The Different Types Of Narcissism

Published on July 8th, 2019

Updated on January 4th, 2024

The Different Types Of Narcissism

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a disorder in which a person feels more important than others. A person with NPD will feel an unjustified sense of entitlement. They will also have a big ego. Narcissists feel more important than others. As a result, they struggle with relationships and behavioral issues.

Someone can have condescending traits, but NPD is more than just having a pompous attitude. A narcissist has an inflated ego. This ego causes interpersonal, relationship, and career issues for them. Narcissists often fail to see the fault in their behaviors and tend to behave in a way that is dismissive of others.

There are several different types of narcissism. These types classify the narcissist’s behavioral issues and how they were caused. A narcissist may have different behavior patterns and displays of attitude depending on the type they have. The types of narcissism outline methods to put others down and make themselves seem superior to their peers that are specific to their type. 

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The different types of narcissists include:

Overt Narcissists

An overt narcissist is secure and can come off as arrogant, competitive, and entitled as a result. They can be manipulative, and their grandiose sense of self can fuel a need to be admired and envied. They can exploit people for personal gain, and their methods are clear and prominent. Overt narcissists tend to be self-absorbed and generally feel more positive about themselves than other types of narcissists.

An overt narcissist may appear to be engaging and charismatic. They may be chasing some form of power, whether that is through wealth, status, popularity, fame, etc. They may exaggerate their assets and their grandiose sense of self will drive their problematic behaviors.

Covert Narcissists

Covert narcissists are not as open or direct about their narcissistic tendencies. They are more subtle, which can make narcissism more challenging to identify. Covert narcissists tend to use the following methods to get what they want from others:

A covert narcissist may play the victim role. They tend to have lower self-esteem than overt narcissists, which makes criticism and challenge from others feel threatening. A covert narcissist will be self-absorbed and may use passive-aggressive behaviors as a means to gain attention from the people around them. A covert narcissist may also shame others or use gaslighting methods to manipulate people around them.

Covert narcissists may fool others into thinking the way they want them to think. They know how to use their manipulative behavior so it is not detected. Because of this, it can be challenging to spot a covert narcissist.

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Vulnerable Narcissists

A type of covert narcissism is found in vulnerable narcissists. Their symptoms lie in their subtle manipulative behavior. Their sense of self-worth heavily relies on the attention they get from the people around them. They may present as moody, grumpy, sensitive, or joyless.

Vulnerable narcissists seek attention through pity from others. They will often guilt-trip the people in their lives to cater to what they want. Vulnerable narcissists may have a large social group but will struggle with close relationships. They will show significant shifts in their mood, and may also suffer from depression.

They are manipulative. Their ability to manipulate the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others is an ego trip for them. Their behavior tends to be subtle, so it can be difficult to spot the signs. Vulnerable narcissists tend to require a lot of attention from partners and lack empathy or sensitivity to their feelings.

Classic Narcissists

Classic narcissists thrive off of praise and admiration of others, even if the sentiment is imagined. They crave and value being the center of attention. Classic narcissists believe they are more special than others. Their pompous attitude can be off-putting to the people around them.

Classic narcissists are those who fit the mold for narcissistic personality disorder. They will fit the criteria for diagnosis outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5).

Example: A person who seeks to be famous but does not have special talents or other incentives to reach fame. Such a person may exaggerate their importance in society. They may also only associate with social circles that help them fit the image of holding celebrity status. They will talk down to others and mistreat those who they consider being below them or less important than them.

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Malignant Narcissists

Malignant narcissists are exploitative of others and are very manipulative. They are often considered antisocial and do not show empathy for others. Malignant narcissists manipulate and belittle their friends, family, and others for personal gain. They are very controlling of the people in their lives.

Malignant narcissists lack a conscience. They rarely feel guilty or remorseful for their actions or how they affect others. Instead, malignant narcissists are fueled by the feeling of having control over the people in their lives. They may enjoy causing pain to the people around them. They can also enjoy watching people struggle and feel oppressed. Some even enjoy seeing others suffer. Malignant narcissists can be aggressive or threatening as well when they feel that their sense of power may be threatened.

