Covert Narcissists Display Certain Attributes

Carrie Wynn
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Often I am asked how I didn’t notice that I was in a relationship with a Narcissist. How could I have missed the blatant signs?

The reality is that not all people who have narcissistic personality disorder are loud, charismatic, and flamboyant.

“In reality, NPD isn’t that simple. It occurs on a broad spectrum that involves a range of potential traits. Experts generally agree that there are four distinct subtypes. One of these is covert narcissism, also called vulnerable narcissism.”

Covert narcissists aren’t going to exhibit the signs of narcissism as easily as they are often quiet, shy, and sensitive. My ex was a covert narcissist as is my younger brother so I’ve unfortunately had my fair share of experience with them.

Here are five signs that you may be dealing with a covert narcissist.

#1. They respond to criticism with rage

The root of narcissism is the lack of self-esteem, worth, sense of self and insecurity.

Therefore any critique is going to be met with absolute rage.

For example, I didn’t want to play video games with my little brother because he struggles with video game addiction and I wanted to get him out of the house. I wasn’t mean about it, I simply said I would prefer to do something else with him.

Instead of understanding that people have different interests, he took it as a critique of himself. He began yelling that if I didn’t like video games I didn’t like him because they were part of his life.

#2. They are passive-aggressive when they don’t get their way

My ex wanted to go camping and I was very sick. I finally agreed because he kept saying how disappointed he would be if we didn’t go. I ended up begging him to take me home early and he did… and was completely silent the entire way back.

The silent treatment is a form is an abuse tactic. It is the best way to hurt someone because you are giving them absolutely nothing

Silence is always a go-to strategy for passive-aggressors and it’s not hard to see why. It says nothing at all and yet says volumes. It ostensibly avoids a conflict but in fact provokes one — with the very lack of communication serving as a taunt and a goad.”

Silence is not a form of communication.

#3. They put themselves down even if it’s a lie

A covert narcissist will often put themselves down because they need reassurance and most of the time, their stories are complete lies.

My narcissistic ex had a whole sob story about how much he hated Aerosmith because his ex-girlfriend had cheated on him with Steven Tyler.

Even when he was telling me this story I thought it was… strange. There were a lot of details about how she had gone to Vegas, slept with him, found her on myspace, and the whole thing just seemed ridiculous but I gave him reassurance as he obviously wanted to be told that he was better than Steven Tyler.

I’m mostly just angry because later on, we were at a big concert where Aerosmith was playing and he said we had to leave early so he didn’t have to see “that man’s face.”

#4. They have grandiose fantasies that don’t add up

One night my little brother went on a rant about how he was going to be the next Elon Musk.

Now, I’m all for believing in oneself but his rant didn’t make any sense because my little brother has no education and has only delivered pizza as a job.

“They may withdraw into fantasy, into an inner narrative world that’s not equivalent to reality, where they have inflated importance, powers, or a specialness that is opposite of what their actual life is like,”

When my friend and I commented that he needed to go to school he laughed and said it was a waste of time, and that he didn’t need any education.

His fantasies were grandiose with no backing or plan to get to them… they only existed in his mind.

#5. You see flashes of depression, loathing, and shame

There were moments when my ex would fall into a pit of despair… usually under the influence of alcohol.

I remember it was his birthday and he fell into loathing and stated how he had no money and had done nothing with his life.

When his friends mentioned that he had me he looked up and said again, “I have nothing.”

These cycles weren’t rare. In fact, every few weeks he would show signs of depression but refused to admit that anything was wrong. Usually, right after the grandiose version of him would be back and louder than ever.

It’s extremely important to remember that there is a whole spectrum of narcissistic personality disorder. Many of the signs are easy to miss, especially if you are dealing with someone who is covert.

Don’t ever beat yourself up for missing the signs. Manipulators are masters of their craft and what matters is that you identify when you are being treated badly… and choose to walk away.


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I am a writer & relationship consultant that primarily deals with narcissism, overcoming abuse & trauma, and self-love. Contact me @ Blog: Instagram: carrie_wynnmusings


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