From Krista @ Abuse No More
The Covert / Stealth Narcissist
NOTE: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is strongly characterized by complete self-centredness and outright denial that forms an invisible and virtually indestructable protective psychological barrier in order to defend the sufferer’s true emotions.
What Is A Covert Narcissist?
Undoubtedly the most damaging form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is covert narcissism. Covert narcissists can seem highly defensive and extremely hostile whilst masking beneath their facade an insecure sense of emotional vulnerability, a vulnerability they will do anything to prevent exposing. Although a covert narcissist generally possesses the same traits as an overt narcissist (need for attention, approval, adulation and grandiose fantasies) these are not commonly expressed in overt behaviour making covert or stealth narcissists much more difficult to recognize. Some people go decades before recognizing the narcissist in their life.
How Is Covert Narcissism Different?
In addition to the standard symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the covert narcissist is also susceptible to stress and worry. They tend to operate inefficiently and their expectations remain unfulfilled. They repress awareness of their narcissistic traits due to inner conflict, deep down inside they find their fantasies embarassing and unnacceptable. Deep down inside they realize that their fantasies are self-centred and solicit goodness and power to one’s self, to put one’s self up on a pedestal above all others.
What Are The Symptoms Of Covert Narcissism?
Covert narcissists are too afraid to exhibit their accomplishments to others and commonly underestimate their own capabilities. Their overt behaviour usually projects an innocent angel-like ‘good as gold’ persona which builds them a credible reputation yet they fail to reach their true potential due to their own self-doubt. Some of them go on to become almost seemingly zombified and gradually lose all interests in their hobbies and decide to do nothing with their lives.
Why Is Covert Narcissism So Bad?
The most damaging aspect of covert narcissism is the controlling and manipulative behaviour they impose on people closest to them. If in a relationship this is usually solely their partner. They show a lack of empathy towards them and in many cases also towards their children if they have any. A female covert narcissist may have children with their partner in order to tie them down and to secure them as sources of narcissistic supply, they may even manipulate the children out of him by failing to use or purposely damaging contraception or even committing paternity fraud. A male covert narcissist may try to tie their partner down in the same way by purposely not using or damaging contraception and exploiting the emotional bond between mother and child.
What Makes Covert Narcissism So Damaging?
In a typical case the only person who realizes there is a problem is the person closest to the covert/stealth narcissist, who is forced to suffer covert narcissistic abuse (very subtle emotional blackmail, mental abuse and psychological manipulation). Narcissists twist literally every little detail back round onto the victim. This abuse is so well hidden within communication dynamics that the partner often doesn’t pick up on it and is left scratching their head wondering ‘is it me?’ When the victim of this abuse eventually begins to develop awareness of the manipulation it gradually dawns on them that they have already been ostracized long before they anticipated and the people that they turn to for help have already been made to believe it’s them who has issues – they’ve already been turned against the victim. The covert narcissist makes their partner feel like they are the one with the problem whilst projecting an innocent angel-like persona to everyone around them. They will make their partner look bad and completely destroy their reputation in order to protect their false sense of self. The narcissist has already attained the trust and belief of everyone around them and anyone close to their partner that they are likely to turn to for help. The partner feels like they are suffering alone, no-one around them can see what the cover narcissist is really up to.
Covert narcissists use cleverly hidden emotional blackmail, mental abuse and manipulative linguistic patterns to force their partner to question their own sanity, behaviours which people that know them would never ever dream of them even being capable of. They have everybody around them fooled by their pathological self whilst wearing down at the psyche and soul of their partner who, over time, becomes depressed, loses self-esteem and feels like their soul is being worn down until they eventually seemingly become devoid of emotion themselves – this then further backs up the narcissists claims that their partner is the one with the problem.
When arguing with a covert narcissist, a partner will usually be left at a dead-end. Their logic appears to be incompatible with that of the narcissist and they always get outwitted. The narcissist will go on to state how they took the parner into their life and ‘saved’ them when they needed it and make the partner feel that they are forever endebted to them. They make them believe that anything bad was all in their imagination and that they are paranoid.
Covert narcissists are the sort of people who have multiple partners, secret affairs (sometimes within the family) or even a complete secret life with someone else. They recruit friends and family who are fooled by the innocent persona they project to defend their false self by convincing them that their discovered secrets are just a result of paranoia or suspicion yet they will use special occasions such as valentines day or even funerals to get away with their infidelity, times when the victim least expects it.
