Are You In Love With An Introvert Narcissist?

Updated August 14, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

The word "narcissist" has a lot of stereotypes attached to it, many of which are not necessarily accurate across the board. When we talk about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), we often think of the stereotypical or more overt presentation. But not all people with NPD act the same way; introvert or covert narcissism presents differently.

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What Is An Introvert Narcissist?

Narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD, is a diagnosable mental health condition characterized by a grandiose or inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. A grandiose sense of self and self-importance is one of narcissistic personality disorder's most dominant and well-known symptoms. Still, someone with a covert presentation may display this symptom in a way that does not fit media depictions or stereotypes.

"Introvert narcissist" is not a clinical term. However, there are different ways that symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder can present. Subtypes of NPD are typically grouped as covert NPD or overt NPD. As these terms suggest, NPD symptoms can present in a more traditional, overt manner or a more covert, quiet, or hidden manner.

When someone says "introvert narcissist," they most likely refer to a covert presentation of NPD. Some people use the terms "vulnerable narcissist" or "closeted narcissist" interchangeably with the term "introvert narcissist" when referring to covert narcissism. It may be more challenging to pick up on what's going on if symptoms of NPD are covert. With this in mind, understanding the symptoms of NPD and how they may present differently can be advantageous for someone hoping to understand this personality disorder better.

NPD Signs And Symptoms

Someone with a covert presentation of NPD will still meet the criteria for the disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Symptoms of NPD include:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A fixation with success, power, or control
  • An excessive need for admiration
  • The belief that one is special or unique and can only be affiliated with or understood by other people and institutions of high status
  • A tendency to exploit or take advantage of others
  • An arrogant attitude or arrogant behaviors
  • Envy of others or the belief that others are envious of them
  • A lack of empathy
  • A sense of entitlement

Narcissistic personality disorder is a cluster B personality disorder. Underneath the surface, people who live with narcissistic personality disorder tend to struggle with what is referred to as low personal self-esteem. While this is true across the board, it may be more noticeable in NPD with a covert presentation.

What Does Covert NPD Look Like?

If you think you might be in love with someone with covert narcissism, you’re probably wondering what a covert presentation NPD looks like. Here are some possible signs:

  • They display a sense of superiority over others or feel superior to others, even if they do not say it outright. Someone with this form of NPD might put other people down or criticize them extensively without reason. It could even be that they criticize you, your friends, or your family.
  • They are self-absorbed or show high self-importance, even if it is not in the traditional or expected sense. For example, someone with covert NPD may believe everything is an attack on them. Say that you compliment a friend. Your partner may get upset, and even though it has nothing to do with them, think that your compliment toward another person is an insult toward them.
  • They show an unusually high sensitivity to real or perceived criticism. Even if you try to have a civil conversation with them about your feelings, they may become unusually angry, passive-aggressive, vindictive, or give you the silent treatment following real or perceived criticism. After doing so, they may blame their behavior on you.
  • They have strong feelings of envy or inadequacy. Whether the presentation is overt or covert, many people living with NPD are fixated on "winning" or gaining success, which can pair with envy for others or create a competition where there isn't one.
  • When you bring up something that hurts your feelings, such as a snide remark they made toward you, they may deny that this occurred or say that it's for your benefit (I.E., "I only want what's best for you").

It is crucial to remember that you can't diagnose another person with NPD; only a mental health professional can do that. But, if your partner shows signs like those listed above, they are not signs of a positive or healthy relationship. You don't need someone to have a formal diagnosis to know that you need to leave. If abuse is present, whether emotional, verbal, or another form, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website here: https://www.thehotline.org/.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
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A diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder does not mean that a person is "bad," and not everyone diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder will display these behaviors. Treatment for NPD is available, and with support, it is possible for someone living with NPD to take charge and manage their condition.

Diagnosis And Treatment For NPD

It's estimated that about 0.5% of the United States population lives with NPD. To receive a formal diagnosis, one must see a qualified medical or mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist. For a diagnosis of NPD, symptoms must be ongoing, and they must not be better attributed to another condition or disorder. Remember that NPD is a treatable mental health condition, though not everyone with this condition seeks treatment or support. 

It is common for various other mental health conditions to occur in those living with NPD. These are called co-occurring or comorbid conditions. For example, those living with NPD have a higher likelihood of developing a substance use disorder and depression when compared to the rest of the population. If a comorbid or co-occurring condition presents, treatment may also address these concerns. In many cases, another mental health concern, whether a substance use disorder, depression, or something else, will be why someone with NPD initially reaches out to a medical or mental health provider.

Substance use disorders are serious. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or a substance use disorder, please contact the SAMHSA hotline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit the SAMHSA website here: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.

The Bottom Line

You may not be able to diagnose a partner with NPD, but if your partner is treating you poorly or if a relationship is impacting you negatively in any way, it's time for something to change. It can take some time to heal when a partner meets you with extensive criticism or a lack of validation for your feelings and experiences. 

Whether or not someone is diagnosed with NPD, there is no excuse for your partner's behavior, and it is not your fault if this is something you've been through. Seeing a therapist or counselor can help you heal and move forward. You deserve to have healthy, happy relationships; seeing a mental health professional can be a game-changer.

Find Support

Whether you're going through concerns related to a current or past relationship, a mental health condition, or something else that's on your mind, the support of a counselor or therapist can help. There are several ways to find a licensed therapist, but online therapy is one of the most convenient. Online treatment is often more affordable than traditional in-person services, making it an easy, cost-effective way to find the support you need without the commute or months-long waiting list. Plus, multiple studies show that online therapy is just as effective as in-person treatment. If you’re ready to learn more, get started with Regain.

Takeaway

NPD can be difficult to diagnose, particularly the introvert or covert subtype. If you think you are in love with someone with covert NPD, an official diagnosis isn’t as important as making sure you protect yourself from an abusive relationship. If you need help figuring out what to do or if you have recently ended a relationship and need help recovering, online therapy is a great way to get the support that you need.  

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