Signs you’re dealing with a covert narcissist

People with latent narcissism suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), but their symptoms do not match the stereotype of narcissism. Perhaps the biggest difference is that covert narcissists do not display overt arrogance (superiority), attention seeking, arrogance, and entitlement. Because they don’t exhibit these grand displays, people with implicit narcissism can be difficult to diagnose.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a condition that displays exaggerated self-importance (inflated self-perception), arrogance and vanity, and a lack of empathy and self-awareness. Although estimates vary, as many as 5% of people have narcissistic personality disorder.

Aspects of implicit narcissism are common to people with other psychiatric diagnoses, such as:

  • substance use disorder
  • bipolar depression
  • Other personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder, hereditary personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder

These co-occurring mental health disorders can make it especially difficult for clinicians to pinpoint the source of the problem, let alone friends and family.

This article discusses covert narcissism and the difference between covert and overt (overt or overt) narcissism. It also covers signs and symptoms to look out for, and what to do if you think you or a loved one may be showing signs of covert narcissism.

What is covert narcissism?

Covert narcissism, also known as vulnerable narcissism or quiet narcissism, is less well known than Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), as defined in the Fifth Edition. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). A latent narcissist has an excessive need for admiration and entitlement. They often lack empathy and have difficulty developing and maintaining relationships.

Covert narcissists lack a stable sense of self, self-esteem, and healthy self-confidence. This is one of the reasons they seek attention and recognition. This means that, for example, like overt narcissists, covert narcissists may engage in manipulation, gaslighting, or other toxic behaviors in order to achieve their goals and obtain the external reassurance they need (supporting their positive self-image) feedback of).

What is a gas lamp?

Gaslighting is a covert emotional abuse in which the abuser misleads the victim and creates false narratives that make them question their own judgment and reality.

Recessive narcissism can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are the exact opposite of those of a typical “narcissist” or someone who is overtly narcissistic.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder itself is difficult to diagnose clinically because narcissistic people often do not see their characteristics as symptoms. People with NPD can also be highly functional, which can mislead those around them into thinking they have the disease.

If you know someone with NPD, remember that personality disorder symptoms exist on the spectrum. This means that no two people with recessive narcissism will have the exact same symptoms (ie, NPD has high variability in clinical presentation and severity).

in relationship

A latent narcissist may come across as callous, callous, or aloof. Here are three challenging behaviors. The need for constant validation to manage self-esteem can be exhausting for both people in a relationship.

Well, relationships can be unstable and unhealthy for people with narcissistic personality disorder and those in their lives. For people with NPD, recognizing that there is a problem is the first step in recovery. If they can recognize the problem and are willing to change, there is psychotherapy, including individual therapy, couples therapy, and group therapy.

type of treatment

The National Domestic Violence Hotline explains that while narcissism is one of the more common terms associated with domestic violence or abuse, NPD is not a cause or excuse for abuse.


If you or a loved one poses a danger to yourself or others, call 911. If you are afraid of the other person, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233, which is available 24/7 to providers and shelters across the United States.

Open and covert

The difference between these two types of narcissism is the expression of their feelings. An extroverted narcissist can be thought of as an extroverted narcissist or an extroverted person who directly displays narcissistic behavior. Concealers are introverted “closet narcissists” or shy, sensitive, and socially isolated narcissists. Overt narcissists may go back and forth between types (overt to covert and back).

People with overt narcissism may be louder, greater, focused, funny and outgoing, generous, charismatic, charming, and less subtle in the way they manipulate others for their own purposes. Overt narcissists may abuse, bully, or use fear tactics to achieve their goals. They may become outgoing and aggressive.

However, unlike overt narcissists, covert narcissists may have predominantly more internalized symptoms, including depressive symptoms.

What are the different types of depression?

signs and symptoms

Manifestations of narcissistic personality may overlap with certain other mental health disorders. For example, feelings of arrogance, egos, and unrealistic feelings about one’s own abilities and abilities are also signs of bipolar mania. Like other psychiatric disorders, there is no definitive test for narcissistic personality disorder or any of its subtypes.

