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25 Signs of Covert Narcissism

Dec 31, 2022

Did it take years before you suspected that someone in your life might be a covert narcissist?

If so, don't feel bad. That's common because of the nature of the personality disorder and its covert nature of it.

Covert means hidden -and if you've known a covert narcissist- you probably have noticed that a lot of these negative characteristics are often very hidden until you get to know them. Today, we're going to cover 25 warning signs that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist.

Today, we're taking a step back and we're looking at the signs that someone might be a covert narcissist. And why is this important?

If you're in a relationship with someone who is a covert narcissist, that person cannot easily change, and we can't change them. So you might end up in a situation where you feel like you're beating your head up against a wall to make this relationship work, whatever kind of relationship it is.

And you keep spending all of your efforts, all of your time and effort trying to make this work, and it's just not going anywhere. If you're dealing with a covert narcissist, there are reasons for that. There's nothing you can do to help someone change if they don't want to change. So one of the more popular videos on this channel is Eleven Ways to Recognize a Covert Narcissist.

Now, let's get to those 25 warning signs, shall we?

1. Passive Aggressiveness:

So the first sign that somebody is or might be a covert narcissist is that they're passive-aggressive.

Now, this is one that a lot of people identify with, and I've identified with it, too. There have been plenty of times when I've acted in passive-aggressive ways.

So just because somebody is passive-aggressive doesn't mean that they're a covert narcissist. But if someone is a covert narcissist, you'll notice that passive-aggressiveness is their go-to behavior.

They are almost always passive-aggressive, and that's because they have a lot of pent-up aggression and anger, and it's got to come out somewhere, but they don't feel confident enough to be aggressive. So it comes out in a passive-aggressive way.

2. Plays the Blame Game: 

The first sign that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist is this person will love to tell you what you did wrong after you did it. They don't usually have that kind of drive, but they'll tell you all about how they would have done it if they did. It's a devaluation tool, and it's used very often, especially if you're close to this person.

3. Especially Argumentative:

The third sign that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist is that they probably choose topics that are very polarizing to talk about. They can choose sides, and it will either be one side or the other. And again, if you get into arguments with people over politics or religion, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're covert narcissists. But this is a very common thing for a covert Narcissist to do because it allows them to show their aggression.

4. Threatened by Confidence:

So the fourth sign that you're dealing with covert narcissists is that they feel threatened by confidence. If you're feeling especially good that's when they're going to devalue you, if you accomplish something big, they might either devalue you for it and kind of downplay it like it's not such a big deal. Or they might change the subject and bring it back around to them or start an argument. Arguments are a great way for covert narcissists to turn conversations back to them.

5. Never Happy:

The fifth sign that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist is this person is never happy. Even when you think they should be happy, even when you think they've gotten everything they've wanted, they're just not happy. And it kind of leaves you thinking that something's missing.

It leaves you feeling like something's missing. And if you're in a relationship with this person, or even if it's a parent, you feel like maybe you've done something to make them feel unhappy. This is something that you'll often just see in their eyes or their facial expression. Even when things are going their way, they're just not happy.

These are the people who are going to find faults and everything, and they're going to find a reason not to be happy about something. Well, I got this new car, but it's got this and I didn't realize this. They can pick things apart and they're just never truly happy. It's kind of sad, but it is the truth.

6. Hypersensitive:

This person is hypersensitive, and you may not see this early on. If you do, it will usually be towards other people. But once you get into a relationship, once that person starts devaluing you, you'll realize that they are hyper hypersensitive to things that you may not even realize.

I have a video about narcissistic injury, and I talk about narcissistic rage in that video. And you may find that this person just blows up over something that you didn't even expect was going to trigger them in any way. Or you may say something in an argument that you think might trigger them a little bit that might make them a little bit angry, but their reaction goes way beyond anything you could have expected. So with this person, you end up walking on eggshells.

7. Dismissive:

The 7th sign that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist is they're very dismissive people. And you'll see this, especially in a relationship with a romantic partnership with a covert narcissist, you don't get the feeling like they ever really want you around.

And even sometimes if you do get the feeling as they want you there, you always know they don't need you there.

