Can a Narcissist Flip Between Being Covert and Overt?

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My inbox is always brimming with questions about narcissism and how to navigate difficult relationships. I think you might find this one interesting:

Can a narcissist flip between being covert and overt?

The simple answer is yes, they can.

Covert and overt narcissists are like two sides of the same coin. Both covert and overt narcissists share the same warped vision of the world and dysfunctional view of relationships. This worldview can be expressed overtly or covertly.

Shared Traits of Covert and Overt Narcissists

Both types of narcissists possess the same core traits, which include:

  • Grandiosity: An inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement.
  • Need for Admiration: A constant craving for attention and validation.
  • Lack of Empathy: Inability to recognize or care about the feelings and needs of others.
  • Manipulativeness: Using others to achieve their own ends.
  • Envy: A deep-seated envy of others or the belief that others are envious of them.
  • Arrogance: A haughty attitude and a tendency to look down on others.

Covert vs. Overt Expression

The difference lies in how these traits are expressed:

Overt Narcissists: They are openly arrogant, attention-seeking, and domineering. Their grandiosity and need for admiration are displayed in an obvious and exaggerated manner.

Covert Narcissists: They hide their narcissistic traits under a façade of humility, sensitivity, or introversion. They may appear shy, self-effacing, or even insecure, but this is a mask for their underlying grandiosity and sense of entitlement.

Flipping Between Covert and Overt Styles

Narcissists can flip and flop between the two styles, especially during times of stress or crisis. As a coping mechanism, they might revert to the opposite style. For instance, a covert narcissist might become more overt during times of stress or crisis, or when they feel that people are catching on to their true nature. If they realize that their covert ways are not getting them what they want, they might start to lash out in more overt ways. In this case, the transition to overt expression is an extension of their original motives. It's all part of the same narcissistic worldview.

Conversely, an overt narcissist may become more covert after they face consequences for their behavior. For example, if a narcissist is warned they may lose a relationship, a job, or an opportunity due to their rageful outbursts, they may turn to more covert manipulation to stay in control.

Recognizing the Signs

Identifying a narcissist, whether overt or covert, involves observing their consistent behaviors over time:

Overt Narcissists: Look for blatant arrogance, a constant need for praise, and a tendency to dominate conversations and situations.

Covert Narcissists: Notice passive-aggressive behavior, a victim mentality, and subtle manipulation tactics.

Related Resources

  • Behind the Mask: How Narcissists Suppress Their Envy [Watch] [Read]
  • The Demonic Spirits Behind Narcissism. [Watch] [Read]
  • Are Narcissists Aware of Their Narcissism? [Watch][Read]
  • Are Narcissists Traumatized or Demonized? [Watch] [Read]
  • Benevolent Narcissists in the Bible and How They Show up in Church, Ministry & the Workplace [Watch]
  • The Three Deepest Fears of a Narcissist and How Their Fears Control Us [Watch]
  • Shocking Insights on How a Narcissist Really Judges You [Watch]
  • Explained: Why Narcissists Hate to See You Happy [Watch] [Read]

Downloadable Resources 

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