But many survivors don’t expect the narcissist to threaten suicide if they won’t come back or do what they want. This is one of the most egregious ways a narcissist can emotionally blackmail you. That could be why the biggest question I hear from survivors who have had a narcissist threaten suicide is, “would they really do it, or are they just manipulating me?”.
Do narcissists commit suicide?
The short answer is yes, but probably not. Let me explain. There is a long-lasting debate on whether NPD is associated with suicide or not. It’s important to remember that narcissistic personality disorder is not a mental health issue but a personality disorder. It is an enduring pattern of maladaptive behavior and traits that can coexist with other mental health issues such as depression, bipolar, or substance abuse.
I’ve had a few clients over the years who were dealing with the confusing emotions about a narcissist who had taken their own lives. That said, it’s a relatively rare occurrence. For the most part, narcissists are afraid of death. On some level, the more grandiose types seem to believe they are immortal, especially in their youth. Most cannot imagine the possibility of their own death.
In at least a couple of the cases I dealt with my clients on, it seemed that the narcissist had committed suicide almost to spite or hurt their partners. In contrast, it appeared the narcissist had done it in one case because he’d come to the end of the road with his lies and manipulation and would be held legally accountable otherwise. In all cases, it was clear that they never once concerned themselves with how this would affect their partners long-term.
Are narcissists more likely than others to commit suicide?
Research tells us that people who suffer from narcissism are no more likely to commit suicide than anyone else. But, unfortunately, while they’re less likely to have a failed attempt, they’re more likely to succeed if and when they try.
“While there was no bivariate relationship of NPD on suicide attempt, in the logistic regression patients with NPD were 2.4 times less likely to make a suicide attempt, compared with non-NPD patients and controlling for possible confounding variables,” study authors said, adding that, while the topic is understudied, “The modest body of existing research suggests that NPD is protective against non-fatal suicide attempts, but is associated with high lethality attempts.”
“Another study found that depressed older adults with narcissistic personalities were at increased suicide risk (Heisel et al., 2007). It has been observed that patients with NPD can be at elevated suicide risk not only during periods when they are depressed but also during periods when they are not suffering from depression (Ronningstam & Maltsberger 1998).”
Are some narcissists at a higher risk for suicide than others?
Among the narcissistic personality disorder-affected study subjects, the researchers noted that those who attempted or succeeded in suicide were “more likely to be male, to have a substance use disorder, and to have high aggression and hostility scores…The lower impulsivity of NPD patients and less severe personality pathology relative to other personality disorders may contribute to this effect.”
So, men who have NPD along with a drug or alcohol addiction who are also aggressive and hostile toward the people in their lives are MORE likely to commit suicide than other narcissists.
What causes narcissists to commit suicide?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder that causes people to have an inflated sense of their importance and a deep need for admiration and validation. This means that narcissists can become highly vulnerable to painful feelings of shame, humiliation, and defeat when criticized or rejected. This shame, along with the underdeveloped self-esteem that narcissists possess, can lead them to suicidal threats and even suicide attempts when they are let down or even when they are being humiliated in front of others.
There are many other causes of suicide, and some of them are related to mental health problems like depression or bipolar disorder. However, there are also other psychological factors involved in this phenomenon, such as low self-esteem, history of suicide attempts, and family history of suicide.
What do you do if a narcissist threatens suicide?
Sometimes, narcissists make threats of suicide as a scare tactic. It’s a way for them to further manipulate the people around them. In this situation, it’s essential not to take the threats lightly, but it’s also crucial not to be intimidated by them. For the sake of your well-being and safety, it is best to stay calm and disengaged when your narcissist threatens suicide. Either way, remember that even if they attempt to kill themselves, they are still actively trying to manipulate you.
Stay Calm and Assess the Situation
You have a few options when dealing with a narcissist’s suicide threat. First, if it’s clear that the person intends to take their own life and can follow through, consider contacting the police immediately.
First, take a deep breath and ask yourself how capable the narcissist is of killing themselves – do they have the means and ability to take such a significant action? Remember that narcissists are excellent at making threats but not at following through. That said, remember too that it’s entirely possible that the narcissist might actually attempt suicide and that if they succeed, you might end up (unfairly) blaming yourself.
