In this blog, we are going to discuss covert narcissists and covert narcissism, how to spot a covert narcissist and what you can do to get out of their grips.

You have probably seen a narcissist before. They are the ones who seem overly indulged in their own stories, their own self-importance, quick to tell you about their own achievements and rarely do they look like they are approachable or you can communicate with them in any way. These sort of people are obvious to spot but a covert narcissist is much harder to spot. In fact, it is very likely that you have come across a covert narcissist before but how could you ever know?

What is a covert narcissist?

A covert narcissist is just as bad as any other narcissist, the main difference between a covert narcissist and other narcissists is the way in which they approach you. A covert narcissist will seem to focus on being one type of person: a vulnerable, defeated person in a bid to get into your life. Whilst a typical narcissist will look to be the centre of attention, a covert narcissist will rather look to be in the shadows, they will look to hide any grandeur act to hide the fact that they are indeed a narcissist. This allows us to fall easier into their grips and control.

A narcissist will usually look to be more outgoing, be the centre of attention, the life of the party and will crave every bit of attention from anyone who is within their vicinity. A narcissist will be a bully like kind of character and will rarely apologise for his or her actions. A narcissist could be a playboy or maybe a know it all but they will rarely be a quiet character.

You may find a lot of narcissists when looking at public figures such as celebrities. In some cases, it is their narcissism which brought them to the focus of our attention. Radio host and psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh said, “Narcissistic personality disorder is not only accepted in the entertainment industry, it’s often a requirement.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual criteria describe these types as “Exhibitionist Narcissists.”

“There are several subtypes of narcissists. Among them are covert narcissists. Psychoanalyst James Masterson first identified the “Closet Narcissist” — someone deflated, with an inadequate self-perception. Lacking the aggressiveness of the exhibitionistic narcissist, they’re more prone to depression and feelings of emptiness or like things are falling apart. This subtype has also been referred to as a “covert narcissist,” “vulnerable narcissist,” or “or introverted narcissists.”

Covert narcissists are very hard to spot, they blend in incredibly and as stated this is their way into your life so they almost master the act of blending into people’s lives to perfection. They will take on whatever character they feel will convince you into trusting them and allowing them into your life.

“These narcissists may appear shy, humble, or anxious. Their gratification may be indirect through their emotional investment in someone they admire. They take things personally and feel distrustful, mistreated, unappreciated, and misunderstood. Although they devalue themselves, they dream of greatness and wonder why people don’t appreciate and understand them.”

Their covert nature doesn’t absorb them of other usual narcissist tendencies, they will still be diagnosed under the narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as they will have tendencies and traits such as the below.

Traits of a Covert narcissist

  • Seeking appreciation and admiration
  • Feeling special and great
  • Feeling like they deserve anything and everything in some cases
  • Being self-centred
  • Having no empathy for others
  • Expecting to be treated specially

Not feeling appreciated by society and feeling devalued and unaccomplished are some of the traits that will separate them from a typical narcissist. They may even go as far as playing victims due to the fact that the world hasn’t given them credit for their great achievements, skills or uniqueness. 

Covert narcissists may look like they genuinely care about others, they may look this way through their jobs, their charitable efforts etc but they do all of this simply to take themselves to new heights and in fact, everything they do is only for their benefit and no one else. They may do things without anyone asking and claim it is out of the kindness of their hearts but these kind of people are self-righteous and moralistic only when it allows them to exploit other people. Likely, the recipients who they have given to.

Covert narcissist

What are the signs of a covert narcissist?

11 Signs of a Covert Introvert Narcissist include

  • Quiet Smugness
  • Simplification of others needs
  • Lack of Empathy.
  • Passive-Aggressiveness.
  • Superiority
  • Self-Absorption
  • Unable to listen
  • Highly Sensitive
  • The “Misunderstood Special Person” 
  • Impersonal and Difficult Relationships.

What is the difference between covert and overt narcissist?

Overt narcissists are fairly easy to spot in contrast to Covert Narcissists. Covert narcissists are hard to spot because they look to get into people’s lives by essentially playing victims, they hide their true selves until they feel enough time has passed in which they reveal their true colours and go on to ruin someone’s life. They are usually self-loathing and low confidence kind of people. Covert narcissists will usually look for a supply of people to torment and when they don’t get it they will find opportunities or react badly.

How does a covert narcissist act in marriage?

Covert Narcissists will usually act very quiet, self-contained and show little attention to their wife or husband in a marriage.  They will usually have no empathy and sooner or later one of either the wife or husband will become a victim of shameful bashing by the other party, criticism and every other arsenal the covert narcissist has in their locker.

