In this article I interview Debbie Mirza author of the bestselling The Covert Passive-Aggressive Narcissist to find out the signs and symptoms of covert narcissism, how you can spot it, and what you can do about it.
Michael Frank: I always like to start off with a clear definition of terms.
25 Signs of a Covert Passive-Aggressive Narcissist
So before we get into covert vs overt narcissism: What is a narcissist and what is narcissism? But narcissistic personality disorder is a whole nother thing. Michael Frank: It seems as though narcissism is on the rise worldwide. Is narcissism a learnt behavior? Or is it a biological genetic trait? But we have to remember that these people have freewill just like us. Debbie Mirza: Covert and overt narcissists have the exact same traits, but the overt is more obvious.
They do what they want. Fancy cars, fancy homes etc. Debbie Mirza: Exactly. They can get physically abusive. A covert will. A covert narcissist is much more sneaky, and people are shocked whenever something slips out because they seem so nice.
But everyone around you is telling you how lucky you are. They can be doctors, lawyers, pilots, officers in the military, people in government etc. Not to say all people in these positions are covert narcissists, but covert narcissists tend to gravitate towards jobs like that. Michael Frank: What are the other signs of a covert passive-aggressive narcissist? I want to know every single thing to look for.
A relationship with a covert narcissist will always be lopsided. You will always give them more attention then they give you. I really care about you. Or do they just make you feel bad about stuff without doing anything to make the relationship better? Praise is rare too. They would be the shield for them. A covert narcissist will throw you under the bus and not care. Birthdays, holidays and vacations will always be difficult, if not a disaster, with a covert narcissist.
They gave you a gift and everything seemed fine. The reason for this is that narcissists always do things to turn the focus back on them. And if you do, they will do things to subtly ruin it.I think that understanding the phases of recovery from a relationship with a narcissist is really important for everyone who is on this painful journey. It feels terrible when you are in the thick of it. I remember it well. But there is light. There are several phases that people have to go through though, before they reach that light.
I would like to help those of you still in the trenches to assess your progress. People might go through these stages at a different pace. Some reach the Breakthrough Stage — the turning point — while still in the relationship with the narcissist.
Those people have usually accepted the devaluation and then suddenly discovered some terrible truths about the narcissist that forced them to understand that all they loved about this person was a false self and that the entire thing was a fraud. Understanding the steps on this journey is especially important for those of you who desperately want to get into another relationship or harbour hopes of a reunion with the narcissist.
No one should enter a new relationship before properly digesting and understanding this experience. And those of you, who still somewhere deep inside miss the narcissist or hope that he or she will come back, have not yet understood the truth of the situation. I have been there. At the beginning you are confused and desperate. You have no clue how the once perfect relationship turned so terribly sour. You blame yourself and you hope that your Mr.
Perfect will come back.
The actual person is worth exactly nothing. Not at all. The trajectory of this relationship had been determined right from the start.My husband, a CFO of a global bank, good looking, popular, clever, and charming.
He was never violent, nor filled with raging anger, yet he was a Narcissist. When my marriage ended, leaving me with our much loved and planned for 8-week old baby daughter to raise, I was confused, angry, depressed and in such a state of shock, that it took me years to fully comprehend what had happened, which you can read about in my upcoming memoir.
Trying to I read many articles on narcissism, they all seemed to have criteria of personalities all filled with rage and violence, which confused me for a very long time, as my husband did not display any of these characteristics, yet was an extreme narcissist. Narcissists are extremely clever, and they never reveal their true self to you, until they know they have you completely blinded by their immense spell. They only display who they think you want them to be. They are in a way chameleons, modifying their behaviour to whatever the situation may require.
All in perfect synergy. You most probably existed in a cocoon so perfect for a while. This is where he begins to cut down your confidence, your self-esteem, your sense of you. You may not understand this while experiencing it, but when you are out the other side, it is perfectly clear what his strategy was, which is to erode your confidence and have you succumb to his demands.
This is the beginning of his control over you. If you are not married to him by this stage, you are extremely fortunate. Then things start to change, very slowly and subtly. Why do you succumb to this, to keep the peace? Anything for a peaceful life. He then may go to the next step and begin criticising your personal appearance. Again, you acquiesce and adapt your appearance to once again keep him happy, anything for a peaceful life. This may be if you are lucky where you start to see cracks in what you assumed was the perfect partner and begin questioning him.
You are beginning to feel hemmed in, controlled, and you suspect he is lying to you. Women, believe your intuition, if you even suspect your partner is lying, or being dishonest, because he is. If you dare confront a narcissist accusing him of lying or being dishonest, be prepared for the onslaught. He will turn the conversation around, and by the end of the discussion you will be accused of lying and being dishonest, and you will be totally confused as to what the discussion was originally about.