Contact the Authorities
My suggestion is to go ahead and contact the police and let them know what the narcissist is saying. Then, they can go over and do a wellness check on the narcissist. While this might feel extreme, it can not only prevent suicide but also remove any responsibility you may feel you have. You can also, if appropriate, tell the narcissist you’re sending the authorities – but please consider this carefully as it may cause them to expedite any efforts toward suicide.
Give the Narcissist Resources and Information
You can offer the narcissist the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.*
Say something like, “I’m sorry you’re struggling, but I am not sure I’m qualified to help you. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-8255. They’re available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and their services are free. If your life is in imminent danger, call 911 or go directly to an emergency room.”
Bear in mind that narcissists are good at manipulating others, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll listen to reason from someone else either – but you should also remember that they are no longer your responsibility and that their behavior is NOT your fault – no matter how much they try to make you take responsibility for it.
Other options include encouraging them to seek psychiatric help or getting them to agree to stay with a family member or friend until they feel better. If you know them well, you could even contact the narcissist’s friend or family member and let them take it from there.
In any case, please do NOT risk your safety (mental or physical) by going back to the narcissist to prevent their suicide. This can not only endanger you, but it might be nearly impossible to get away from them again – especially once they know that this kind of exploitative emotional blackmail has been an effective way to manipulate YOU.
Narcissists and Suicide: Resources & Information
*Note this recent announcement from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The Lifeline and 988 – 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While some areas may be currently able to connect to the Lifeline by dialing 988, this dialing code will be available to everyone across the United States starting on July 16, 2022.
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Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery and some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next phase of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
Did someone tell you that narcissists are demons from hell? More importantly, did you believe them? Do you think that the apparently evil and painfully destructive behavior exhibited by someone in your life is the result of demonic possession?
If you’ve ever considered the possibility that a narcissist might be an innocent person who has been possessed by an ugly, malignant demon from hell, and you’re looking for advice on how you can go about exorcising those so-called demons – stick around. I hope I will be able to help you understand what’s going on and how to deal. But first, we have to answer the question at hand.
Are narcissists really just people who have been demonically possessed? I’ve heard this question asked more than once, and in many iterations, and based on my own opinions, experiences, and research, the short answer is “no.”
The more detailed answer is based on an alternative perspective that narcissism is part of the human condition and can be defined through a more scientific lens and that, for the most part, it is developed in childhood, starting as early as the moment you’re born. Let me explain.
Are these demonic behaviors?
Depending on your personal beliefs and whether you’re reading this article from a literal or metaphorical perspective, you might feel bothered by one or both of these perspectives. Still, I thought it was important to note both points of view here. So please consider the following perspectives with an open mind.
POV: Narcissists are evil, demonic creatures from hell.
Or, at least possessed by one. Narcissists can be mercilessly horribly mean to you, to the point that you can literally feel like they’re crushing your soul, right? You have to wonder how they could be anything else? No human is capable of this level of remorselessness, are they?
And if you really consider this from the perspective that narcissists are possessed by demons, then you have to ask yourself how they could possibly be responsible for their behaviors.
What purpose might the demon have for your torment?
Why YOU? You might be finding all kinds of reasons for your torment in your mind; things that God has apparently done to you or sent your way because you were bad, or not good enough anyway, and which you deserve as punishment. You might be even living your life with the expectation that you’re going to remain that way forever – marked, ruined, not enough, too much – whatever. But what if you could consider an alternative perspective?
POV: The seed of pathological narcissism is planted early in childhood.
From this perspective, I’d like to propose that these behaviors are less demonic and more indicative of their own psychology, most often developed early in childhood.
Narcissism can be a direct result of attachment style.
So, from this perspective, starting the day you’re born, your core psychology and personality development begin and will depend at least partially on how your first few hours and days with your birth mother go. There are various theories on this, and some scientists insist that while a healthy attachment style can be developed when the birth mother isn’t present or able to emotionally connect with the baby, it can be more complicated. Others agree that unless the experience is especially traumatic, it could be repairable but only with the right kinds of therapy and self-work. (To be fair, most narcissists won’t even attempt the work required, much less accomplish it.)
