Covert vs. Overt Narcissist – Everything You Need To Know

Who is a covert narcissist? Who is an overt narcissist? Is there a difference between Covert vs. Overt Narcissist? Can a covert narcissist also be an overt narcissist? If you are looking for the answers to these questions, this article is for you.

My name is Sean Galla, and I have been an online support group facilitator for over 10 years. In my years of work, I have overseen numerous support groups, including facilitating narcissist support groups for male survivors of narcissistic abuse. Part of the work we do in our support group is to offer information to help members better understand narcissism, including the types to look out for.

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about Covert vs. Overt narcissists.

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Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

Who is a covert narcissist?

Covert narcissism is the introverted, isolated, and more silent form of narcissistic personality disorder. Also commonly referred to as vulnerable narcissism, a covert narc will also exhibit the common signs of narcissism, like a lack of empathy, an inflated sense of self, and an unquenchable need for admiration. However, they manifest the traits in less obvious ways because of their negative self-image.

A cover narcissist is a person living with NPD who, for different reasons, did not develop their self-esteem growing up. Because of the subtle nature of covert narcissism, it is easy for people to overlook the damage a covert narcissist can cause. While harder to spot or diagnose, covert narcs can be just as destructive as their overt narcissist counterparts.

Who is an overt narcissist?

Overt narcissists are the opposite of covert narcissists. Overt narcs are self-centered people with NPD who exhibit a cycle of grandiose behavior, a lack of empathy, and a need for special treatment and admiration. These people usually have a very inflated sense of self-importance and firmly believe they are better and more superior than others.

Overt narcissism or grandiose narcissism is one of the many subtypes that make up Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), a mental health disorder.

An unhealthy sense of entitlement and lack of accountability also characterize their behavior. Overt narcissists are the easiest to diagnose because they are extroverted and open. Learning and understanding this type of narcissism makes it easier for you to identify overt narcissists in your life, especially if you are a man in a relationship or married to a narcissistic woman.

Also, learning and understanding about both types of narcissists makes it easier for you to protect yourself from their emotional abuse. Understanding how to deal with a narcissist can protect you from further harm, allow you to enforce healthy boundaries, and protect your mental and emotional well-being. 


Overt vs. covert narcissists – the differences

To fully understand narcissism, it is essential to understand the key differences in the most common subtypes.

Even though both overt and covert narcissistic personality disorders share the core narcissistic attributes, they can manifest their true self traits very differently.

Here are ways of how these two subtypes exhibit common narcissistic traits.

Grandiosity expression

Overt narcissist

  • Open and flamboyant and self-absorbed
  • Boastful about their achievements
  • They openly brag about their superiority

Covert narcissist

  • Concealed and more subtle
  • Often downplay their accomplishments
  • Come off as modest and kind

Attention seeking

Overt narcissist

  • Craves constant attention and admiration
  • Dominated conversations
  • Tries to outsmart everyone else in the room

Covert narcissist

  • They seek attention in indirect ways
  • They portray themselves as selfless and modest
  • They are often confused for being kind and reliable

Responding to criticism

Overt narcissist

  • They get defensive and can show signs of narcissistic rage
  • Will not accept their faults
  • Will use gaslighting and personal attacks to get out of confrontations

Covert narcissist

  • They respond using passive-aggressive behavior like silent treatment
  • They use avoidance and defensiveness to stay away from confrontations
  • They will use self-pity to get attention from others and get away with things

Manipulative tactics

Overt narcissist

  • They are not shy of using overt methods of manipulation to have their way
  • They will use manipulation methods like gaslighting to push their agenda

Covert narcissist

  • Manipulation tactics are more subtle
  • They often play the victim to garner sympathy

Hiding insecurity and low self-esteem

Overt narcissist

  • They are masters of asserting their sense of self-confidence
  • Most often, the loudest person in the room
  • They work hard to hide any telltale signs of their deep-rooted sense of insecurity

Covert narcissist

  • They are not afraid to show vulnerability to get attention
  • They use their sense of low self-esteem to get validation from others

How they impact others

Overt narcissist

  • They are emotionally draining and overwhelming
  • They are blond to the needs of others
  • They provoke strong reactions from the people directly affected by their behavior

Covert narcissist

  • They easily fly under the radar
  • It is difficult to tell when you are on the receiving end of their narcissistic behavior
  • It is a challenge to recognize their narcissistic behavior since they are quiet and ‘kind.’