You're waiting for the other shoe to drop. They strongly believe that they don't need you because everyone is replaceable to a narcissist. It creates this feeling kind of like they've always got 1ft out the door as they could leave at any moment. And that is the sad truth. They can leave at any moment and they may.

8. Judgemental:

the 8th sign that you're dealing with a covert narcissist is that this person will be extremely judgmental. Now, depending on how covert they are, and how insecure they are, they may not be super outwardly judgmental. They may not be sitting there gossiping about other people in front of large groups. But even an insecure narcissist, you will see it in their face, you will hear it in their tone.

There's always going to be that contempt, and it just all comes down to how they're accepted. So if they're around people who will enjoy them tearing somebody down, they'll do it. But if they're around somebody who's going to maybe try to shame them for doing that, they're going to keep quiet about it. But that judgment is always there.

9. Overly Entitled:

For example, they may decide for some reason that it is solely your responsibility to do all the housework. And it's not a discussion, it's just their expectations.

And this bleeds over into so many things. There's entitlement at work where a narcissist may feel that they deserve a promotion when they haven't done anything, they barely show up for work because they overvalue their contribution to everything.

10. Entitled yet introverted:

Unlike the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist is more of an introvert. And this can be very isolating because it can get in the way of you having a good time and you having your own social life. Because in these situations, a covert narcissist will also guilt or shame you for doing things that they don't want you to do.

11. Condescending and Superior:

When a narcissist feels that he or she knows more about something than you, or if you happen to be wrong in front of them, that's when they show their superior attitude comes through. It may also come through if they believe that they are better than you because of their gender or their race or their religion. They will very likely act superior to you because they have this faith, and so they are good and you are bad.

12. Idealize and Devalue: 

They will idealize and devalue on repeat. It's a cycle that repeats itself over and over again. And after the devaluation often comes the discard. And it may or may not be something that is completely obvious and in your face, like a clean break. It could just be that they act like they're done with you. Maybe if you're in a romantic relationship, they cheat on you and they just don't care how you handle it.

So the idealization phase, we often talk about love bombing. That is when they go hard and fast when they build you up. And the devaluation phase is when they tear you down. So they build you up only to tear you down. And it happens again and again and again. And this is one of those signs where if you're experiencing this in the relationship, it's a major red flag. Relationships should not be on this type of roller coaster, no matter what type of relationship it is, it shouldn't be so tumultuous. If abuse is present, then it's time to at least reevaluate this relationship and what it means to you.

13. Different Public Image:

This person may have a different public image. And this is something that if you've been with this person for a while. It's probably obvious to you, you know, that they're a different person behind closed doors than they are in public. But one way to tell if you're on the fence is to think about how this person has treated you and some of the things that they've said to you. If people in their lives, the people close to them who seem to be close to them in their lives, would be appalled and would almost not believe or maybe even not believe at all that this person would say that, then that person has a different public persona than private persona because you know full well and you expect them to say these things because you've been there so many times before.

14. Gaslighting: 

The 14th sign that you're dealing with a covert narcissist is that this person gaslights constantly. So the gaslighting is often around some sort of lie or something that they're trying to cover up. Even if you saw it with your own two eyes, they'll deny it and make you question your sanity. And if you want to know more about gaslighting, I have a video all about it, and I'll link to that here.

15. Very Cynical:

The 15th sign that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist is this kind of goes hand in hand with some of the other signs, just them not being happy people, with them being very judgmental. So they don't have a rosy view of the world around them or of the people in their lives they're distrusting because they know their intentions. And so a narcissist might assume the worst of you, and they almost always will. They might assume the worst of you and other people just because they know what they're capable of, and they just assume that everyone else is capable of the same thing.

16. Victim Mentality:

They may identify as a victim. And depending on who you're dealing with, you may see varying levels of this. But in so many situations, there is some sort of victim story and it could be a story from childhood or it could be a story about past relationships, people who have wronged this narcissist, and they will gladly tell you this early on. If it's a narcissist that you meet in your adult life, if it's a romantic relationship, they will tell you this very early. 

In general, you're going to find a victimized story. This is the type of person who just can't catch a break. unfortunately for people with compassion and with empathy, this could prevent you from actually leaving. It could help you explain some of the things, some of the unacceptable behaviors, and especially for highly sensitive people, it could leave you wanting to help, wanting to fix this person who is broken. The reason is usually that they don't deserve it or because they didn't try for it.

