Narcissism Unmasked – Part 2: The Many Faces of Narcissism: Overt & Covert Narcissists

The Many Faces of Narcissism: The Overt & Covert Narcissist

A pathological narcissist comes in various shapes and sizes, and can sometimes be difficult to spot, presenting himself or herself as the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing for quite a while, before being discovered. Other times, a toxic personality is outwardly apparent from the get-go. The purpose of this article is to clarify two types of narcissists: the overt and the covert

Overt narcissism is the most obvious of narcissistic personality disorders. The overt narcissist is arrogant, boastful, and demanding. This individual is an exhibitionist, and can be easily and deeply offended if not fed (i.e. ‘supplied’) energy and attention, as a result of receiving criticism or slights, either real or imagined. The overt narcissist has rage (far beyond normal anger), percolating very close to the surface, and will unleash that rage when not getting his or her way.

This individual is an exhibitionist, and can be easily and deeply offended if not fed (i.e. ‘supplied’) energy and attention

Overt narcissism manifests as grandiose behaviour, the demanding of special treatment, having to be known as the Most Valuable Player, the most successful in a particular field, the most intelligent, or the most aesthetically attractive. This individual needs to be recognized for his or her special abilities and uniqueness, believing that he or she is superior to others.

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An individual who has healthy narcissistic traits tends to have a high level of self-esteem and/or sense of self-worth and usually takes pleasure in his/her appearance, intellect, and achievements

Traits:

  • Compulsively attracts attention to himself, positive or negative, depending on motives

  • Projects entitlement, demands admiration and agreement, and without it, reacts with impatience or rage

  • Studies a room for the most vulnerable, and attacks to display his superiority

  • Is highly exploitative and ruthless in his quest for power and control

  • Views others as competitors to be defeated and humiliated

  • Ridicules, mocks, and denigrates others in a game of one-upmanship

 The covert narcissist is the ‘shy’ narcissist, but no less dangerous, and painful to become involved with. Unlike the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist lacks the manufactured confidence to present a grandiose false self to the world, so retreats to his inner world to live out his pathological fantasies.

The covert narcissist is usually depressed and withdrawn and often projects these feelings onto others in his or her life.

Compulsive liar in your life? This is one of the manipulation tactics that narcissists use.

This individual, like the overt narcissist, lacks a conscience and will project his or her damaged inner self onto others by lying, manipulating, withholding, and/or abandoning – using any and every tactic to get a reaction and to hurt those closest to him or her.Like the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist can explode, but it takes much more provocation. 

The covert narcissist, like the overt narcissist, lacks a conscience and will project his or her damaged inner self onto others by lying, manipulating, withholding, and/or abandoning 

The covert narcissist is often anxious, pessimistic, unmotivated, and blames his or her past for insecurities and inadequacies. He or she may be a great drain on a partner by being parasitical in using money, resources, and energy that he or she is not producing independently.

Insecurity and Exploitation: Covert Narcissism

Like the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist is highly exploitative and believes that he or she is entitled to take, but has very little interest in contributing, unless there is an ulterior motive attached. 

Traits:

  • Behaves passive-aggressively to get his or her way

  • Seeks out empathetic/caregiver personality types to exploit

  • Has delusions of victimization and persecution

  • Will stage a crisis and exaggerate suffering and sickness to garner sympathy

  • Has a long history of depression and anxiety

  • Externalizes blame and personal failures on ‘unfair’ people, institutions, and circumstances

Join me next month, when I explore how to identify the many faces of narcissism.

Dr. Debra Trevisan is a Clinical Psychologist with special interests in mood and anxiety disorders, insomnia, and personality disorders. Visit: www.drdebratrevisan.com, or Email me directly

Originally Published in the November 2018 edition of Village Living Magazine