Are Covert Narcissists Jealous? (A Complete Guide)

In this guide we will answer the following question: Are covert narcissists jealous? We will also explain what causes this jealousy in covert narcissists. We will discuss the victim mentality and some of the signs and symptoms that can help you spot a covert narcissist.

Are Covert Narcissists Jealous?

Covert narcissists, like all narcissists or individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), are jealous of those who possess the things they feel they deserve such as wealth, power or prestige. However, covert narcissists differ in that they don’t openly express this jealousy but instead express deep resentment and bitterness when they don’t receive what they feel they deserve.

Additionally, because of their tendency to feel superior to others, narcissists often assume that other people are jealous of them. Often, covert narcissists avoid social situations as their need to compare themselves to others can lead to further feelings of envy. This can prevent them from forming meaningful relationships with people.

What is Narcissism?

Narcissists are individuals who have a grandiose sense of self-importance and a preoccupation with their own success and superiority. In narcissism, the feeling of superiority to others masks a deeper sense of inadequacy and worthlessness. Narcissists are manipulative and constantly hanker for attention and praise. They lack empathy and are not bothered by how their behaviour affects other people. These traits impair the way narcissists function in numerous areas of their life, particularly in their social interactions.

A distinction is made between narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The latter requires the individual to meet certain clinical criteria.

What is Covert Narcissism?

Covert narcissists display fewer external signs of narcissism. Although they meet the criteria for NPD, they have traits that are not usually related with narcissism such as shyness, anxiety, humility and sensitivity to criticism. Alternative terms for covert narcissism are closet narcissism, hypersensitive narcissism and introverted narcissism.

Narcissism is usually associated with a lack of inhibition. Covert narcissists are an exception to this as they are usually quiet and avoid drawing attention to themselves. For this reason, covert narcissists can be very difficult to spot. Following are some features that can help you spot a covert narcissist:

  •  Passive Self-Importance: Like other narcissists, covert narcissists crave attention and admiration. But their strategies are a lot more subtle than that of overt narcissists. Rather than being obviously grandiose and attention-seeking, covert narcissists adopt an attitude of quiet smugness and nonverbal cues, such as eye-rolling, that reveal their lack of interest and disdain. Although they appear modest, they secretly believe they are better than other people.
  • Subtle Blaming and Shaming: Compared to overt narcissists, covert narcissists find subtle ways of making other people feel insecure in order to maintain their sense of superiority. In addition to shaming and blaming, covert narcissists may try to confuse people into questioning and second-guessing themselves as a way to maintain their superiority over others.
  • Disregard for Others: Instead of blatantly ignoring or indicating to someone that they are not important, covert narcissists engage in behaviours such as standing up a date or procrastinating on replying to text messages.  
  • Self-Absorption: An important characteristic of covert narcissists is their ‘withdrawn self-centredness’. While other introverts are withdrawn but good listeners, covert narcissists are withdrawn and bad listeners. They pay attention only to what interests them or meets their needs, whilst ignoring other things as unworthy of their consideration.
  •  Passive Aggression: Covert narcissists use passive aggression to emphasise their own superiority or to retaliate against those who mistreat them. Some common strategies used by covert narcissists include subtle blame-shifting, mockery and giving someone the silent treatment. Thus, they don’t openly rejecting situations or people they find disagreeable. For example, they may initially agree to a request but then end up doing nothing or doing whatever else pleases them more. And when asked why they didn’t follow through, they resort to excuses.
  • The ‘Misunderstood Exceptional Person’: Covert narcissists often harbour ideas such as “I am special’, ‘I am so unique that no one gets me’. This indicates their feelings of superiority and grandiosity.
  •  Fantasies of grandeur: Covert narcissists don’t openly display their grandiosity. Instead, they have fantasies of grandeur, such as imagining others admiring them or exacting revenge on those they feel have mistreated them. They retreat into a fantasy world that does not correspond with reality, where their ‘specialness’ is recognised.
  • Poor Emotional Bonds: Narcissists devote all their attention to themselves, leaving very little for others. Covert narcissists may come across as more responsive and empathetic than other narcissists. However, this is usually a performance, with the ultimate goal of demeaning or exploiting others.
  •  False Empathy and Prosocial Behaviour: Covert narcissists may exhibit charitable behaviour. But the motive behind this is usually to receive praise and admiration in return. The focus is on themselves rather than the person they are helping. If they don’t receive praise in return for their aid, they often become hostile and complain about people taking advantage of them.
  • Hypersensitivity to Criticism: Due to their poor self-esteem, covert narcissists are highly sensitive to criticism. Outwardly, it may appear as though they don’t care, but internally they feel extremely angry and mortified when criticised.
  • Self-deprecation: All narcissists depend on the admiration of others to protect their fragile egos. But instead of openly boasting about their achievements, covert narcissists put themselves down to get reassurance or praise from others. Alternatively, they may offer compliments to others in order to get one in return.
  • Introversion: Narcissists are usually bold and often aggressive extroverts. Conversely, covert narcissists are shy and withdrawn. They avoid social interaction in order to hide their flaws and deep feelings of insecurity. At the same time, they feel superior and tend to mistrust others.
  •  Depression and Anxiety: Covert narcissists are highly susceptible to these conditions. Their fear of failure and inability to meet idealised expectations lead to anxiety and depression, respectively. Suicidal ideation is also common.
  •  Holding Grudges: When covert narcissists believe they have been mistreated, they hold the grudge for a long time. They do not exact revenge immediately, but instead, wait for the right opportunity to put others down. Because they harbour grudges, covert narcissists are frequently bitter.
  • High Insecurity: Covert narcissists lack the confidence and the overt grandiosity of their extravert counterparts. They often feel jealous and like they are not good enough, which contributes to depression and anxiety. This is usually not observed in overt narcissism.