Handling relationships

Overt narcissist

  • They are master manipulators in relationships
  • They thrive in chaos and confusion
  • They are emotionally unavailable
  • They struggle to maintain long term relationships

Covert narcissist

  • Often causes confusion and mental stress
  • They are subtle manipulators
  • They use passive-aggressive tactics to get their way

Ease of diagnosis

Overt narcissists are often easier to diagnose thanks to their overt and extroverted nature, and display of arrogance and narcissistic behavior. On the other hand, covert narcissists are hardest to spot or diagnose because their symptoms are subtle.

Covert vs. overt narcissist – dealing with an overt narcissist

Set boundaries – establishing clear boundaries will help define your limits. The overt narc will want to test boundaries. Therefore, you need to remain firm and consistent in enforcing them. 

Do not engage emotionally – an overt narcissist will always try to get an emotional reaction from their victims. Remaining emotionally neutral will cut off their narcissistic supply.

Document all violations – To ensure you protect yourself from their manipulation, record all instances of boundary violation, manipulation, and other problematic behavior. This serves as evidence of their abuse when you decide to seek help.

Covert vs. overt narcissist – dealing with a covert narcissist

Educate yourself – learn more about the subtle signs of covert narcissism. Understanding how they use different tactics, such as passive aggression and manipulation, makes it easier for you to recognize them.

Uphold boundaries – setting clear boundaries is necessary with all narcs. A covert narc will test your boundaries more subtly. Ensure you communicate them clearly and enforce them fiercely.

Limit exposure – reducing how often you interact with a narc is the best way to protect yourself and your emotional well-being. Ensure you prioritize your mental health and protect it at all costs.


Common Warning signs and Red Flags of covert vs. Overt narcissists

Extreme self-centeredness

Overt narcs will confidently put their own needs before everyone else’s. The conversations often revolve around their superiority, self-worth, desires, and achievements. They want to be the center of attention in every conversation.

Covert narcissists will use self-sacrifice and selflessness to gain admiration and validation.

Lack of empathy

All narcs lack empathy. They struggle to understand the emotions of others and will often dismiss them as unnecessary. While covert narcs also lack empathy, they come off as sympathetic due to their subtle nature. However, their actions often show a pattern of indifference to the feelings of others.

Manipulation tactics

Overt narcissists will employ flattery, charm, and intimidation to take advantage of others. Covert narcissists are more likely to use tactics such as guilt-tripping, passive-aggressive behavior, or victimhood to achieve their goals.

A constant need for validation

An overt narcissist is insatiable when it comes to receiving praise, validation, and admiration. They are constantly fishing for compliments and attention to feed their fragile egos. On the other hand, a covert narcissist uses subtler methods to get validation and admiration. They will play victim to elicit sympathy and undivided attention from those around them.

Isolating their victims

Overt narcs will isolate their victims from their loved ones and supportive network. This is how they assert dominance in the relationship. Covert narc will use lies, guilt-tripping, and emotional manipulation to isolate their victims.

Covert vs. overt narcissist – Seeking support

Dealing with narcissism is exhausting and stressful, and it eventually takes a toll on your mental health. If cutting them out of your life is not an option, you should consider seeking support. You can seek support from a mental health professional, friends, family members, co-workers, and other loved ones.

Joining a support group like MensGroup is also an ideal way to get support as a man with a narcissistic woman in your life.

More About MensGroup

As a man living with an overt or covert narcissist, one of the most challenging parts of recovery is finding someone to talk to about your feelings, emotions, and trauma. Most people do not believe that men, too, can be victims of overt narcissistic abuse. Whether you have narcissistic parents, a narcissistic loved one, or children with narcissism, MensGroup is an all-men online platform where you can get the support you need.

At Mensgroup, you will be placed in a group with other men who have been through narcissistic abuse and understand your situation. This gives you a free space to share and learn from others who have previously walked in your shoes. With a support system of fellow men, you can overcome your trauma and lead a healthy, successful, and happy life.

Covert vs. Overt Narcissist – Conclusion

When someone in your life lives with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, taking time to learn and understand Covert vs. Overt Narcissist disorders can go a long way in making it easier for you to determine how best to protect yourself and deal with the narc.

It is often said that a problem shared is a problem solved. Joining a narcissist support group is the first step you can take towards healing. offers you a platform where you can share your story to inspire others and get support to overcome the trauma of being a survivor of narcissistic behavior.