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A Relationship Expert reveals how to spot a covert narcissist

My boyfriend isn’t loud, outwardly entitled, or arrogant like a typical narcissist. He is actually shy and modest. Recently, I feel like I am being emotionally manipulated. He always plays the victim. He is also very passive-aggressive. How do I know if this is a covert narcissist’s behavior?

The covert narcissist can be very convincing. They are stealthy, and unlike the classic narcissist, which many of us have come to recognize by their flash, charm, attention-seeking, ostentatious presentations, the covert one is stealth.

These people are more introverted and subtle so it is easy to overlook them. They are more covered up and controlled in their self-serving behavior. They can appear shy, caring, and down-to-earth as you have mentioned. They will manipulate you and your emotions without you knowing. They will be able to get the narcissistic supply they most value, which is love and admiration.

These are some more signs to watch out for if you suspect you may be dating a covert Narcissist. And here’s what you can do.

What is Covert Narcissism and How Can It Be Avoided?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the handbook therapists use for diagnosing personality disorders, identifies nine characteristics that make up Narcissistic Personity Disorder.

  1. Grandiose self-importance
  2. Obsession with fantasies about unlimited success, brilliance and beauty or perfect love?
  3. Believes that they or she are unique or special and should only associate with people of high status.
  4. Requires excessive admiration
  5. Feels entitled
  6. Interpersonally exploitative
  7. Lacks empathy
  8. Is often jealous of others and considers people to be envyful
  9. Arrogance

Although the DSM doesn’t break down narcissism further, it can be helpful to know the different forms and types that exist. This can also help you spot someone who might not fit into the mold you think.

One of the less-known types is covert narcissism. A covert narcissist, also known as closet narcissism and vulnerable narcissism is someone who displays a narcissistic personality disorder. However, they are not prone to the same blatant grandiosity or entitlement one might expect from a narcissist. This person is passive-aggressive, but can come across as self-deprecating and helpless.

Their greatest power of manipulation is their ability to play the victim. They are quick to cry, create a crisis or pretend illness to make it seem worse. Then they use their vulnerability to manipulate and guilt you into doing something they don’t want. This type of narcissist is not interested in being seen as a bad person and tends to respond to criticisms or attacks with a passive-aggressive approach. They are more likely not to speak up, keep a grudge or take revenge.

They are not like other types narcissists in that they lack empathy for others.

How to identify the Covert Narcissist

Studies on the covert narcissist have increased in recent years. This research reveals two things in particular:

First, people who are narcissistic have high levels of neuroticism. What does this all mean? This means that people who score higher on the neuroticism scale are more sensitive to emotions. This trait can cause people to have trouble coping with stress, become overwhelmed by minor frustrations and perceive everyday situations as being dangerous. Covert narcissists are known for taking too much personally. High levels of narcissism can lead to excessive worry about everything, from their health and employment to their relationships. They are more likely to experience anxiety and/or depression as a result.

Poor self-esteem is the second characteristic. Narcissists tend to have a weak sense of self. They spend a lot time worrying about what others think of them and how they’re doing in life. Insecurity-driven and focused upon impression management are the hallmarks of covert narcissists. One study stated that “… vulnerable Narcissism is actually narcissism, which is a behavioral adaptation to deal with and mitigate suffering caused by insecurity about oneself.”

Trust your gut when it comes to spotting covert narcissists. Clients and friends of covert narcissists have often reported that they felt something was wrong or that they had a bad feeling in the gut. Sometimes, you just can’t pinpoint the problem but know that something is wrong. Pay attention to this. Listen to your gut.

Here are some other signs to watch out for.

  1. To dismiss you, they may display passive-aggressive behaviors like eye rolling, sighing loudly, or fake yawning.
  2. You spend a lot of your time reassuring them and stroking their ego.
  3. They are emotional fragile and hypersensitive.
  4. They play the victim constantly.
  5. They are not able to handle stress well and may become angry or aggressive as a result.
  6. They might bounce from one job to another or work on different projects because they want to impress others and not follow their passions or talents.
  7. They may struggle with depression, anxiety, and self-injury.
  8. They manipulate their emotions to get what they want.
  9. They lack empathy.
  10. They can be self-effacing and will often seek out other people to compliment them.
  11. They harbor grudges.
  12. They envy others and are bitter when they fail.
  13. They lie or gaslight to manipulate.
  14. They feel entitled and obligated to be looked after.

There are many types of narcissism. Narcissism is a spectrum. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to put our heads together and leave the house looking good. Dating someone who is narcissistic can lead to a dangerous situation. These are the characteristics of a boyfriend. You might want to think about whether you would like to be with them for the long-term.

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