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Top 7 Covert Narcissist Discard Signs

Covert Narcissist Discard Signs

This post contains covert narcissist discard signs to watch out for.

What Is a Covert Narcissist?

A covert narcissist, also known as a vulnerable or sensitive narcissist, is a specific subtype of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

While individuals with NPD typically exhibit grandiose and overtly self-aggrandizing behaviors, covert narcissists tend to display a more concealed and subtle form of narcissism.

They may appear modest, sensitive, and even self-deprecating on the surface, making it harder to identify their narcissistic traits.

Characteristics of Covert Narcissists

Here are some key characteristics commonly associated with covert narcissists:

1. Fragile self-esteem

Covert narcissists often have an underlying sense of insecurity and low self-worth, which they compensate for by seeking admiration and validation from others.

They may present themselves as humble and self-effacing, using their apparent vulnerability to elicit sympathy and attention.

2. Lack of empathy

Like other narcissists, covert narcissists struggle with empathy.

They find it challenging to truly understand or connect with others’ emotional experiences, as their primary focus revolves around their own needs and desires.

Related: Top 10 Narcissistic Relationship Patterns

3. Manipulative behavior

Covert narcissists are adept at manipulating others to meet their own needs.

They may use guilt, pity, or emotional manipulation to maintain control over relationships and exploit others for their own gain, all while appearing innocent or well-intentioned.

4. Passive-aggressive tendencies

Covert narcissists often express their frustrations and hostility indirectly, resorting to passive-aggressive behaviors rather than openly confronting their issues.

They may engage in subtle acts of sabotage, withholding or withdrawing affection, using sarcasm, or playing the victim to maintain a sense of power and control.

Related: Narcissist Baiting – What it is, Why it Happens, and How to Stop it

5. Envy and resentment

Covert narcissists may experience intense envy towards others and harbor feelings of resentment when they perceive others as more successful, attractive, or accomplished.

These feelings can lead to intense competition, a need for validation, or even a desire to undermine others’ achievements.

6. Hypersensitivity to criticism

While covert narcissists may outwardly present themselves as modest, they can be highly sensitive to criticism.

They may respond defensively or with passive aggression, deflecting blame onto others or engaging in self-pity to protect their fragile self-image.

It’s important to understand that diagnosing someone as a covert narcissist requires a professional evaluation by a qualified mental health professional.

This information serves as a general overview of covert narcissism and its typical characteristics.

Related: Narcissist Compassion: What Is It and How To Protect Yourself

What Is the Discard Phase?

The discard phase is a term often used in the context of relationships with narcissistic individuals.

It refers to a specific stage where a narcissist abruptly ends or devalues a relationship that was once idealized.

This phase typically follows a period known as the idealization or love bombing phase, where the narcissist showers their partner with excessive attention, affection, and admiration.

During the discard phase, the narcissist may suddenly withdraw their affection, become distant, or exhibit cold and dismissive behavior towards their partner.

They might demean, criticize, or devalue their partner, making them feel unworthy or inadequate.

They may also engage in gaslighting, which involves distorting reality and making the other person question their own perceptions or memories.

The purpose of the discard phase for the narcissist is often to assert control and maintain their ego.

By devaluing the partner, they regain a sense of power and superiority.

Additionally, the narcissist may be seeking new sources of validation or narcissistic supply elsewhere, leading to the abandonment of the previous relationship.

Experiencing the discard phase can be emotionally distressing for the individual on the receiving end.

It can lead to feelings of confusion, betrayal, rejection, and a loss of self-esteem.

It’s important to acknowledge that this behavior is not a reflection of your worth or value as a person, but rather a manifestation of the narcissist’s own psychological tendencies and insecurities.

Related: Narcissist Word Salad: 12 Strategies & Examples

Covert Narcissist Discard Signs

1. Sudden withdrawal and emotional distance

Covert narcissists often exhibit a sudden change in their behavior towards their partner during the discard phase.

They may become emotionally distant, withdraw from conversations or activities they previously enjoyed, and display a lack of interest or engagement.

2. Blame-shifting

When it comes to the end of a relationship, covert narcissists may avoid taking responsibility for their actions and instead shift blame onto their partner.

They may make their partner feel at fault for the relationship’s failure, invalidating their feelings and experiences.

