8 Ways To Identify A Covert Narcissist (It's Easier Than You Think)

A wolf in sheep's clothing, if you will.

8 Ways To Identify A Covert Narcissist mimagephotography / Shutterstock

Overt Narcissists are easy to spot, as they literally suck the life out of a room and absorb all of the positive and negative attention. They love to be on center stage, need constant admiration, crave affection even from inappropriate sources, and seek adoration affirmation.

RELATED: 6 Signs Of A Narcissist That Are Easy To Miss

Covert Narcissists (CN) or Silent Narcissists are much more difficult to spot.


On the surface, they present as normal. It is only with the viewpoint of others that narcissism appears. Worst yet, it is only with a few others that it is apparent.

Everyone else believes they are charming, fun to be around, disciplined, determined, and affectionate. But for a few people whom the CN dislikes, they are intimidating, unbearable, inflexible, intolerable, and cold.

Using the DSM-V as a guide for narcissism, here is how a CN presents:

1. Covert Narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance.

The best word to describe this attitude is snobbish. The CN may have inherited money but they act as if they earned it or deserve it. Anyone who fails to recognize their high status is dismissed and discounted.


2. Covert Narcissists are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty, or the perfect mate.

This is frequently revealed in a belief that they cannot age, squander money, lose power and influence, or fail at anything they endeavor. A spouse, who rejects them in any way, is met with severe mental abuse, silent treatment, withholding of sex, or verbal assaults.

RELATED: 6 Lesser-Known (But Equally Toxic) Personality Traits Of A Narcissist

3. Covert Narcissists believe they are special and unique, and can only be understood by other special people.

Think of this as their own special club where only the people they choose can join. Frequently, this group is comprised of highly exclusive, wealthy, or elitist types of people. Anyone trying to enter this group is immediately shunned unless they meet overly strict standards. All others are ignored as if they do not exist.

4. Covert Narcissists require constant admiration.

CNs will not ask for admiration like overt narcissists; rather, they expect it because of who they believe they are. If they don't get any admiration, their tolerance for others diminishes and they will engage in passive-aggressive behavior to retaliate. Expect them to sulk, procrastinate, lie, be deliberately evasive, work half-heartedly, be obstinate, and complain.


5. Covert Narcissists have a sense of entitlement.

A CN expects others to automatically comply with their wishes whether they are stated or not. Others are supposed to "know" what the CN wants based on past experiences. This method keeps people guessing and interested in the reserved opinion of the CN while silently feeding the need for attention.

RELATED: 11 Signs You're A Narcissist — And You Don't Realize It

6. Covert Narcissists take advantage of others to get what they want.

Because of the quietness of the CN, most do not suspect they will be at the receiving end of mistreatment or manipulation. But this is precisely how the CN can go undetected for so long as they sneakily exploit others for their own gain.

7. Covert Narcissists lack empathy.

As a rule, narcissists demand empathy for themselves but are incapable of giving it. The CN cleverly plays the victim card over and over to keep others off track of their inability to empathize. When the CN believes they have been wronged by others, the CN will completely cut off communication or remove the person from their life. There is no grace extended to people who harm the CN.


8. Covert Narcissists are envious of others.

This is the hardest category to identify, as the CN works hard at not exposing any jealousy or envious behaviors. For them, this overexposes their insecurities which are protected at all costs. Instead, look for sarcastic or demeaning remarks when it is completely inappropriate.

9. Covert Narcissists show arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes.

Again, these behaviors and attitudes are mostly hidden from others. Even those closest to the CN will have a difficult time identifying it. However, it does appear when the CN is faced with someone they deem beneath them that the arrogance shows.

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Christine Hammond is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman's Handbook.