Covert Narcissistic Traits – The Warning Signs You Should Not Ignore

Narcissism is usually associated with an inflated sense of self-importance, an intense need for admiration, and a lack of empathy towards others. However, not all narcissists fit this stereotype. Enter the covert narcissist – a less obvious but equally damaging variant of narcissism. Covert narcissistic traits can be stealthy and difficult to identify, often leaving those around them feeling emotionally drained and confused without understanding why.

These individuals may appear humble, empathetic, or even victimized on the surface, making their underlying narcissistic behaviors challenging to spot.

This blog post aims to shine a light on these hidden behaviors, providing you with a comprehensive guide to the warning signs of covert narcissistic traits that you should not ignore.

By learning to recognize these traits, you can better protect yourself from emotional manipulation and foster healthier relationships. So let’s dive in and uncover the elusive world of the covert narcissist.

covert narcissistic traits

Behavioral Signs of a Covert Narcissist

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Manipulation

Covert narcissists are masters of manipulation, using various tactics to fulfill their own needs and desires.

Gaslighting, guilt-tripping, and subtle control are just a few examples of the methods they employ to maintain power over individuals.

Gaslighting involves distorting reality, making someone doubt their own perceptions, memory, or sanity.

For instance, a covert narcissist may consistently deny something they said or did, making the other person question their own recollection.

Guilt-tripping is another manipulation tactic utilized by covert narcissists. They skillfully use guilt as a means to make others feel responsible or remorseful for their actions, even if they are not at fault.

For example, a covert narcissist might make someone feel guilty for prioritizing their own needs instead of catering to the narcissist’s desires.

Subtle control is yet another tool in their arsenal. Covert narcissists exert control over others by influencing their thoughts, decisions, and actions through more covert means.

Red flags to look out for include them trying to isolate you from friends and family, controlling your finances, or monitoring your communication.

lack of empathy

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Lack of Empathy

One of the key indicators of a covert narcissist is the fact that they routinely dismiss the feelings of those around them, showing little concern for their well-being.

For instance, if someone shares their struggles or opens up about a difficult situation, a covert narcissist will respond with indifference or offer empty platitudes without truly engaging in active listening or providing genuine support.

Their focus remains on their own needs and validation, disregarding the emotional needs of others.

Another red flag is their failure to take responsibility for their actions.

Instead of acknowledging their mistakes or the hurt they may have caused, covert narcissists deflect blame onto others or make excuses.

This lack of accountability further highlights their disregard for the feelings and well-being of those around them.

covert narcissistic traits - self centred

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Self-Centeredness

Covert narcissists prioritize their own interests above anyone else’s.

Their constant need for attention, admiration, and validation drives their behavior and interactions.

They view themselves as more important and deserving than others, often expecting special treatment and entitlement.

For example, in a conversation, a covert narcissist may frequently redirect the topic back to themselves, disregarding the contributions and experiences of others.

They try to monopolize conversations, constantly seeking recognition and praise for their achievements, talents, or appearance.

Another indication of their self-centeredness is their inability to show genuine interest in others unless it serves their own agenda. They may feign interest to gain information or manipulate situations, but their focus remains on themselves and their own needs.

covert narcissistic traits - selfish

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Victim Mentality

Covert narcissists frequently adopt a victim mentality as a means of deflecting accountability and avoiding responsibility.

They portray themselves as innocent and blameless in any situation, shifting the focus away from their own actions and towards external factors.

For instance, if confronted about their behavior, a covert narcissist might twist the narrative to make themselves appear as the victim. They may exaggerate or fabricate stories to elicit sympathy, making it challenging for others to hold them accountable.

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Boundary Violations

Covert narcissists have no respect for boundaries and personal space.

They will not hesitate to cross limits to fulfill their own needs or exert control over others. This violation can occur in various forms, and it is important to recognize and establish boundaries to protect yourself.

For example, a covert narcissist may invade your privacy by reading your personal messages or emails without permission.

They may disregard your need for alone time or constantly interrupt your activities to fulfill their own desires.

Additionally, they may disregard your emotional boundaries, dismissing your feelings, and disregarding your comfort levels. They will instead use emotional manipulation to coerce you into doing things against your will or to gain control over a situation.

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Flattery and Charm

Covert narcissists are highly skilled at charming others, using flattery and compliments as tools to manipulate and gain favor.

They understand how to appeal to people’s emotions and insecurities, making it easier for them to control the narrative and manipulate situations.

For instance, a covert narcissist may shower you with excessive praise and admiration during the initial stages of a relationship, making you feel special and valued. They may use seductive charm, witty banter, or captivating charisma to draw you in and gain your trust.

However, the compliments are not genuine or sincere. They are strategic tools used to manipulate your emotions and gain control over you.

covert narcissist checklist

Emotional Signs of a Covert Narcissist

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Fragile Self-Esteem

Beneath the modest exterior of a covert narcissist lies a fragile self-esteem that heavily relies on constant validation and admiration from others.

They seek external praise to boost their sense of self-worth, and any form of criticism or perceived slights can trigger defensiveness and aggression.

Covert narcissists often behave in passive-aggressive ways, disregarding others while exaggerating their own importance. This behavior stems from extreme insecurity and low self-esteem, causing covert narcissists to seek frequent validation from others.

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Envy and Jealousy:

One of the root causes of covert narcissism is an extreme insecurity and low self-esteem.

As a result, covert narcissists harbor deep-seated envy and jealousy towards individuals who possess qualities or achievements they desire for themselves.

They will undermine or belittle others to maintain their perceived superiority and protect their fragile self-esteem.