3. Idealization of new sources of attention

Covert narcissists may quickly move on to seek validation and attention from new sources.

They may engage in new romantic relationships or surround themselves with acquaintances who can bolster their ego and reinforce their self-importance.

Related: Top 5 Reasons Why Narcissists Target Empaths – & How to Starve The Narcissist of Supply

4. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic commonly used by narcissists to make their partner doubt their own reality.

During the discard phase, covert narcissists may employ gaslighting techniques to make their partner question their sanity, emotions, or memories.

They may deny previous promises, distort events, or present a false narrative of the relationship.

5. Lack of empathy and disregard for emotions

Covert narcissists typically struggle with empathy and have difficulty understanding or validating others’ emotions.

During the discard phase, they may dismiss their partner’s feelings, showing a lack of concern or understanding.

Their focus is primarily on protecting their own self-image and maintaining control.

Related: Narcissist Blame Shifting: Top 5 Examples and How to Deal With It

6. Silent treatment and stonewalling

Covert narcissists may use the silent treatment as a way to punish their partner during the discard phase.

They may withdraw emotionally, refuse to communicate, or actively ignore their partner’s attempts to reach out.

This behavior is meant to exert control and manipulate their partner’s emotions.

7. Hoovering

After the initial discard, covert narcissists may engage in hoovering, attempting to draw their partner back into the relationship.

They may use tactics such as intermittent reinforcement, love bombing, or reminders of the past to reignite feelings of attachment and dependency.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s experiences with narcissistic individuals vary, and not all covert narcissists will exhibit these exact behaviors.

Related: How Does A Narcissist React When You Stop Chasing Them?

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How to Deal with Covert Narcissist Discard?

Dealing with the discard phase of a relationship with a covert narcissist can be challenging and emotionally draining.

However, there are strategies you can employ to help navigate this difficult situation.

1. Recognize the patterns

Understanding the dynamics of a covert narcissistic relationship is crucial.

Educate yourself about narcissism and covert narcissism to gain insight into their behaviors and manipulation tactics.

This awareness can help you detach emotionally and see the situation for what it truly is.

2. Validate your feelings

It’s important to acknowledge your emotions and validate the pain you are experiencing.

Remember that your feelings are valid, and you have the right to grieve the loss of the relationship, even if it was dysfunctional.

Seek support from trusted friends, family, or a therapist who can provide validation and a safe space to express your emotions.

3. Establish healthy boundaries

Covert narcissists often have difficulty respecting boundaries and may try to hoover you back into the relationship.

Set clear boundaries and maintain them firmly.

This may involve limiting or cutting off contact and refusing to engage in their manipulative tactics.

Protecting your emotional well-being should be your priority.

Related: How To Set Boundaries With A Narcissist?

4. Focus on self-care

Engage in self-care activities that promote your well-being, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, pursuing hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.

Take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health by prioritizing sleep, nutrition, and practicing self-compassion.

5. Challenge negative self-talk

Covert narcissists often undermine the self-esteem and confidence of their targets.

Counteract these negative beliefs by consciously challenging them.

Remind yourself of your strengths, accomplishments, and positive qualities.

Surround yourself with supportive people who can affirm your worth.

6. Avoid seeking closure from the narcissist

Covert narcissists rarely provide closure or take responsibility for their actions.

Realize that seeking closure from them will likely lead to more frustration and disappointment.

Instead, focus on finding closure within yourself by accepting the reality of the situation and working towards healing and self-growth.

Related: 8 Stages Of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse (+FREE Breakup Recovery Worksheets)

7. Engage in self-reflection

Take this opportunity to reflect on the patterns that led you into a relationship with a covert narcissist.

Explore any underlying vulnerabilities or codependent tendencies that may have attracted you to this type of individual.

This self-reflection can help you establish healthier boundaries and make wiser choices in future relationships.


Healing from the discard phase of a relationship with a covert narcissist takes time and effort.

Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to grieve the loss.

With persistence, self-care, and professional support, you can rebuild your life, regain your self-worth, and move forward in a healthier and happier direction.

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How does a covert narcissist differ from an overt narcissist?

Covert narcissists differ from overt narcissists in their presentation and behavior.

