The Different Types of Narcissists

Different Types of Narcissists

There are so many things that are crazy making and confusing when it comes to the world of Narcissists: their behavior, having a relationship with one, trying to make sense of what you went through when that relationship ends–and then trying to express it to others, hell, trying to even find the words to describe what you went through is all crazy making, and to add to that crazy making is that Narcissism is understood in different ways by different people.

A therapist might describe a Narcissist one way, where as an informed victim will describe them another way, and a victim who is new to the world of Narcissism will describe them in yet another way! This is all very confusing for everyone involved.

And really, unless you’ve been through a Narcissistic relationship–and then talked to others who have experienced a Narcissist, you’d never see how many different behaviors and different types of Narcissists there are out there.  Narcissism is really unique in this way.

For example, take other personality disorders that are in the “cluster B” category of personality disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, or Antisocial Personality Disorder. The people with these personality disorders all tend to present in about the same way, and generally a person trained in diagnosing personality disorders can identify these issues with a handful of questions in about 5-10 minutes.  Narcissists are not this way.  They lie, are masters of manipulation, and often times present in very different ways.

They are the shape shifters of the personality disordered world, and are often really hard to spot–even for professionals.

I’m not sure who came up with all the different types and sub-types of Narcissists out there, but I think they really accurate, and helpful for victims to better understand the Narcissist in their life.

Here’s a brief rundown of some terms that are used by many victims to describe a Narcissist:

Narcissist: A person whose set of behaviors are characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration (remorse) for others. Read more about Narcissism here.

There are Two Main Different Types of Narcissists:

Covert Narcissist (also called Vulnerable, or shy Narcissist): One of two (unofficial) types of subcategories of Narcissists. These Narcissists do not come across like a “textbook definition” of a Narcissist.  In fact, the often come across like the exact opposite.  They tend to be charming, likable, and humble, and a victim who is unfamiliar with the red flags would never see them coming, as they are often very convincing.  Most people don’t know what they are dealing with for years, or even decades. My opinion is that these are the most dangerous types of narcissists, because they often fool everyone–including therapists.  They (initially) come across as humble, sincere, charming, caring, and are liked by most people.  They are the kind of person that goes above and beyond for others, often making it a point to come across as selfless and giving.  People tend to like them, however, they often tend to have a lot of strained relationships with family members–many of which they no longer talk to.  These people are the perpetual victim, and they use pity to trap their victims.  Threats of suicide, addictions, other women throwing themselves at them–all behaviors where others (including the victim) takes pity on them, and hopes that this time they really will change. “Let me hear more about you” and “Look at what they/it made me do” would be their mantras. (Example: Osama bid Laden, Ted Bundy.)

Overt Narcissist (also called Grandiose Narcissist): One of two (unofficial) types of subcategories of Narcissists. These Narcissists are more obvious, and tend to be a “textbook” example of what a narcissist presents like. These people are larger-than-life, arrogant, often loud and boisterous, love to be the center of attention, and often come across as obnoxious to most people.  They are the classic “one-upper”, and people tend to either be very impressed by them or turned off completely. They are often very status driven, and self-centered. These people are the perpetual hero.  They generally justify their behavior and they are always right. “Enough about you, lets talk about me” and “Yeah, but still” would be their mantras. (Example: Donald Trump, Kanye West.)

Within those two general categories, there are 4 more different types of Narcissists:

Cerebral Narcissist (One of three unofficial sub-sub categories of Narcissists, that includes cerebral, somatic and delusional): Cerebral narcissists take great pride in their intellect, and are incredibly convincing.  They are master manipulators and are often most visibly seen as the high ranking, cut-throat CEOs and politicans of the world. The more extreme cases of this have cult followings.  They often have advanced degrees, and come across as elitists.  They rarely like to associate with anyone that is below their intellect or educational level.  These narcissists are not necessarily focused on status symbols. (Example: The representation of Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game,” Bernie Madoff and a case could be made for Ferris Bueller as well.)

Delusional Narcissist (One of three unofficial sub-sub categories of Narcissists, that includes cerebral, somatic and delusional): Delusional narcissists are very grandiose in their beliefs and are often full of stories that are so over-the-top that rarely do other people believe them. (Example: Telling someone that you have $10 million dollars in the bank and a jet plane in your backyard, but that you work as a gardener because you like to be outside–oh, and you own the company too. Their delusions tend to be focused around the Military, success/power, religion, and/or having advanced degrees.)

