The 10 types of Narcissism

The complexity of Narcissism has lead professionals to identify 10 different types of Narcissist.  There are many more subtle (and surprising) forms of Narcissist than the self-centred movie villain that we may first think of (eg  Cruella deVille!). They are grouped into 4 main types, each with sub-types that characterise how these traits may appear to others.

1. Grandiose Narcissist

– the typical Narcissist that most people think of when they hear the term

  • They are attention-seeking, brag about their accomplishments, feel entitled to special treatment and expect others to bow down to them. 
  • They really aren’t interested in anyone but themselves and are easily bored when the conversation turns away from them. 
  • They tend to perceive themselves to be superior to most people, but ironically are desperate to feel important.

2. Vulnerable Narcissist

– also sometimes called fragile or closet narcissists

  • They also feel superior to most people they meet, but are more introverted and hate being the centre of attention.
  • They prefer to attach themselves to special people instead of seeking the special treatment themselves. 
  • They are more likely to seek out pity from others or flatter and suck up to others, sometimes through excessive generosity, just to receive the attention and admiration they desire to boost their lacking sense of self-worth.

3. Communal Narcissist

– this type promotes themselves through their commitment to others and society; often a ‘do-gooder’

  • They can be trickier to spot as they focus on promoting themselves through their (self-proclaimed) super-ability to listen and connect with others.
  • They will often give to charities and volunteer their time “helping” others. They may talk about their “life’s mission” in grandiose terms or commit themselves to a cause that will “change the world”.
  • Although they appear selfless on the surface, dig a little deeper and you may find that they are hugely territorial of the charity they serve and much more concerned with receiving a pat on the back for their contribution, rather than the communal goal they are supposedly working toward.
  • Really they are only involved in community to validate their sorely lacking sense of self.

4. Malignant Narcissist

– also called toxic narcissists; they are highly manipulative and exploit others (typically for pleasure)

  • These narcissists tend to display paranoia and antisocial traits. They can be ruthless in their primary goal; to control and dominate others.
  • They are deceitful and aggressive and worse still, they lack remorse for their actions.

Overt or Covert sub-types

The first sub-type describes the methods the narcissist uses to get his or her needs met…

5. Overt Narcissist

– likes to use obvious methods out in the open for all to see

An Overt Narcissist likes to give their insults and put people down in obvious and unmistakable ways. The recipients are aware that the Narcissist is being mean to them.

6. Covert Narcissist

– uses methods that are more secretive and discreet

A covert narcissist will inflict insults and pain in more passive-aggressive ways; their methods can be secretive and stealthy. They can manipulate others without them knowing they were manipulated, leaving recipients confused and wondering if it is all in their head –  especially as the Narcissist will often use clever tactics allowing them to deny what happened.

Somatic or Cerebral Sub-types

The second sub-type defines what the narcissist values most in him or herself and others.

7. Somatic Narcissist

– obsessed with their external appearance

  • Somatic Narcissists are obsessed with their bodies, youth, their ‘look’ and grooming.
  • They spend a lot of time at the gym and in front of mirrors. They are often highly critical of others based on appearance and fawn over the appearances of those that meet up to their high standards.
  • They don’t want to be out-shined by their partner, rather their partner is viewed as a shiny object they can show off to raise their own social status.

8. Cerebral Narcissist

– view themselves as the most intelligent ones in the room

  • They come across as know-it-alls and like to try to impress people with their accomplishments.
  • They often use complicated technical words in regular conversation and find ways to refer to books, authors or theories by name. They will cut people off or talk over them, thinking what they say is smarter and more important. They look bored or contemptuous when someone is speaking who they think is not qualified or as smart as them – which is just about everyone.

9. Sadistic Narcissist

– an extreme type of Malignant Narcissist

This group is comparable to sociopaths and psychopaths in that they take great pleasure in others’ pain. They like humiliating and hurting people, and sometimes have bizarre sexual fetishes.

10. Inverted Narcissists

– co-dependents who emotionally depend exclusively on other Narcissists

  • An inverted Narcissist is addicted to relationships with Narcissists in the same way as an alcoholic or a drug user is addicted – their addiction is to be looked after or loved, despite the toxicity of the relationship. 
  • They tend to have a have a victim mindset and suffer from childhood abandonment issues.

Of course, no two Narcissist are the same, nor do all individuals display every behaviour of the descriptions above. However, this classification can help us piece together the many different Narcissistic behaviours and understand the complexity of the narcissist – which makes Narcissistic abuse all the more bewildering for the people that experience it.