relationships.
  • Profiting from the mistakes of others.
  • Resistance to change
  • Focusing too much on fantasies about grandeur.

Although covert narcissists might struggle with certain traits, it is possible to spot signs of covert personality disorder. This is because they can be subtle in their expressions. These are some characteristics and traits of covert Narcissism:

Sensitivity to criticism

Narcissists cannot respond to criticisms, even in the wrong. While an overt narcissist may appear combative, a hidden narcissist is more defensive.

Dr. Albers says covert narcissists do not want to be humiliated or mocked. They tend to turn the criticism around and defend themselves against it quickly. “Covert narcissists make backhanded remarks and insults more often, even though they are subtle.”

Fitting in is difficult.

Someone with covert Narcissism may not have the empathy to see other people. Making genuine connections with others cannot be easy when you constantly analyze and criticize your self-image. You may be too focused on your own needs and desires, sometimes disregarding those of others. You may also experience increased social anxiety as you desire to be loved, appreciated, and understood.

Depression and anxiety are difficult.

AnxietyDepression is more common in covert Narcissism than overt Narcissism. However, it may also be more obvious.

Dr. Albers explained that the overt narcissist would keep their anxiety and Depression secret because they don’t want it to be seen by anyone. However, the covert one may be more open to sharing that information because it allows them to gain sympathy from others.

Although it can seem disingenuous or performative for someone to be overly vocal about their anxiety and Depression, it doesn’t make them any less important than others. It doesn’t make the experience any less real or more harmful.

Focused on self-importance and too much

Dr. Albers states that although they are less self-important than covert narcissists, they still want admiration and attention. They use soft tactics to gain attention and reassurance about their accomplishments, talents, or abilities.

You might be eager to receive compliments or gratitude for your effort in cooking dinner. You may feel unappreciated or insignificant if you don’t get compliments.

Dealing with covert Narcissism

It can be hard to recognize covert Narcissism. However, it is possible by being aware of your behavior patterns and paying attention when you feel something is off.

Dr. Albers notes that covert narcissists may want to justify their actions or give themselves an excuse. They may claim they’re having a bad day, but that’s not who they are. If you notice this behavior and see the mask fall off, it’s worth looking closely at what is happening.

Some people may react to being called out by engaging in more dangerous behaviors, such as passive aggression and gaslighting. These behaviors may result from low self-esteem, which one study found was highly gated when examining the link between cyberbullying & covert Narcissism.

It might help to keep track of incidents and issues so that you can deal with the different perspectives.


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