Although most people are familiar with the pop culture version of narcissism—in which a person believes that the world revolves around them, and should be treated accordingly—it’s much more nuanced than that. In fact, there are different types of narcissism, including a version known as “covert narcissism.” Here’s what to know about it, and how to recognize the signs.
What is covert narcissism?
Unlike the overt variety, covert narcissism—also known as “vulnerable narcissism”—is harder to identify. That’s because covert narcissists internalize their feelings of self-importance and their need for attention.
“Covert narcissists are people who fly under the radar,” says Susan Albers, PsyD, a psychologist with the Cleveland Clinic. “Even if you’ve been in a relationship with someone for years, their covert narcissism may be so subtle that you’re not even aware of it for a very long time.”
Here are some of the signs that you have a covert narcissist in your life.
The signs of covert narcissism
Keep in mind that unless you are a qualified practicing psychologist or psychiatrist, you’re not in a position to diagnose yourself or anyone else with narcissistic personality disorder (or anything else). Having said that, here are a few of the traits common among covert narcissists, according to Albers:
- A lack of empathy.
- A need for excessive admiration.
- Not believing they’ve done anything wrong.
- Feeling as though no one understands them.
- A sense of entitlement.
- Surrounding themself with superficial relationships.
- Taking advantage of others for personal gain.
- Being resistant to change.
- Hyper-focusing on fantasies of grandeur.
How to cope with a covert narcissist
If it appears as though someone in your life may be a covert narcissist, and you’re finding their behavior challenging at times, here are some coping strategies from Albers:
- Establish healthy boundaries with them.
- Take a step back if you’re getting sucked in, emotionally.
- Speak up and stand up for yourself.
- Work with a therapist to learn new tools for dealing with the person.
And if you suspect that you might be a covert narcissist yourself, it’s probably time to talk to a mental health professional.
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