6 Traits of a Covert Narcissist, What is a Covert Narcissist?

This person hides their grandiose sense of self-importance and manipulative tendencies. They have specific traits that set them apart, such as craving admiration while feeling insecure. They say and do strange things that often confuse those around them. Understanding them involves unraveling their complex behaviors and dynamics.

Understanding a Covert Narcissist

This person hides their grandiose sense of self-importance and manipulative tendencies. They have specific traits that set them apart, such as craving admiration while feeling insecure. They say and do strange things that often confuse those around them. Understanding them involves unraveling their complex behaviors and dynamics.

What is a Covert Narcissist?

An individual who possesses narcissistic characteristics but conceals them beneath a more subtle and concealed demeanor. The behavior of covert narcissists is more reserved and introverted than overt narcissists, who desire constant admiration and attention. They may appear humble and self-effacing, but they conceal an acute need for validation, a sense of entitlement, and a lack of empathy for others. Their manipulation strategies are frequently subtle and covert, making it difficult to identify their narcissistic traits.

6 Covert Narcissist Traits

  1. Hidden Sense of Grandiosity: possess an inflated sense of self-importance and uniqueness, despite appearing modest or self-effacing on the surface.
  2. Constant Need for Validation: They rely heavily on others to validate their self-worth, seeking constant reassurance, admiration, and praise, though they may not overtly demand it.
  3. Lack of Empathy: They struggle to genuinely empathize with others, often viewing them as tools for their gratification or obstacles to their self-validation.
  4. Subtle Manipulation Tactics: They excel at manipulating others through subtle tactics, such as guilt trips, gaslighting, and emotional control, all while maintaining a facade of innocence.
  5. Fragile Self-Esteem: Beneath their composed exterior, they possess fragile self-esteem and are easily wounded by criticism or perceived slights.
  6. Playing the Victim: They frequently adopt a victim mentality, skillfully manipulating situations to portray themselves as the ones who have been wronged, deflecting blame, and avoiding accountability.
Setting boundaries when dealing with narcissists, whether it's a narcissistic parent, narcissistic spouse, or narcissistic mother, is crucial for self-preservation.
Setting boundaries when dealing with narcissists, whether it’s a narcissistic parent, narcissistic spouse, or narcissistic mother, is crucial for self-preservation.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Fact Sheet

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Definition

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

Traits and Behaviors

  • Grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement.
  • Exaggerated achievements and talents.
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or beauty.
  • The constant need for admiration and attention.
  • Lack of empathy for others’ feelings and needs.
  • Exploitative behavior and a sense of entitlement.
  • Envious of others or believes others are envious of them.
  • Arrogant and haughty attitude towards others.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Early life experiences, such as excessive praise or excessive criticism/neglect.
  • Genetic and biological factors may contribute to the development of NPD.
  • Personality traits, such as low self-esteem and vulnerability to shame.
  • Sociocultural factors emphasize individualism and achievement.

Covert Narcissistic Personality Disorder Definition

A covert narcissistic personality disorder is a psychological condition characterized by hidden narcissistic traits, such as fragile self-esteem, a constant need for validation, and manipulative behaviors, concealed beneath a facade of modesty and introversion.

Covert Narcissist Husband

A covert narcissist husband refers to a husband who exhibits covert narcissistic traits. He may seek constant validation, lack empathy, and use subtle tactics to maintain power and control within the relationship. Despite appearing loving and caring on the surface, a covert narcissist husband’s actions often revolve around serving his interests and maintaining a sense of superiority. Living with a covert narcissistic husband can have significant emotional and psychological impacts on the partner, leading to confusion, low self-esteem, and emotional abuse.

Covert Narcissist Mother

This is a mother who exhibits covert narcissism traits. This means she possesses narcissistic tendencies but expresses them more clearly and subtly. A covert narcissist mother may prioritize her own needs and desires over her children, manipulate them emotionally, and seek validation and admiration from them while maintaining a facade of being caring and selfless. The impact of having a covert narcissistic mother can be significant, often leading to complex and challenging dynamics within the family.

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Covert Narcissist Statistics

By examining these statistics, we can better understand the scope and implications of this intriguing and often misunderstood phenomenon.

Covert narcissists often fly under the radar due to their more subtle behaviors and the ability to blend in with society. However, here are a few general insights and statistics related to narcissism that may also apply to covert narcissism:

  1. Prevalence: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) affects approximately 1% of the general population, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It is unclear what percentage of individuals with NPD exhibit covert narcissistic traits specifically.
  2. Gender Distribution: Research suggests that narcissism, including covert narcissism, is slightly more prevalent among men than women. However, it is essential to note that narcissism can be found in individuals of any gender.
  3. Comorbidity: Covert narcissism may often coexist with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or borderline personality disorder.
  4. Relationship Patterns: Covert narcissists may frequently engage in toxic relationship dynamics, including emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and emotional abuse. Victims of covert narcissistic abuse may struggle with their mental health and well-being.


