Covert narcissists are complex individuals. Some survivors have listed up to 30 traits that are present in a covert or vulnerable narcissist. Some behaviors do more damage than others, yet they are challenging to recognize. Here are 22 signs of covert narcissism that may be overlooked initially.

Covert narcissists:

1. Are passive-aggressive

Many narcissists, particularly covert narcissists, enjoy giving back-handed compliments or subtle putdowns. Unfortunately, these can even happen during an otherwise positive conversation, leaving the intended target wondering, “Did this person just say that?”

2. Give the silent treatment

CN’s utilize the silent treatment to teach the victim who is in control of the relationship. Many times the target will be asking internally, “What did I do?” Eventually, the target may ask the CN what’s wrong, only to be met with a demeaning answer such as, “Don’t you know how busy I am?”

3. Display exhaustion

It’s difficult to keep up the persona of a generous, kind, and witty person for an extended amount of time. CNs may retreat to their homes or their quiet places to recharge before putting the mask back on. Often they do this without setting expectations for their partners. They just disappear.

4. Show quiet superiority

CNs like to show their disdain with others by an eye roll, a sigh, or looking away while someone is talking to them. It’s a subtle way of telling the other person that they don’t matter or what they are saying is ridiculous.

5. Have paranoia

A CN may display unrealistic distrust or a feeling of being persecuted around a partner or others. The paranoia seems senseless to outsiders, but to the CN, it’s very real. They think everyone is out to get them.

6. Use triangulation

Triangulation is where a CN brings in a third party for comparison. It raises the CNs’ feelings of superiority and being “right” in the situation. For example, a CN might ask a friend for advice on a relationship before asking their partner. Then the CN lets the partner know about the questions.

7. Are self-focused

The CN is focused inward and will seldom ask about your feelings or your day. Their needs and wants matter most, and they may even add a passive-aggressive yawn or eye-roll when a partner is trying to share something important to them.

8. Have a no “growth mindset”

CNs often balk at others who work on self-improvement. CNs don’t see the need to improve themselves because they think they are perfect.

9. Play the victim

A CN can step into the victim role easily, especially when accused of wrongdoing. There is no accountability for the vulnerable narcissist.

10. Are introverted

CNs are more introverted than the overt narcissist, yet just as dangerous. It’s easier to spot the overt and stay away.

11. Are the “aw shucks” type of people

The CN will talk about their shortcomings to subtly fish for compliments. A CN might say, “Oh, I am not good at cooking,” so a partner will brag and brag on their abilities.

12. Like video games and other solo activities

Video games with no face-to-face interaction, books, puzzles, and solo card games appeal to the CN. That’s because no engagement allows a CN to restore their energy.

13. Hold grudges

CNs can hold grudges for weeks, months, even years. They listen for any perceived negativity and will remind that person what they said about the CN. Often, the alleged perpetrator was offering a compliment, not a criticism.

14. Envy

CNs are quietly envious of others.

15. Fake empathy

CNs will watch others and learn to mimic empathy when deep inside they could care less about others.

16. Have depression and anxiety

CNs often have depression and anxiety. Any perceived criticism significantly affects them, leading to emptiness, anxiety, and depression.

17. Have an underlying sense of anger

The CN seems to have anger simmering below the surface consistently. Partners can see it through a clenched jaw, rolled eyes, or silence.

18. Put others out with no reciprocation

CNs don’t hesitate to ask someone for a favor. But when the courtesy needs to be returned, the CN is nowhere to be found.

19. Do good deeds when people are watching

CNs will tip well or help with childcare or elderly care when others are watching. No audience? No nice gesture.

20. They have fantasies about their lives

CNs will often have inward illusions about how great they are or a heroic effort that will bring them praise and admiration when the opposite is true.

21. Feel inadequate

CNs cannot measure up to the high standards they set for themselves. They want to be superhuman but understand they are mortal beings like everyone else.

22. Are shy

Introverts (CNs in this case) don’t want to be the life of the party. They don’t mind any admiration that comes their way but would rather have people approach them than have to be loud and boisterous to garner attention.

If you think you are involved with a covert narcissist, begin to take good care of yourself. CNs are manipulative and dangerous. To learn about 5 hidden traits of a covert narcissist watch this video.