The Covert Narcissist: 12 Identifying Traits


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The Covert Narcissist

Most of us know what a narcissist looks like. We have seen them portrayed in movies and books as manipulative, attractive men or women who think and act like they are better than others. But not all narcissists are like this.

Covert narcissists are dangerous people who know how to hide their narcissistic traits in public and raise hell by controlling and manipulating your life in private.

“Covert narcissists are masters of disguise—successful actors, humanitarians, politicians, clergy members, and even psychotherapists—who are beloved and appreciated, but are secretly selfish, calculating, controlling, angry, and vindictive.” – Ross Rosenberg

No one would believe that the man who sits in church with his family every Sunday, is a monster behind closed doors with the family that looks so perfect on the outside.

No one would believe that the ‘doting’ mother cheering on her child in the school gala, had been yelling and belittling her daughter minutes beforehand.

Who would believe that the friendly local grocer who chats happily with his customers has been giving his wife the silent treatment and not acknowledged her existence in weeks?

Who would believe that the lovely charming ‘lady’ at the top of her profession, trampled on anyone who stood in her way on her rise to the top?

Read: Covert Verbal Abuse: Passive Aggressive Behavior That Aims to Control You

The closet narcissist is a great pretender, hiding who they really are with the expertise. The covert narcissist puts on such a convincing display of being a loving, kind person in public but to those who know them personally, to those closest to them, they are selfish, manipulative, exploitive and anything but the loving and kind person that they purport to be.

They know that if they displayed their true colors in public, they would lose the recognition, respect, and admiration that they so desperately crave. Perhaps their ability to fool the outside world makes this type of personality one of the most dangerous. They worry about being found out. They are deeply envious knowing that they can never be the person that others believe them to be.

The covert narcissist is a con artist who lacks the confidence of the covert narcissist. They need constant attention moving from one relationship to another in order to avoid being alone. Time spent alone often leads to depression when their needs are not being met. Narcissistic supply is vital to their well-being.

Your value in the narcissist’s life will depend on your usefulness. When you are no longer regarded as useful or you challenge them about who they really are, you will be cast aside without a second thought as if you never existed. Your reputation will have been discredited so that you will never be believed.

Scott Barry Kaufman (Psychologist) explains…

“While the overt narcissists tended to be aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have extreme delusions of grandeur and a need for attention, covert narcissists were more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution.”

Read: What Is A Covert Narcissist?

The traits of the covert narcissist can be obvious often being displayed quite openly but in contrast, the traits of the covert narcissist can be very difficult to spot.

Below are some signs that you may be dealing with a covert narcissist…

The Covert Narcissist info

1. Always plays the victim wanting your sympathy

2. Quiet Smugness/Superiority

3. Self-absorbed

4. Extreme selfishness

5. Constant craving for acknowledgment

6. Passive-aggressive

7. Judgmental and critical

8. Lacks empathy

9. Highly sensitive being unable to handle criticism

10. Difficulties with relationships

11. Gets bored easily

12. Switches off rather than listen intently to others

It can be difficult not to get sucked into a narcissist’s web of deceit and feel sorry for them when they play the victim card. The narcissist is looking for a reaction from you. Don’t feed the monster!

When they fail to get their desired reaction from you, they will take a step back and look for their supply elsewhere. Be aware of the traits before it’s too late and don’t let yourself be controlled by someone whose ultimate goal is to control not only your mind but your life.

“Covert Narcissists, like professional actors, are talented at pretending to be someone they are not. If people could see behind their charming and likable “masks” they wouldn’t be able to steal, exploit and manipulate their unsuspecting victims.” – Ross Rosenberg

Here’s an interesting video that you may find helpful:

Getting yourself free from the evil clutches of the covert narcissist can be very difficult as it will take you a lot of time to realize what they truly are: monsters in disguise. They will drain you emotionally, mentally, and physically and they will not let you even after they find a new target.

They may seem to support and help you, but they are only tricking you into believing that they want the best for you. When in reality all they want is to control you and your life, until and unless you walk away.

Written by Anne McCrea
(From Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon)

The Covert Narcissist: Angel On The Outside, Devil On The Inside
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  1. Ben Hemingway Avatar
    Ben Hemingway

    I’m in Cincinnati and been married twice. Both for over 25 years each. I’m 79 meditate every morning before breakfast, exercise almost every day, have a weekly Buddhist teacher for the past 20 weeks and still have a business to run. My wife is 73 beautiful, smart and has her Ph. D in psychology. I loved her more each year since we’ve been married. It’s been a little rocky and she’s had her doubts every few weeks about making the right decision 28 years ago.

    I’m having doubts about the constant conflicts every few weeks that surprise me. I’ve been doing some reading on covert narcissist. I’m worried that she doesn’t love me the way I love her. Her time spent with me though enjoyable it seems is metered and I owe her ? because of it. She lies and once questioned creates a reason why that happened and admits her error.

    I want to talk with someone and confirm if possible what I should do. It’s been a short time I’m experiencing this but I want to research it with a covert specialist.

    Any thoughts?


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