Types of Narcissism

Types of Narcissism and How to Spot Each


Narcissism is more than just self-love or vanity; it’s a complex trait that varies in its manifestation and severity. At the clinical level, narcissism can manifest as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which is a diagnosable mental health condition. However, narcissistic traits can be found in many individuals to varying degrees without meeting the full criteria for NPD.

Here are the main types of narcissism and how to recognize them:

  1. Overt Narcissism (Grandiose Narcissism)
  • Characteristics: This is the most recognizable form. Overt narcissists display excessive self-confidence, believe they are unique and superior, have a sense of entitlement, and lack empathy.
  • How to Spot: They often seek admiration and attention, have grandiose fantasies, are prone to bragging, and may belittle others to bolster their own self-worth.
  1. Covert Narcissism (Vulnerable Narcissism)
  • Characteristics: Unlike their overt counterparts, covert narcissists may appear reserved or insecure. However, they still harbor feelings of superiority and entitlement but may express it as self-pity or resentfulness.
  • How to Spot: They are hypersensitive to criticism, may play the “victim” frequently, harbor a lot of hidden jealousy, and feel neglected or overlooked.
  1. Communal Narcissism
  • Characteristics: This type believes they’re the most helpful, the most caring, or the best at being altruistic. Their narcissism is expressed through their sense of superiority in communal domains.
  • How to Spot: They frequently highlight their sacrifices for others, exaggerate their contributions, and expect excessive admiration for their “altruistic” actions.
  1. Malignant Narcissism
  • Characteristics: This is a severe form that merges aspects of narcissism with antisocial behaviors, paranoia, and aggression.
  • How to Spot: These individuals can be manipulative, spiteful, enjoy the suffering of others, and may engage in cruel or sadistic behaviors. They often lack remorse.
  1. Somatic Narcissism
  • Characteristics: This type is focused on physical appearance and bodily achievements. They believe they have superior beauty or physical prowess.
  • How to Spot: They may obsess over their looks, frequently check mirrors, invest heavily in their physical appearance, and seek compliments about their physique.
  1. Cerebral Narcissism
  • Characteristics: They believe they have superior intellect or knowledge.
  • How to Spot: They might always try to display their intelligence, belittle the intelligence of others, or obsess over intellectual achievements.
  1. Generational and Cultural Narcissism
  • Characteristics: This isn’t about individuals but describes the narcissistic values of a generation or culture. For instance, some argue that the rise of social media has given birth to a more narcissistic generation.
  • How to Spot: It’s more about recognizing societal patterns, like the excessive value placed on individual fame, personal image, or the “selfie” culture.
  1. Sexual Narcissism
  • Characteristics: Overconfidence in one’s sexual prowess and a need for admiration in the sexual domain, often coupled with a lack of empathy for one’s sexual partner.
  • How to Spot: They may brag about past sexual conquests, view partners as notches on a belt, or show little concern for a partner’s satisfaction.


Recognizing these types is crucial in understanding the nuances of narcissistic behavior, both in personal relationships and in broader societal contexts. If you suspect someone has Narcissistic Personality Disorder or another personality disorder, it’s essential to approach the situation with sensitivity. Remember, personality disorders are complex mental health conditions that require a professional diagnosis and should not be labeled casually.

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