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Covert narcissist

Covert narcissist

A narcissistic person can make your life a living hell, but not all narcissistic people are alike. Covert narcissistic people show fewer symptoms, so they are difficult to identify. This article is all about covert narcissism; you will learn about the covert narcissist meaning, traits, their tactics, and how you can deal with them if you are in a relationship, family issues or an ex so let’s get started:

Covert narcissist meaning

Here is a definition to explain the covert narcissist meaning:

“Covert narcissism is also referred to as closet narcissism, hypersensitive narcissism, and vulnerable narcissism. As these names point out, someone with this version of traits is generally more shy, sensitive, and insecure. But those feelings of insecurity and weakness turn into defensiveness and anger.”

Covert narcissist’s traits

Covert narcissist seems to be so self-centred and self-focused that they have no connection with reality. It seems like they really do not care about others and try to manipulate them for what they want and for personal gains. One thing about covert narcissism is that it shows fewer signs of classic narcissistic personality disorder. They may show characteristics that are usually not associated with narcissism, like shyness, sensitivity to others’ thinking,feelings and humility. No matter what, you cannot diagnose mental health conditions on your own, even if you know about certain traits. It is the task of a professional. But if you notice certain traits in your loved ones, encourage them to seek professional help.

Here are some covert narcissist’s traits:

Highly sensitive to criticism

NPD (narcissitic personality disorder) involves damaged self-esteem and insecurity usually. In covert narcissism, it can manifest in the form of extreme sensitivity to criticism. It is very common, and people usually do not love even constructive criticism. Whenever they have to deal with criticism, you will see them making sarcastic remarks or showing dismissive behaviour just to act as if they are above criticism. Internally they are feeling engraved and humiliated.

Passive-aggressive nature

Most of us may have used manipulation as a tactic one or more time to get our way without even realizing. But covert narcissistic people use their passive-aggressive nature just to convey frustration and make themselves look superior. The main reason behind this is:

  • They believe they are special and can get what they want.
  • Desire to get back at those having greater success in life than them or those that they have wronged them in some way

Passive-aggressive behaviour may involve:

  • Silent treatment
  • Mocking and teasing remarks in the form of jokes
  • Sabotaging friendships and work
  • Blame-shifting in a subtle way
  • Procrastinate tasks they don’t really like or think are beneath them


This is one of the main covert narcissist’s traits. As compared to other types of narcissism, covert narcissism is linked with introversion strongly. This is related to narcissistic insecurity. People having NPD would never want to show their flaws or weaknesses to others. Exposing innermost inferiority feelings would destroy the illusion of their superiority. Lower the social interaction, lower the chances of exposure. So people with covert narcissism will try to avoid social gatherings and relationships that are not beneficial. Research from 2015 shows that NPD associated distress can be really draining, and it becomes difficult to make meaningful relationships.


The mind of covert narcissist creates a fantasy world. They do not really talk about their achievements but keep on thinking about them. They behave extremely smug, and you will notice a “I’ll show you” attitude in them. According to Joseph a professional practitioner:

“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”

Their fantasies may revolve around:

  • Being recognized for abilities and talents and because of them promoted at work
  • Being praised for their attractiveness everywhere
  • Being admired for saving people in an accident

Feelings of anxiety, emptiness, and depression

As compared to other types, covert narcissism has a higher risk of anxiety and depression. The main reasons behind this are:

  • Fear of exposure or failure can contribute to anxiety.
  • Idealized expectations may not fulfil in real life, which leads to frustration, and being unable to get the needed appreciation which can trigger depression and resentment.

Suicide thoughts and feelings of emptiness are also associated with covert narcissism.

Hold grudges

People having covert narcissistic nature hold grudges for a long time. When someone treats them badly (according to their belief), they will feel enraged but may not say anything on the spot. They will wait for the right time to take revenge on that person. This revenge can be passive-aggressive or subtle. They also hold grudges against those who received praise or recognition they believed they were entitled to. These grudges can lead to resentment and bitterness. The covert narcissist can be extremely dangerous.


People who have NPD usually envy others who have things they don’t have but think that they deserve more, like status, power, and wealth. They also think that people envy them as they think that they are superior and special. They may not discuss their feelings openly but will express resentment and bitterness when they don’t get what they feel they deserve.


Contrary to what people usually think, people with NPD can show empathy  a little at least. But they spend their whole energy in building up their self-esteem and importance that this becomes difficult over time. They may seem to have empathy for others. They are even seem willing to help others and do extra work for them. You may even see them doing kind acts, for instance, serving food to the poor, giving money, giving their bedroom to someone evicted from their place.

But they do all of this just for the sake of getting popular. They want approval from others. If people do not praise them for their kind acts, they might feel frustrated. They will also make remarks about how people use them for their own advantage and never appreciate their efforts.

