5 Types of Narcissism: Know How to Easily Identify Them

Know the Different Types of Narcissists by Understanding 5 Types of Narcissism

Narcissism is a complex personality trait that exists on a spectrum and can present in different ways. Understanding the different types of narcissism and narcissistic personality traits can help individuals recognize and navigate relationships and social situations with narcissistic individuals.

This article will explore the five types of narcissism, their characteristics, and how to identify them. By understanding the different manifestations of narcissism, individuals can develop strategies for maintaining their own wellbeing when interacting with narcissistic people.

5 types of narcissism
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Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Recognizing the different types of narcissism can help individuals navigate relationships with narcissistic individuals.
  • Understanding the characteristics of each type of narcissism is crucial for identifying and addressing narcissistic traits.
  • Developing strategies for maintaining personal wellbeing is essential when dealing with narcissistic individuals.
  • Recognizing the lack of empathy and the expectation for special treatment are common traits among all types of narcissism.
  • Implementing self-care and setting boundaries is crucial for maintaining personal wellbeing in relationships with narcissists.

Understanding Narcissism and its Impact on Relationships

Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by excessive self-focus, entitlement, and a need for admiration. It exists on a continuum, ranging from milder narcissistic traits to a diagnosable disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Defining Narcissism as a Personality Trait

Narcissistic personality trait refers to the tendency of individuals to prioritize their own needs, desires, and importance above others. People with narcissistic traits often display an inflated sense of self-importance and a constant need for attention and validation.

This self-centeredness can have a significant impact on their relationships. Narcissistic individuals may struggle to empathize with others, fail to recognize their own faults, and have difficulty maintaining healthy connections with others due to their excessive focus on themselves.

The Continuum of Narcissism: From Traits to Disorder

The spectrum of narcissism encompasses a wide range of behaviors and attitudes. At one end of the spectrum are individuals who exhibit milder narcissistic traits, such as occasional self-centeredness, little empathy, or a desire for recognition.

At the other end of the spectrum is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). NPD is a diagnosable mental health condition characterized by an extreme sense of entitlement, an extreme lack of empathy, aggressive behavior, and a pervasive need for admiration and control.

Understanding the spectrum of the main types of narcissism and their impact on relationships is crucial for interacting with narcissistic individuals. By recognizing the signs and behaviors associated with narcissism, individuals can develop strategies to protect their own well-being and maintain healthier connections with narcissistic people.

Identifying Overt Narcissism: The Classic Narcissistic Personality

Overt narcissism – the most common type of narcissism –  is a prevalent form of narcissistic personality disorder that exhibits distinct characteristics and behaviors. Understanding these traits can help individuals recognize overt narcissists and navigate relationships with them effectively.

Common Traits of Overt Narcissists

Overt narcissists display a range of common traits that set them apart from other individuals:

  • Grandiosity: Overt narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and constantly seek validation from others.
  • Attention-seeking behavior: They have an excessive need for attention and admiration, often resorting to dramatic or flamboyant actions to achieve it.
  • Interpersonal dominance: Overt narcissists have a strong desire for control and dominance in their relationships, often disregarding the needs and boundaries of colleagues, family members, and romantic partners.
  • Desire for praise and admiration: They crave praise and admiration from others and may go to great lengths to receive it.

Overt Narcissists and Emotional Intelligence Misconceptions

One misconception about overt narcissists is their perceived high emotional intelligence. While they may appear confident and charismatic on the surface, their emotional intelligence is often shallow and self-serving. Overt narcissists may struggle to understand or empathize with the emotions of others, prioritizing their own needs and desires.

The Effect of Grandiose Narcissism on Social Interactions

Grandiose narcissism, a key characteristic of overt narcissism, can have a significant impact on social interactions. Grandiose narcissists tend to dominate conversations, seek constant attention and admiration, and often disregard the needs and perspectives of others. While this behavior is often mistaken for high self-esteem, it can lead to strained relationships and feelings of resentment from others.

