The Differences Between Covert & Overt Narcissists

I received a question on my last blog post, Narcissistic War Tactics, regarding how to tell the difference between covert and overt narcissists. So let me expand a bit on these two types of narcissism.

Covert narcissists are more subtle in their abuse. They often are hypersensitive, quiet, smug, passive aggressive, lack empathy, and self-absorbed. While on the other end of the spectrum, overt narcissists are aggressive, exploitative, loud, and have a great need for attention. Richard Grannon goes as far to say that people with BPD are covert narcissists, “overt narcissists in training”.

Rarely does a narcissist stick to just one war tactic. In situations/relationships where they feel secure and like the other person is invested and/or stuck they will be overt and in other areas where they are not so confident they will use covert tactics. This is something I realized in my last relationship. My ex partner was very covert when I first met him, but after a few years he turned overt in most instances. Where as the opposite is true for my Mother. She was very overt when I was younger, because I was literally stuck with nowhere to run, but as time went on and she realized I did not have to include her in my life she turned more covert.

Their tactics change based on the situation and relationship. However, the general assumption that they are greater than stays the same. At work they may use one tactic, at home they may use another, and in other situations they change once again. Throughout the day they may yoyo back and forth between covert and overt.

Does it matter whether they are overt or covert? No. In the end, the result of narcissistic abuse is the same. So keep your eyes and ears open. If you feel like someone is being abusive, but cannot quite put your finger on what is happening, it is quite possible it is covert narcissistic abuse. No matter the type of narcissist, their end goal is the same and that is to make you feel less than and reinforce their superiority.

Trust your gut and write things down. Patterns will arise, because they repeat the tactics that work for them.





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