This may manifest as a pattern of diminishing others’ accomplishments or qualities and expressing bitterness or envy towards those who achieve success or receive attention.

covert narcissistic traits

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Lack of Genuine Empathy and Superficial Connections

While covert narcissists may display empathy on the surface, they struggle to genuinely connect with and understand the emotions of others.

While they may appear empathetic on the surface, their empathy is superficial and self-serving.

They prioritize their own needs and desires over the well-being of others and show little emotional support or active listening during conversations.

active listening

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Emotional Manipulation

Covert narcissists employ various emotional manipulation techniques to control and exploit others for their own benefit.

They play on guilt, sympathy, or pity to manipulate individuals into fulfilling their desires or meeting their needs.

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Emotional Volatility

Covert narcissists exhibit sudden shifts in mood and emotional reactions as a means to gain attention and control over others.

These extreme mood swings serve as a means to gain attention and manipulate others into meeting their needs or desires.

Their emotional volatility is thus a tool they use to control the dynamics of relationships.

Covert Narcissistic Traits – Idealization and Devaluation

Covert narcissists tend to idealize their partners or close individuals initially, showering them with love and affection.

However, they can quickly switch to devaluing and demeaning them once they no longer serve their needs.

covert narcissistic traits

Protecting Yourself from a Covert Narcissist

Establish and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is essential when dealing with a covert narcissist.

Clearly communicate your limits and expectations, ensuring they understand and respect them.

Stick to your boundaries consistently and assertively, even if the narcissist tries to push or manipulate you.

Trust Your Instincts

Listen to your gut feelings and instincts when interacting with a covert narcissist.

If something feels off or manipulative, trust yourself and evaluate the situation objectively.

Don’t dismiss red flags or brush aside your own concerns.

Build a Support Network

Having a strong support system is crucial when dealing with a covert narcissist.

Surround yourself with trusted friends, family, or professionals who can provide emotional support, guidance, and validation.

Share your experiences and concerns with them to gain perspective and insight.

self care

Practice Self-Care

Prioritize self-care to maintain your emotional well-being when dealing with a covert narcissist.

Engage in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and fulfillment.

Take care of your physical health, exercise regularly, and practice mindfulness or meditation to reduce stress and maintain mental resilience.


Educate Yourself about Covert Narcissism

Learn about narcissistic behavior and tactics to understand how covert narcissists operate.

This knowledge can empower you to recognize their manipulation techniques, protect yourself from their influence, and make informed decisions in your interactions with them.

Seek Professional Help

Consider seeking therapy or counseling to navigate the complexities of dealing with a covert narcissist.

A mental health professional can provide specialized guidance, support, and strategies tailored to your specific situation.

They can help you develop coping mechanisms and navigate the emotional challenges associated with the relationship.


Detach Emotionally

Maintain emotional distance from the covert narcissist to protect yourself from their manipulation.

Remind yourself that their behavior is a reflection of their insecurities and not a reflection of your worth.

Practice detachment and focus on your own emotional well-being.

Prioritize Your Needs

Take care of your own needs and prioritize your well-being above satisfying the covert narcissist’s demands.

Remember that you are not responsible for their happiness or validation.

Focus on cultivating your own self-esteem and fulfilling your goals and aspirations.

Document Incidents

Keep a record of any abusive or manipulative incidents involving the covert narcissist.

This documentation can serve as evidence if needed, and it can help you gain clarity about the patterns of behavior.

It also provides validation when you start doubting your own experiences.

Set Realistic Expectations

Recognize that you cannot change or fix a covert narcissist.

Maintain realistic expectations in your interactions with them.

Accept that they are unlikely to change their behavior and that your well-being may require creating distance or even ending the relationship.

Final Thoughts on Covert Narcissistic Traits

Identifying and protecting yourself from a covert narcissist is crucial for maintaining your emotional well-being and having healthy relationships.

This covert narcissist test checklist provides a valuable tool for understanding the signs and patterns of this personality type. By recognizing these traits, you can take proactive steps to safeguard yourself.

Remember, protecting yourself from a covert narcissist is an ongoing process. It requires self-awareness, setting boundaries, prioritizing self-care, and seeking support when needed.

By taking these steps, you can empower yourself to navigate relationships with a covert narcissist and prioritize your emotional well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions about the Signs of a Covert Narcissist

What is a covert narcissist?

A covert narcissist is someone who exhibits narcissistic traits but does so in a more subtle and hidden manner. They tend to be manipulative, lack empathy, and have an inflated sense of self-importance, but they disguise these traits behind a facade of humility and victimhood.

What are covert narcissistic traits?

Covert narcissistic traits refer to characteristics and behaviors that are less obvious than those of a typical narcissist. These individuals can appear humble, shy, or anxious, but underneath, they often harbor feelings of entitlement, exploit others without guilt or shame, and lack empathy for others.

How is covert narcissism different from overt narcissism?

Overt narcissists are typically boastful, openly self-centered, and crave attention, whereas covert narcissists display their narcissism in subtler ways. They may come across as sensitive, introverted, or defensive, and often play the victim to manipulate others.

What are some signs of covert narcissistic traits?

Signs may include passive-aggressiveness, a pattern of playing the victim, hypersensitivity to criticism, emotionally manipulative behavior, a sense of entitlement disguised as selflessness, and a lack of empathy towards others’ feelings..

How should I handle a relationship with a covert narcissist?

If you find yourself in a relationship with a covert narcissist, it’s crucial to set firm boundaries, maintain your own mental health, and seek professional advice if necessary. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to change them, but to take care of yourself first.

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