How to Spot a Covert Narcissist: The Signs and Symptoms

covert narcissist blog

If you think that all narcissists are easy to spot, then you may be in for a surprise. There is a covert narcissist, and he is much harder to identify than his more overt counterparts. This type of narcissist hides his true colors well and often fools people into thinking that he is a nice guy. In this blog post, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of covert narcissism so that you can protect yourself from this dangerous personality type.

Who Is A Covert Narcissist? Covert Narcissist

Covert narcissism is a subtype of narcissism that is characterized by being shy, introverted, and sensitive. They are often times perceived as being “nice” or “sweet.” However, covert narcissists are actually very manipulative and tend to use passive-aggressive behavior to get what they want.

Covert narcissists often have an inflated sense of self-importance and feel entitled to special treatment. They may be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, or attractiveness. They may believe that they are superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. Covert narcissists may be extremely sensitive to criticism or even the slightest hint of disapproval.

Signs Of A Covert Narcissist Signs Of A Covert Narcissist

A covert narcissist is someone who exhibits many of the same qualities as an overt narcissist but does so in a more subtle way. They are often harder to spot because they don’t openly seek attention or approval as an overt narcissist does. Here are some signs to look for if you think someone you know may be a covert narcissist:

Passively Aggressive

Covert narcissists are often passive-aggressive. This means that they may not openly express their hostility or negativity but instead may do so indirectly. For example, a covert narcissist may make snide or sarcastic comments, withhold compliments or support, spread rumors or gossip, or deliberately sabotage others’ efforts.

While covert narcissists’ passive-aggressive behaviors may not be as immediately obvious as those of other types of narcissists, they can be just as harmful and cause just as much damage to relationships.

Create Confusion

Covert narcissists are often described as the “quiet” type of narcissists. They may not be the life of the party or always seeking attention, but they still need to feel special and important. Covert narcissists are often very good at creating confusion.

They may tell you one thing and then do another. They may make promises and then break them. This can create a lot of stress and anxiety in those around them because it’s never quite clear what is going to happen next.

Emotionally Neglectful

Covert narcissists are emotionally neglectful. They withhold attention and emotional support from those close to them, including their partner, children, and friends. This can leave covert narcissists’ loved ones feeling unimportant, invisible, and unworthy of love and attention.

Such personalities may also use guilt as a way to manipulate their loved ones into giving them the attention they crave. For example, a covert narcissist might say something like, “I can’t believe you would do this to me after all I’ve done for you.” By making their loved ones feel guilty, covert narcissists are able to control and manipulate them into giving them the attention they desire.

Shy Or Withdrawn Nature

Covert narcissists are often shy or withdrawn. They may not be the life of the party, but they’re usually good at making people feel comfortable. They’re also often very charming and can be quite persuasive.

Such people often have a difficult time showing their true colors because they’re afraid of being rejected or exposed. This can make them seem like they’re always hiding something.

Covert narcissists may also have a hard time being assertive or standing up for themselves. This is because they don’t want to risk losing what they have. Instead, they’ll often go along with what others want or need without much resistance.

Highly Sensitive To Criticism

Covert narcissists are highly sensitive to criticism. This is because they have a deep-seated fear of being exposed as the frauds they believe themselves to be. When covert narcissists are criticized, they will often react in a defensive and aggressive manner.

They may become argumentative, or even try to attack their criticizer verbally or physically. Covert narcissists also have a tendency to withhold love and affection from their partners when they feel that they are not being treated in the way that they believe they deserve. This can often lead to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and loneliness in their relationship.

Successful In Their Chosen Field

Covert narcissists are often successful in their chosen field. Many covert narcissists are highly intelligent and have a great deal of emotional intelligence. They are often successful in their chosen field because they are able to use their manipulative skills to get what they want.

Live In Fantasy

Covert narcissists often live in a fantasy world. They believe that they are better than everyone else and that they deserve special treatment. They may fantasize about having power and influence or being rich and famous.

Feel Inadequate

Covert narcissists often feel inadequate. They may feel like they’re not good enough, or that they don’t have what it takes to be successful. This can lead them to be highly critical of themselves and others.

They may also have a hard time taking compliments, as they often think that people are just trying to make them feel better about themselves. Covert narcissists may also try to control those around them in order to feel more secure in their own abilities.

Envy Others

Covert narcissists are experts at hiding their envy. They might not outwardly express it, but covert narcissists feel envious of others often. This is because they feel like they are not good enough or that others are better than them in some way. Covert narcissists might try to downplay their feelings of envy, but deep down, they seethe with jealousy when they see someone else succeed.