Signs (observable) and symptoms (experiencing) are the starting point for diagnosis.

General signs and symptoms of narcissistic traits include:

  • High self-importance or exaggeration
  • fantasize about being influential, famous, or important
  • exaggerate one’s own abilities, talents and achievements
  • Desire for continued admiration, recognition, and approval
  • Focus on beauty, love, power or success
  • A sense of exaggeration that is special, unique, or chosen
  • Believe the world owes them something
  • Exploiting or manipulating others to get what they want (no matter how it affects others)
  • lack of empathy for others

What’s the Difference: Bipolar vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder?


The causes of overt narcissistic personality disorder are multifactorial and may be due to a complex combination of factors that affect mental health disorders, including genetics (family history), early childhood trauma (verbal, physical, or sexual abuse), and early relationships with parents , friends and relatives. Researchers are working to identify more specific causes.

Childhood hypersensitivity to texture, noise, or light, as well as general personality and temperament, have been suggested as possible causes of NPD.

How to Cope with a Narcissist

Working with people with narcissistic behavior or narcissistic personality disorder can be challenging. Whether it’s a coworker, friend, spouse, parent, or child, narcissistic personality disorder can hinder healthy relationships. These are some ways to help build healthier relationship dynamics, including:

  • Set clear boundaries: Because people with NPD often have very loose boundaries, you may need to strengthen your own boundaries. Having healthy boundaries involves setting realistic limits and expectations on relationship engagement and activities. For example, you may decide for your own well-being that you need more space between you and this person.
  • Avoid making excuses: If you are emotionally close to someone with NPD, this can be difficult if you feel you need to justify their behavior and explain the other person’s positives. While mental illness is never an option, it cannot be an excuse for bad or harmful behavior. Remember, this person’s actions do not reflect you.
  • Don’t try to fix them: People with personality disorders aren’t broken, and you can’t fix them. Trying to change what you can’t change is a recipe for disaster. Only people with narcissistic behavior can ultimately change.
  • Seek some support: The closer you get to the narcissist, the harder it is to see things as they really are. Surround yourself with healthy people and avoid isolation from narcissistic people. When you are lit or manipulated, having other people around can help you gain a different perspective.
  • Learn more about personality disorders: The media often give us a narrow view of narcissism, but personality disorders are complex mental health disorders. Knowing about NPD can help increase awareness of what to look out for and can help you decide when to seek help or when you might end a relationship with the narcissist.

What is a personality disorder?


Covert narcissism is a more subtle form of narcissism. A covert narcissist lives with a need for admiration and approval, a shaky sense of self and self-importance, and emotional vulnerability. They express these needs and vulnerabilities more introverted and passive-aggressive than typical or overt narcissists.

It can be especially difficult when you have NPD or a relationship with someone with NPD, but it is not impossible. Progress is possible if both people want to work towards change.

VigorTip words

Covert narcissists may not be aware of their toxic behavior, or they may not be aware that their behavior stems from a personality disorder. This is no excuse for acting in a hurtful way, but it’s something to keep in mind when dealing with narcissists. If you feel overwhelmed, confused, or uncertain about your relationship with a narcissist, consider talking to someone for support.

Choosing the Right Psychotherapist

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the four types of narcissism?

    Some clinicians divide narcissism into four types.

    • A grandiose narcissist is a classic or overt narcissist who is vain, attention-seeking, and insecure.
    • Malignant narcissists are the type who will do whatever it takes to get what they want.
    • Covert narcissism is quiet or vulnerable narcissism, more subtle and characterized by passive-aggression and depression.
    • Community narcissism is when someone deals with their narcissistic weakness by wanting to be seen as the “most” helpful, supportive, or giving person.
  • How do you overcome narcissism?

    The first step in overcoming narcissism is recognizing its signs and symptoms. Only narcissists can overcome their insecurities and change their behavior. This requires self-awareness, a willingness to seek mental health treatment, and ongoing efforts to create lasting change.