What Drives a Covert Narcissist Crazy
Covert narcissists hate losing control and being ignored. So not responding to their tantrums and calmly carrying on with your life will drive them crazy

Covert narcissists hate losing control and being ignored. So not responding to their tantrums and calmly carrying on with your life will drive them crazy, as they will no longer feel like they have power over you.

What is narcissistic personality disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is characterized by:

  • Exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Arrogance
  • Need for constant admiration from others
  • Lack of empathy

While there are several types of NPD, the two most common include:

  • Overt narcissism
  • Covert narcissism or vulnerable narcissism

What is covert narcissism?

While both overt and covert narcissists desire attention and status but lack empathy, the two types act differently.

Covert narcissists are shy, and although they consider themselves to be superior to others, they tend not to show it in public. 

They are also highly sensitive to criticism and can become cruel and intensely negative during arguments. However, they may hide their fury because they don’t want to be seen as a bad person. Instead, they will hold onto grudges and wait for opportunities to get revenge, often using passive aggressive behavior to express their displeasure. They also never apologize because they never believe they are wrong.

Their behavior is motivated by two primary factors:

  • Deep-rooted belief that they are unique and therefore deserve what they want
  • Desire to exact revenge on those who have hurt them or who have attained greater success than they have

What are signs of a covert narcissist?

Covert narcissists may have the following traits:

  • Shy and socially withdrawn
  • Highly sensitive to criticism
  • Have grandiose fantasies
  • Exhibit passive-aggressive behavior, arrogance, or subtle superiority
  • Envious of others 
  • Believe that they deserve what others have
  • Do not have empathy for anyone
  • Natural tendency to hold grudges
  • Seem to have anxiety or depression


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11 tactics covert narcissists use in relationships

Since covert narcissism isn’t as obvious as overt narcissism, you may not realize you are in a relationship with a covert narcissist until they have already trapped you. Tactics they may use to gain your trust include:

  1. Surprise gifts: Covert narcissists often use money to exert their influence over you, buying you gifts to lure you into emotional attachment. Gifts may be given to buy your allegiance, silence, favors, etc. 
  2. Emotional trump cards: When you inform them about a weakness you have or admit a past wrongdoing, they will bring it up at an inopportune time to make you lose an argument, especially if you are trying to show them how they have hurt you.
  3. Put you down: Covert narcissists like to put you down or show you that something is wrong with you, but instead of saying it outright they will do it with jokes that seem teasing but are hurtful.
  4. Acting innocent: They pretend to be innocent or clueless, even if they are intentionally hurting you. They may also act like their forgetfulness was unintentional, even if it happens far too often to be an accident.
  5. Act of omission: They may act disinterested and uninvolved in the relationship, not responding to what you say and do.
  6. Telling lies: It can be difficult to know when you are being lied to because covert narcissists are master liars.
  7. Double meanings: Covert narcissists are experts at veiled insults and backhanded compliments, like “you are more attractive in that photo than in real life” or “you don’t look so horrible in that outfit .”
  8. Being nice but not intimate: They may be very pleasant with you but avoid true intimacy, instead seeking intimacy outside the partnership.
  9. Refuse to listen: Narcissists may not show little interest in listening to you, and even if they listen to you, they use it to misinterpret or condemn what you say. This can make you feel irritated and give up trying to be heard and understood.
  10. Controls conversations: They have complete control over when you speak, how you speak, and what you speak about. 
  11. Silent treatment: Narcissists like to shut out people to make them do what they want. The person who is abused by a covert narcissist often believes they are at fault and will try to compensate by showing their narcissist partner how much they truly love them. 

How to deal with a covert narcissist

The following tips may help you protect yourself from a covert narcissist:

  • Do not debate over who is “right” and who is “wrong”
  • Try to empathize with their emotions instead of arguing
  • Use the word “we”
  • Do not expect apologies
  • Learn to set boundaries and prioritize yourself

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Medically Reviewed on 12/17/2021
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Lancer D. The Danger of a Covert Narcissist. https://whatiscodependency.com/what-is-covert-narcissist/

The Covert Narcissist Guide. https://weenacullins.medium.com/the-covert-narcissist-guide-1e46959a6bd1