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The Exhausted Woman
with Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

How to Identify a Covert Narcissist

covert narcissistThe 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. The Covert Narcissists (CN) or the Silent Narcissists are much more difficult to spot.

On the surface, they present as normal. It is only with a viewpoint of others, that the 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:

  • 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.
  • 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, the silent treatment, withholding of sex, or verbal assaults.
  • Believes 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 the highly exclusive, wealthy, or elitist type of people. Anyone trying to enter this group is immediately shunned unless they meet the overly strict standards. All others are ignored as if they do not exist.
  • Requires constant admiration: CNs will not ask for admiration like the 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.
  • 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 to be 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.
  • Takes 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.
  • Lack of 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 the 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.
  • 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.
  • Shows 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 than the arrogance shows.

While the CN may be difficult to spot at first, they can be discovered. Use the above explanations to identify them even sooner.


How to Identify a Covert Narcissist

Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

Christine Hammond is a leading mental health influencer, author, and guest speaker. As an author of the award-winning “The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook,” and more than 500 articles, Christine has more than one million people downloading her podcast “Understanding Today’s Narcissist,” and more than 400,000 views on YouTube. Her practice specializes in treating families of abuse, and trauma, with personality disorders involved which are based on her own personal experience. Her new book, Abuse Exposed: Identifying Family Secrets that Breed Dysfunction will be published in 2020. Christine is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Qualified Supervisor by the State of Florida, a National Certified Counselor, Certified Family Trauma Professional, with extensive training in crisis intervention and peaceful resolution. Based in Orlando, you may connect with Christine at Grow with Christine (


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2019). How to Identify a Covert Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from