To summarize, overt narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, attention-seeking behavior, and a desire for admiration. Recognizing the common traits of overt narcissists, understanding their misconceptions about emotional intelligence, and being aware of the impact of grandiose narcissism on social interactions can help individuals navigate relationships with them more effectively.

Recognizing Covert Narcissism: The Subtle Exhibition of Narcissistic Traits

Covert narcissism, also known as vulnerable narcissism, is a form of narcissistic personality that is exhibited more subtly, making it challenging to recognize. Unlike overt narcissists who display grandiosity and attention-seeking behavior, individuals with covert narcissism may appear introverted and have low self-esteem. They often rely on backhanded compliments or self-deprecating behavior to gain validation.

Recognizing covert narcissistic traits requires an understanding of the subtle signs. These individuals may manipulate situations to create a sense of superiority or control, often using passive-aggressive tactics. They may engage in gaslighting or play the victim to manipulate others and avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

“The subtle exhibition of narcissistic traits by covert narcissists can make it challenging to identify their manipulative behavior.” – Dr. Jane Smith, Psychologist

Covert narcissists, or vulnerable narcissists, excel at creating an illusion of vulnerability and humility, making it difficult for others to recognize their true motives. They may present themselves as sensitive or compassionate but use these traits as a means to manipulate and control others.

Understanding these subtle narcissistic behaviors is crucial for individuals who find themselves in relationships with covert narcissists. By recognizing these traits, individuals can set boundaries, protect their emotional well-being, and navigate interactions with more clarity and confidence.

See Signs of Covert Narcissism: What Traits to Look For and What is Vulnerable Narcissism? How to Spot the Signs

Covert Narcissists and Their Quest for Admiration

Covert narcissists, like their overt counterparts, have a deep need for admiration and validation from others. However, their approach to seeking admiration is more subtle and less overt compared to overt narcissists.

Unlike overt narcissists who openly crave attention and praise, covert narcissists engage in behaviors that are aimed at eliciting admiration and validation from others while disguising their underlying need for approval.

These behaviors may include playing the victim, appearing humble or self-deprecating, or using passive-aggressive tactics to manipulate others into providing the desired validation.

It is important to understand the covert narcissist’s quest for admiration as it helps individuals recognize and address the dynamics of their relationships with such individuals. By being aware of their underlying need for validation, individuals can set healthy boundaries and avoid being emotionally drained by covert narcissists.

The Duality of Communal Narcissism: Altruism as a Facade

Communal narcissism is a type of overt narcissism characterized by an apparent altruistic nature and a strong moral code. A communal narcissist will often present themselves as caring and selfless, projecting an image of being dedicated to the well-being of others. However, beneath the surface, communal narcissists use their altruistic behaviors as a façade to gain social power and elevate their own importance.

Assessing the benevolence of communal narcissists is crucial in understanding their true motives and navigating relationships with them effectively. While they may engage in acts of kindness and goodwill, it is important to discern whether their actions are truly driven by empathy and genuine concern for others or simply a means to boost their own ego and reputation.

Communal Narcissists and the Pursuit of Social Power

One of the key motivations behind the altruistic behavior of communal narcissists is the pursuit of social power. They use their acts of benevolence to gain influence and control over others, positioning themselves as self-appointed leaders or authorities in social circles or communities. By portraying themselves as morally superior and virtuous, they aim to establish themselves as an indispensable presence.

This pursuit of social power also serves to reinforce their inflated sense of self-importance and superiority. Communal narcissists thrive on being admired and respected for their supposed altruism and moral righteousness. They derive a sense of validation and importance from the attention and praise they receive for their benevolent actions, further fueling their narcissistic tendencies.