Note…Narcissists are pathological liars, who make you feel you are at times going crazy. You are not crazy, insecure or delusional, simply you are in a relationship with a narcissist.Narcissists, the garden variety: loud, boisterous, and obvious, can be spotted a mile away. We see them coming and brace ourselves for the lies, manipulation, and embarrassingly vocal expressions of pomposity and putting others down. Their ego is worn on their sleeve with no hidden agenda.
They will often brag about their conquests, and take pride in hurting others. The Covert Narcissist is a different species. They will almost always present as kind, caring and benevolent souls, while luring you into their web of lies, deceit and manipulation.
They often pretend to be co-dependents and will use this to lure victim after victim, by claiming to be one themselves. They come disguised as charming, empathic, and full of love. The truth behind the mask is that they are not capable of any of these feelings and will use you in a manipulative game that victims never see coming. Covert Narcissists are just as selfish and self-centered as Overt Narcissists, but they are more cunning, deceptive and capable of unmatched cruelty. They live on the edge with secret lives that only those in the closest relationships will ever see.
They have no boundaries and will systematically strip yours away, leaving you shell-shocked, wondering what the hell happened. Love Bombing. When you first enter a relationship with a Covert Narcissist, they will shower you with attention, love, and affection. You will receive flowers, poems, songs, candy etc.
Be warned, that it is all too much and too fast. The barrage of attention sounds like the proverbial too good to be true, because that's what it is. Be leery of the lengths to which they are going. Have you told them repeatedly that you need space, but never get it?The First Stage with a Covert Narcissist: Love Bombing
All the while they are worming their way into your life. Are they using your friends in collusion to plan surprises to get close to you? You were chosen before you ever met. The Covert Narcissist has done their research. If you have recently lost a spouse, a child, a parent, or have gone through an illness or other crisis that has left you vulnerable, you are a prime target for the Covert Narcissist.
A small family or no family or children is also very appealing. Any signs of weakness in your network of friends or family is a plus. Keep in mind that while the Covert Narcissist is love bombing their next victim youthey are discarding their last partner in the cruelest way possible.Sure, they came on a little strong at first. The compliments seemed a bit excessive and even premature. Ignoring that nagging voice in your head, the relationship developed at a fast pace, faster than most of your other relationships and friendships.
At some point, perhaps you questioned their sincerity and insta-adoration? How can someone who barely knows you seriously love you in such a short amount of time and be willing to commit to you so quickly? You were being drugged with flattery, or love bombed. Relationships with narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, sociopaths — whatever the DSM classification may be — begin in reverse. A relationship between two emotionally mature individuals with boundaries and healthy senses of self develops steadily over time and builds up to dessert after pesky little things like friendship, intimacy and trust have been established.
Not so with narcissists and other emotional predators and con artists. For example:. Only someone as smart, savvy, sophisticated, cultured, traveled, intuitive, honest, loving, handsome, beautiful, sexy, talented, blah, blah, blah as you can see what a GREAT opportunity this is. Your life will never be the same if you hitch your wagon to my star.
What do you mean it sounds too good to be true? I thought you were more intelligent than that? Yes, and the devil is in the details. And not the plump, juicy ripe lemons from which you can make lemonade.
Seeing behind the mask may cause you to go into extreme denial. How else could you stay after that, right? Abusive personalities repeat these patterns over and over again with each new target and relationship. There are three predictable relationship stages with most narcissists, borderlines, histrionics or sociopaths: Idealize, Devalue and Discard. First, there is the idealization stage in which you can do no wrong. The idealization stage is when the love bombing occurs.
Love bombing is a term borrowed from recruiting techniques used by cults. Love bombing typically only works on individuals who are vulnerable to it. Predators like easy targets. What makes someone an easy target? At the zenith of the idealization stage, you enjoy your time in LA-LA-Land, except every now and again, a dark cloud blocks the sunshine.
An inexplicable rage episode occurs out of nowhere. Inexplicable as it may be, the narcissist or you will explain it away — or just pretend like it never happened. You really must be more careful next time not to do or say anything to upset your fragile, delicate narcissist!
Tsk, tsk! Mean, mean old neighbor! The narcissist is testing your limits — in other words, how much of their shit are you willing to tolerate?The narcissist attracts the empath.
Stages of Narcissistic Abuse
They begin a relationship. The narcissist, on the other hand, has no intention of developing a stronger connection and getting close to the empath. The empath is happy and satisfied every time they are around the narcissist and they falsely think that their love is being reciprocated. The empath starts to feel like they have finally met the love of their life.
The narcissist asserts them by designing an illusion which leads the empath to think that they have a special bond that is impossible to break.
At times, it may look like the narcissist wants the relationship as much as the empath, but this is not true. The narcissist only wants to be in control. The whole control of the relationship will be in the hands of the narcissist as they will start making every decision.