Cerebral Narcissists

Cerebral narcissists believe they are of superior intelligence. They believe they are smarter than others and enjoy displaying this intelligence. They will often do so by debating, arguing, and contradicting people. Cerebral narcissists try to impress the people around them with their academic and career success.

A cerebral narcissist uses knowledge and success to inflate their ego. They tend to believe that most people are intellectually below them. They may also only associate with people who they consider on their intellectual level. They spend most of their time building their intelligence. Anyone who does not meet their level of intelligence is considered inferior to them.

Example: A cerebral narcissist may seize opportunities at gatherings to prove someone wrong publicly. They may do so in ways like using complex words and ideas to confuse others. They may also attempt to disprove someone’s point or make them seem foolish in public. This is in an attempt to flaunt what they perceive to be their superior intelligence.

Somatic Narcissists

Somatic narcissists find their value in their appearance. They find value in material possessions and looks and want others to envy or be dazzled by their beauty and extravagant lifestyle. They strive to be ‘head turners’ and to steal the spotlight when entering a room. Somatic narcissists will spend a great deal of time and money on perfecting their looks.

Example: A somatic narcissist may have a goal of being the most stunning at a party. They may flaunt their expensive accessories and look down on people who do not have expensive things. They may present themselves as overly sexual and spend a great deal of time and energy on appearances.

A somatic narcissist may get their sense of self-worth from feeling envied by others. They may go to extremes to appear to have a lot of money and nice things and aim to appear to have more than those around them. They may flaunt their money and looks and put others down for having less. They may also see people with less money or status as less important than those who they consider having the same status as them.

How To Tell If You Are Dating A Narcissist

Dating a narcissist can be a slippery slope, and it can sometimes be a challenge to know that you are dating a narcissistic person. Knowing the warning signs that you are dating a narcissist can help you in a number of ways. One important way is to know how to navigate the relationship and prevent it from hurting you. 

Warning signs that you are dating a narcissist include:

  • Your date is dominating conversations
  • Your date silences you, puts you down, or cuts you off
  • Your date redirects topics of conversation back onto themselves
  • Your date is emotionally manipulative or tries to sway conversations to put you in the wrong
  • Your date portrays themselves to be the victim of issues that they may have caused
  • Your date talks over you or cuts you off in conversations with others

Narcissists are remarkably manipulative. They can harm their partners. If you feel you are in a relationship with a narcissist you must establish and maintain clear and stern boundaries. If these boundaries are challenged or violated, it is best for you to leave the relationship. 

If you feel you are not ready to leave the relationship or do not feel the need to leave, it is best to seek counseling. This can help you with re-establishing boundaries and learning assertive communication skills.

How To Spot A Narcissist

Narcissistic personality disorder is a disorder that causes a person to have grandiose thoughts and perceptions about themselves. It extends beyond confidence or cockiness. Narcissists see the world according to how it serves them. They tend to make every topic of conversation about themselves, regardless of what is being discussed. 

Narcissists will dominate conversations. They will interrupt without apology and will not acknowledge or be respectful of the personal boundaries of others. They will put others down to get their way and make sure that their needs and desires are always the priority, even if it is at the expense of their loved ones.

Apologies are rare. Narcissists do not often sincerely apologize and may fail to understand the extent to which their behavior is harming the people around them. Even if they do understand, they will not take responsibility for their poor behavior and may react by dismissing or minimizing their poor behavior or blaming their behavior on others.

Example: A narcissistic mother may only show love and appreciation for their child when their child is doing what they want them to do. If the child does something the mother does not want them to do, they may be shamed, scolded, shut out, or bullied until they stop the unwanted behavior. On the other side, a mother will dismiss upset feelings the child has toward them. They will not apologize or take responsibility for how they have contributed to the issue. Instead, they will deflect or blame the child.

Narcissists will challenge others who seem like a threat to them. They will lash out either through hostility or passive-aggression when they are not getting their way. They may also do so if they feel criticized or under attack. 

Narcissists are manipulative. They will use emotional manipulation tactics like guilting and back-handed comments to put people down or get their way. A narcissist can become dependent on close loved ones, and may try to control their lives to ensure that they maintain control and authority. This is especially true for cases that involve children of narcissistic parents.

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