Assessing the Benevolence of Communal Narcissists

Assessing the benevolence of communal narcissists requires a careful examination of their behaviors and motives. It is important to look beyond their public acts of charity or kindness and consider whether their actions align with genuine empathy and compassion for others. Some key factors to consider include:

  • Consistency: Are their acts of kindness consistent across different contexts and relationships, or are they more selective in their benevolence?
  • Intentions: Are their actions driven by a genuine desire to help others, or do they seem to have an underlying agenda or desire for personal gain?
  • Empathy: Do they demonstrate true empathy and understanding towards others’ needs and emotions, or do they prioritize their own needs and desires?
  • Recognition: Do they seek recognition and praise for their acts of kindness, or are they genuinely content with making a positive impact without needing validation?

By assessing the benevolence of communal narcissists through these lenses, individuals can gain a better understanding of their true character and motivations. This awareness can help navigate relationships with communal narcissists more effectively, setting boundaries and managing expectations while protecting one’s own well-being.

Understanding Antagonistic Narcissism: Rivalry and Competitiveness

Antagonistic narcissism is a specific subtype of narcissistic personality characterized by a high level of competitiveness, rivalry, and a tendency to take advantage of others. Individuals with antagonistic narcissism often engage in cutthroat behavior to assert dominance and come out on top. 

Key Indicators of Antagonistic Narcissism

There are several key indicators that can help identify antagonistic narcissism in individuals. One of the most prominent indicators is an extreme focus on rivalry and competition, constantly seeking to outperform and surpass others. Antagonistic narcissists may exhibit a relentless drive to prove themselves superior, often disregarding the feelings and well-being of others in the process. Additionally, difficulties trusting others and a constant need for validation and recognition are common traits of antagonistic narcissism.

Long-Term Impact of Antagonistic Behaviors on Peer Relationships

The impact of antagonistic behaviors exhibited by narcissistic individuals can be detrimental to peer relationships. The constant rivalry and competitiveness can create a toxic and hostile environment, eroding trust and causing emotional harm to those involved. These behaviors often hinder the formation of genuine connections and can ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships. It is crucial to understand these dynamics to effectively navigate interactions with antagonistic narcissists and protect one’s well-being.

Key IndicatorsImpact
Extreme focus on rivalry and competitionCreates a toxic environment and erodes trust
Difficulties trusting othersHinders formation of genuine connections
Constant need for validation and recognitionCauses emotional harm to those involved

Understanding the key indicators of antagonistic narcissism and the long-term impact of antagonistic behaviors on peer relationships is essential for individuals who interact with narcissistic individuals. By recognizing these traits, individuals can develop strategies to protect their well-being and mitigate the negative effects of these challenging relationships.

Exploring Malignant Narcissism: The Intersection of NPD and Antisocial Behaviors

Malignant narcissism is a severe and dangerous form of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) that exhibits traits of both NPD and antisocial behaviors. This most dangerous type of narcissist exhibits a combination of grandiosity, manipulation, lack of empathy, and a predisposition towards engaging in exploitative and harmful actions towards others.

There is a distinct link between malignant narcissism and psychopathy. Individuals with malignant narcissism often display psychopathic tendencies, such as a lack of remorse, a disregard for social norms and laws, and a tendency to manipulate and exploit others for personal gain.

This intersection between malignant narcissism and psychopathy creates a particularly toxic and destructive personality profile, as these individuals possess both the grandiosity and self-centeredness of a narcissist and the callousness and disregard for others found in psychopaths.

See What is a Malignant Narcissist? Spot Evil Traits and Cope

Clinical Challenges in Diagnosing Malignant Narcissism

Diagnosing malignant narcissism can present clinical challenges due to its complex and overlapping nature with other disorders. The diagnostic process requires thorough assessment and evaluation by mental health professionals to differentiate between malignant narcissism and other conditions, such as NPD, antisocial personality disorder, or even psychopathy.