How much NPD affects the general population

Source: NIMH

2 – 3x Higher

NPD in males is approximately two to three times higher than in narcissistic personality disorder in women.

Source: NIMH


Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are estimated to have co-occurring mental health issues.

Source: NIMH

Things Covert Narcissists Say

They are skilled at using words to manipulate and control others while maintaining a facade of humility or innocence. Here are some examples of things they may say:

  1. Backhanded compliments: They may give compliments that seem positive on the surface but contain subtle criticism or undermine the other person’s self-esteem. For example, saying, “You’re pretty smart for someone who didn’t go to college.”
  2. Playing the victim: They often portray themselves as the ones who have been wronged or misunderstood. They may say things like, “Nobody appreciates me,” or “I always end up being taken advantage of.”
  3. Gaslighting: They manipulate reality and make others question their sanity or perceptions. They may say things like, “You’re overreacting,” or “I never said that. You must be imagining things.”
  4. Passive-aggressive remarks: They may use sarcasm, veiled insults, or disguised hostility to express dissatisfaction or indirectly criticize others. For instance, saying, “Oh, it must be nice to have all the free time in the world,” when someone is taking a break.
  5. False modesty: They may downplay their accomplishments or talents to elicit praise and validation. For example, saying, “I’m not that great at it, but I guess I managed to pull it off,” expecting others to reassure them of their exceptional abilities.
  6. Manipulative flattery: They may use excessive flattery to gain favor or control over others. They might shower someone with compliments, constantly praising their appearance, skills, or achievements to gain their trust and admiration.

Weird Things Covert Narcissists Do

They engage in various behaviors that seem strange or unusual to others. Here are some examples of weird things that covert narcissists may do:

  1. Silent Treatment: Covert narcissists may employ silent treatment as a manipulative tactic, refusing to communicate or engage with others as a control or punishment.
  2. Pity Parties: They may frequently play the victim and indulge in self-pity, seeking attention and sympathy from others by exaggerating their struggles or portraying themselves as perpetually downtrodden.
  3. Smear Campaigns: Covert narcissists may engage in covert efforts to tarnish the reputation of others, spreading false rumors or engaging in character assassination behind the scenes to bolster their image and diminish others.
  4. Subtle Sabotage: They may engage in covert sabotage or manipulation to undermine the success or happiness of those around them while maintaining plausible deniability or innocence.
  5. Hoarding Attention: Covert narcissists may become jealous or resentful when others receive attention or praise and may go to great lengths to divert the focus back onto themselves, even if it means exaggerating their achievements or experiences.
  6. Emotional Vampirism: They may drain the emotional energy of those around them by constantly seeking support and validation, requiring excessive reassurance, and taking advantage of others’ empathy and compassion.
  7. Image Crafting: Covert narcissists may meticulously curate their online presence or social image, presenting an idealized version of themselves that differs significantly from their true personality or behavior.
  8. Self-Deprecation: Covert narcissists may engage in excessive self-deprecation to fish for compliments or reassurance from others, disguising their underlying need for validation.
  9. False Humility: They may feign modesty and downplay their achievements or talents, seeking praise and admiration from others while maintaining an air of false humility.
  10. Triangulation: Covert narcissists may intentionally create conflicts or foster rivalries between people in their social circles, using manipulation and secrecy to control and manipulate the dynamics of relationships.

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Covert Narcissist Signs

Recognizing the signs can be challenging due to the subtle and hidden nature of their behaviors. However, here are some common signs that may indicate someone is a covert narcissist:

  1. Excessive Sensitivity: Susceptible to criticism or perceived slights, reacting defensively or with passive-aggressive behaviors.
  2. Lack of Empathy: They may struggle to genuinely empathize with others, often prioritizing their needs and desires over those of others.
  3. Grandiose Fantasies: They may harbor grandiose fantasies or a sense of entitlement, believing they are unique or deserve special treatment.
  4. Fragile Self-Esteem: Despite their outward modesty, they often have fragile self-esteem and require constant validation and admiration from others.
  5. Victimization: They frequently portray themselves as victims, deflecting responsibility for their actions and using guilt or pity to manipulate others.
  6. Subtle Manipulation: They employ subtle manipulation tactics, such as guilt-tripping, passive-aggressive behavior, or using silence to control and influence others.
  7. Lack of Boundaries: They may disregard personal boundaries, invading others’ personal space or emotional boundaries to fulfill their needs.
  8. Envy and Jealousy: They may harbor intense envy or jealousy towards others, particularly when they perceive others as more successful or admired.
  9. Attention-Seeking Behaviors: While appearing introverted, they actively seek attention and validation, often through subtle means such as fishing for compliments or playing the victim.
  10. Shifting Self-Image: They may have a fluctuating sense of self, adapting their behavior and personality to suit different situations or individuals, making it difficult to pinpoint their true identity.