Malignant Narcissist:An (unofficial) term that describes the types of Narcissism that is the middle of the (unofficial) Narcissistic spectrum. This spectrum often has psychopaths/sociopaths at the worst end, malignant narcissists in the middle and those diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder as the least severe.  (For what it’s worth, I disagree on this.  I fully believe that ALL Narcissists are dangerous and destuctive and can snap at anytime–even if they have no history of violence, and normally present as charming and likable.)

Somatic Narcissist: (One of three unofficial sub-sub categories of Narcissists, that includes cerebral, somatic and delusional): Somatic narcissists are very fixated on their body and appearance.  They are often very seductive, and are pathological cheaters.  To them, sex is a weapon, and a very powerful one at that. They tend to be very status oriented, and are often checking themselves out in the mirror every chance they get.  Many of their victims often feel a soul mate connection to them, which is backed up by (amazing) sex.  (Example: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elvis.)

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Dana

I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 252 Articles
I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse. My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life. Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics. It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.

18 Comments

  1. Can a narcissist be covert and somatic? The one I knew was definitely
    covert. He was very charming, unassuming, humble, did volunteer work, came off as the perfect
    family man, always willing to help a friend in need etc. He also was not concerned with his appearance at all.
    Wore second hand clothes, often with holes, drove a beater, did not take care of himself physically.

    He was married and a serial cheater, said he constantly thought about sex. He seemed more interested
    in fantasy though, taking care of himself than actually being with the women he was involved with always
    using the excuse he was too busy with his family or volunteer work. Used texting/sexting a lot!
    He was a master at manipulating them and stringing them along though, hoping for that day when they
    could finally see him.

    He even quasi-stalked
    some of these women when they finally had enough and withdrew from him. But very subtle
    and covert about it, drive by’s, chance run in’s- that type of thing.

    Just seemed that his covertness was really in stark contrast to his apparent hyper sexual activity and
    wondered if this sounded more like a cerebral or somatic narc?

  2. All of these words “covert”, “somatic”, “Narcissist”, etc. are used to describe a cluster of behaviors. In my opinion, because the understanding of Narcissism is still in its infancy, and the terms are ever-changing (hell, the whole personality disorder of Narcissism might be on its way out of the DSM in the near future), I encourage you to use whatever terms you feel are appropriate to describe your experience.

    Keep in mind that none of these sub groups of Narcissists are “official”, meaning, they aren’t in the DSM-5 (because they do a great job at drilling down and categorizing more specific types of behavior).

    If I had to use words to describe the two highly manipulative, destructive and potentially dangerous men I was in a relationship with, I’d say that they were both covert somatic Narcissists, so yeah, you aren’t alone in coming across these types of behaviors/people. …Seems like a lot of Narcissists in general seem to be hyper-sexual, so I wouldn’t say that quality is in contrast to them being covert. Keep in mind that their “covert-ness” is all part of their con game, and not their true self. So they may be humble, giving, kind on the surface, but it’s just one of their many “masks”. The truth is who they really are is what you see when you see their bad behavior (cheating, lying, stealing).

  3. In the listings of the different types of narcissists you listed male examples like Bernie Maddoff, Donald Trump, Kanye West and Elvis. Could you give examples of the different types of narcissist with female examples. Like Casey Anthony would probably be an overt, Delusional, malignant and somatic narcissist.

  4. Can a overt narcissist change to being a covert narcissist? I feel like that is what my ex husband is doing, or at least trying to. He is not loud & obnoxious like he used to be & is not a “one upper” like he used to be. Most of that behavior has seemed to change & seems to be becoming covert.

  5. The vast majority of people out there tend to change with time–however, if the person is manipulative, then they tend to change in ways to where they get better at hiding their manipulative behavior. I really think that highly manipulative people tend to be, say, or do whatever needs they need to be, say, or do in a given situation in order to get their way–so yeah, I think it’s totally possible for them to be a hybrid of any type of Narcissist.

  6. I was in a relationship with a man who appeared to be the perfect soul-mate and partner. I am an educated woman and still got completely fooled. I checked into his past- had a police check done (which he agreed to) and it came back showing nothing wrong. Well, I later found ou5 he has a Canadian Waiver and any of his history of theft, lying, cheating, child-abuser etc etc is hidden from the public. I did find out that he has a lifelong charge in the US and he is registered with SORNA : Sexual Offender Registry for which he needs a letter from a lawyer and US border Control, annually, in able to cross. No one told me about anything in his past, not his so-called friends, his athletic team-mates, his church friends, his work associates, realtors that know him, nor his family that I travelled across the country to visit, with him, several times. I also met with his one of three of his ex-wives who told me nothing was amiss.

