5 Ways to Recognize a Covert Narcissist

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Narcissism manifests itself in many ways for different people.

A covert narcissist is someone who, like an overt narcissist, has a high need for others' approval and lacks empathy.

However, although covert narcissism might be harder to spot, it is just as dangerous as overt narcissism.

Behavior can be classified as overt or covert in the world of psychology.

Overt behaviors, like those of the classic narcissist, are those that others can easily spot or notice.

However, covert behaviors are ones that are not immediately visible to people.

While dealing with covert narcissists can be difficult, especially since it is hard to identify them, there are different forms of support for narcissism that help you navigate a relationship with someone who has it.

First, you should note that there are ways to recognize a covert narcissist.

One of the ways to recognize a covert narcissist is to look out for recurring traits of blaming and shaming.

Blaming and shaming are their go-to's for securing their sense of an elevated position over others.

They do this in a gentler manner that a victim might not even be aware that they are being manipulated.

Also, covert narcissists tend to adopt a passive self-importance approach, unlike overt narcissists.

They have a less obvious but still present elevated sense of self and arrogance.

Additionally, another trait that can help you recognize a covert narcissist is to look out for introversion.

Covert narcissism is strongly linked to a shy or withdrawn personality.

Read on to learn more about ways to recognize a covert narcissist. 

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Blaming and Shaming

When it comes to maintaining their low self-esteem or avoiding confrontation, covert narcissists will not accept responsibility for their actions.

They would rather blame someone else.

Blaming another person through narcissistic projection is one of several narcissistic manipulation techniques used by a covert narcissist.

They also use shaming as another way to maintain their sense of superiority over others around them.

While the overt narcissist's way of exerting power may be more visible, such as explicitly putting you down, being nasty, criticizing you, and being sarcastic, the covert narcissist takes a different approach.

The reclusive, introverted narcissist could use a kinder tone to explain why something is your fault and they are not at fault.

They may even claim to be a victim of your behavior or engage in emotional abuse in order to get you to reassure them.

The endgame, whether overt or covert, is to make the other person feel beneath them or small.

Passive Self-Importance

Covert narcissists may be less obvious about their elevated sense of self, unlike their overt counterparts.

While the covert narcissist undoubtedly yearns for significance and thirsts for admiration from those around them, these needs and desires may manifest differently.

What they can sometimes do to get people to affirm how talented they are, they could make back-handed compliments or purposely downplay their achievements or talents.

While a covert narcissist will employ gentler methods to achieve the same ends, an overt narcissist will demand adoration and attention.

The covert narcissist will be far more likely to seek affirmation for their abilities, successes, and skills on a daily basis, looking for others to satisfy their inflated sense of self-importance. 

A Shy or Withdrawn Personality 

The covert narcissist presents as doubtful and self-conscious, in contrast to other narcissists who are very obvious about their grandiosity and confidence.

Their introversion stems from their shy and withdrawn personalities, which can sometimes make it hard to recognize a covert narcissist.

Their narcissistic insecurity is related to their introversion.

People with hidden NPD have a severe fear of others knowing their shortcomings or failures.

They believe that revealing their deepest inferiorities would destroy their illusion of superiority.

This is why they tend to keep away from social situations because it reduces the likelihood of exposure.

Additionally, people with covert narcissism tend to avoid anything or anyone that brings no clear benefits. 

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Emotionally Absent

Narcissists struggle to create and maintain strong emotional connections with others.

This is also true of the covert narcissist.

As a result, they are, therefore, neither emotionally available nor receptive, despite the fact that they may come out as gentler and less obnoxious than their extroverted counterparts.

Covert narcissists struggle to build and maintain real, lasting relationships, whether they are with family members, friends, or love partners.

In general, they have a hard time holding down relationships.

The calm façade and smugness they project are used as a defensive barrier to the outside world and as a way to keep others at a distance.

As a result, covert narcissists will not emotionally respond to their partner in a healthy way because one of the characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder is a lack of empathy.

The overarching objective of covert narcissists is to hide their shortcomings and feelings of insecurity from other people.

Lack of Empathy

For both overt and covert kinds of narcissistic personality disorder, a lack of empathy is a typical personality attribute.

Narcissists tend to ignore the impact of their disregard for other people's feelings.

Even when people express their dissatisfaction with how their behavior affects them, this makes the problem worse since narcissists will find a way to turn it around and make it about themselves.

They may occasionally show empathy, but it is self-serving empathy.

Typically, they act in this way to gain other people's favor and admiration.

If they don't receive thanks or admiration for their sacrifice, they could feel resentful and bitter and say things about how people take advantage of them and don't respect them.


Although covert narcissism may not be as obvious as overt narcissism, it is nevertheless just as damaging.

Take action to safeguard your emotional well-being if you know someone who has traits of covert narcissism.

While all of these signs might seem overwhelming for you, there are different types of support for narcissism that can offer guidance.

Some signs that can help you recognize a covert narcissist include blaming and shaming, passive self-importance, a shy or withdrawn personality, emotionally absent, and lack of empathy. 


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May 18th, 2024

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