When you think of a narcissist, you probably picture someone whose behavior is grandiose, entitled and arrogant — what’s known as an overt narcissist. But there’s another, lesser-known type of narcissism that often flies under the radar: It’s called “covert narcissism.” And while a covert narcissist’s behavior may be less obvious, it can be just as harmful to those in their orbit.
Like overt narcissists, covert narcissists lack empathy for others, use manipulation to get their way and have a strong drive to feel special in comparison to other people. But the way the two different types of narcissists try to stand out is different, said clinical psychologist Craig Malkin.
“Covert narcissists don’t feel special by virtue of positive qualities like attractiveness or intelligence; they feel exceptional because of their pain or suffering, agreeing with statements like ‘most people don’t understand my problems’ and ‘I’m temperamentally more sensitive compared to others,’” Malkin, author of “Rethinking Narcissim,” told HuffPost.
Think of it this way: “In overt narcissism, their vulnerabilities are hidden and their grandiosity is loud,” he said. “In covert narcissism, the grandiosity is hidden but vulnerability is at full volume.”
Covert narcissists may appear quiet, introverted, anxious or even depressed, said University of Georgia psychology professor W. Keith Campbell.
“It takes a while to see the self-centeredness and entitlement in covert narcissism because it’s often indirect and comes out in them as anger about other people’s success, and insecurity and defensiveness about not being appreciated,” Campbell, author of “The New Science of Narcissism,” told HuffPost.
It’s also important to know that narcissism exists on a continuum; it’s a trait all people possess to varying degrees. You can have narcissistic tendencies in a certain area of your life without meeting the clinical criteria for full-blown narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD — a diagnosable mental health condition.
Covert narcissism is not a formal diagnosis, but it’s a term mental health professionals often use “to describe a certain manifestation of narcissism that has a lot of anxiety, insecurity and neuroticism along with it,” Campbell said.
“People use the term ‘covert narcissist’…