What is a covert narcissistic personality?

The covert narcissistic personality is one where the behaviour is less obvious to the victim and the victims are tricked into a false sense of belief on who the person they think they know and admire. A covert narcissist will not crave attention as a way to gain trust but will instead act vulnerable. A covert narcissist will just be as empathetic as any other narcissist.

Covert narcissist

How do covert narcissists act?

A covert narcissist will usually gain your trust and affection before revealing their true narcissistic tendencies and identity.

A covert narcissist will do this by essentially appearing to be vulnerable to you, allowing you to feel sorry and compassionate towards them and offer them help. The covert narcissist will essentially work and depend on your human instincts to kick in and do what is right after which they will pounce and begin to turn on you in the vilest and despicable way ever.

A covert narcissist knows that the image they are portraying to you isn’t really who they are. 

They know this image will be the one you will fall for and hence the image they will then portray to you matches exactly what they think you want to see.

This is how the covert narcissist use to gain their constant supply of fresh targets. They play the victim and wait for you to answer their cries.

A covert narcissist will actually mould their image to fit exactly what you are looking for in a friend, lover or work colleague and use that as the entry into your life.

Once they are in they will then look to gain maximum sympathy from you by creating whatever scenario they feel will best achieve this.  

The scary and outright dangerous thing about a covert narcissist is that they get you to believe you are dealing with someone who cares about you, someone who cares about your wellbeing, someone who is a high functioning human being. In truth, you are dealing with a monster who has no care for you and just wants an avenue into your life.

Once a covert narcissist has got you to believe this narrative that they are indeed in this vulnerable state and in need of so much affection and care then the bullying, the manipulation and everything nasty about this person will slowly begin to surface. In fact, you won’t even believe what is happening and you may find yourself even defending the covert narcissist even as you suffer from their hands. This is in fact the length at which they will manipulate you. You will begin to question reality.

You will then find yourself living in two realities. One in which the person you know is a victim and needs care and affection and another where the person is this insane psychopath who is controlling every part of your life, bullying you and being a very horrible person to you.  You will question who the real person is and the longer you take no action but ponder on this, the longer the covert narcissist will have control over you.

In summary, a covert narcissist will wear down any boundaries that you have had and then slowly begin to inject anxiety, self-doubt, name-calling, shaming, blaming and insecurity into you. 

The longer this virus has its way in your mind the longer the covert narcissism takes hold of you and slowly tumbles you into an alternate universe where you become stuck in a state of helplessness which you have now accepted and are beginning to find yourself in more and more often. In this state, you will find that you doubt what you think is true and have no idea what is true anymore.  Sticking in this alternate world where you begin to question your self is very dangerous. The faster you get out of it the better your chances of getting out of the cover narcissists grip.

Whenever presented with their lies and how things don’t add up a covert narcissist will always result to reframing, reblaming, shaming, denial etc A covert narcissist will look you in the eye and lie to you. They will tell you blatant lies without feeling bad about it, without feeling sorry etc

Once everything is out in the open you will struggle to make sense of how loving and caring the covert narcissist was to you and how they are now. They may have told how much they love you and care for you in the past and now there is no sign of any love or compassion from them.

They will have no empathy for any of the pain they are causing you, they will not feel bad, in fact, they will feel it is their right for them to do this to you and you should be privileged to be under their spell.

You may notice that they have a superiority complex, a God complex and a messiah complex all mixed in one big nasty mess.

When a covert narcissist finally leaves your life they have ways and methods to make you feel the loss. They will create scenarios so you can truly feel what it feels like to live without them.

This doesn’t allow you any closure but instead keeps you anxious and pondering about them and how they could have potentially helped you in certain situations. 

Covert narcissist

Covert narcissists vs overt narcissists

Below are some of the differences between a covert narcissist and an overt narcissist.

Narcissists are usually brash, very loud, confident, crave attention, flashy and assertive but covert narcissists are very quiet, passive and they are mostly insecure people who are hard to detect as narcissists.

Narcissists will usually never apologize for things they have done but covert narcissists will usually apologise as long as it calms down the situation and get you to fall back into believing the delusional idea of how nice they are.

Narcissists are usually very ambitious, hungry and determined people who are always full of energy and crave to be the life of the room but covert narcissists, on the other hand, are people who have often failed in life, have a chronic feeling of emptiness fragile humans and people who can easily sink into depression due to their actions.

Narcissists are always, well usually the loud people in the room who want everyone to know about their achievements but covert narcissists will usually present themselves as vulnerable.non achieving people in a bid to get your trust and sympathy. It is the trap they set to get into your life.

