What is a Comprehensive Definition of a Covert Narcissist?

Making sense of the senseless

Melissa Kalt, MD
5 min readJan 29, 2022
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

You’ve heard the term. Maybe you believe you’re in a relationship with one.

But can you be sure?

Lots of people throw around opinions and experiences.

But what are the facts? What exactly is covert, or vulnerable, narcissism?

And more importantly, how do you interpret clinical criteria in your own relationships? What does it look like?

Let’s start with the clinical guidelines

The most described criteria come from DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, American Psychiatric Association), though these criteria were updated to include alternative criteria in 2011.

According to DSM-IV, diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder requires five or more of the following nine criteria:

  1. A grandiose sense of self-importance
  2. Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Feels special and unique and believes should only associate with other high-status people
  4. Requires excessive admiration



Melissa Kalt, MD

Leadership Catalyst/Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Specialist/ Solver of Unsolvable Problems/Master Healer/ Entrepreneur/ Author/ Speaker/ Mother of 5.