Why should you care about what causes narcissism to develop?
I always find that if I can understand the mechanics and the basic logical structure of why someone is behaving in any given way, then I can logically deduce WHY they treated me that way, or acted like that, or did some other thing that directly affected me, directly or otherwise.
For most of us, understanding how a person’s behaviors are connected directly to their childhood and upbringing might help us arrive at the logical decision that we’re not cursed by God or being attacked by a demonic spirit.
Instead, we’re dealing with a damaged, broken person who, no matter how much we’re willing to give up to help them and fix them somehow, we will never be able to save.
Can narcissism be cured?
I think narcissism could be healed in theory. But in reality, I honestly believe it’s highly unlikely that a narcissist could successfully stop being a narcissist. It would begin by obtaining a qualified therapist, the narcissist must, with an open mind and genuine willingness, be willing to commit to intensive, psychosocial therapy in which they work with a therapist to learn how to:
CHOOSE to change of their own volition, and do a lot of deep therapeutic work with a qualified therapist to uncover the trauma that caused their disorder.
Unpack, work through and process their emotional and psychological baggage in order to overcome their core wound and heal.
THEN, work on habit-changing and behavior modification, plus consider meditation, coaching, and/or relearning on how to live and behave from the perspective of a decent human being who has genuine emotional and compassionate empathy.
So, while it’s theoretically possible, I’ve never seen it happen, nor heard an accurate account of it having happened, narcissists seem to have a really hard time creating any meaningful change in their behavior.
How does insecure attachment lead to narcissistic abuse?
Narcissists are insecurely attached. They frequently switch between idealizing and devaluing their romantic partners and they are often unable to empathize with others. This pattern of behavior suggests that the narcissist’s personality is organized around an insecure attachment style, often called “anxious-ambivalent” by attachment theorists.
Here’s how this works:
Insecurely-attached people tend to feel uncomfortable in relationships because they are never quite sure if their partner will abandon them.
This uneasiness stems from the fact that they have trouble trusting that their partner really cares about them, so they monitor their partner’s behavior for signs of emotional betrayal. But this monitoring comes at a price: it means that the insecurely-attached person has less time to focus on his or her own emotional needs and less emotional energy to spend on other people.
This can lead to a vicious cycle of self-absorption, fear of abandonment, and further withdrawal from the relationship.
It can also lead to a perverse sense of entitlement, along with the expectation that one partner should meet all of the other’s needs while giving nothing in return – which is part of why narcissists can be so abusive towards their romantic partners.
In a nutshell, narcissists are insecurely attached because they were raised by emotionally distant parents. Narcissism is the emotional defense of choice for people who have learned to associate love with pain. The goal of narcissistic abuse is to control, manipulate and dominate another person by any means necessary.
This is what happens when you respond to hurt with more hurt. The narcissist makes you feel small so they can feel better about themselves. When you react by pulling away, the narcissist finds another way to keep hold of you through triangulation or manipulation. When you react by confronting her, she gaslights you into believing that everything is your fault. Remember: Narcissistic abuse is not personal; it’s a reflection of how the abuser feels about himself or herself.
Why do narcissists have so many failed relationships?
If you think about the typical narcissistic abuse pattern, it’s pretty easy to expect that they have or will eventually have a history of failed relationships, romantic and otherwise.
When they’re in love bombing mode (also called the idealization stage), you will notice narcissists develop a knack for saying what is on your mind before you can say it – you start feeling pretty sure they’re meant for you. Your one true soulmate, you hope.
As they get to know you, narcissists seem to develop a sophisticated way of keeping you (and anyone else they victimize) off-balance and confused. This helps them play on those emotions, without remorse, and to twist your personality and really your entire reality into a grayed-out shell of what it could be. All of this in the name of serving their own needs.
Worse, when those who they victimize can’t leave as soon as we want to, we end up being emotionally traumatized and psychologically damaged. And while it would be easy to say that narcissists are drama-filled demons from hell, the truth is that they’re just humans who, like us, have been deeply affected by the traumatic events in their lives.