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Covert vs Overt Narcissist

Covert and overt narcissism are two different presentations of narcissistic personality traits. Here’s a comparison between covert and overt narcissists:

Covert Narcissist:

  1. Behavior: tend to display more introverted and reserved behaviors. They may appear modest, shy, or self-sacrificing, masking their narcissistic traits behind a façade of humility.
  2. Validation Seeking: They have an intense need for validation and admiration but may seek it more subtly. They may fish for compliments, play the victim, or manipulate others emotionally to get the attention and reassurance they crave.
  3. Manipulation Style: They often use covert and indirect tactics to manipulate others. They may employ guilt-tripping, silent treatment, or passive-aggressive behaviors to control and influence people in their lives.
  4. Fragile Self-Esteem: Despite their outward modesty, they have fragile self-esteem and are highly sensitive to criticism or perceived slights. They may respond defensively or with self-pity when their self-worth is challenged.
  5. Awareness: Often less aware of their narcissistic tendencies compared to overt narcissists. They may genuinely believe they are humble and selfless, making it harder to recognize their behavior patterns.

Overt Narcissist:

  1. Behavior: Overt narcissists exhibit more extroverted and attention-seeking behaviors. They openly display their grandiosity, seeking admiration and attention from others. They often believe they are superior and entitled to special treatment.
  2. Validation Seeking: Overt narcissists are more overt in their pursuit of validation and admiration. They may brag about their achievements, exaggerate their abilities, and seek constant attention and praise to feed their ego.
  3. Manipulation Style: Overt narcissists use overt and aggressive tactics to manipulate others. They may engage in bullying, intimidation, or direct coercion to maintain control and dominance in relationships.
  4. Strong Self-Image: Overt narcissists have a more stable and inflated sense of self. They have a high level of self-confidence and may openly express their superiority and accomplishments, often disregarding the feelings and needs of others.
  5. Awareness: Overt narcissists are often more aware of their narcissistic tendencies and may even exhibit a sense of pride in their narcissistic behavior. They may see it as a desirable trait rather than a flaw.

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We Level Up Washington Covert Narcissist Treatment Center

Do the research and contact mental health specialists or directories and websites that provide local treatment clinics for narcissistic personality disorder or comparable disorders. They may recommend therapy depending on your requirements and location.

Treating covert narcissism typically involves a comprehensive approach focusing on individual therapy, self-reflection, and developing healthier thinking and behavior patterns. Here are some common treatment approaches that may be utilized:

  1. Psychotherapy: Individual therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be beneficial in helping covert narcissists gain insight into their behaviors, address underlying insecurities, and develop healthier coping strategies. Therapy may also focus on enhancing empathy, building self-esteem, and fostering healthier relationships.
  2. Mindfulness and Self-Awareness: Practices like mindfulness meditation can help covert narcissists develop greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, and empathy toward others. By cultivating present-moment awareness, individuals can recognize their narcissistic tendencies and work towards modifying their behavior.
  3. Boundary Setting: Learning healthy boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others is crucial for covert narcissists. Therapy can help individuals understand appropriate boundaries and practice effective communication skills to enhance relationships and reduce manipulative behaviors.
  4. Addressing Core Wounds: Covert narcissism often stems from underlying emotional wounds or childhood experiences. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore and process these core wounds, helping individuals heal and develop healthier perspectives about themselves and others.
  5. Group Therapy or Support Groups: Participating in group therapy or support groups specifically focused on narcissism can provide a sense of validation, support, and accountability. It allows individuals to connect with others who have similar experiences and work together toward personal growth and change.
  6. Medication (if necessary): In some cases, individuals with covert narcissism may also have co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Medication may be prescribed to address these conditions and support overall well-being if appropriate.

Seeking guidance from a qualified mental health professional specializing in personality disorders is essential for developing an effective treatment plan.

  1. What is the covert passive-aggressive narcissist?

    A covert passive-aggressive narcissist displays subtle aggression and manipulation while maintaining a façade of modesty and victimhood.

  2. What is a covert narcissist?

    Covert narcissist exhibits narcissistic traits but tends to present themselves as modest, shy, or self-sacrificing, masking their self-centeredness and need for validation.

  3. Am I a covert narcissist?

    If you have concerns about your behavior or suspect you may have narcissistic tendencies, it is best to consult a mental health professional for an accurate evaluation.

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Search We Level Up WA Mental Health Covert Narcissist Topics & Resources
  1. Brunell AB, et al. (2018). Are narcissists more attracted to people in relationships than to people not in relationships?
  2. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR). (2022). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association Publishing.
  3. Fatfouta R, et al. (2021). Are individualistic societies really more narcissistic than collectivistic ones? A five-world region cross-cultural re-examination of narcissism and its facets.
  4. Kacel EL, et al. (2017). Narcissistic personality disorder in clinical health psychology practice: Case studies of comorbid psychological distress and life-limiting illness.
  5. Rose AB, et al. (2015). Narcissistic patients: Understanding and managing feelings and behaviors.
  6. Wright AGC, et al. (2017). The effect of pathological narcissism on interpersonal and affective processes in social interactions.
  7. Yakeley J. (2018). Current understanding of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder.

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