The Covert Narcissist

The Covert Narcissist

No one would believe that the man who sits in church with his family every Sunday, is a monster behind closed doors with the family that looks so perfect on the outside.

No one would believe that the ‘doting’ mother cheering on her child in the school gala, had been yelling and belittling her daughter minutes beforehand.

Who would believe that the friendly local grocer who chats happily with his customers has been giving his wife the silent treatment and not acknowledged her existence in weeks?

Who would believe that the lovely charming ‘lady’ at the top of her profession, trampled on anyone who stood in her way on her rise to the top?

The closet narcissist is a great pretender, hiding who they really are with expertise.  The covert narcissist puts on such a convincing display of being a loving, kind person in public but to those who know them personally, to those closest to them, they are selfish, manipulative, exploitive and anything but the loving and kind person that they purport to be.  They know that if they displayed their true colours in public, they would lose the recognition, respect and admiration that they so desperately crave.  Perhaps their ability to fool the outside world, makes this type of personality one of the most dangerous.  They worry about being found out.  They are deeply envious knowing that they can never be the person that others believe them to be.

The great pretender

The covert narcissist is a con artist who lacks the confidence of the overt narcissist.  They need constant attention moving from one relationship to another in order to avoid being alone.  Time spent alone often leads to depression when their needs are not being met.  Narcissistic supply is vital to their well-being.

Your value in the narcissist’s life will depend on your usefulness.  When you are no longer regarded as useful or you challenge them about who they really are, you will be cast aside without a second thought as if you never existed.  Your reputation will have been discredited so that you will never be believed.

Scott Barry Kaufman (Psychologist) explains…

“While the overt narcissists tended to be aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have extreme delusions of grandeur and a need for attention, covert narcissists were more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution.”

The traits of the overt narcissist can be obvious often being displayed quite openly but in contrast, the traits of the covert narcissist can be very difficult to spot.  Below are some signs that you may be dealing with a covert narcissist…

  • Always plays the victim wanting your sympathy
  • Quiet Smugness/Superiority
  • Self absorbed
  • Extreme selfishness
  • Constant craving for acknowledgement
  • Passive aggressive
  • Judgemental and critical
  • Lacks empathy
  • Highly sensitive being unable to handle criticism
  • Difficulties with relationships
  • Gets bored easily
  • Switches off rather than listen intently to others

It can be difficult not to get sucked in to a narcissist’s web of deceit and feel sorry for them when they play the victim card.  The narcissist is looking for a reaction from you. Don’t feed the monster!  When they fail to get their desired reaction from you, they will take a step back and look for their supply elsewhere.  Be aware of the traits before it’s too late and don’t let yourself be controlled by someone whose ultimate goal is to control not only your mind but your life.

Written by Anne McCrea

9 thoughts on “The Covert Narcissist

  1. Oh, my!!! How I was fooled as I dated my covert narcissist. After dating 13 months, including 8 months of premarital counselling, we had a lovely wedding. He flipped a switch after we married and showed his true self. He displayed every one of the above characteristics. I left just before our 3rd anniversary!! Thank God for getting me out!!

  2. Thank you for publishing this, there is so much misconception about narcissism and that it inherently means they are overt like Donald Trump, however that simply isn’t the case when from my own research on divorced couples and reports of narcissism, the majority of narcissists are covert. These types are much more dangerous as they are harder to spot, and are more underhanded and conniving than the overt types. There needs to be attention brought to this phenomenon so it can be brought to light and victims can have a chance at protecting themselves. It is a very real problem in society.

  3. Thank you for this writing. Have lived with this one and also seen them destroy lives. At the time I felt like i was going to loos it in such a tail spin of confusion and lies. Learned allot through those years.

  4. I think I might be one… o.M.g!?

    After living with a narcissistic sociopath do you think it’s possible that I picked up traits? Can this be unlearned??

  5. My mom was definitely a covert narcissist while I was growing up and didn’t know any better. Once I was out on my own, her behavior became much more overt and openly cruel. But the damage had already been done and I ended up having a nervous breakdown in my mid-twenties.

    I definitely think they are traits that can be unlearned; especially if you know how much harm you can do to a person and choose not to put someone you love through that.

  6. This is how my mom was to me when I was growing up. She’s even like this with my dad. She now has total control over him since having his strokes. She has caused a lot of emotional problems in me, it has affected my life.

  7. Thank you for publishing this clear description of a covert Narc. They must all be alike because my ex is every single one of these and he did exactly what is mentioned in this article to me: “When you are no longer regarded as useful or you challenge them about who they really are, you will be cast aside without a second thought as if you never existed. Your reputation will have been discredited so that you will never be believed.”

  8. I’ve been married with one for two miserable years…and now I’m tired of fighting..he always outsmart me..and wear a very successful mask…people around him seems blind..his family members are same.they r like the 3 monkeys….I don’t know after 15 or more attempts to leave him..I always end up with him in a measurable hell life.

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