Whenever the partner questions the abuse, lies or secrets that have been discovered then literally everything little details gets twisted back round on to them, they are then the one being accused of the abuse, lies and cheating. It’s a plain and simple defense mechanism which offers no logic or information on the subject and has to be kept secret in order to uphold the covert narcissts’s pathological self. Narcissists come up with one-line defense mechanisms rather than offering any logical explanation for their behaviour (it’s all in your head, that didn’t happen, I don’t know what you’re talking about, I never said that). Statements like these are an instant sign of fear and guilt and make it clear that they’re not willing to even talk about it, they are not willing to take the risk of slipping up. However, in private the narcissist’s attitude towards their partner will be ‘either let me get away with it or get out of my life’. They make it clear that everything is about them whilst their partner’s feelings, needs, wants and desires are completely disregarded and they will totally discard their partner in the process with no empathy whatsoever, seemingly being cold-hearted and sadistic. Anyone who knows about the covert narcissist’s secret life is sure to be blackmailed or manipulated into keeping quiet, sometimes through proxy. Even when a narcissist does slip up, they claim that they have a communication problem and didn’t mean to say it, they will deny their secrets until the day they die even if they’ve already been discovered.
It’s important at this point to understand that the covert narcissist is also a sufferer. Although on some level they must be conscious of their abuse, mind-games and manipulation or they wouldn’t hide it from everyone, it has become their way of getting through life and is deep-routed in their subconscious. However, they still know the difference between right and wrong and good and evil but deep down inside they just don’t care – protecting their true (and self-denied) emotions is more important. The covert narcissist will make it clear to the person closest to them that they understand they have a problem, that they simply don’t care and are not willing to do anything about it even if that means losing the people closest to them in their life. Narcissists have no empathy.
How Do I Recognize Narcissistic Abuse?
Covert narcissists can be extremely flirtacious in party settings, though they often use occassional shock tactics whilst any further promiscuity is kept under cover – they pretend that they were too drunk and not in control and blame it on the drink. They make further arrangements in private and keep their affairs secret in order to uphold their false self-image.
A covert narcissist tries to tie their primary source of narcissistic supply (their partner) down early on in the relationship. They suck up all the finances within the relationship, cut off their partner’s contact with family and friends and damage or lose their partner’s official forms of identification claiming it was an accident leaving them without money or proof of who they are. They manipulate them into a situation whereby they don’t have the resources to leave the relationship or have any control.
Narcissistic ideology shines through the relationship solely to the narcissist’s partner, they are usually the only person that recognizes the problem though are left with no escape route – when seeking help, family and friends accuse them of twisting around everything that the covert narcissist has already told them back on to them in the process of ostracizing their partner – it’s a double-blind.
Covert narcissists attempt to make their partner believe that they have mental health issues and that they are insane, they will misbehave and tell their partner it was all in their head, they imagined it, it wasn’t real. Tell them that you are not willing to be manipulated and they will tell you there’s no relationship then. Of course, This is what everyone around them already believes, the narcissist has already built their army of support forcing the partner to question their own sanity.
What Problems Does Narcissistic Abuse Cause victims?
Ultimately victims of long-term covert narcissistic abuse can experience mild post-traumatic stress disorder – they experience nightmares and flashbacks subconsciouly piecing the parts of the puzzle together. This is the brain’s way of healing itself and it can be decades before this realization happens. When this happens the partner usually begins to figure out just what has been happening all these years though they still have to suffer the consquences of the abuse alone – their friends and family still believe it’s them that’s the problem.
When the narcissistic person can see that their victim is tired and worn down and in a weak vulnerable state it offers a chance for more emotional and mental abuse and the narcissist will inevitably kick the victim while they’re down. Narcissistic abuse feels cruel, cold-hearted and twisted for the victim. The most significant aspect of this disorder is that people in these type of relationships are twice as likely to suffer with stress-related medical problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, heart attacks and strokes.
Excellent article. Describes 3 years of my life perfectly. No one saw her but me. It was SOOO infuriating when other people only saw the angel mask… sincerely, not one person saw or experienced the monster that I did. I looked like the crazy one… And now she is going around slandering me… I tried everything I could to help