Hold Grudges

Covert narcissists are often very quick to hold a grudge. This is because they feel that they are always right, and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. They may even go so far as to try to ruin the lives of those who have wronged them, in order to “prove” that they were right all along. This can be a very difficult trait to deal with, as it can lead to conflict and arguments which may never be resolved.

Give With A Goal

Covert narcissists are often very giving people. They may volunteer their time to help others, or they may give gifts with the intention of making the other person feel good. However, there is always a hidden agenda behind their giving. They are always looking for something in return.

For instance, the covert narcissist may volunteer their time to help a friend in need, but they will expect that friend to be available to them when they need help. They may also give gifts with the intention of making the other person feel indebted to them.

Self Obsessed

When interacting with people, the covert narcissist will be less apparent than the more obvious, extroverted narcissist.

The covert narcissist yearns for attention and adulation, but it may appear differently to those around them. They might offer backhanded compliments or purposefully minimize their accomplishments or talents so that others will tell them how wonderful they are.

The covert narcissist will seek attention and appreciation, but he will use softer approaches to achieve the same objectives. The covert narcissist will be far more likely to constantly seek affirmation for their abilities, talents, and accomplishments in order to assuage that same desire for self-importance.

Hence, Covert Narcissist is one who

  • puts others down, even when it’s not necessary.
  • has a hard time seeing things from other people’s perspectives.
  • always needs to be right, even if it means arguing with others.
  • finds trouble empathizing with others and tends to be very self-centered.
  • regularly uses manipulation and mind games to get what they want.
  • often takes advantage of others, even his close friends and family members.
  • can be very critical and judgmental of others, even if he doesn’t know them well.
  • is always trying to one-up others or make himself look better.
  • feels like he is above others and deserves special treatment.

Though we have given examples in the context of males, narcissism is not restricted to any specific gender. Females too could be narcissists.

Key Characteristics
Risk Factors

There are three primary significant traits of covert narcissists: grandiosity, devaluation, and withdrawal.

  • Grandiosity is the covert narcissist’s constant need to be the center of attention. They feel that they are more important than anyone else and must be recognized as such. They will go to great lengths to make sure that everyone knows how special they are, often through bragging or telling tall tales. covert narcissists also have a strong sense of entitlement and believe that they deserve only the best.
  • Devaluation is the covert narcissist’s tendency to see others as inferior to themselves. They view other people as objects who exist solely to meet their needs and serve their purposes. If someone does not meet their expectations or fails to live up to their standards, the covert narcissist will quickly write them off as worthless.
  • Withdrawal is the covert narcissist’s unwillingness to open up or share their true selves with others. They prefer to keep their feelings and thoughts to themselves and can be very difficult to get to know on a personal level. covert narcissists often seem cold and distant, even to those closest to them.

These three prominent features of covert narcissists often lead them to engage in manipulative and controlling behavior. They may try to control how others think, feel, and behave in order to make themselves look better or feel more important.

How To Cope With A Covert Narcissist? Solution

It’s difficult to maintain any form of a personal relationship with a covert narcissist, whether it’s a friend, family member, coworker, or significant other. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with a covert narcissist:

  • Learn more. Recognizing covert narcissism’s indicators may help you decide when it’s time to seek assistance, distance yourself, or terminate the relationship completely.
  • You can try to establish healthy limitations. Because many individuals lack well-defined limits, it’s critical to enforce yours by establishing firm parameters and withdrawing from the relationship as needed.
  • Avoid being hurt. It’s difficult to keep from taking things personally, even though it may be easier said than done. Recognize that any mean remarks or passive-aggressive put-downs are not directed at you, and then don’t respond or engage.
  • Develop a solid support network. Seek out encouragement and advice from friends and family members, who may provide you with a fresh perspective on things.

Encourage someone you know who is showing symptoms of covert narcissism to discuss these issues with their healthcare provider. A doctor or therapist may be able to suggest therapies that can help patients address these problems and cope better


In the end, it is concluded that covert narcissists are very difficult to spot. The signs and symptoms are often subtle and hard to identify. However, if you suspect that someone you know may be a covert narcissist, it is important to be on the lookout for these signs and symptoms. covert narcissism is a serious condition that can have devastating effects on those around them. If you think you may be dealing with a covert narcissist, it is important to get help from a professional as soon as possible.

covert narcissism is a serious mental health condition that should not be taken lightly. If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from this disorder, please reach out to a mental health professional for help.

Professional Guidance is the first step in order to move toward your healing journey. It will help you get a way to get rid of covert narcissism. You can try reaching Mantra Care to seek expert help in the comfort of your own home. Our therapists will help you get a solution to manage and overcome your problem. You can book your online therapy and talk directly to your assigned mentor. You may also download our free Android or iOS app.

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