Things covert narcissists say

It is possible to meet someone and think that you know them well after associating with them for a long time. It is because you are comfortable with them. But sometimes, it can be a sign that you are in trouble. Narcissists usually engage in love bombing. It means they will pretend to be everything you want just to turn their back on you in the future. Initially, they will show you love and affection, and when you get used to it, they will show their real colours. They do this just to control you. Almost all toxic people are programmed in the same way. You might wonder what things covert narcissists say. Here are some things covert narcissists say during different stages in a relationship:

When you just meet them

  • “You’re my soul mate.”
  • “I’ve never met anyone like you before.”
  • “You understand me so much better than anyone else.”
  • “It’s a fate that we met.”
  • “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.”
  • “Am I your only friend? You’re my only friend.”
  • “We don’t need anyone else.”
  • “You’re so kind, creative, smart, beautiful, and perfect.”
  • “We’ll be together forever.”

Devaluation period

  • “You’re crazy.”
  • “You’re too sensitive.”
  • “No wonder nobody else likes you.”
  • “My friends hate you, but I always defend you and have your back.”
  • “You’re so insecure.”
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “Aren’t I more important to you than your friends?”
  • “Your tears won’t work on me. Why are you crying?”
  • “You’re so manipulative.”

When they justify their toxic behaviour

  • “I’m like this because my parents were so mean to me.”
  • “My ex cheated on me.”
  • “Love is just hard. We have to work on it.”
  • “Everyone abandons me, so you have to help me.”
  • “I’m acting this way because I’m scared to lose you.”
  • “I don’t do it on purpose; I have a problem.”
  • “Don’t you remember how good things were at the start?”
  • “You need to stop being so selfish/careless/busy with other people.”
  • “You can’t blame me; you know I have a problem.”

Devaluation of things you love

  • “I don’t like your friends — they’re not good enough for you.”
  • “You like that? It’s terrible.”
  • “I can’t believe you enjoy doing this.”
  • “Your family doesn’t like me. You probably shouldn’t see them as much.”
  • “If you leave and see your friends, I’ll be angry.”

Leave the relationship like a winner.

  • “Everybody hates you.”
  • “You’re a bad person.”
  • “Nobody else will ever love you.”
  • “I’m the best you’ll ever have.”
  • “Have fun being alone for the rest of your life.”
  • “You did this to yourself.”

The mind of a covert narcissist

The mind of a covert narcissist is full of self-appreciation and praise. The covert narcissist keeps making different scenarios in their mind where they have achieved something remarkable, and people are praising them. No matter whatever they do, it is for making them look better and more thoughtful as in comparison to others.

Covert narcissist husband

A covert narcissist husband will help you just to get recognition. If he makes a sacrifice for you, like cancelling a trip to take care of children because you are working on a project, he will make sure to throw it at your face. Even though it is his responsibility to do so, he will pretend that he just made a sacrifice for your career. He thinks that he is perfect and does not expect you to be unhappy and expects you to believe he is the perfect husband. If you say anything, you are in trouble. If a covert narcissist husband feels attacked, he is more likely to attack back.

Covert narcissist mother

A covert narcissist mother may seem to prioritize her child’s needs and emotions; she may make sacrifices to ensure the success of her kid. But it is just because she wants to be a perfect mother. She wants admiration and recognition from others. And if she does not receive it, she becomes angry. A covert narcissist mother may also use manipulative behaviour against children who want a little more independence.

Covert narcissist woman

A covert narcissist woman is basically a taker. She will always think about how she can use others to get what she wants, and if somehow she can’t do it, she becomes angry. A covert narcissist woman tries to dominate everyone, whether at the workplace or in a relationship.

Covert narcissist friend

A covert narcissist friend will manipulate you to get sympathy, attention, or support even if they might not need it. They feel rejected or neglected when they do not get the attention they want, so they will try their best to get every conversation to divert back to them. A covert narcissist friend will do it so perfectly that you won’t even notice.

Covert narcissist girlfriend

A covert narcissist girlfriend will seem sweet like candy. You will immediately fall in love with her. But why is she doing this? She only wants to control you and be the dominant partner in the relationship. A covert narcissist girlfriend will present everything so sharply that you will think it was your fault and you should say sorry to her. The covert narcissist girlfriend will use your emotions and feelings for her as a weapon against you.

Covert narcissist tactics

Covert narcissist tactics involve the following:

  •  Manipulation: They will make you feel bad about something that was not your fault and use it to get what they want.
  •  Revenge: if they do not like something or you have made them feel bad, they will wait for the right opportunity to take revenge.
  •  Behave sweetly: they will behave nicely so that they can control you. You will think that they have done so much for you, so if they are ask for something you may feel obliged to do it, you should do it even if it is not right. It is one of the most common covert narcissist tactics.

Covert narcissist test

Covert narcissism, although it can ruin your life, you can recover from it. It is only possible if you seek help from a professional as symptoms of covert narcissism are not that clear, so it is also difficult for therapists to identify the problem with a simple covert narcissist test. Those who have limited knowledge or haven’t enough experience may misdiagnose the condition. This is disastrous; it will not only ruin your currently great relationship but will also not provide a solution to the problem. Only a professional and experienced covert narcissism therapist can help you with that.