They, like all of us, want to be loved and accepted and to belong somewhere. But deep down, they are well-aware of their flaws, at least on a subconscious level. This leads them to believe that they’re broken, flawed, or otherwise not good enough. Just like you and me, they also often suffered trauma that destroyed the person they might have been – but while you may have become a people-pleasing codependent, the same kinds of trauma might have led to their personality disorder.
If we take a closer look at the lives of relationally avoidant people, we can see that their role models and parental figures in childhood were selfish and hurtful. They were either exploited by others or neglected in favor of the other parent. This childhood experience leaves them with deep emotional wounds, which make them feel unloved and unworthy.
Should you pity your narcissistic spouse?
Ultimately, there’s a pretty big chance that if you’ve found yourself entangled with a narcissist in a toxic marriage, you’ve had your share of childhood trauma too. If you’re starting to pity the narcissist at this point, you might also be feeling guilty for any and every questionable thing you did, said, thought, or felt in the relationship.
Or, you might be considering relenting and/or begging them to forgive you. But don’t feel sorry for them just yet; despite the fact that narcissists are human (not demons as some well-meaning gurus claim), they behave in ways that make them seem positively evil.
If you’re a little further along in your narcissistic abuse recovery, you might be well-aware of the fact that there is a certain amount of choice involved in the way a person chooses to treat the people closest to them, at least on some level, in any conscious person who is relatively functional in society. Remember that there is a certain amount of choice involved in the way a person chooses to treat the people closest to them, at least on some level, in any conscious person who is relatively functional in society.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
This new space offers a new platform for survivors of narcissistic abuse to connect and to get answers to their questions related to their toxic relationships, the psychology related to their own struggles along with the psychology and makeup of the toxic people in their lives. It is a place where we collect, curate, and create a comprehensive collection of the best questions and answers on narcissism, narcissistic abuse, narcissistic abuse recovery, and all of the related topics. Additionally, the Decoding Narcissism Quora Space offers support from our narcissistic abuse recovery experts, coaches, and support team, along with fellow survivors of narcissistic abuse.
What is Quora?
In case you aren’t familiar with it, Quora is a popular interactive Q&A site that also offers a really solid app for your favorite device. Here is a bit more information from Quora’s about page:
Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge. A vast amount of the knowledge that would be valuable to many people is currently only available to a few — either locked in people’s heads, or only accessible to select groups. We want to connect the people who have knowledge to the people who need it, to bring together people with different perspectives so they can understand each other better, and to empower everyone to share their knowledge for the benefit of the rest of the world.
How It Works
Our Quora Space offers a simple and easy place to ask and answer questions related to narcissism, narcissistic abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, psychology, codependency, and other related topics. To join, just join and/or sign in to Quora and go directly to our Quora Space, Decoding Narcissism.
Is the Decoding Narcissism Space a Support Group?
While there is a support element since you can ask questions and get answers, our Quora Space cannot be considered a support group as it is not private and is focused more on knowledge and information than emotional support.
Please note: This is space is public and questions cannot be made private. We suggest that you use a pseudonym if you want to hide your identity on this site. Unlike our other support groups, you are not required to apply for membership and your questions and answers can be seen by anyone. Still, you are also welcome to just join and follow the space so you can keep up with the latest in decoding narcissism.
Prefer a private online narcissistic abuse recovery support group?
What can you expect when you join Decoding Narcissism on Quora?
Quora offers a clean, simple interface that can not only be easily used on your computer but your favorite device as well. It is super-easy to search and find what you want to know, and if for some reason your specific question isn’t already on Quora, you can just add it and get the answers you need. PLUS: if you feel so inclined, you can answer questions asked by others.
A male narcissist I used to know once admitted something to me that left me a little shocked: he said that whenever he felt like he was being shown up in a conversation, he would quickly change the subject. He would start talking about something he knew he could use against them – something that could hurt that person. It was his way to sort of take back the attention or “win” the conversation. I found this admission shockingly insightful and sadly stereotypical of narcissists in general.