    I DID make an effort to meet anyone that knew him, and try and see if my kids(adults) were right when they told me he was a ‘dangerous man’. I kept defending the man I was now living with and it became exhausting. I was annoyed with my kids because they were judging him with no ‘concrete’ evidence of any wrongdoing.
    Eventually it all cam out: I caught him lying to me and found out he was ‘using’ me as a MARK, all the while telling me how much he loved me, we should get married etc.

    I am TRAUMATIZED to the point that I couldn’t stand hearing another lie or the inflamed abuse tactics, emotional and physical that he exploded into. I left him overnight. He was dragging more and more money from me, using my credit cards etc., then charmingly being the good neighbour, the good employee etc. it is all a big lie, his entire life is a string of lies. He takes pride in getting away with weird sex, with – it seems- any woman whether a hooker or an outstanding businesswoman.

    Now his ex-wife is willing to tell me what he was like in their marriage. He tried to kill her on several occasions. Yes, he choked me three times to get me to ‘agree’ to his opinion of something irrelevant. Her stories are like looking in a mirror and seeing the same wicked behaviour all over again. She said she never told me anything before because she had to go through therapy first. really? He could have killed me!
    I’ve been away from him for almost two years and he’s been engaged about 4 times and now he’s marrying his latest Target. He owes everyone money and gloats on how skilled he is at getting away with this.

    It makes me angry at myself to think that I was drawn in by thus man, and I let him “get away” with lots of inappropriate behaviour. I had been ‘on my own’ for 5 years and I thought it would be nice to have a ‘gentleman’ in my life. I never wanted to blame him for anything he did that reminded me of my ex: a full-blown Narcissist. Little did I know that Mr.Nice Guy/Lover was so much worse than my ex as he put my entire family in jeopardy of his secret sexual addictions, slick stealing habits, and worse, the emotional abuse.

    I just came across your video link today and appreciate it. I look forward to watching more.
    Kind thanks,
    K

  7. Hi “K”,

    I am so sorry that you went through this. You are so not alone. Please know that. There (unfortunately) have been tens of thousands of us that have gone through something similar. I, too, thought I’d found my soul mate. He was so charming and good to me. Then I began to get sick. Long story short, I stumbled upon his double life, and then everything became clear: I’d put him on all my credit cards and we were trying to get a business financed (all on my credit of course). Ironically, I was working at a domestic violence shelter at the time, and even teaching classes there on how to avoid abusive people! I really think that he was drugging or poisoning me.

    The trauma that you are describing that you are feeling is VERY normal. Many survivors of these people often experience a type of PTSD from all of this. It does tend to fade with time, but yes, it’s incredibly traumatic on many levels to know you were in a relationship with a con artist. …I also want you to know that being educated has nothing to do with avoiding these people. I’ve known many therapists that have gotten tangled up with these people too. …And like I mentioned before, I used to work at a domestic violence shelter–and I’m currently a psych nurse–so you’d think I’d know better too! These people are out there, and they are REALLY good at what they do. His behavior is a reflection of him and not a negative reflection of you in any way. <3

    I sincerely wish you all the health, healing, and happiness possible in this next chapter of your life. All of these things are totally possible for you, so please know that too. (((hugs)))

  8. I am stuck in a relationship with a narcissist. I can’t get out. I feel so alone. He’s ruining my life and my kids’ life. I pray and pray that he will go away. I’ve done everything possible to get rid of him, but to no avail. I know this sounds stupid, but it’s true. My friends have seen it and they are worried he will hurt me, but he never has and I don’t worry about that. I just want out so I have a chance at happiness. So far nothing I’ve said or done has worked. I don’t think the police will help because he’s not violent. I’m stuck and I don’t want the rest of my life to be like this.

  9. Is it possible for a narcissist to be both covert and overt? Lets say, a narcissist behaves like a covert most of the time, but whenever he gets comfortable, he will be arrogant and cocky like an overt narcissist? My dad is like this.

