What is Covert Malignant Narcissism?

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WHAT IS COVERT MALIGNANT NARCISSISM? It certainly is a mouthful! It describes the nature of a personality trait and its expression. For a clear and more precise understanding of covert malignant narcissism, let’s break down all three components of the term.

What does narcissism mean?

The word narcissism means self-idealization. It is trait that is common to all human beings that it exists on a continuum. Excessive narcissism can lead to dysfunction. In rare cases, it can manifest as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Per the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder are:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Marked sense of entitlement
  • Expectation of unearned privilege 
  • Embellishment of achievements and skills
  • Preoccupation with fantasies about power and success
  • A sense of superiority and a need to associate with others like them
  • Exploitativeness
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envy
  • Arrogance
  • Domination of conversations
  • Expectation of special treatment
  • Demanding the best of everything

Someone who is highly narcissistic but does not meet the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder will have less than four of these traits.

What does covert narcissism mean?

There are two subgroups of extreme narcissism:

What differentiates the two is how grandiosity is expressed. In the case of overt narcissism, the grandiosity is on flagrant display, whereas with covert narcissism, the grandiosity is present but introverted.

For this reason, covert narcissism is also known as introverted or vulnerable narcissism.

What is malignant narcissism?

According the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word malignant means:

  1. Tending to produce death or deterioration especiallytending to infiltrate, metastasize, and terminate fatally a malignant tumor 
  2. Evil in nature, influence, or effect 
    1. Injurious: a powerful and malignant influence
    2. Passionately and relentlessly malevolent aggressively malicious the malignant tongues of gossipers.

In the context of human behavior, malignant narcissism is a term used to describe a strain of self-idealization so aggressive that it seeks to destroy any real or perceived threaten its self-concept.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, the term covert malignant narcissist might be used to describe a highly aggressive individual whose grandiosity expresses as introverted or vulnerable.


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Manya Wakefield is an educator and recovery coach specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy and trauma. She is also the author of 'Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?' and host of the Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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