5 Things to Know about Covert Narcissism

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When we hear the term "narcissist," we commonly picture someone who is too confident and overtly aggressive.

More often than not, in an effort to show that they are confident, a narcissist will ignore any healthy boundaries and exhibit a sense of entitlement.

However, it is not all narcissists that are like this.

Enter covert narcissism, a mental health disorder that frequently goes unnoticed.

Unlike its more obvious counterpart, covert narcissism thrives on devious methods and subtle moves.

A covert narcissist seeks praise and prominence.

They have no feelings of empathy for others yet may behave differently than an overt narcissist.

While it might seem all too complex, covert narcissists too can learn to be better people with the right support for narcissism.

If you think you are one or you know someone who is a covert narcissist, these are more things to know about covert narcissism.

First of all, covert narcissists are usually introverts.

This is where they get their covertness from.

Remember that because they are not loud and outwardly arrogant doesn't mean they aren't narcissists.

Also, another thing to know about covert narcissism is that they tend to be passive-aggressive.

A covert narcissist is more likely to project their aggressiveness through humor, sarcasm, and backhanded comments.

Covert narcissists also have a knack for creating confusion.

They like to distort reality to cause those around them to feel confused and question their own sanity.

Below are more details on things to know about covert narcissism.

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Covert narcissists are usually introverts.

However, although they may come off as quiet, reserved, and even shy on the surface, beneath this exterior is an overwhelming need for admiration and validation.

Unlike their more overt counterparts, they tend to rely on creating a web of subtle manipulation to satisfy their insatiable ego.

Basically, they use their introversion as a shield to avoid the attention and scrutiny that often comes with a more overt display of arrogance.

They are usually soft-spoken and use this to disarm others and draw them into their web of influence.

For instance, the introverted covert narcissist can use their humble and quiet mask to get away with all sorts of things in the workplace.

Picture someone who rarely speaks at work, during team meetings, someone constantly avoiding the limelight while quietly absorbing all the information shared.

While they may appear as humble and unassuming, their true intention is to gain an advantage over others.

An example is a narcissist using their gathered knowledge to swoop in to take credit for the team's achievements and steal the spotlight, leaving their colleagues feeling overlooked and undervalued.

It is essential to note that introversion does not indicate covert narcissism.

Covert narcissists only use introversion to conceal their self-centered motivations.

Blaming and Shaming

Covert narcissists are adept at shifting the blame and shame to others while avoiding accountability for their own actions, which is another example of the important things to know about covert narcissism.

They often use tactics like gaslighting and distorting reality to shift responsibility and make others question their own sanity.

They use this method to maintain control and manipulate situations to their advantage.

For instance, picture a covert narcissistic partner who always neglects household chores.

Instead of acknowledging that they are in the wrong, they might blame their partner for not communicating their expectations clearly enough.

They may even go ahead to shame their partner by suggesting they are too demanding or sensitive, thereby diverting attention away from their own shortcomings.

In the workplace, a covert narcissistic colleague might engage in a similar blame game.

They might go around highlighting the supposed incompetence or errors of others while downplaying their own contribution.

By subtly shifting blame, they evade accountability and protect their inflated self-image.

Procrastination and Disregard

Covert narcissists excel in the art of procrastination and disregard.

They use procrastination and disregard to maintain control and exert dominance.

They tend to prioritize their own desires over responsibilities and disregard the needs and feelings of those around them.

This combination can lead to frustration and disappointment for those affected by their behavior.

This approach allows covert narcissists to avoid accountability and develops a power dynamic in which they hold the reins.

For instance, a covert narcissistic friend who consistently cancels plans last minute places their needs first without considering the impact on others.

They may disregard the time and effort invested by their friends to make the arrangements, leaving their friends feeling unimportant.

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Creating Confusion

Another example of things to know about covert narcissism is that confusion is one of its hallmarks.

Narcissistic people thrive on creating uncertainty and confusion, frequently leaving their victims questioning their own senses.

They intentionally distort reality through subtle manipulation and gaslighting tactics, trapping people in a web of confusion.

This deliberate deception not only supports their narcissistic agenda but also allows covert narcissists to keep control over their relationships and take advantage of the weakness of others around them.

Recent research has also found a link between covert narcissism and an increased risk of emotional abuse in intimate relationships.


One of the challenging aspects of dealing with covert narcissism is the skillful use of passive-aggressive behavior.

They often cloak their aggressiveness under the guise of humor, sarcasm, or backhanded comments.

They subtly undermine others to maintain control and inflict emotional harm while appearing innocent.

For example, a covert narcissistic coworker might use sarcasm to belittle their colleagues during team meetings.

They might make backhanded remarks disguised as jokes, leaving their victims feeling humiliated.

This passive-aggressive approach allows them to assert dominance without overtly revealing their true intentions.

In other examples, covert narcissists might use passive-aggressive tactics in personal relationships to manipulate their partner's emotions.

They may make backhanded compliments or engage in subtle sabotage to undermine their partner's self-esteem. 


Recognizing and addressing covert narcissism requires a multifaceted approach and support for narcissism.

Understanding these subtle signs and setting healthy boundaries can help you protect yourself from emotional manipulation and navigate relationships with covert narcissists.

A few things to know about covert narcissism include introversion, blaming and shaming, procrastination and disregard, creating confusion, and passive-aggressive.


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July 24th, 2024

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