We throw the word “narcissist” around fairly loosely. Often accusing our partners, coworkers and bosses of being such, but do we truly know the meaning of the word ‘narcissist’?
Narcissist: “A person who has excessive interest in or admiration of themselves”
Personality qualities include thinking very highly of oneself, needing admiration, believing others are inferior, and lacking empathy for others. (Oxford languages)
Or to simplify, a narcissistic person quite literally thinks the world revolves around them.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a medical condition characterized by an inflated sense of importance, lack of empathy, and an excessive need for attention and admiration. Narcissism like many personality disorders, falls on a spectrum, and isn’t so simply black and white. Understanding the different types of narcissists can help identify if you or someone in your life may be suffering from NPD.
There are five major types of narcissism, though personality disorders while often categorized and grouped up, everyone who suffers from these disorders may not fall perfectly into one category, these are just used as a template to help us better understand the disorders ourselves.
1. Overt Narcissism
Also known as Grandiose Narcissism, or Agentic Narcissism is usually what we think of when we think of someone with a narcissistic personality, this is the “I’ll do whatever it takes to get what I want” trait. This trait is usually outgoing often to the point of overbearing, arrogant, entitled, typically has an exaggerated self image, and of course the major defining trait in narcissism, lacking ‘true’ empathy. This trait is typically jealous and preoccupied with success often at the expense of others around them, often misusing or exploiting relationships for their own personal benefit and are quick to use ‘gaslighting’ as a tool for success often feigning empathy and other relatable emotions. On the flip side, they can use their “empathy” to tune into what pleases you and in doing so, they create a sort of validation for themselves.
2 Covert Narcissism
Also known as vulnerable narcissism and and closet narcissism, these narcissist are in direct contrast to ‘Overt Narcissism’. Though it is possible to house traits from multiple categories)
These are your “play the victim” narcissist. This one may be trickier to spot, as this person is much less boisterous than your ‘Overt Narcissist’. Suggested by the name, this personality trait isn’t always easily detectable. These individuals are extremely self-absorbed and feel chronically victimized as though the world fails to recognize their excellence. This one is a bit confusing as its often misdiagnosed as depression, often appearing as crippling self pity and high levels of anxiety. The key identifying factor is their inability to take criticism and their refusal to accept accountability and will always blame the world and outside factors for them not succeeding.
Again these are not mutually exclusive, someone with an overt personality type may experience periods of covert personality from time to time.
3. Antagonistic Narcissism
Typically regarded as a subtype of overt narcissism, this one is heavily characterized through its high level of competitiveness and rivalry. Much like the overt personality type, these individuals exhibit a high level of arrogance, added to that with an inherent need to be right and heavily prone to disagreements and arguing. This personality type has a high tendency to take advantage of their peers, often exploiting their weaknesses to get ahead whether it be in careers or personal relationships.
4. Communal Narcissist
This type gets their validation from acts of service, specifically community-related aspects of their life. This is the ‘selfish philanthropist’. The one who embarrassingly records the homeless man as he/she/they hand them charities. The one who post constantly about the many charity events they attend and the great deeds they do for the world. These individuals seek constant validation for their good works. Even going as far as having a lack of empathy for the people they are trying to help, often being seen as above them. Or are seemingly better than others who are helping in much the same ways. (i.e “they don’t care about the homeless like I do.” “They haven’t donated as much money as I have”.) A communal narcissist is very much about the show and not the good deed itself. Another way to identify this character type is the blatant self righteousness, these individuals become easily morally outraged and react strongly to things they deem unfair, often hypocritically.
5. Malignant Narcissism
Again closely related to the overt type, this is one of the more severe forms of narcissism. Along with the high levels of arrogance and the strong needs for praise, this type may also exhibit the following traits, vindictiveness, unforgiveness, a severe lack of accountability, sadism, aggression when interacting with others and high levels of irrational paranoia. These individuals are more prone to substance abuse issues and legal issues. Many serial killers fall into this category of narcissism.
In conclusion, narcissism isn’t so black and white, narcissism shows up in many different ways in many different people, if you are suffering abuse at the hands of a narcissist, seek out help whether its through a close friend, a therapist or a family member, just have someone there that lets you know everything is not your fault, and just to help keep your head above the water a bit.