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Recognizing 9 Signs of Narcissistic Abuse in Intimate Relationships

Recognizing 9 Signs of Narcissistic Abuse in Intimate Relationships


Do you feel like something is off in your relationship? Do you get the sense that your partner constantly puts you down, manipulates you, or lacks empathy when you open up about your feelings? If so, you might be in a relationship with a covert narcissist.

Living with someone who has covert narcissistic tendencies can be an incredibly difficult and dangerous experience. They may seem charming, endearing, and empathetic - but beneath that facade lies a manipulative, self-centered person who will use whatever tactics necessary to get what they want.  The problem is, by the time the victim realizes what's happening, they're already in too deep. 

Narcissism is a personality disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, and it comes in different forms. In today's post, we will focus on covert narcissism and the signs of abuse that come with it. Covert narcissistic abuse can be sneaky and difficult to recognize, but we're here to help you understand its dynamics so that you can break free and reclaim your life.


Covert Versus Overt Narcissism

The first step to recognize narcissistic abuse is to differentiate between covert and overt narcissism. Overt narcissists are loud, boastful, and seek attention at all times. They tend to be more noticeable and easier to spot than covert narcissists.

On the other hand, covert narcissists are more subtle in their behavior, making it more challenging to identify them. One of the early indicators of covert narcissism is feeling like the relationship is a fairy tale when you first meet your partner.

During the initial stages of a relationship, the covert narcissist is on their best behavior, and they may come across as highly charming and incredibly attentive to your needs and feelings. However, as the relationship progresses, the covert narcissist cannot maintain this facade, and new behaviors will slowly start to come out.


9 signs of a covert narcissist

It's essential to recognize the signs of a covert narcissist to avoid falling deeper into the cycle of abuse. Here are some of the most common signs:

1.  Love Bombing:

Love bombing is a tactic that allows a covert narcissist to quickly establish control over their victim. They'll shower their victim with affection, gifts, and attention in the early stages of the relationship, making the victim feel like they're the most important person in the world.

They'll make grand promises and declarations of love, creating an intense emotional bond between them and their victim. But once the victim is hooked, the love bombing stops and the manipulation begins.

2.  Emotional manipulation:

Covert narcissists are skilled manipulators who use guilt, shame, or fear to control and coerce their partners into doing what they want. A covert narcissist will use their perceived emotional intelligence to draw their victim in. They'll make them feel heard and understood, but then turn around and use their vulnerabilities against them.

They may use guilt, shame, and fear to control their victim's behavior and keep them in line. This tactic can be incredibly effective, as the victim often doesn't even realize it's happening until it's too late.

3.  Self-importance:

At the heart of covert narcissism lies a deep sense of entitlement and a desire for admiration and recognition from others. However, unlike their overt counterparts, covert narcissists are much more adept at hiding their true intentions and manipulating those around them to get what they want.

They often portray themselves as vulnerable or selfless in order to gain sympathy or attention from others, but this is merely a tactic to achieve their goals. Patients dealing with covert narcissism may find themselves stuck in toxic relationships where they are constantly walking on eggshells and never feeling quite good enough for their partner.

4.  Gaslighting:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where the aggressor seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or sanity. It's a hallmark of covert narcissistic behavior.

They'll twist facts, manipulate situations, and frame things in a way that always makes them look like the hero - even when they're clearly in the wrong. This can leave the victim feeling confused, isolated, and alone.

5.  Projection:

Covert narcissists blame others for their faults or project onto their partner their insecurities or negative traits. Projection is a defense mechanism that narcissists use to deflect blame, criticism, and responsibility away from themselves and onto others.

Covert narcissists tend to be more subtle in their approach, but their projection tactics are no less insidious. A covert narcissist may project onto you by accusing you of things they're guilty of themselves or by attacking your character in ways that are entirely unfounded.

6.  Lack of empathy:

Unlike their overt counterpart, covert narcissists are masters of manipulation, able to hide their tendencies behind a facade of charm and selflessness. However, don't be fooled by their facade. Underneath it, there's a lack of empathy that can leave a trail of destruction in its wake.

One of the most striking aspects of covert narcissism is the lack of empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Studies have shown that narcissists, in general, have a reduced capacity for empathy. However, covert narcissists take this to another level.

They are particularly skilled at hiding their lack of empathy behind a veneer of concern. They may express caring words and feign interest in the lives of others, but it's usually to gain something in return, such as admiration or power.

The lack of empathy in covert narcissism can have devastating consequences. It's common for victims of covert narcissism to suffer from depression, anxiety, and self-doubt. They often feel isolated and alone, as their needs and feelings are not validated by the narcissist.

On the other hand, the narcissist remains unaware of the damage they are causing, and may even believe that they are the ones being victimized.

7.  Sensitive to criticism:

Covert narcissistic rage is an intense reaction that occurs in response to perceived criticism, whether it's real or imagined. When a person with covert narcissism feels criticized, their fragile self-esteem is threatened, and they may feel that their value as a person has been called into question. In response, they may lash out, become defensive, or engage in passive-aggressive behavior.

8.  Silent treatment: 

The narcissistic silent treatment is a tactic where the narcissist ignores or withholds communication from their target. It can feel like a cold shoulder, passive-aggressive behavior, or stonewalling.

The aim is to manipulate the target’s emotions and behavior by creating a sense of insecurity, anxiety, and desperation. In the case of a covert narcissist, the silent treatment may be subtle and prolonged, creating a sense of confusion and self-doubt for the target.

9.  They are controlling: 

Covert narcissists use control to protect their fragile egos.  Covert narcissists crave admiration and approval as much as their overt counterparts, but they're more afraid of rejection and criticism.

As a result, they'll do anything to avoid situations where they might be judged or humiliated. This can manifest as controlling behaviors, such as isolating themselves from others or micromanaging their relationships. By controlling their environment, covert narcissists can protect their fragile egos and maintain the facade of perfection they've constructed.


How to get help

If you find yourself in a relationship with a covert narcissist, know that you're not alone, and support is available. Seeking help is essential to break free from the cycle of abuse and start the healing process. An excellent first step is to get into therapy or consult a mental health provider at Intrepid Mental Wellness to help you focus on becoming strong, building your self-esteem, and setting healthy boundaries. Remember, recovery is a journey that takes time and effort, but it's worth it to live a life free from narcissistic abuse.

In conclusion, recognizing the signs of narcissistic abuse in intimate relationships is critical to breaking free from the cycle of abuse. Covert narcissists can make it difficult to identify their abusive behavior, but you're not alone in this. Seek help from a mental health provider to begin the healing process, and remember that you deserve to be in a healthy, safe, and loving relationship.



About Intrepid Mental Wellness: 

Intrepid Mental Wellness is on a mission to help individuals find peace, balance, and optimal mental wellness. Our team of dedicated professionals specializes in providing holistic treatment for depression, anxiety, trauma, insomnia, and ADHD.

We believe in the power of listening to our patients and working together to create personalized treatment plans that prioritize your comfort and well-being. By combining supplements with prescribed medications when necessary, we are able to address mental health symptoms from a comprehensive perspective.

Whether it's in-person at our Denver office or through secure televideo sessions from the comfort of your own home, we are committed to providing convenient and effective care for all those seeking support on their journey towards better mental health.

At Intrepid Mental Wellness, we envision a world where everyone has access to compassionate and evidence-based mental health care that empowers them to live their best lives.

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