15 Differences Between An Overt & A Covert Narcissist

15 Differences Between An Overt & A Covert Narcissist

When you hear the word “narcissist,” chances are you think it’s just one personality disorder. But, there are actually three types of narcissism: overt, covert, and malignant narcissism. While malignant narcissism is the most severe, it’s not always easy to distinguish between overt and covert narcissism. Here are 15 differences between them.

1. Overt narcissism uses blatant attention to get control, whereas covert narcissism is more subtle.

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between overt and covert narcissism is that overt narcissism is all about attention-seeking. With covert narcissism, there’s more subtle control and power. You might find that a covert narcissist isn’t as open about their need for approval.

2. Overt narcissism is characterized by high self-esteem, while covert narcissists are insecure.

People who have overt narcissism think highly of themselves, which can result in an ego problem. On the other hand, people with covert narcissism have a lower self-esteem. This is why they’re likely to be self-conscious and insecure.

3. Overt narcissism is about extraversion, while covert narcissists are introverted.

Interestingly, overt narcissism is linked to extraversion, so people with this disorder tend to be the life of the party. They’re always outgoing and fun to be around (at first). By comparison, covert narcissists tend to be more introverted.

4. Overt narcissism is linked to more agreeableness than covert narcissism.

With more extraversion tendencies, overt narcissists have higher levels of agreeableness. Since covert narcissists are more introverted, they tend to have more neuroticism.

5. Overt narcissists don’t have as much of a victim mentality as covert narcissists.

Although covert narcissists have a high tendency to play the victim, such as by thinking the world owes them or everyone treats them badly, overt narcissism isn’t focused as much on this. They can, however, have bitterness and envy towards others.

6. But, this makes covert narcissists have a higher risk of rage.

Since they’re more introverted and love to play the victim, covert narcissists have a higher risk of rage. They’ll become angry and hostile when they don’t get their way. By comparison, overt narcissism is linked to more emotional stability.

7. Overt narcissism isn’t about insecurity, but covert narcissism is.

You can spot an overt narcissist easily by how confident and arrogant they can be. By comparison, covert narcissists will linger in the shadows and seem a bit more self-conscious.

8. Overt narcissism isn’t as passive-aggressive as covert narcissism.

People with covert narcissism tend to be more passive-aggressive than overt narcissists. So, they’ll pretend everything is fine but they’ll silently seethe or use body language to hint that they’re unhappy.

9. Gaslighting is especially common with covert narcissism.

Since covert narcissism is linked to not dealing with conflict in a direct way, it’s associated with gaslighting. So, dealing with someone with this disorder can cause you to doubt your perceptions and think you’re going crazy.

10. Overt narcissists overestimate their abilities, while covert narcissists doubt theirs.

An overt narcissist will think they’re skilled at everything or better than everyone else in the room. By comparison, a covert narcissist tends to feel like they’re not good enough as other people. This is where their insecurities arise.

11. Overt narcissists love themselves more than covert narcissists.

Since they have positive self-esteem, people with overt narcissism tend to see themselves in a positive light. They exude an exaggerated sense of self and can be grandiose in their thinking. Covert narcissists, on the other hand, are usually saddled with feelings of loneliness or worry.

12. Malignant narcissism is most similar to overt narcissism.

Malignant narcissism is the most severe type of narcissism, with symptoms such as a lack of empathy and a feeling of being superior. They can also be highly aggressive without experiencing guilt. This form of narcissism is closer in nature to overt narcissism than covert narcissism.

13. Overt narcissists can be easier to spot than covert narcissists.

Overt narcissists tend to have a big personality and will be a bit more obvious about their lack of consideration for others and their need for attention than covert narcissists. This can make the latter a bit more difficult to identify.

14. Overt narcissists demand praise, while covert narcissists seek it indirectly.

An overt narcissist will expect and demand praise, such as in the form of attention and compliments. Covert narcissists, on the other hand, will do this in a more indirect way, such as by fishing for compliments or putting themselves down so others will uplift them.

15. Covert narcissists seem like they’re emotionally available, but they’re not.

With overt narcissists, you’ll end up doing most of the emotional work in your relationships. Ditto for covert narcissists, but the difference is that covert narcissists will fake being caring or emotionally available. At first, you might not even catch a whiff that they have narcissistic tendencies. They do this to manipulate you.

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Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.