17. Everything is about them:

A covert narcissist will twist any of your problems to be about them. This will come out in all sorts of ways, but it is extremely obvious when you're dealing with some sort of grief or loss. They will often start an argument, and then they'll twist and turn that argument until it's about something usually that you've argued about a million times before. With a narcissist, it's sex at the worst time possible. They expect something like sex from you, or it could be something else and they will throw an all-out tantrum if you don't give them their way.

When you notice it is when you need their emotional support. And this could happen again with grief or when you're sick. It's a time when you really just need them and they are not there.

18. Exploit Vulnerabilities:

A covert narcissist will exploit your vulnerabilities. If you tell them something that you're afraid of, they might use it to hurt you. I know back when I was dealing with this, I had explained away so many things that were obvious because I didn't believe that this person was hurting me on purpose. But once I started seeing it from a different perspective, it all became obvious. And those vulnerabilities that I had so freely given up were completely used against me.

19. Downplaying Anger: 

If you're in a relationship with a covert narcissist, I'm going to bet that you've been here. There's a lot of anger bubbling up behind the surface, and they keep it down often. But if you just say the wrong thing, if you say something that triggers them, they completely explode.

The anger that they exhibit can also be a trigger. When you bring it up later, they don't want to admit that they were that angry. They don't want to admit that they lost their cool, so they'll completely deny it. And this is another form of gaslighting. They might even deny yelling at you while they're yelling at you. 

20. Smear Campaign: 

When you're dealing with a covert narcissist, you are often going to see that this person will engage in smear campaigns. There will be people who will talk trash about you, and maybe you even think this is your friend. They're not saying anything to your face, but they're talking behind your back. And you may or may not know that they're doing this until it progresses much further.

So until somebody else tells you or you start noticing that people are treating you differently and you start to connect the dots. So this is one that you can protect yourself against pretty easily because if you know that they're the type of person who shares things about other people that seem inappropriate or if they talk badly about other people or gossip a lot, you should know that that's not someone to share your secrets with or to confide with much of anything.

21. Vengeful: 

This person is very vengeful. You know not to cross this person. And if you do, you know that they're going to get revenge. They're not going to let it lie. This is why the smear campaigns are often so successful because there are groups of people who know that it's not so fun to be on this person's bad side. So for the moment, they will participate in taking someone else down because it's not them. For the moment, they can breathe easily that they aren't the ones in the narcissist spotlight.

22. Triangulation: 

This person relies heavily on triangulation. And triangulation is a manipulation tactic that narcissists so often use. And it could be a narcissistic parent who puts one child up on a pedestal and compares the other children to that child. Or it could be a romantic partner who triangulates X's against each other or an X against a current partner. Essentially, they're putting one on a pedestal to devalue the other. And they can also use triangulation to make you feel guilty. They might bring other people into it. Well, this person believes that you're this, and this. This person believes that you did this wrong. Instead of saying the thing themselves, they might use another person to kind of pin them against you. So this comes up again in the smear campaign.

24: Avoids Responsibility: 

The covert narcissist is very likely to avoid direct responsibility. So they aren't likely to take on a lot of responsibility for themselves, but they will be there to tell you that you did wrong if you do take on that responsibility. Now, if it's something that they're completely comfortable with, they might do that. They might try to push for a position of power, but covert narcissists are much more likely to sit on the sidelines.

25. Not the narcissism you know: 

The 25th sign that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist is narcissism. You know something is wrong, you know something's off. You may have discovered that this person struggles with empathy, and they are awful to you at times, and sometimes they're great. So they go through that idealization and devaluation. The last thing you're going to expect is that the person you're with is a narcissist because they don't fit that stereotypical overt grandiose narcissist image.

So those are 25 warning signs of covert narcissism. So what do we do with this information?

I want to go back a little bit and point out again that not all of these signs are sure-fire signs that somebody is a narcissist. So there are some that you might even do.

But if somebody close to you exhibits more of these characteristics or warning signs than not, that is a major red flag that something is wrong, and there's a good chance that you're experiencing emotional abuse.

So it's up to you to reevaluate the people in your life and to decide who you want around you because the people who we let into our lives have a major impact on our overall self-worth and wellbeing.


Transformed by MUNCH

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