Karpman Drama Triangle and Narcissistic Manipulation
Let’s talk about the Karpman drama triangle, what it is, how narcissists use it against you, and what you can do to cope.
We all know that narcissists love to create trouble and drama in the lives of the people around them. They enjoy watching you squirm in the wake of their emotional destruction because it makes them feel like they’re able to control and manipulate you. They twist things to their own advantage, and this is true whether we are talking about someone you work with or someone with whom you’re in a romantic relationship. It’s even true for your parents if they’re narcissistic.
Narcissists are odd in that they crave your attention, even though as far as you can tell, they don’t seem to like you very much. While the level of attention they require might vary from person to person, and depending on what type of narcissist they are, in most cases, they are happy when they have the spotlight. Ths is true whether they’re getting attention for positive or negative reasons, unfortunately.
At times, the narcissist will intentionally create drama in order to get you to react to them. Your reaction offers them narcissistic supply. Of course, there are times that they’ll be kind to you one minute and cruel the next. They suddenly become someone you don’t recognize – that whole Jekyll & Hyde thing.
What is the Drama Triangle?
The drama triangle is a concept first documented by Dr. Stephen Karpman back in the 1960s. At its most basic level, the drama triangle outlines three different roles, including the victim, the persecutor, and the rescuer.
Here’s another area where narcissists are especially interesting – at any given moment, they can and will play any of these three roles interchangeably as it serves them to do so. That means that you’ll never know exactly which role they’re going to play in any given moment. It means you don’t know what to expect from them. And, since you’re so used to walking on eggshells, you might not even really know how to respond at all.
All three roles will exhaust you, but the narcissist will find them strangely exhilarating. The entire dynamic of this kind of drama is incredibly toxic. Whether you’re healthy, you’re codependent or you’re a narcissist, it can be difficult to get out of the cycle once you’re in it. Certainly, you will feel the need to escape, but you won’t always feel like you can do that – and this is especially true when there is a narcissist involved.
Most narcissists have a tendency to hold onto drama and negativity like a dog with a bone. This is demonstrated in the Karpman drama triangle.
Karpman Drama Triangle: Definition of Roles
The victim will see the situation at hand as though everything is happening to them. They will feel helpless and like they have no power. They think they have no ability to change their own circumstances. They need someone to rescue them. They desperately want validation of the fact that their problem is unsolvable, and they are not looking for actual solutions. They just want you to feel sorry for them.
The Rescuer seems like they really do want to help the victim feel better, do better, and solve the problem at hand. But what you’re really dealing with here is someone who is acting as if they want to help, but who is really more concerned about everyone being aware of the fact that they are rescuing the victim. The narcissist plays this role because it gives them plenty of attention and narcissistic supply. Unfortunately, they’re not always actually helping – rather, they’re putting on the mask of a helper in order to get attention.
So within Karpman’s drama triangle, the rescuer position is always held by someone who is letting people know they’re trying to help, but they’re really there for that attention. By being the rescuer, the narcissist also holds a certain amount of power over you. Anytime they do (or promise to) solve a problem for you, it will be done with strings attached. This way, the narcissist gets even more benefit from the situation.
The role of the rescuer seems to focus on the anxiety of the victim. It is problem-focused, rather than solution-focused. It is specifically geared at keeping you powerless and preventing you from getting your needs met. It keeps you from actually getting the solution to your problem, so while you might initially feel relief when the offer of help comes through, it’ll be short-lived.
The Persecutor could be a person or even a situation that is actually causing the problem to the victim in the triangle.
How to Deal with the Karpman Drama Triangle When a Narcissist is Involved
Your primary goal is to get out of the triangle, so that begins with awareness – being aware that it’s happening and that you’ve become involved. Then, you have to recognize your own role in the triangle, which in most cases, you chose or were assigned without realizing it.
Often, as codependents and narcissistic abuse survivors we all into one of these roles unintentionally. Most likely, we do this because we have experienced this ongoing cycle throughout our lives, often beginning in childhood. It’s like an old habit, almost.
The drama triangle will leave you feeling confused and lost.
