Types of Narcissism

The Many Types of Narcissism: Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Overt and Covert Types, Narcissistic Families, and Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic Abuse Support in Asheville


Over the past four years or so, the term narcissism has become a standard descriptor for selfish and arrogant people everywhere.


Once a shadowy word used to describe only the most flagrant and grandiose high-powered men, narcissism has since taken on multiple new meanings.


Let’s differentiate between some of the different types of narcissism. Narcissistic Personality Disorder has both a traditional, “overt” form as well as a “covert” definition. Narcissistic Families and Narcissistic Abuse are newer terms worth clarifying.


If you’re struggling with a narcissistic person and need narcissistic abuse support I strongly encourage you to reach out.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: this is a mental disorder that impacts an individuals sense of themselves. It also  changes one’s perceptions of others and can cause multiple challenges in relationships. In overt NPD, an attitude of superiority, entitlement and grandiosity are common. Needing excessive admiration and attention from others are also hallmarks of NPD. Lack of empathy for others is another common trait.

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Here are the diagnostic criteria for NPD, according the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual os Mental Disorders, 5th Edition:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and with lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood, as indicated by at least five of the following:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without actually completing the achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.
  • Believes that they are “special” and can only be understood by or should associate with, other special people (or institutions).
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement, such as an unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment or compliance with his or her expectations).
  • Is exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
  • Lacks empathy and is unwilling to identify with the needs of others.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes.
narcissistic types

Covert Narcissism: this is another form of NPD, however the symptoms vary slightly. These types tend to be more introverted than typical narcissists and often self-identify as the “Virtuous Victims” in multiple life situations. These people also tend to disregard the feelings and needs of others and often use passive-aggressive methods such as cancelling at the last minute, not showing up when they say they would, or being elusive in their communication and commitments.

Symptoms of Covert Narcissism include the following:


  • Self-pity: a running narrative about themselves as a victim. 
  • Gaslighting: causing others to doubt their perceptions and undermining others’ clarity about what they sensed/saw/perceived, etc.
  • A lack of regard for other people’s feelings, time and needs.
  • Invalidating and dismissing other people’s efforts at communication.
  • Disgust and contempt for others that they perceive as inferior.
  • Passive-aggression: expressing feelings indirectly instead of directly. This can include behaving in ways that seem apathetic on the surface but hide a deeper desire to gain control. 
  • Ego fragility, making it very challenging to receive feedback about their behavior.

Narcissistic Families: family systems in which the emotional needs of the parents are the priority over the emotional needs of the children. In these types of families, parents often disregard what their children might be feeling, wanting, or needing. The children are expected to cater to and meet the needs of the adults in the family.

In these families the following characteristics are common and lead to Narcissistic Abuse:

  • Rage outbursts from a parent
  • Vulnerability is exploited
  • There is no emotional safety
  • The environment is emotionally invalidating
  • A lack of empathy
  • Certain feelings are acceptable in children, others are not (i.e. happiness and contentment are ok, sadness or anger are not)
  • There is emotional neglect and deprivation
  • Denial, deflection and minimization of negative experiences by parents (gaslighting)
  • One person, often a child, is blamed when something goes wrong
  • Personal preferences do not matter / children are expected to meet their parent’s expectations regardless of what they want
  • Criticism, personal attacks and character assassinations are common

Narcissistic Abuse: the impact of being subjected to the narcissistic person or family’s chronic behavior.

For people in relationships with those who have narcissistic traits (please note, having traits means not necessarily being diagnosed with NPD, but exhibiting some of the qualities listed above) they will likely experience some form of relational trauma.

Narcissistic abuse can lead to:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Chronic self-doubt
  • Feeling like you’re crazy, stupid, or wrong
  • Being out-of-touch with your self / people pleasing / codependence
  • A lack of self-trust and trust in others
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Trouble setting boundaries
  • Unexplained anxiety and depression
  • Physical symptoms of stress: GI issues, fatigue, ulcers, headaches, etc.
  • Regular feelings of Fear, Obligation and Guilt (FOG)

If you are in a relationship with someone who is narcissistic or if you were raised in a narcissistic family, you are likely dealing with some, if not all, of the above symptoms.

Please reach out and get narcissistic abuse support. You are not crazy, bad, or unworthy. You have been exposed to very damaging relational dynamics and will likely require outside support to get your life and psyche back. I specialize in this type of psychotherapy and you can contact me here.

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