5 behaviors of a covert narcissist

A narcissistic personality disorder can bring problems to many aspects of a person’s life. This can include relationships, work, school or financial matters.

5 behaviors of a covert narcissist

A narcissistic personality disorder can bring problems to many aspects of a person’s life. This can include relationships, work, school or financial matters.
  • A narcissistic personality disorder can bring problems to many aspects of a person's life. This can include relationships, work, school or financial matters.

  • A narcissist can feel upset or disappointed when not given the admiration they believe they deserve. Others may not enjoy being around them, which can lead to short-term friendships or other relationships.

  • A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disease where people have an inflated idea of their importance, a profound need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.

  • Recognized symptoms

  • Many professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose narcissism.

  • The DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder includes the following:

    • Arrogant behavior

    • Preoccupied with illusions about success, brilliance or beauty

    • Demands continuous praise from others

    • Easily envious of what others have

    • Exaggerates achievements and talents

    • Expects to be recognized as superior even without results to support it

    • Expects others to meet their needs without question

    • Shows an inflated sense of entitlement

    • Feel superior to others and believes they can only be understood by equally superior people

    • Takes advantage of others to reach personal goals

    • Unwilling or unable to perceive the needs and feelings of others

  • According to the manual, a patient only needs to exhibit any five of these to be considered for diagnosis.

  • What makes a covert narcissist?

  • One characteristic that both extrovert and introvert narcissists share is their use of an outer veneer of self-importance. They use this trait to camouflage their inner sense of helplessness.

  • Preston Ni, author of the book How to Successfully Handle Narcissists, says not every narcissist will openly demonstrate the above characteristics. The extroverted narcissist will be open and "honest" in their behavior to let people know they think they are better than everyone else. The introverted narcissist will be subtle and instead just hint at it, albeit very strongly.

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  • While many introverts are not narcissistic, the people who are may have a way of manipulating the other people around them. This results in the feelings of those around them to feel insecure or off balance, sometimes both.

  • Below are five signs of a covert narcissist as described by Ni:

  • 1. Quiet smugness or superiority

  • Covert narcissists are more challenging to identify. They often choose to observe what's happening around them instead of engaging. They may also prefer to half-listen instead of speaking. Their quieter type of superiority complex shows itself via reserved detachment and disturbing nonverbal cues.

  • Additionally, they may not outwardly express any negativity they are feeling, but instead, will give off a sense of their irritation or annoyance through body language. Examples of this may include glares, lack of eye contact, rolling their eyes or other dismissive gestures.

  • 2. Self-absorption

  • While many "normal" introverts are quiet but also good listeners, introvert narcissists are typically bad listeners. One of the most frequent characteristics of an introverted narcissist is "withdrawn self-centeredness."

  • This type of behavior presents itself by the narcissist making a quick appraisal of the environment they find themselves in. If they find it uninteresting and therefore unworthy of their notice, they will take lengths to block everything out.

  • 3. Lack of empathy

  • Narcissists are typically uncaring toward or even unaware of other people's feelings and ideas.

  • 4. Passive-aggressiveness

  • Passive-aggressive behavior refers to an individual's indirect resistance to other's demands. If a narcissist doesn't like your idea, they'll avoid confrontation in an effort to shrug it off. They will often deal with disagreeable things in passive-aggressive ways.

  • 5. Highly sensitive

  • May introverted narcissists are very sensitive. They are often offended by signs of criticism, real and imaginary. When this happens, they will hide how upset they actually are.

  • When to see a doctor

  • The Mayo Clinic tells us that people with narcissistic personality disorder will most likely seek treatment only when they develop signs of depression. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if it leads to treatment) depression or excessive anxiety can arise from narcissistic personality disorder.

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  • If you notice aspects of your personality that are common to a narcissistic personality disorder or covert narcissism, or if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by sadness, reach out to a trusted doctor or mental health provider.

  • If you know someone who exhibits many of these traits, and now shows signs of depression, encourage them to seek help. Getting the right treatment can help make your life and the lives of those around you more comfortable, rewarding and enjoyable.

Asma Rehman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist. If you're struggling in life, the Grief Recovery Center in Houston, is dedicated to helping you.


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