Once you’ve gone through the idealization or love-bombing phase of a relationship with a toxic narcissist and you’re in the devalue phase, you’ll find yourself spinning into one of these situations. You’ll have no idea what you did to deserve this or what you’ve done wrong, so you’re always trying to get back to what you thought the relationship was in the beginning. When you can’t, you blame yourself – because as far as you know, you might be the problem. You don’t know that you’re dealing with a narcissist (until you do), so you just think you’ve done something to upset or anger them.
Karpman Drama Triangle and Narcissist Manipulation Tactics
The narcissist uses certain tactics around the drama triangle, such as guilt-tripping and even pretending they’re going to save you, but then persecuting you for actually asking for help. They might also act like they’re your victim and that somehow you’ve negatively affected them by needing help.
All of this is then combined with the intermittent reinforcement that keeps us hooked on the narcissist – alternating verbal abuse and praise, comfort alternating with tearing down and devaluing you. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself making excuses for the narcissist’s behavior.
When I was younger, I had a thing for a certain type of guy. I was seriously into these “dark and disturbed” types. The rebel without a cause. The guy who wrote poetry, who was probably a starving artist of some kind, and who hated the whole world and like 99 percent of the people in it. He would always have some cause he was super passionate about, and often called people “zombies” or “sheep.” He wasn’t super friendly and being the codependent I was, I would take pleasure in finding this kind of guy in dark corners of parties or other gatherings, and sort making it my mission to get inside his head and make him like me. We would end up having these deep, intellectual, and philosophical conversations that left me feeling like I’d had some sort of religious experience. I’d always be all googly-eyed, thinking that he “saw me” and that we were connecting on some deep level. The only thing was that after an initial couple of meetings, I’d always be left feeling like I’d been duped, but I couldn’t quite figure out why.
Do you know a covert narcissist?
Can you relate? Let me ask you: Have you ever met someone who seemed to be sort of an introvert – they might have been a little shy, and might have even talked about how they were a highly sensitive person or even an empath, but the more you got to know them, they also seemed to kind of show a weird sense of selfishness and low-key egocentricity?
If so, you might have been dealing with a covert narcissist. This is what we call someone who is sort of an “incognito” narcissist. They might act like an introvert as far as most people can tell. People who don’t live with them might even assume they ARE an introvert – just a little shy, maybe a bit too sensitive.
So, how can you tell someone is a covert narcissist? What are the signs and how are they different from introverts and “regular,” more overt narcissists? Do you know how to identify covert narcissism? What are the traits you will see in a covert narcissist?
You might also hear covert narcissists being referred to as vulnerable narcissists, closet narcissists, and introverted narcissists. This is likely due to the fact that they don’t appear to have much self-confidence, as opposed to their overt counterparts. They are the eternal damsel in distress or the martyrs of some oh-so-noble cause.
What is covert narcissism?
Covert narcissism is a term coined by psychotherapist Dr. Karen Horney for individuals who are driven by the desire to be admired. This is a state of being characterized by deep-seated feelings of shame, low self-esteem, and feelings of personal inadequacy. These individuals are often driven by an unconscious fear that they are inadequate or inferior to others. They use charm, manipulation, and intimidation to make themselves feel better, but ultimately they have no real sense of self-worth or unconditional love for themselves, which results in unstable self-concepts and emotional outbursts when frustrated.
What is a Covert Narcissist?
In layman’s terms, a covert narcissist is someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (or might, if they’d ever go see a psychologist for a diagnosis), but who doesn’t seem to have the obvious grandiosity factor. Covert narcissists exhibit a very subtle, but equally toxic form of narcissism that is exhibited by someone with a more introverted personality. It’s characterized by grandiose fantasies and thoughts, perception of entitlement, and a general sentiment of being better than others.
What are the traits of a covert narcissist?
Covert narcissists are known to have an inflated sense of their own self-importance, an extreme need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others. Instead of being more concerned with themselves like grandiose narcissists, covert narcissists tend to focus their attention on how other people feel about them.
