How to Spot an Overt Narcissist

How to Spot an Overt Narcissist


It may surprise you, but there are two different kinds of narcissism.

There is the covert narcissist who tries to hide their selfish manipulations.

Covert narcissists often go unnoticed and their condition is undiagnosed.

And then there is the overt narcissist who is unabashed and unashamed of their selfishness and desire for attention.

And yet, there are many traits and qualities of the overt narcissist that make them attractive to others.

The overt narcissist, while toxic to relationships, is often able to surround themselves with admirers, friends, and sycophants.

In this article, we will examine four signs of an overt narcissist, and why these behaviors often make them so charismatic and desirable.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Therapists in Colorado

Dr. Michelle Palmieri, DSW, LSW

Dr. Michelle Palmieri, DSW, LSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021

How to Spot an Overt Narcissist: Lack of Empathy

An overt narcissist lacks empathy.

Empathy is different from sympathy.

Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone. Empathy is genuinely putting yourself in someone else's shoes and understanding their struggle or pain.

The overt narcissist is too self-centered and sees themselves as too far above others to experience empathy.

Because an overt narcissist cannot feel empathy, other people are merely a means to an end.

One reason the overt narcissist can seem so charismatic is that often they have many, many friends.

The overt narcissist often appears very popular, with lots of friends and admirers. This makes others want to be around them.

The trouble is, the overt narcissist has very few if any real friends.

For the overt narcissist, "friends" are merely fans, groupies, or sycophants.

If you lack empathy you cannot experience true love or friendship.

The overt narcissist calls you a friend, but at the end of the day, you're just a member of their fan club.

How to Spot an Overt Narcissist: Charming

There is a prevailing stereotype of a narcissist as an A-type bully, opinionated and obnoxious.

However, the overt narcissist is often charming, smooth-talking, and likable.

Remember, despite their grandiose persona, the overt narcissist suffers from low self-esteem.

The overt narcissist needs positive affirmation, needs constant validation. That's where other people come in!

When an overt narcissist is charming, it is an act.

When an overt narcissist appears to care and even listen, it is a clever mask they wear.

The overt narcissist is never charming, generous, or kind without ulterior motives.

The overt narcissist is obsessed with their public persona, and often that persona includes being a great humanitarian.

An overt narcissist is good at faking. They can appear to be good listeners, generous, sensitive, loving, and faithful.

These qualities are why so many people are drawn to the overt narcissist.

The overt narcissist draws others into their inner circle, while at the same time keeping them at arm's length.

How to Spot an Overt Narcissist: Demands Admiration

The overt narcissist, while pretending to be your friend, will at the same time demand your admiration.

Admiration and praise are prerequisites for having a relationship with an overt narcissist.

What this means is that the overt narcissist won't try to trick you or manipulate you into complimenting them.

Admiration, affirmation, and praise are conditions for any kind of relationship with an overt narcissist.

The overt narcissist will let you know they need to be praised.

The overt narcissist will even instruct you in ways they prefer to be praised.

Verbal and emotional abuse are often tools the overt narcissist uses to gain and keep relationships.

And yet, because the overt narcissist often has a larger-than-life personality, people will tolerate abuse to be near them.

How to Spot an Overt Narcissist: Hard Working/Successful

Another reason people often gravitate to an overt narcissist is that they are wealthy, successful, and can offer perks of relationships.

The overt narcissist is often hard-working and successful.

Part of the overt narcissist's desire to be perceived as larger-than-life is being perceived by others as "successful".

Many people enjoy being around successful, wealthy people. This makes the overt narcissist very desirable, as both a significant other and friend.

The overt narcissist doesn't just provide others with their winning personality, but with perks and fringe benefits.

Often, the overt narcissist is happy to share the wealth. Weekends at their lake house, fine dining, expensive cars, toys, etc.

For the overt narcissist, hard work brings wealth, wealth brings worldly possessions, and these bring other people closer.

But remember, the generosity of an overt narcissist is never without cost.

The overt narcissist will always demand their due, always demand your admiration and praise.

And if you refuse an overt narcissist, you will not only do without, you may face other consequences.

If denied admiration and praise, an overt narcissist will often use their wealth and privilege to exact revenge.

An overt narcissist will never let you easily leave their fan club of friends and admirers.

Because if you desert an overt narcissist, others may follow suit and expose the charade.

Be aware, if you shatter the public persona of an overt narcissist, they will attempt to ostracize you from friends, family, and other valuable relationships.

How to Spot an Overt Narcissist: Shallow Relationships

The only relationship an overt narcissist can have is a shallow relationship.

This can occur when looking for signs in narcissistic women as well as narcissistic men.

Remember, the overt narcissist is a good actor.

So good that the overt narcissist can play the dutiful lover, a loyal friend, or a trusted mentor.

However, the overt narcissist must keep their relationships shallow and superficial so they can control them.

True love and friendship mean making yourself vulnerable, accessible, and open to constructive criticism. The overt narcissist rejects all of these.

The overt narcissist must be in control. All narcissism is about manipulation.

An overt narcissist needs the relationship to be shallow, so they can offer their approval or discard you if need be.

All relationships are ultimately disposable to the overt narcissist. 


Overt narcissists, a subset of individuals with narcissistic personality disorder, exhibit a grandiose sense of self-importance and are often self-absorbed.

Their inflated sense of self is reflected in their daily interactions and relationships, which can be detrimental to the emotional well-being of those around them.

Workplace Scenario

In a professional setting, an overt narcissist might constantly demand special treatment, asserting their own importance above others.

They could manipulate situations for personal gain, showcasing manipulative behaviors that disrupt healthy relationships within the team.

A typical statement they might make in this context could be, "I deserve this promotion more than anyone else because I am simply better."

Family Dynamics

Within family members, overt narcissistic behaviors may manifest as a constant need for attention and admiration.

Their self-centeredness could lead to emotional neglect of others, potentially causing childhood trauma for younger family members.

They may frequently use silent treatments as a form of passive-aggressive behavior when their inflated sense of self is challenged.

Social Interactions

In social situations, overt narcissists often display an over-inflated sense of self, overshadowing others' well-being.

They might dominate conversations, exhibiting a lack of self-awareness about the impact of their behavior on others.

An example of something they might say in these situations could be, "No one understands things as well as I do."

In Contrast to Covert Narcissism

Unlike overt narcissists, individuals with covert narcissism, also referred to as vulnerable narcissism, employ softer tactics.

These individuals may not outwardly exhibit the same level of self-importance or aggressive behavior.

Instead, signs of covert narcissism include a subtle sense of self-importance, hidden manipulative behaviors, and a tendency towards playing the victim.

Both overt and covert narcissism are serious mental health conditions.

If these traits are observed, it's recommended to seek advice from a mental health professional to ensure the physical health and emotional well-being of all involved. 


The overt narcissist is often the life of the party, the person other people look up to or aspire to be.

Despite their abusive tendencies, the overt narcissist is often perceived as charismatic, charming, and generous.

And yet, the pitfalls of a relationship with an overt narcissist are dangerous.

Many suffer from mental, emotional, or psychological abuse at the hands of the ever-charming overt narcissist.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship with an overt narcissist, please seek professional help.

A licensed professional counselor is the most qualified person to give advice and help you begin the healing process. 


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July 14th, 2024

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