Not many people know this, but there are different kinds of narcissism, out of which covert and grandiose narcissism are two of the most well-known out there.
One of the most challenging concepts about narcissism is its many different facets. Much like its fellow Cluster B afflictions of antisocial, borderline, and histrionic personality disorders, narcissistic personality disorder is a notoriously difficult condition to diagnose.
The good news is that a diagnosis is not necessary to move on from an abusive partner and begin the work of personal healing. Identifying the traits of a narcissistic individual and learning how to respond and protect oneself is far more likely and possible than achieving a full-blown clinical diagnosis. Sadly, even if someone is diagnosed as a narcissist, change is extremely difficult. The term and label of “narcissist” should not be thrown around lightly, but it’s an unfortunate fact that the traits of narcissism are prevalent.
Narcissists are the chameleons of human nature. They can project the image of their choosing to fit into a variety of situations or social circles. For example, a typically dominant and aggressive person can present a broken and vulnerable persona if it means they will achieve their needs and wants. Gaining and maintaining control is the driving desire for any type of narcissist.
Personality theorists believe that narcissism can be broken down into two main types: covert/fragile narcissism and grandiose/malignant narcissism. The prominent personality traits are what differentiates a covert narcissist from a grandiose narcissist. These subtypes and accompanying traits can and do overlap, supporting the comparison to chameleons. However, by understanding the structure of the façades, one can learn to dismantle the threats and become immune to the abuse.
Both types of narcissism share core features of arrogance, lack of empathy, and a self-indulgent focus on the self. It is how those traits are expressed that identifies an individual as fragile or malignant. By identifying the characteristics that make up the narcissist’s structure, abused victims can prepare for how they might be treated.
Anticipation plays a major part in heightened anxiety as the mind and body are both in a constant state of preparing for a confrontation. By anticipating how the narcissist will act, you can not only cope with unnecessary stress but even protect yourself from future attacks.
Related: 7 Signs Of A Female Narcissist
These narcissists are the classic image and representation of the personality disorder: they are exploitative, adrenaline-seeking, and carry with them an intense air of entitlement wherever they go. These individuals have high self-esteem to disguise their self-hatred and aren’t afraid to show off or brag to keep up the charade. They are boastful, vain, and arrogant (“I can get any man I want.” I don’t need you, you need me!”).
Grandiose narcissists have low dependence on friends, family, or lovers and avoid true emotional closeness. These chameleons can give the appearance of a devoted spouse or attentive friend (think social media and photo accounts), but the focus of the relationship will always be solely on them.
Grandiose narcissists may depend on another person for a reason but never for an emotion beyond needs fulfillment. If a narcissist is in a relationship it is almost always for a self-serving reason: power, proper appearances, connections, or service the partner provides. Instead of the relationship consisting of equal give-and-take or shared support, the narcissist expects to be served and placated but will never feel sated.
As a result, the demands can increase exponentially, and the partner will begin to fall from favor and forever be scrambling to please. When the narcissist is not being treated exactly as they demand or the service stops producing the desired results, they will explosively react. A breakup will not derail a narcissist for long because they simply move on to their next victim or producer. The partner left behind, however, is the one left with a monumental mess to clean up and heal from.