Covert narcissists often:
1. Are highly sensitive to rejection.
The main trait of a covert narcissist is being highly sensitive to rejection and criticism. This sensitivity leads them to develop a false self, which is used as a shield against potential disapproval and hurt feelings. The false self is easygoing and agreeable but also timid and agreeable — qualities that make others feel safe and secure around them while also making it difficult for them to express their true thoughts or feelings because of fear of rejection.
2. Are great actors.
They can be charming when it suits their needs; this enables them to take advantage of other people without remorse. They can also pretend to be humble and modest when it serves them to do so.
3. Are hypersensitive.
They’re quick to feel slighted or insulted because they hold unrealistic expectations for how others should treat them — as if anyone could ever live up to their grandiose self-image!
4. Are arrogant and boastful.
Their need for adulation prompts them to exaggerate their talents and achievements; they may even lie just to be able to say they’ve done something impressive or noteworthy in their lives. They want to be liked and admired by others, but this desire stems from a belief that they are superior. Covert narcissists believe that they are superior, but they don’t want others to know it.
5. Live with impostor syndrome.
In other words, they fear being exposed as a fraud. As a result, they try to hide their true nature, covering it up with a cloak of meekness and humility. For this reason, it is much easier for other people to take advantage of them than it is with overt narcissists who have no reason or desire to hide their grandiosity.
6. Have fragile egos.
The high standards they set for themselves and others make them prone to feeling humiliated and rejected, so they protect themselves by developing a cold, callous exterior.
Other traits of a covert narcissist include:
A deep need for attention and admiration
Subtly manipulative behaviors and attempts to one-up others
A tendency to display arrogance and a belief that he or she deserves special treatment
An inflated sense of importance, power, and knowledge; exaggerated opinions about their talents and abilities
Why are covert narcissists more difficult to identify?
Someone who is affected by covert narcissism might be harder to detect because they don’t always seem to act as self-important as the more overt or grandiose narcissist. They don’t appear to feel like they’re better than everyone – at least not before you know them well. They appear to be vulnerable and oversensitive, which will often manifest in their behavior as hostility and defensiveness. They will be the one who is quietly looking down their nose at you, judging you and everyone else around them harshly and often unfairly. It might help to understand the similarities and differences between covert narcissists and grandiose or overt narcissists.
Covert Narcissist vs. Grandiose Narcissist: The Similarities
They do have a few things in common with overt narcissists, including:
But how does a covert narcissist differ from an overt narcissist?
Covert Narcissist vs. Grandiose Narcissist: The Differences
Unlike the grandiose narcissist, the covert narcissist will not necessarily display narcissistic behavior that is immediately recognizable. You might even think they’re an empath because they seem so modest, so sensitive and so very unsure of themselves.
While they will have the standard grandiose fantasies for their life – all of which are sure to be unrealistic and self-centered, not to mention ridiculously over-inflated, they will believe that their dreams are unrealistic and unattainable. They will blame the world for somehow holding them back, but secretly believe they are a fraud. You see a lot of “imposter syndrome” in people like this.
Ironically, the covert narcissist will even feel guilty for wanting what they want, and somehow this inner conflict leads them to suppress most of their true feelings.
This leads to the inevitable for a covert narcissist: their inner conflict translates into outer behavior, such as:
Being unacceptably aggressive when it comes to getting what they want
Covert Narcissists and Narcissistic Injury
Ever heard of the “poor me game?” It was likely first played by a covert narcissist. After all, the average covert narcissist spends a lot of time feeling sorry for themselves. They practically invented narcissistic injury. But why do they do this? Why does the “vulnerable narcissist” play the “poor me” game so well?
It all comes down to one thing: covert narcissists hate themselves. In fact, they seem to believe that it is possible to hate yourself BETTER.
Though they continue to demonstrate the behavior they loathe, the covert narcissist is powerless to control their thoughts – and their deep inner conscience is NOT okay with the person they are (or have become).
Covert Narcissists Openly Criticize Themselves
Unlike their more overt counterparts, covert narcissists actually judge themselves more harshly than anyone judges them. And on a deep level, more harshly than they judge other people (at least those outside of his immediate inner circle).
