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Recognising signs of Covert Narcissism


Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterised by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. Generally, there are two types of narcissism: Overt and covert narcissism. Overt narcissism is more easily recognisable because it is often characterised by the expression of grandiosity, attention-seeking, and self-praised. However, it can be challenging to identify the signs of covert narcissism because the sense of entitlement and superiority hide underneath a false façade of humility and sensitivity. Recognising and addressing covert narcissistic personality disorder demands a nuanced understanding.


Covert narcissism operates beneath the surface, concealed behind a facade of modesty and self-effacement. According to research, individuals with covert narcissism may appear humble and reserved in social settings but harbour a deep-seated sense of entitlement and a craving for admiration and validation. Despite their outward appearance of humility, they manipulate and exploit others to fulfil their underlying narcissistic needs. Unlike overt narcissists who openly display arrogance and dominance, covert narcissists are adept at hiding their true nature, making identification more challenging.


Recognising if you or your loved one may display characteristics of a covert narcissistic personality disorder requires a keen understanding of subtle behavioural cues. Signs include a display of passive-aggressiveness and a hypersensitivity to criticism. Covert narcissists often portray themselves as perpetual victims, deflecting accountability and seeking sympathy from others. Individuals with a covert narcissistic personality often behave in a passive-aggressive manner when emotionally threatened. They are profoundly sensitive to criticism, reacting defensively or withdrawing when they feel vulnerable. 


Covert narcissism often stems from unresolved traumatic experiences, which lead to deep-seated insecurities and negative self-belief. Therapy plays a pivotal role in both recognising and addressing individuals with signs of having a covert narcissistic personality. Customised therapeutic approaches help to identify and address underlying insecurities. Individuals can begin dismantling the facade of superiority and entitlement and develop a more realistic and balanced sense of self.


Restoring Peace is a private mental health centre which provides counselling and psychotherapy services for children, adolescents, youths, adult individuals, couples and groups with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and various mental health and relationship challenges. For more information, please visit www.restoringpeace.com.sg or WhatsApp at +65 8889 1848. For periodic updates, we invite you to join our telegram group: https://t.me/restoringpeace.


Keywords: covert narcissistic disorder, relationships, mental health, counselling, therapy, interventions, maladaptive beliefs 


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