  10. I would encourage you to put together an “escape plan”. This is also called a “safety plan”: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/develop-a-safety-plan/

    It’s not easy leaving highly manipulative people, especially if you are worried that he might hurt you (even if he’s never shown any signs of danger). The fact that you’ve tried “everything” and he still won’t leave, shows that this is a big problem. If you don’t own the house, then I would recommend you and the kids pack up as much as you can while he’s gone, and get your friends to help, and then get out of there–and get to a friend’s house or some other safe place. Stuff and things can all be replaced, but your safety and sanity cannot be. The police can do a civil stand by just in case he comes home while you are trying to leave. Let the police know that he is abusive emotionally and that you are afraid that he might be physically as well, and that’s why you want them there. …I would encourage you to join the support group if you haven’t already: http://www.NarcissistSupport.com/forum you aren’t alone in this–not by a long shot. There are lots of people here who have been through something similar and who are willing to listen and help support you emotionally through this. (((hugs)))

  11. Hi!
    I came across this article and I hope you are ok with me sharing it to my group on FB. You have some great information here and i plan on spending more time reviewing your site.

    THANK YOU!

  12. Hello,
    I’m not sure this is the right place for my question, but I don’t really know whereelse to ask – is there any way (a test, anything) to find out of I myself am a narcissist?
    I am scared and confused when I read about all this, because I find so much of my own behaviour (most in the past but also some in my present life) in the listed red flags and specifically in the description of the covert narcissist.
    How can I make avoid hurting people in the future if I’m a narcissist?

  13. If you are concerned that you have some problematic behavior, (and we all do) then I would encourage you to work towards changing it. (Many people–especially those that are on the codependent side of the spectrum are often concerned that they are covert Narcissists. …Narcissists generally don’t know or care that they have a problem.) I would encourage you to start by reading some books on codependency, and to see if you identify with some of those behaviors. If you want to change some of your problematic behavior, then don’t let me or anyone else tell you that you can’t. …I would also encourage you to watch the video on “empty buckets” (Third video series down, and the video is called, “Want to Know Why You are Dating a Narcissist?” http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/youtube-video-playlist-on-narcissism/

    The concept of “empty buckets” is true for Narcissists as it is for Codependents. …you may want to consider joining the support group and bring up your concerns there too. We have several members who are asking themselves many of the same questions. http://www.NarcissistSupport.com/forum

    (((hugs)))

