Feelings, Narcissism, Relationships

20 common traits of covert narcissists

Covert narcissists (aka closet or vulnerable narcissists) aren’t nearly as easy to spot as overt, grandiose or malignant narcissists. They are dark and hidden and in the shadows, even in broad daylight, even as they seek the attention they crave so desperately.

They may appear shy and/or humble. They play the victim to elicit sympathy. They are charming and self-deprecating. They say things to make you believe they care about you when actually the only thing they care about is themselves.

You think they are open and honest, until you discover they are pathological liars. You think they are sweet and loving, until they crush you just as they would a bug underfoot. They charm and disarm you, and then they manipulate and maul you. To them it’s just a big game they repeat over and over again to feed their empty inner selves. They leave grief, confusion, despair and brokenness in their wake. What a shame.

It’s easy to get caught in a covert narcissist’s trap – just as I did. After the initial love bombing/idealization phase, I observed all of the traits below in the narcissist who preyed on me. Beware!

20 traits of covert (aka: closet, vulnerable) narcissists

Note: These twenty “covert” traits are in addition to those exhibited by narcissists in general.

  1. appear humble (especially initially)
  2. are often “off-the-charts” charming
  3. control with silent treatment, stonewalling, and other forms of withholding
  4. manipulate with guilt and self pitying performances
  5. use tears and sob stories to hoover you back
  6. flutter and fawn over others to win favour
  7. feign innocence, absolve themselves of guilt
  8. lie and cheat with impunity and without remorse
  9. fake humility to draw attention to themselves
  10. are adept at acting, faking, fooling, and shape-shifting (i.e. they are chameleons)
  11. behave worshipfully and go beyond the call of duty when they are idealizing someone (in the initial stages)
  12. have delusions of victimization and persecution
  13. stage crises to gain attention
  14. take pleasure in other peoples problems and tragedies
  15. harbour long-term grudges
  16. resist answering questions directly / are evasive
  17. exaggerate suffering and sickness to garner sympathy
  18. blame problems and failures on “unfair” people, institutions, and circumstances
  19. use backhanded tactics such as gossip and smear campaigns, against people they envy
  20. criticize indirectly through implied blame, lack of acknowledgement, and unfavourable comparisons

Note: These twenty “covert” traits are in addition to those exhibited by narcissists in general (also from Hall’s book).

Grandiose and malignant narcissists demonstrate additional and/or different traits and behaviours, which I’ve also sourced from Hall’s book. I highly recommend the book to anyone who was raised in a narcissistic family system (as I was), and/or who is or has been in a relationship with someone who is high on the narcissistic spectrum – yes, I’ve been there too! This book is proving to be an invaluable tool in my own ongoing healing process as is Hall’s blog narcissistfamilyfiles.com.

© 2021 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share my poetry and posts widely, but please do not reprint, reblog or copy and paste them in their entirety without my permission. Thank you.

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