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What is Covert Narcissism?

Narcissistic Personality By Apr 01, 2022

COVERT NARCISSISM is synonymous with vulnerable narcissism and introverted narcissism. All three refer to a subtype of extreme narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder that manifests as a maladaptive sensitivity to criticism and defeat.

Normal or healthy narcissism is a personality trait all people possess that is necessary for our wellbeing. However, excessive narcissism can lead to dysfunction and, in extraordinary cases, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Extreme narcissism is a protective ego structure that hides of a failed self within a false self.

There are two subtypes of extreme narcissism:

  • Overt narcissism (also known as grandiose narcissism), and
  • Covert narcissism (also known as vulnerable or introverted narcissism).

1. Fragility

Due to its fragile nature, covert narcissism leads to recurring narcissistic injuries in the form of pervasive feelings of humiliation and emptiness. These show up as contempt, vengeance, and a yearning for retribution.

2. Toxic Shame

Chronic shame and an inner dialogue characterized by self-criticism lead to psychological torment and anguish. For this reason, this strain of disordered narcissism is often comorbid with depression, dysthymia, or major de­pressive disorder.

Social Withdrawal

Social withdrawal is a defense mechanism commonly used by covert narcissists. They do this to protect themselves from feelings of humiliation and their fear of being exposed as anything less than perfection itself.

Covert narcissists do not have abandonment issues and they are not self-destructive.

Inverted Grandiosity

In covert narcissism, the grandiosity that is one of the distinguishing features of overt narcissism becomes introverted and masked with humility to protect a painfully fragile ego.

Their inverted grandiosity to upholds their perception of themselves as superior. They are happy to forego attention unless it is affirming.

Other difference from grandiose narcissism

One of the affects of covert narcissism being disconnected from one’s own feelings of vulnerability as well as insensitive to these feelings in others.

Though their grandiosity is well hidden, covert narcissists remain superficial and exploitative pragmatists. This variant of excessive narcissism doesn’t always present with the impulsiveness, mendacity and malice commonly seen in overt or grandiose narcissism.

3. Fractured relationships with self and others

Covert narcissism often leads to adverse relationships with self and others due to its characteristic entitlement, insensitivity, and need for admiration.

4. Professional life

Some covert narcissists become very accomplished in their professional life due to their well-masked grandiosity, self-esteem, and soaring ambition. While performance anxiety and sensitivity to criticism and defeat prove formidable obstacles that prevent progress for others.

References

Gore, W. L., & Widiger, T. A. (2016). Fluctuations between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 7(4), Page 363.


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Author

Manya Wakefield is a recovery coach specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and coercive trauma. Her expertise has been featured in publications such as Newsweek, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Huffington Post. In 2019, she launched the social impact platform Narcissistic Abuse Rehab, building a global audience through human rights advocacy. The same year, she published the book ‘Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship,’ which is used in domestic violence recovery groups around the world. In 2020, Manya developed The Coercive Control Legislation Global Database. She is also the host of The Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon.

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