Most narcissists will believe they are very superior and the world favours them and hence you may find that they are very much in need of the supply of the fuel that enables them to continue living this life. The covert narcissist, on the other hand, feels they are not getting enough attention from the world although they are superior and hence they form this personality in a bid to get people to bend to their will.

Covert narcissists are a very dangerous breed of humans. They will put up this front in order to bring people into their control and once they identify that you have something they feel they deserve they will go on to manipulate and destroy you just to get it.

Covert narcissists are more likely than others to engage in domestic abuse, child abuse, relationship abuse to their other half and incest.

Covert narcissists will engage in a weird border personality disorder where you will become so confused as to who the person actually is on any given day.

The issue with covert narcissism and why there are very few people who actually know more about it is that there is very little information about it online and most of the information online about it is not very well documented or in fact contradicts each other. This is the same case with the academic literature on covert narcissists and you may even see some claims about covert narcissist being a form of borderline personality disorder.

Some signs of a covert narcissist

Below are some of the signs you should look for if you think you are dealing with a covert narcissist.

A covert narcissist will be able to change their character depending on who they are talking to. This is because they are always looking for an angle in which to appear favourable to the people they speak to and appear like the victim.

The Things a covert narcissist will say will rarely match what they do

A covert narcissist will also usually act in a peculiar way which only they will understand.

Due to how good a covert narcissist may be at creating this alternative character you may find that explaining their character to anyone else will be extremely hard as most people simply won’t believe you as they will not see any traits of the person you are defining in the covert narcissist.

This will then leave you to wonder if you are actually okay, maybe you are sick or maybe you are the person who indeed has the issue and need mental help. The thoughts going through your head are indeed what the covert narcissist wants you to think and hence in this little game they are winning.

The only way you can free yourself of a covert narcissist is to give up on them.

Covert narcissist

Covert narcissist test

If you are wondering if you are a covert narcissist then this test may be able to help you determine that. 

“ Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale (MCNS)*

Please answer the following questions by deciding to what extent each item is characteristic of your feelings and behaviour. Fill in the blank next to each item by choosing a number from this scale:

1 = very uncharacteristic or untrue, strongly disagree

2 = uncharacteristic

3 = neutral

 4 = characteristic

5 = very characteristic or true, strongly agree

___ I can become entirely absorbed in thinking about my personal affairs, my health, my cares or my relations to others.

___ My feelings are easily hurt by ridicule or the slighting remarks of others.

___ When I enter a room I often become self-conscious and feel that the eyes of others are upon me.

___ I dislike sharing the credit of an achievement with others.

___ I feel that I have enough on my hand without worrying about other people’s troubles.

___ I feel that I am temperamentally different from most people.

___ I often interpret the remarks of others in a personal way.

___ I easily become wrapped up in my own interests and forget the existence of others.

___ I dislike being with a group unless I know that I am appreciated by at least one of those present.

___ I am secretly “put out” or annoyed when other people come to me with their troubles, asking me for their time and sympathy.

___ I am jealous of good-looking people.

___ I tend to feel humiliated when criticized.

___ I wonder why other people aren’t more appreciative of my good qualities.

___ I tend to see other people as being either great or terrible.

___ I sometimes have fantasies about being violent without knowing why.

___ I am especially sensitive to success and failure.

___ I have problems that nobody else seems to understand.

___ I try to avoid rejection at all costs.

___ My secret thoughts, feelings, and actions would horrify some of my friends.

___ I tend to become involved in relationships in which I alternately adore and despise the other person.

___ Even when I am in a group of friends, I often feel very alone and uneasy.

___ I resent others who have what I lack.

___ Defeat or disappointment usually shame or anger me, but I try not to show it.    ”

Once you are done add up you score to get your total.

Remember this scale is only an indication and a medical test may be best to determine if you are indeed suffering from covert narcissism.

The average score on this test was around 60 so if you got 60 or around 60 then you are fine in regards to your level of covert narcissism if you got 40 or around 40 then your level of covert narcissism is way below the average. If your score on the Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale (MCNS) is above 82 then you covert narcissism is pretty high. If your score was above 97 then you should have no doubt that you are indeed a master in covert narcissism and you might as well attach it to the side of your business card.

If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, loneliness or any similar mental health issue then seeking help for it may be a good option. Mental health issues such as depression, loneliness and anxiety can affect anyone of us.

If you are under 18 then CAMHS, an NHS run programme may just be the answer for your mental health struggles.

You should look to see if you meet the CAMHS referral criteria and then fill in the CAMHS referral form.

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