An efficient mental health service provider has the following qualities:

  • An effective mental health service provider shows acceptance, warmth, and empathy towards others.
  • The mental health provider focuses on others.
  • Will make you feel that you can trust him in a really short time. Trust is the most important thing between a therapist and patient; only then they can share everything.
  • Forms a sense of partnership with his patient and does not impose anything but willing to work with his patient to set goals.
  • The therapist tries his best to develop an acceptable and consistent treatment plan.
  • The therapist communicates effectively regarding the worthwhile of the therapy course.
  • The therapist keeps check on the progress of therapy and is concerned about the progress of therapy.
  • If the therapist thinks that treatment is not bringing desirable results, the therapist is ready to modify the plan for the betterment of the client.
  • The mental health provider is sensitive towards the cultural background of the client and possesses a great sense of self-insight.
  • The mental health provider relies on the best research and tries their best to educate the client.

The best way to find a reliable and effective therapist for the treatment of covert narcissism is to ask those who have been through this and have recovered from covert narcissism. If you do not know anyone personally, you can take help from the internet. You can also consider online therapy services and a online covert narcissist test if you cannot attend regular sessions because of your job or any other issue.

Covert narcissist treatment

Covert narcissist treatment is not so defined. The only thing that can help is therapy; talking to a professional is helpful as they will suggest you adopt some new habits and amend some negative behavioural patterns to make everything better.

Talking therapies

If you are looking for the best covert narcissism treatment, there is no best option than talking therapies. Treatments involving counselling are the best way to go. You can discuss your behaviour and thoughts with a highly qualified therapist or a life coach. But what is the basic aim of talking therapy? Let’s have a look at this:

  • You will be able to identify toxic repeating patterns of thoughts and actions and find a way to deal with them.
  • It will help you in understanding and resolving complicated emotions, or you will be able to find a way to live with these.
  • You will be able to understand your behaviour better.
  • You will have a safe space to vent out your emotions, insecurities and fears, and you don’t have to worry about being judged by anyone.

Group Psychotherapy

It is a form of therapy in which one or more therapists deal with a small group of clients. It is an excellent way to interact with other people and understand their experiences in the presence of a professional who can assess the whole situation. It is one of the most effective covert narcissist treatment options.

It is an excellent way to give and receive support. With the help of this, you can understand your own feelings and what do you want from your life. With the help of this, you can relate yourself to others but in a healthy way. The most important thing is that the connection is authentic, and you will feel secure.

Changing lifestyle habits

Therapy and even medication is not that effective against narcissism if you are not ready to change yourself. If you are in denial and think that there is no problem you won’t be able to deal with it. It means you are not even that interested in therapy; you are doing this is just for peer pressure from others but not your own priority. There is a need to bring a positive change in your life, and it is only possible if you change your lifestyle habits. Try eating healthy food, preferably go for a morning walk etc. Your doctor will also recommend some relaxation exercises that can help you in improving your mood and making you feel relaxed. The frustration and anger you feel will be lower with the help of these healthy practices.

How you can deal with a covert narcissist?

A Covert narcissist will be controlling and always frustrated or even depressed sometimes. The covert narcissist may also suffer from powerful feelings of anxiety, guilt and anger. Honestly, it is really challenging and stressful to live with such a person. But if you learn how you can handle them and what you can expect from them, it would be a bit easier to spend life with them. Here is How to deal with a covert narcissist

Learn about covert narcissism

If you suspect that your partner or any other close person is a covert narcissist, it would be better to learn a little about covert narcissism so that you can understand the real issue. You can’t find a solution if you do not have enough knowledge about the problem. Try to figure out what triggers the worst behaviour and is there some kind of bad experience in past or emotional trauma that is causing them to behave in a certain way. Also, try to learn about how a covert narcissist can behave in stressful situations.

Understanding their emotions

Dealing with a covert narcissist is not easy, I know, they will try to control you, manipulate you, and this is really toxic. But if you will leave them to their own devices, they will remain the same. I know it is not your place, but if you love them, you should at least try to be there for them. Be patient, help them in understanding their emotions. It will take some time to recover. In some cases it will not be possible to help and they will be no option but to walk away.

Support covert narcissist

A Covert narcissist, in the end, may have no one by their side because of toxic behaviour. So if you really care about them and want them to be a better person, be there to support. Try not to judge them as it will not do any good. Do not encourage negative behaviour, try to talk about what you think is not good and you can’t bear in a relationship. It will help in setting clear boundaries of what you will and will not tolerate.

Seek professional help

Dealing with a covert narcissist is stressful and  you need patience. It is good if you are helping and supporting them, but it would be even better if you encourage them to seek professional help. A professional mental health care provider can assess the whole situation and suggest the best solution. Do not rush them to do so, tell them with kindness and let them decide to embark on therapy on their own. Treatment will only be effective if they are getting it willingly, not forcefully.


Being a Covert narcissist, you can make others’ lives tough. So you need to accept that you have a problem, and then you can try to find a solution. This article was all about covert narcissism, and I hope so you will found it helpful. BOOK FREE CONSULTATION.

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