What is the Difference between Overt and Covert Narcissism?

The difference between overt and covert narcissism is that the former are more introverted. Overt narcissists are easier to identify since they are usually loud and constantly seek attention and praise. However, both covert and overt narcissism meet the basic criteria for narcissism, in that they have a grandiose 

sense of self-importance and a high need for admiration. 

Thus, the ultimate goals of overt and covert narcissists are the same. The difference lies in the strategies they use to accomplish them.

Why are Covert Narcissists Jealous?

Covert narcissists, like all narcissists, operate from an all-or-nothing perspective. They believe that the world is divided into two groups of people: winners and losers. Additionally, they believe that there is a scarcity of love, attention and admiration in the world. Thus, the success of another individual is perceived by the covert narcissist as their failure. It is viewed as a missed opportunity for attention and admiration. This fuels feelings of envy.

The basis of this warped thinking lies in the emotional trauma suffered by narcissists in early development. Early experiences of exploitation or neglect by significant others causes individuals to hypervigilant to further threats to their ego. Thus, jealousy is a reaction to potential threats to the ego of the narcissist.

In addition to feeling jealous, covert narcissists frequently try to induce jealousy in others. Narcissists try to make the people in their lives jealous, such as flirting with another person in front of their romantic partner. They do this to gain control or to exact revenge in response to their own feelings of jealousy. Covert narcissists, in particular, try to induce jealousy to test the strength of their relationships. This derives from the covert narcissists deep feelings of insecurity and poor self-esteem.

Why is this blog, ‘Are Covert Narcissists Jealous’, important?

Covert narcissism, as mentioned before, is associated with anxiety and depression. Self-harm and suicidal ideation is also common in this condition. Covert narcissism is not as easily identified as overt narcissism. Thus, it is easy for people to be manipulated by a covert narcissist. People often end up in relationships with covert narcissists not realising why they feel mistreated or neglected by their partner. Due to their feelings of jealousy and insecurity, covert narcissists find it difficult to form meaningful relationships with people. Their quiet aloofness serves as a defence mechanism to keep people at a distance and thereby prevent their insecurities from being exposed to the world. For these reasons it’s important to identify covert narcissism and get help from a mental health professional.

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In this guide we answered the following question: Are covert narcissists jealous? We also explained what causes this jealousy in covert narcissists. We discussed the victim mentality and some of the signs and symptoms that can help you spot a covert narcissist.

NPD is not a simple, unidimensional condition. It is made up of a broad spectrum of personality characteristics and includes subtypes, one of which is covert narcissism. Covert narcissism is a lot more elusive than overt narcissism, but there are some signs that can help us spot it. Their deep feelings of insecurity coupled with their sense of entitlement and self-importance make covert narcissists more prone to jealousy. This can prevent them from forming healthy relationships with people. Psychotherapy is usually the recommended treatment for covert narcissism.

FAQ on Are Covert Narcissists Jealous?

Can covert narcissism be cured?

Covert narcissism cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Schema Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapy are particularly effective with personality problems like covert narcissism.

What is covert narcissistic abuse?

Covert narcissists engage in abusive behaviours, such as pretending to be the victim of others behaviour or manipulate people into giving them praise and admiration. By doing so, they are engaging in a type of emotional abuse.

How do you outsmart a covert narcissist?

When dealing with covert narcissists it is important to:
  Limit communication with them
  Avoid getting offended or taking their comments personally
  Understand that covert narcissists lack empathy
  Don’t show the covert narcissist that they are affecting you
  Stay unemotional and don’t respond to their triggers


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