Covert Narcissists Have ‘Quietly High,’ Unreasonable Standards
Either way, while they seem to be outwardly unconcerned with the world, they certainly have quietly high standards for their lives. But these may be outside of “normal” high standards. For example, the covert narcissist might be broke, but he might claim that this is because he doesn’t believe in capitalism, and then he will feel superior to anyone who he considers a sort of “servant to their jobs” or who wants and obtains things of monetary value.
So, they will quietly stick to this unreasonable standard to the best of their abilities, happy to secretly look down their nose at the people they deem “lesser” or otherwise inferior to themselves.
An Example of Typical Covert Narcissistic Behavior
For example, let’s say the covert narcissist is a passionate but broke musician who plays exclusively in basements and backrooms, and who does so because they claim they want to stay true to their art and they don’t want to “sell out.” And one evening after a gig, a record executive comes up to them and asks if they have a demo because they think they might be able to get a recording contract. The covert narcissist at that moment is likely to jump at this opportunity – because who doesn’t want a chance to be rich and famous?
But then, once they take the time to put together a demo and send it to the record exec, the guy either never respond or realizes he was more intoxicated than he thought that night and tells the narcissist that the deal is off. This sends the narcissist into a spiral of self-loathing.
And, of course, anytime the covert narcissist fails to meet these so-called “standards” and behaves in any way that their inner critic deems bad or not desirable (by, in this case, agreeing to “sell out” and sending the demo, rather than snubbing the commercial industry that they’ve always claimed to hate), they’re back to square one: hating both themselves and the “zombies” or “sheep” who caused them to fall off-track.
Now, they hate the industry, and especially the music executives who they say always want to commercialize everything. They even justify their rejection by saying that the exec in question just didn’t get their music because it is somehow above their level of understanding.
Later, they might even make up stories about how they were offered a record deal and turned it down because they wanted to avoid becoming a sellout.
Why the Covert Narcissist Lives with Self-Hate: Distorted Self-Awareness
It all boils down to one thing: a covert narcissist understands on some level that their self-inflating ideas are not quite realistic – at least on some level. So, though they continue to have narcissistic thoughts and even occasional external behaviors, they are always holding themselves to a very high standard. They spend their lives competing with the one person they’ll never be able to beat: themselves – or some version of that.
At the same time, they are incapable of openly accepting blame or responsibility for anything that isn’t positive, and in fact they relate any such admission to weakness and “badness” of other people – which, most likely, is because of the angry kind of envy that psychologists say is involved in the creation of any narcissistic behavior.
The Covert Narcissist is a Perpetual Victim
The covert narcissist is often mistaken for an introvert or a shy person because to the untrained eye, they appear to be a pushover who is generally unassertive. They see themselves (and others see them) as victims or as people who aren’t able to obtain what they should have or deserve. People who don’t really know them may say things like, “oh, they’re just a big teddy bear” or “oh, their bark is worse than their bite!”
They will also:
Have outrageously adolescent daydreams about being a big famous something-or-other
Have feelings of being worthless, countered by feelings of being different, separate or “better” than other people
Have a somewhat questionable grip on reality, leading to personal guilt and self-hate.
Claim to be “a little OCD”
Call themselves a perfectionist
What do you think? Any of that sound familiar to you?
Are you concerned that you might be a covert narcissist?
Question of the Day: Have you ever met a covert narcissist? How could you tell? What characteristics do you think most clearly identify the covert narc? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below this video.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
Let’s begin today by briefly defining narcissistic abuse. In a nutshell, narcissistic abuse is officially defined as the intentional construction of a false perception of someone else’s reality by an abuser for the purposes of controlling them. It involves a sort of constructed reality in which the narcissist manipulates you emotionally and psychologically over a long period of time.
It can be difficult to figure out that you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse because it can be very subtle and pervasive. It took me personally 35 years to recognize it. So how do you know if it’s happening to you? Well, I’m here to help you with that. Please grab a pen and a piece of paper, or open up a note on your phone. As you read through the signs that you’re a victim of narcissistic abuse, go ahead and make a tick mark for each one that resonates with you.