Covert Narcissism: Signs to Look For and What to Do

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Covert Narcissism: Signs to Look For and What to Do

Narcissists are people who brag about their lives, casually complement themselves, and show an intense need for admiration and respect / Photo by: Nadezhda Manakhova via Shutterstock

 

Most of the time, recognizing a narcissist in a room full of people is easy. They are the ones who brag about their lives, casually complement themselves, and show an intense need for admiration and respect. They talk about themselves most of the time and feel very proud of it. However, one should be diagnosed first of a narcissistic personality disorder in order to be recognized as one. 

Some of the key signs that an individual is a narcissist include craving for admiration and acknowledgment, having an exaggerated sense of being unique, believing that the world owes them something, lacking empathy toward other people, exaggerating their abilities, talents, and accomplishments, and many more. These signs can be often seen or recognized easily.

However, there are also those who have these symptoms but are hardly identified. One can't even recognize them because they are less obvious in many ways and aspects. They are called covert narcissists, which, according to an article by Psychology Today, are more manipulative than the average narcissist. Most of the time, they are not loud and vain that's why they are not easily identified. They are not also openly manipulative and arrogant. As Dr. Craig Malkin said, “What’s different about covert narcissists is that because they’re introverted, they don’t advertise their inflated egos.”

 

Prevalence of Narcissists

Statistics about narcissists or those who have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder showed that they are rare. An article by the Addiction Hope reported that there's only an estimated 1% of them in society. Previous studies showed that narcissists are common in the financial sector as they are “able to make quick, bold decisions without any thought for the consequences these might have on other people."

According to an article by the Recovery Ranch, a review of studies published between 1980 and 2008 conducted in 2010 showed that narcissistic personality disorder occurs in approximately 1% of the population. It also has been shown that 1% to 2% of people living in the United States alone meets the diagnostic criteria for the mental health condition. Additionally, a study published in 2008 showed a higher prevalence of NPD from its 34,000 participants. 

Statistics about narcissists or those who have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder showed that they are rare with one article revealed that there is only one percent / Photo by: Paul Biryukov via Shutterstock

 

How to Spot a Covert Narcissist

The term "covert narcissism" was coined to capture the pattern in narcissists who are subtle or silent but shows signs of being a narcissist. Most of the time, they are shy or quiet but looks at themselves with remarkable intelligence and creativity. What sets them apart from common narcissists is that they don't advertise their inflated egos. According to an article by the Very Well Mind, covert narcissists are outwardly self-effacing or withdrawn in their approach but their end goals are just the same with common narcissists. 

One of the reasons why covert narcissists are hard to identify is because they are highly skilled. There are some general traits and patterns in order to spot covert narcissists. It is important to observe these signs to learn how to deal with them and know when to not interact with them. One of the signs to look for is passive self-importance. For instance, they will purposefully minimize their talents or achievements so the people around them will compliment them. 

The term "covert narcissism" was coined to capture the pattern in narcissists who are subtle or silent but shows signs of being a narcissist / Photo by: ShotPrime Studio via Shutterstock

 

Common narcissists mostly demand admiration and attention while covert narcissists use subtle tactics to meet those same goals. They are also more likely to seek reassurance about talents, skills, and accomplishments. Additionally, they also shame other people but in a more gentle approach. They would explain to that person why it's their fault and they are not to blame. In some cases, covert narcissists play as the victim of that person's behavior. They do these things for one goal: to make you feel small. 

According to the Very Well Mind, covert narcissists also like to create confusion because they feel joy in it. They want to make people question their perceptions. They usually do this to maintain power in interaction and elevate themselves. Through this, they get to manipulate and exploit people more. Covert narcissists also like to keep other people un-acknowledged at all because they want to keep the focus or attention to themselves. They have no problem letting you know that you are not important.

Moreover, covert narcissists mostly appear kinder and caring but in reality, they don't care or and aren’t emotionally accessible. In fact, expect that you will not receive any compliment when interacting with them. Usually, they appear to be emotionally accessible only because they want to exploit or eventually leave the person feeling small through shaming, blaming, or disregarding them. 

What to Do When Interacting with Covert Narcissists

If you have seen the signs with your loved ones or someone you know, it is important to remember that they can't be controlled. One thing that people can only do is to control how we are behaving and interacting with them. It is important to not take their negative behaviors or talks personally especially they mostly lack regard, have patterns of manipulation, sense of entitlement, and deceptive behaviors. 

Another is to set boundaries between you and them. The more you are consistent in setting those boundaries, the more you are showing them that their tactics are not working. It is important to do this to establish your confidence in not tolerating them and keep them from trying to violate or disregard your boundaries.

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