N is for Narcissist: The 10 Stages Of a Relationship With a Covert Narcissist.
The empath will gradually start to believe that they are incapable of anything and that they are lucky to have the narcissist in their life. They will always try to help, take care of, cheer up and soothe the narcissist. They will always be there for the narcissist whenever the narcissist needs them.
The narcissist will try to present themselves as the victim thus manipulating the empath into giving them what they want since the empaths are natural givers. The relationship starts to be all about the narcissist. Eventually, the empath will realize this, because as the time passes, they will start to feel afraid to state or fight for their desires and needs in the relationship.
The empath will rather die than give someone a reason to dislike them, so they will still try to please the narcissist even though they are not happy in the relationship. The more affection, devotion, effort, love, and care that the empath gives to the narcissist, the more in control the narcissist feels.
And as long as the empath continues to put in the effort into the relationship, it is almost impossible for them to see a problem in the relationship. The empath will eventually raise their voice because they can no longer stand the devaluing ways of the narcissist. The empath starts to feel devastated because their emotional needs are not being met. When the empath realizes that they have been living in a delusion all the time, they will start to speak up their truth. The narcissist is not happy with this new turn of events.
The empath will become wiser, stronger, and more cautious of to whom they give their love, time, and affection.Most of the time, it is easy to spot the narcissist in the room. They are the ones who are working the crowd, loudly sharing fabulous stories that convey a sense of importance and accomplishment so that they can feel admired. Someone behaving like this tends to send out a clear signal to those around them that they are not approachable or compassionate. Could there be other people in the room with those same exaggerated motivations for admiration and importance, yet possibly harder to identify?
Yes, in fact, there could be someone close to you who is a narcissist but shows up in less obvious ways. The word narcissist is a term regularly used in common discussions to describe anyone who seems a bit self-involved. However, in terms of clinical mental health, someone needs to meet a specific criterion in order to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. In general, people with narcissistic personality disorder are those who are preoccupied with their own success and with a grand sense of self-importance that influences their decision-making and interactions.
Narcissists find it difficult to build or maintain connections with others because of their manipulative tendencies and lack of empathy. They often feel entitled and lack compassion, yet crave attention and admiration. In the field of psychology, behavior can be described as overt or covert.
Stages of Recovery after Narcissist Abuse
Overt behaviors are those that can be easily observed by others, such as those of the traditional narcissist described earlier. Covert behaviors, however, are those that are more subtle and a bit less obvious to others. A covert narcissist is someone who craves admiration and importance as well as lacks empathy toward others but can act in a different way than an overt narcissist.
When considering the behavior of narcissists, it might be hard to imagine how someone could be a narcissist and be inhibited in their approach and behavior. A covert narcissist may be outwardly self-effacing or withdrawn in their approach, but the end goals are the same.
For example, this might be described as listening to your favorite song while blasting the volume, compared to listening to that same song on a low volume. The song itself hasn't changed, just the volume in which you are listening. Covert narcissists are only different from overt more obvious narcissists in that they tend to be more introverted. The overt narcissist is easily identified because they tend to be loud, arrogant, and insensitive to the needs of others and always thirsty for compliments.
Their behaviors can be easily observed by others and tend to show up as "big" in a room. When we think of an overt narcissist, we could say they demonstrate more extroverted behaviors in their interactions with others. Researcher and author Craig Malkin, PhD suggests that the term "covert" can be misleading.
In his work he states that the term covert is often used to suggest that the covert narcissist is sneaky or that their strive for importance is not as significant as an overt more extroverted narcissist. In fact, he reports, the traits of the overt narcissist and the covert narcissist are the same. Both covert and overt narcissists navigate the world with a sense of self-importance and fantasizing about success and grandeur.
Both individuals need to meet the same clinical criteria to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, whether they are extroverted or introverted. Both have deficits in their capacity to regulate their self-esteem. Many people have fallen victim to the manipulative behaviors of a covert narcissist without realizing what has happened until they are already in emotional pain. It might be more accurate to suggest that the extroverted overt narcissist would be a lot easier to see coming than the introverted covert narcissist.
It is not unusual for people to find themselves in long-term relationships with covert narcissists only to be hurt by a sense of a lack of partnership or reciprocity in the relationship. Although there are some clinical criteria that need to be met in order for someone to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, there are some general traits and patterns to look for in everyday interactions if you suspect you might be dealing with a covert narcissist.
Being aware of these traits can help empower those who are interacting with the covert narcissist, helping them to recognize and better navigate potentially unhealthy interactions. Where the more overt, extroverted narcissist will be obvious in their elevated sense of self and their arrogance when interacting with others, the covert narcissist may be less obvious. The covert narcissist certainly craves importance and thirsts for admiration but it can look different to those around them.
They might give back-handed compliments, or purposefully minimize their accomplishments or talents so that people will offer them reassurance of how talented they are.