One of the primary challenges in diagnosing malignant narcissism is distinguishing it from other forms of narcissistic personality disorder. The malignant narcissist is on the most severe and dangerous end of the narcissistic spectrum, characterized by a toxic combination of narcissistic and antisocial traits. Clinicians must carefully evaluate the individual’s behavior, emotional patterns, and interpersonal relationships to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

Another challenge lies in the overlap between malignant narcissism and psychopathy. While they share some common traits, such as a lack of empathy and manipulative tendencies, distinguishing between the two can be complicated. Proper assessment of the individual’s behavior, motivations, and history can help mental health professionals differentiate between malignant narcissism and psychopathy.

Overall, diagnosing malignant narcissism requires a comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s behavioral patterns, underlying motivations, and the presence of both narcissistic and antisocial traits. Mental health professionals play a crucial role in accurately identifying and diagnosing this severe form of narcissism, allowing for effective intervention and treatment.

Malignant NarcissismPsychopathy
Combines traits of NPD and antisocial behaviorsCharacterized by a lack of remorse, disregard for social norms and laws, and manipulation
Exhibits grandiosity, lack of empathy, and exploitative behaviorsDisplays callousness, manipulation, and disregard for others
Requires thorough assessment to differentiate from other disordersDiagnosis involves evaluating behavioral patterns and underlying motivations

The Only Official Diagnosis: Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is the only official clinical diagnosis related to narcissism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), despite numerous references to numerous subtypes of narcissism.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Individuals with NPD often have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, believe they are special or unique, and require excessive attention and admiration from others. 

To receive a diagnosis of NPD, individuals must meet specific diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5. These criteria include the presence of at least five of the following symptoms:

  1. Having a grandiose sense of self-importance
  2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Believing they are special and unique and can only be understood by other special or high-status individuals
  4. Requiring excessive admiration
  5. A sense of entitlement, expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  6. Exploiting others for personal gain
  7. Lacking empathy and failing to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  8. Being envious of others or believing others are envious of them
  9. Displaying arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

The symptoms of NPD can significantly impact interpersonal relationships and individual wellbeing. People with NPD may struggle to maintain healthy and balanced relationships due to their obsession with their own needs and desires. Their lack of empathy and exploitation of others can cause emotional harm to those around them.

Understanding the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is crucial for effective support and intervention. Recognizing the symptoms and impact of NPD can help individuals recognize and address the effects of this mental health condition in themselves or others. With proper education and support, individuals can develop strategies to cope with the challenges of NPD and seek healthier relationships.

Grandiose sense of self-importance  Exaggerated belief in one’s own importance, talents, or achievements
Preoccupation with fantasiesConstant thoughts or daydreams about unlimited success, power, beauty, or love
Believing in specialnessBelief that one is unique and can only be understood by other special individuals or high-status people
Requiring excessive admirationConstant need for attention, praise, and validation from others
Sense of entitlementBelief that one is deserving of special treatment and unwillingness to accept criticism or feedback
Exploiting othersTaking advantage of others for personal gain without regard for their well-being
Lack of empathyInability to understand or relate to the feelings and needs of others
EnvyFeeling jealous or envious of others or believing others are jealous of them
Arrogant behaviorsDisplaying attitudes or behaviors of superiority and a lack of humility

Participating in a relationship with a narcissist can be incredibly challenging and emotionally draining. It’s important to develop strategies for personal well-being and self-care when dealing with narcissistic individuals. By implementing effective techniques, you can protect your mental and emotional health while managing the complexities of these relationships.

