Here’s How to Spot (and Deal With) a Covert Narcissist

While most people are familiar with the pop culture version of narcissism, in which the person believes that the world revolves around them and should be treated accordingly, it is much more nuanced. There are actually different types of narcissism , including a version known as “covert narcissism”. Here’s what you need to know about it and how to recognize the signs.

What is covert narcissism?

Unlike overt narcissism, covert narcissism, also known as “vulnerable narcissism”, is more difficult to spot. This is because covert narcissists internalize their sense of self-importance and need for attention.

“Hidden narcissists are people who go unnoticed,” says Susan Albers, a psychotherapist and psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic . “Even if you’ve been in a relationship with someone for years, their covert narcissism can be so subtle that you don’t even know it for a very long time.”

Here are some of the signs that you have a hidden narcissist in your life.

Signs of covert narcissism

Keep in mind that unless you are a qualified practicing psychologist or psychiatrist, you will not be able to diagnose yourself or anyone else with narcissistic personality disorder (or anything else). Having said that, here are a few traits that covert narcissists have in common, according to Albers :

  • Lack of empathy.
  • The need for excessive admiration.
  • Not believing they did something wrong.
  • The feeling that no one understands them.
  • Feeling right.
  • Surround yourself with superficial relationships.
  • Using others for personal gain.
  • Be resistant to change.
  • Hyper-concentration on fantasies of grandeur.

How to Deal with a Covert Narcissist

If it seems like someone in your life might be a closet narcissist and you sometimes find their behavior challenging, here are some coping strategies from Albers :

  • Set healthy boundaries with them.
  • Take a step back if you are emotionally drawn in.
  • Speak up and stand up for yourself.
  • Work with a therapist to learn new tools to work with the person.

And if you suspect you might be a covert narcissist yourself, it’s probably time to talk to a mental health professional.


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