  14. Narcissists fill the social environment with confusion, suspicion, and distrust. They are environmentally toxic. I took a trip outside the country awhile ago. I ran into a couple and I offered them something out of kindness, never expecting anything in return, and never expecting to even see them again, but they were very apprehensive. I wondered why. Later, I stayed in a hostel, which was the kind of environment the couple were used to staying in. What happened there was very eye opening, as there are quite a few people who want to travel the world on the cheap and by their wits and guile. One day, for example, I bought quite a bit of food at a local grocery store, expecting to save a bundle on breakfast, which I would not have to purchase at local restaurants. When I awoke in the morning, all of the food was gone. I imagined that someone must have gotten up very early and ate it all, even though it clearly was not their property. No one was around for me to ask, so I went off to buy breakfast, feeling a bit peeved. After walking two blocks it dawned on me that someone had likely hidden the food, and they were waiting for me to leave, so I turned around and walked back, and the instant I entered the hostel I could smell all of the food being cooked. Actually, all of it, several days worth, was sitting in a platter and the staff workers were all seated around it with empty plates and forks in front of themselves, and all smiling from ear to ear, until they saw me, at which point they all looked angry and frustrated, at which point one of them basically accused me of having a stereotypical attitude as to what kind of food they ate, trying to suggest that it was THEIR food, and that I only believed that it was my food because I thought that they should be eating another kind of food. In other words, one of the things thieves do is to try to shame you, rather than accepting the shame which is distinctly theirs! Petty? Well, yes of course, they are extremely petty and dishonest! I took the food off of the table. Later on, some people got together and cooked a large meal. They were all seated and eating, basically a spaghetti dinner. One of them asked me repeatedly to join them, I was the only one who was not eating, and I had plans to go out and get something to eat. This person insisted that I looked hungry, that there was still plenty to eat, that I should grab a plate, that there was plenty of room at the table still, that I should try some of the food, I might like it, everyone else seemed to be enjoying it. Finally I relented and put a small amount of food on a plate, then sat down. The instant after I had a place the fork of food to my mouth, the same person burst out in a loud voice, “OK, who here hasn’t paid $xx.xx for their plate, yet?” At that moment I realized that it had all been a hustle, and the amount of food I was eating was not worth the price of what he was asking, which was no less than what I would have been spending in a restaurant on an item of my own choosing. I let myself get hustled, because I could have simply got up, handed him the plate, said, “Nice try”, and walked off, but instead I played along, rather than walking out on everyone, which was what the con rested on. Petty? Yes, that is what they engage in. These environments provide a lot of mischief and mayhem, along with deception. People will brag about hustling local businesses, restaurants, hotels and bars out of money, how they got away without paying their bill. They will boast about sociopathological behavior, glowing with the thought of their cunning. People will ask you to grab a seat at their table, after stopping you to inquire a bit about you and where you have been, what you have seen. Pull up a seat and have a cup of coffee, watch when they say that they have to get up and go, their girlfriend is waiting for them and they are a bit late. Don’t be surprised when wait staff hurries out to catch them, because they are trying to run out on the bill, and leave you sitting there, before their tab arrives. Or, say someone observes you handing a bundle of clothes off at a laundromat, and later in the day you see them washing their own clothing by hand. You figure they are trying to save money, nothing wrong with that, and no judgment made. However, they may very well be stewing with resentment towards you, because they have made a comparison, found their position in relative disfavor, but rather than then spending the money to have their clothes washed, they have built up a store of resentment and anger towards you, and they are going to let you have it when you least expect it, in order to set things right, in their mind. Then, there are the people who will offer you some unsolicited “gift”, something you have not requested, to not desire, and have no use or interest in. They did not give you this gift for any practical or thoughtful reason, they did this in order to place themselves in an advantageous position to make a future demand on you, say for instance their birthday is a few days away, at which time they will be certain to tell you exactly what they want and the store in which it is to be found, and the time at which they will expect you to give it to them. When you do not play into their manipulation, people may give you looks to suggest that you are cruel, after all, this person was kind and thoughtful towards you, having given you a gift, and now you are closed handed and closed hearted. Again, the social pressure which plays into the hustle. Then, there are the people who will simply try to make you feel as if you are a bad person, by stating as much in a variety of different ways, and trying to ridicule you when you do not buy into their shaming techniques. Later, do not be surprised when they confide in you that they are taking as much advantage as they can of someone, and that they are digging into their victims financial background, in order to try to hustle them out of as much money as they can, and they have a gleam in their eye, and a wicked smile on their lips. They figure that since you have not fallen for their manipulation, they have to prove that they are very clever, deceptive, and exploitative as they believe they are, so they want to let you in on it. At the very worst end of it, you open up a newspaper and read about a tourist who was found wandering a road half naked, in a confused state and disoriented state. And then, on the other end of the victim scale, there are those who will bitterly complain about having been beaten and robbed, and as they go on you will hear them becoming increasingly antagonistic, provocative, and hostile, as they begin to zero in on you, so that you begin to understand just what led to their being beaten, whether they were actually robbed or not is left in question. Or, people may go out of their way to paint all the locals as liars and thieves, but keep listening and you will hear a story or two about how they were cheated by another tourist, or how all of their money or possessions were stolen from them by a fellow tourist. Or, someone who owes you money will try to convince you that money has no real value but the value people assign it, and they will feign that their “friendship” is of such high value that you should forget about what they owe to you, as they go about trying to manipulate you and the very thought of paying you what they owe you fills them with anger and contempt. Remind that person that someone owes them money, maybe that person is their nearest and dearest traveling companion, and watch them go at it, watch the fur fly, as they both begin to fight over who owes whom, and exactly how much, and how the figure is to be determined. Narcissism is fairly rampant, a lot of people can see no further than their own noses, and their own noses are very dear to them. With all of that said, it is important to make social distinctions, not judgment, but distinctions, those who make judgments tend to be narcissistic and given to making personal comparison, which is where a lot of trouble begins. These are not the kind of people you want to marry and have children with, all the while wondering to yourself how are you going to change them…

  15. Hi Paul, you are quite right. It reminds me of a story I heard from my very manipulative husband. He has a very good friend who is very charmng on the surfuce, a very wealthy guy, who likes to eat in expensive restaurants. Once he went on holiday with his wife and a befriended couple and they ate a very large and expensive meal in a well known restaurant.
    They drunk a lot of very expensive wine and they got a lot of attention of course from the waiters. At the end of the evening they asked for the bill. After 10 min. the bill was not there beacuse a lot of poeple left at this moment. They started to talk amongst eachother and decided they were badly treated and just left without paying. They thought is was a very good joke.
    And my husband told this story laughing like a whale..(nb sorry, english s not my language)
    Why did they do this? They thought that the country they live in as expats was just a bunch of stupid people who were good for nothing and they just deserved it, finally…
    These do a lot of these kind of things like that against many people, whom they consider as lesser people. Judgmental thinking is often the way very narcissistic and mean or even criminal behaviour is justified…

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