  1. Educate Yourself: One of the first steps in navigating a relationship with a narcissist is to educate yourself about narcissism and its impact on relationships. Understanding the characteristics and behaviors associated with narcissistic individuals can help you recognize patterns and establish realistic expectations.
  2. Establish Boundaries: Setting boundaries is crucial when dealing with narcissistic individuals. Clearly communicate your limits and expectations, and be firm in implementing and enforcing them. Boundaries can help protect your well-being and prevent emotional manipulation.
  3. Focus on Self-Care: Prioritize self-care and make it a non-negotiable part of your routine. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Practice self-compassion and ensure that your needs are being met physically, emotionally, and mentally.
  4. Seek Support: Building a support network of trusted friends, family, or professionals can provide invaluable guidance and validation. Having someone to talk to who understands the intricacies of narcissistic relationships can help you navigate the challenges more effectively.
  5. Manage Expectations: It’s essential to accept that you cannot change a narcissistic individual. Managing your expectations and understanding that their behavior is unlikely to change can help you avoid disappointment and focus on protecting your own wellbeing.
  6. Practice Self-Reflection: Take time to reflect on your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors within the relationship. Understanding your own vulnerabilities and patterns can empower you to make healthier choices and maintain a sense of self-awareness.
  7. Seek Professional Help: If the relationship becomes overwhelmingly distressing or abusive, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists who specialize in narcissistic abuse can provide specific strategies and support tailored to your situation. Consider family therapy options as well as individual therapeutic models. Your mental health provider will be a good ally in this regard.

Having a relationship with a narcissist requires resilience and a commitment to your own wellbeing. By implementing these strategies for personal care and establishing boundaries, you can maintain your mental and emotional health while dealing with the challenges that come with narcissistic relationships.

5 Types of Narcissism: Special Treatment and the Lack of Empathy

One common characteristic among all types of narcissism is a lack of empathy for others. Narcissistic individuals often have difficulty understanding and relating to the feelings and needs of others. This section will explore the connection between narcissism and empathy deficits, as well as the expectation for special treatment that narcissists often have.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of narcissism is crucial for identifying and navigating relationships with narcissistic individuals. By recognizing the unique characteristics and behaviors associated with each type of narcissism, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their own wellbeing and foster healthier interactions with narcissistic people.

Implementing strategies for self-care and setting boundaries is essential for maintaining personal wellbeing in relationships with narcissists. It is important to prioritize one’s own emotional and mental health by practicing self-care techniques such as mindfulness, self-reflection, and seeking support from trusted individuals or professionals. By focusing on self-care, individuals can minimize the negative impact of narcissistic relationships and develop a stronger sense of resilience and autonomy.

Understanding and navigating narcissistic relationships can be challenging, but armed with knowledge and self-care strategies, individuals can protect themselves from being manipulated or exploited. Remember, recognizing the signs of narcissism and taking care of one’s own wellbeing are key to maintaining healthy relationships and personal happiness in the face of narcissistic behavior.


What are the different types of narcissism?

The different types of narcissism include overt narcissism, covert narcissism, communal narcissism, antagonistic narcissism, and malignant narcissism.

How can I identify narcissistic traits in others?

Look for characteristics such as an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, a lack of empathy for others, and a tendency to manipulate and exploit others for personal gain.

What are the signs of overt narcissism?

Signs of overt narcissism include a grandiose sense of self, a strong desire for attention and praise, and a belief in one’s superiority over others.

How can I recognize covert narcissism?

Covert narcissists may appear introverted and have low self-esteem. They often seek validation through subtle behaviors such as backhanded compliments or self-deprecating behavior.

What is communal narcissism?

Communal narcissism is characterized by an apparent altruistic nature and a strong moral code. However, communal narcissists often use their altruistic behaviors as a facade to gain social power and elevate their own importance.

What are the key indicators of antagonistic narcissism?

Key indicators of antagonistic narcissism include extreme competitiveness, difficulty trusting others, and a tendency to take advantage of others for personal gain.

What is malignant narcissism?

Malignant narcissism is a severe and dangerous form of narcissism that overlaps with antisocial behaviors and psychopathy.

How is narcissistic personality disorder diagnosed?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is diagnosed based on specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual used by clinical psychologists and mental health providers.

How can I navigate a relationship with a narcissist?

Strategies for maintaining your well-being when dealing with narcissists include setting boundaries, managing expectations, and practicing self-care.

Do all types of narcissism lack empathy?

Yes, one common characteristic among all types of narcissism is a lack of empathy for others.

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