Today, we are going to go over the 4 types of narcissism you need to know. Make sure to read until the end, because it will provide you with useful information that may help you recognize some of these narcissistic patterns in people you encounter in your everyday life, or maybe even in yourself.
When we talk about narcissists, we usually imagine overly-confident, shameless, selfish, and proudly self-important people who are not very pleasant to hang around with. While many narcissists certainly display these characteristics, it is important to mention that narcissism isn’t always as straightforwardly manifested in people who can be considered “narcissistic”. These different manifestations form different types of narcissism that we will be talking about today.
Now let’s start with the most common and well-known type.
Type 1: The Overt or grandiose narcissists.
Grandiose narcissists are overconfident, entitled, arrogant and exploitative. They tend to display high self-esteem and present themselves as dominant in interpersonal relationships. These narcissists can also be very antagonistic, combative, and argumentative. You know the type – they are the people who will require your unconditional respect, admiration, and praise, who will boast about their often overblown „achievements“ at reunions and get-togethers, who will be eager to only associate with the most beautiful, popular, and successful people at parties and who won’t hesitate much to humiliate those whom they perceive to be of lower status. Even beyond that, they are often convinced that they are „destined“ for greatness and fantasize about unlimited beauty, power, and success. So, how are you supposed to deal with this kind of toxic personality? Just avoiding them would be a great idea, but if you are unable to do that for whatever reason and are required to interact with them, make sure to set good boundaries and don’t try to explain why their behavior and attitudes are inappropriate and out of touch with reality – it’s likely an exercise in futility.
If you happen to be in an intimate relationship with an overt narcissist, or you have a family member who is one, you can expect self-interested, self-absorbed, and selfish behaviors to be the norm. You should not be surprised if they start demanding that you constantly validate their distorted view of themselves as “special” and “unique” people who explicitly believe they are entitled to your time, money, and emotional resources. Keep in mind that a close relationship with an overt narcissist, be it with a partner, family member, or a friend, can be challenging, exhausting, and very time-consuming, so you may find yourself feeling physically and emotionally drained. You might even feel shocked at how limited and selective their empathy is, which is hardly a good foundation for healthy close relationships.
Type 2: The Covert or vulnerable narcissists
Covert narcissists share several characteristics with the overt narcissists, such as self-centeredness, exaggerated sense of self-importance, and entitlement, which make up the core of all types of narcissistic personalities. In other words – grandiosity characterizes every narcissist you may encounter. Covert narcissists display that sense of grandiosity somewhat differently from their flashy overt counterparts. Unlike your garden-variety overt narcissist, covert narcissist often feels victimized, mistreated, wronged, and unrecognized by the world for their supposed “uniqueness”. They are termed “vulnerable” or “fragile” because they are prone to feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, shyness, and hypersensitivity, especially to criticism. People may even mistake them for being just shy, introverted, or depressed.
These narcissists will often share stories of having never been given a chance to demonstrate how “superior” they are to other people – the same people who are secretly envious of their “unique talents”. They didn’t attend Harvard because they were sabotaged by the unfair admission system, not because of their lack of knowledge or willingness to study hard. They didn’t get that promotion at work because their boss is hateful and envious of them – not because they are lazy, sloppy and disrespectful. It’s not uncommon for covert narcissists to expect other people to soothe their fragile egos, while they themselves harbor contempt for those same people.
If you enter a relationship with a vulnerable narcissist, you will be subjected to endless displays of victimhood and attention-seeking through sullen behavior and passive aggression. Even if you do always put their needs first, they will just move the goalposts of what they expect from you and still probably resent you or plainly demonstrate boredom.
Type 3: The Malignant narcissists.
Malignant narcissists possess all the traits of overt narcissists, with the addition of aggression, antisocial behaviors, and suspiciousness. This disorder is often described as a blending of narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders. They are as egocentric and egotistical as other types of narcissists but are far more likely to engage in morally questionable behaviors, bordering on criminal. This is why many have likened them to psychopaths. They are distinct entities, however. Two key differences between malignant narcissists and psychopaths are that malignant narcissists can form connections with others and that they will be ever so slightly inclined to feel a little guilt or remorse and display their admittedly extremely superficial and limited empathy, especially when it comes to their family members.
Malignant narcissists are prone to react impulsively, lash out at people and humiliate others for even the smallest real or perceived transgressions, like making jokes pointed at them, questioning their opinion about something, or being “too confident”, in their opinion. This is why people in their lives, who often feel anxious and intimidated by them, usually feel like they have to walk on eggshells to appease them and protect their fragile egos. If those people are not careful about everything they say or do, they risk provoking the malignant narcissist’s hostility and rage, which is not a pleasant sight.
Many people who are or were in some way connected to a malignant narcissist often report that they are unstable, impulsive, jealous, hateful, and angry. Of course, that doesn’t make malignant narcissists the best candidates for romantic partners, friends, or co-workers. All of the aforementioned characteristics, coupled with the way they process information in black-and-white terms and their shallow emotional lives indicate that they can sometimes cause significant damage to both people around them and society at large.
Type 4: The Communal narcissists.
Communal narcissists are people we’ve all met at some point in our lives. The term “communal narcissists” was coined by Gebauer and colleagues in 2012. In simple terms, they are the narcissists who satisfy their ego-related, self-centered needs by communal means. This phenomenon is most obvious in activities related to participation in different causes and organizations. These may include various activities related to fundraising, animal rescuing, donating to various causes, and similar activities. They might constantly boast about their good deeds and their prosocial tendencies, to the point where it becomes obvious that they are more interested in self-presentation as decent, warm-hearted, and charitable than actually helping their communities.
Research has confirmed that communal narcissists believe, on a conscious level, that they are helpful, but on a subconscious level feel that that isn’t the case. However, since their primary goal is to obtain validation, attention, and recognition for their supposed charitable nature, they don’t feel the need to resolve this contradiction between their conscious and subconscious motivation. Like all other types of narcissists, they possess superficial emotionality and surface-level empathy, which makes them more interested in participating in different humanitarian and/or environmentalist causes to receive praise and admiration they crave than to actually help the cause itself.
As with all types of narcissists, if they fail to get the validation they desperately seek out, they are likely to mistreat their family members out of frustration, minimize humanitarian efforts and achievements of other people and engage in antagonistic and hostile behaviors towards the people who failed to accurately mirror their kind and charitable self-image. Psychologists and other mental health researchers have speculated that this type of narcissism has always existed, but has been on the rise in the era of social media, which have given narcissists opportunities and platforms to show their so-called humanitarian efforts to hundreds, if not thousands of people, which satisfies their self-enhancing, grandeur-related, egocentric needs.
This was a brief introduction to the four most commonly mentioned and described types of narcissism and we hope it brought some clarity to this relevant and important subject. Do you know someone like this? Let us know your thoughts about it in the comment section.