The characteristics of four different narcissistic personalities

One of the most important things that you need to understand when learning about narcissism and narcissistic abuse is that there are four different narcissistic personalities (grandiose, covert, malignant, and communal) and they all sit on the same continuum.

A continuum is a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, but the extremes are quite distinct. What this means is that narcissists who are extremely covert are quite distinguishable from narcissists who are extremely grandiose, malignant, or communal and vice versa.

What this means is that there is going to be a significant amount of overlap in the behavior patterns, personality traits, and characteristics of narcissists who don’t have an extreme personality type but are more centered on the continuum of narcissistic personality disorder.

It is for this reason that it is really important to be aware of all of the different narcissistic personality types and that is what this article is going to guide you through today. The first thing that you have to be aware of is that all narcissists share the same core personality traits.

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitative behavior
  • A lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
  • A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

Source: American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)

The Characteristics of Grandiose Narcissists

A grandiose narcissist is the “poster child” for narcissism. When you think “narcissist” you think of a grandiose narcissist. If you were to search for a picture of a narcissist on the internet, a grandiose narcissist would show up.

  • They are entitled, arrogant, and grandiose
  • They are superficial, materialistic and vain
  • They are hypersensitive to criticism
  • They prioritize power, profit, and pleasure

A grandiose narcissist despises when they are not the center of attention. This could manifest in significantly noticeable disinterest when others are speaking, trying to hijack conversations that pull the attention away from themselves, making passive-aggressive comments about the person that the attention is on, or even trying to one-up whoever is talking.

The Characteristics of Covert Narcissists

A covert narcissist is the complete opposite of a grandiose narcissist.

  • They victimize themselves
  • They are very vulnerable and needy
  • They are socially inadequate and anxious
  • They are very resentful, irritable, and hostile
  • They often come off as depressed
  • They’re passive-aggressive, hypersensitive to criticism, and argumentativ

A covert narcissist’s grandiosity and arrogance manifests when they portray themselves as severely underrated by using the should’ve, would’ve, could’ve method.

  • I should’ve gone to private school but I didn’t grow up with the type of money they did. If I had, I would probably be the CEO of the company as well.
  • I would’ve gone to the NBA if my coach wasn’t so biased. He would only play the players who sucked up to him the most. I guess hard work doesn’t always pay off.
  • I could’ve been a doctor if my professor actually knew what he was talking about. I was so much more intelligent than him, he was practically holding me back for 4 years of my life.

A covert narcissist’s behavioral patterns are designed to incite a tremendous amount of pity in others, and in that way, they receive the validation that all narcissists desperately need.

The Characteristics of Malignant Narcissists

Out of all of the narcissistic personalities, malignant narcissists are the closest to psychopathy. In fact, they often get labeled/misidentified as psychopathic.

  • They are very exploitative
  • They are extremely cruel
  • They are pathological liars
  • They are willing to oppress others for power, profit, and pleasure
  • They disregard the safety of others
  • They’re drawn to addictive and compulsive behaviors
  • They’re psychologically and physically aggressive

The Characteristics of Communal Narcissists

Communal narcissists are arguably the hardest narcissists to spot because they get their narcissistic supply from doing “good” things for other people.

Like all narcissists, communal narcissists are entitled, arrogant, grandiose, they lack empathy, and they are superficial, but it all gets hidden behind their “good” deeds.

The public persona of a communal narcissist portrays them as admirable, virtuous, and good-natured but behind closed doors they are extremely abusive.

It can be really difficult to watch someone of importance in your life walk to the end of the earth to help other people but be really cold, distant, and mean-spirited to you.

(e.g. a communal narcissist might volunteer to go to a developing nation to help build schools, hospitals, houses, etc., but the only reason that they are doing the “good” deed is so that they can take pictures for instagram for validation, admiration, and reassurance.)

This blog was written by Elijah Akin from our partner unfilteredd.net and it was reviewed by Vanessa Reiser, LCSW, Psychotherapist and Narcissistic Abuse Expert

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