Great article from a very helpful life coach who helped me understand a lot about my mother.
Below is some text taken from his website, which gives you an idea of the differences between overt and covert narcissists..
REPEATED MYTHS OF THE INTERNET ABOUT NARCISSISTS :
You are Told: Narcissists are always brash, loud, assertive, flashy and Confident.
The problem is: Coverts are quiet, insecure and passive.
You are Told: Narcissists will never apologise for things they do.
The problem is: Coverts can learn that a quick and TOTAL apology is a really slick way of getting their target to “go back to sleep” if it looks like they are waking up.
You are told: Narcissists are ambitious, successful, go-getters full of energy and pumped with charismatic charm.
The problem is: Coverts are marked by failed ambition, chronic feelings of emptiness, fragility, low functioning and when depleted can frequently sink into outright depression.
You are told: Narcissists can be detected because they will always tell you how amazing they are and by bragging about their achievements.
The problem is: Coverts are known for presenting themselves as vulnerable victims who can even use that vulnerability as a hook to bait you in!
I could go on, but suffice to say when you google this you will see contradictory information regarding the subject. If you look at the academic literature itself you will see that even the clinicians are not in agreement about what covert narcissism is, with some even claiming its a subtype of borderline personality disorder.
I’ve had clients twitching with anxiety and distress venting their frustration at me that so much information they are hearing is contradictory and conflicting when all they want is a rescue rope back to the solid dry land of some kind of sane perspective.
The difference between covert and overt narcissism?
The overt narcissist believes they are awesome and the world largely agrees with them.
Narcissist supply is freely available.
The covert narcissist believes they are awesome and the world largely disagrees with them.
Narcissistic supply is scarce, forcing them to be more cunning and deceptive than the overt narcissist.
Covert Narcissists Are Dangerous!
You will never see them coming, they will flaunt their vulnerability in front of you to capitalise on your compassion, they will flatter and charm you with their “shyness” to get close enough to you that they can get their fangs deep into you.
All the flattery of the initial meeting is a phase in which they are sizing you up, quite possibly full to the brim with boiling envy and narcissistic rage that you have something that they “deserve” to be given the purpose of which is to learn your weaknesses and vulnerabilities so they can drain you dry.
Narcissism on Steroids
Overt narcissists are a walk in the park compared to the covert, and they genuinely are a nastier breed. There is research that indicates that coverts (usually referred to as “vulnerable” or “stealth” narcissists in the academic literature) are MORE likely than overt (or “grandiose”) to engage in domestic violence in the early phases of a relationship and to abuse children. They are also shown to be more likely to engage in incest than overts.
Add to this that Covert Narcissists vector in with the worst forms of malignant narcissistic borderline personality disorder for certain key traits and behaviours and you have a hellish rollercoaster ride of emotional dysregulation in store during contact with a covert.