Overt narcissists tend to display their grandiosity and inflated sense of self openly.

They crave attention, admiration, and often exhibit a superiority complex.

On the other hand, covert narcissists are more introverted and may appear modest and even self-deprecating.

They tend to hide their arrogance and feelings of entitlement behind a facade of humility and victimhood.

Related: Why The Narcissist Worries After Discarding You: Top 5 Reasons

Are covert narcissists aware of their manipulation tactics?

While it may vary from individual to individual, covert narcissists are often more aware of their manipulative tactics compared to overt narcissists.

Due to their ability to mask their true intentions and present themselves as innocent or empathetic, covert narcissists can strategically employ manipulation tactics without drawing attention to their behavior.

This heightened awareness allows them to maintain control over their victims while avoiding detection.

Do covert narcissists feel empathy?

Empathy is generally limited in both overt and covert narcissists, although it manifests differently.

Covert narcissists may display a certain degree of empathy, especially when it serves their personal gain or helps maintain their image as a caring individual.

However, this empathy is primarily superficial and self-serving, lacking genuine concern for others’ emotions.

Their empathy is often used as a tool for manipulation, rather than a true expression of compassion and understanding.

Related: Top 6 Ways to Spot a Narcissist Guilt Trip (& How to Respond)

Why do covert narcissists seek constant validation?

One key motivator for covert narcissists is their constant need for validation.

This inner drive stems from deep-seated feelings of insecurity and low self-worth.

Unlike overt narcissists who may seek validation through open displays of grandiosity, covert narcissists seek validation through more subtle means.

They may fish for compliments, play the victim, or use passive-aggressive tactics to ensure they receive the attention and reassurance they crave.

Their self-esteem is fragile, and they heavily rely on external validation to maintain their sense of worth.

How do covert narcissists manipulate their victims?

Covert narcissists are skilled manipulators who use various tactics to control and exploit their victims. Some common manipulation strategies include:

– Gaslighting: Covert narcissists distort or deny reality, making their victims question their own perceptions and sanity.

– Victim playing: They play the victim to elicit sympathy, empathy, and support from others. This allows them to maintain control and deflect responsibility for their actions.

– Silent treatment: By withholding communication or affection, covert narcissists punish their victims and assert control over the relationship.

– Emotional manipulation: They use guilt, shame, and emotional blackmail to manipulate others into meeting their needs and desires.

– Triangulation: Covert narcissists create conflicts between individuals or groups to control and manipulate relationships.

Related: Love Bombing Then Ghosting: Top 9 Ways to Deal with It

Can a covert narcissist change?

Changing narcissistic personality traits is challenging, but not impossible.

It requires a genuine desire for self-improvement, introspection, and consistent effort to develop healthier patterns of behavior and thought.

However, it is crucial to note that long-standing narcissistic traits tend to be deeply ingrained, making significant change difficult.

Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help covert narcissists develop insight, empathy, and healthier interpersonal skills, thus increasing their potential for change.

Are covert narcissists capable of love?

While covert narcissists may appear capable of love, their capacity for genuine love is typically limited.

Their ability to love is often overshadowed by their self-centeredness and the need for personal validation and control.

They may engage in acts of kindness or affection, but such behavior is usually driven by self-interest or to maintain their image as a caring individual.

Genuine empathy and selfless love are often lacking in covert narcissists.

Related: How Narcissists Treat Their Exes (+FREE Worksheets PDF)

Can someone be both covert and overt narcissistic?

It is possible for someone to exhibit both covert and overt narcissistic traits.

Individuals with mixed or hybrid narcissism may display behaviors characteristic of both types, making their manipulation tactics more nuanced and varied.

This combination can present additional challenges when trying to understand and address their behavior, as it may be less predictable and harder to recognize.

A comprehensive assessment by a trained professional is recommended to accurately evaluate and understand the individual’s specific narcissistic traits.

What are the long-term effects of being in a relationship with a covert narcissist?

Being in a relationship with a covert narcissist can have profound and lasting effects on one’s emotional well-being. Some common long-term consequences include:

– Low self-esteem and self-worth: Covert narcissists often devalue their partners, leading to feelings of inadequacy and diminished self-esteem.

– Emotional trauma: The manipulation, gaslighting, and constant invalidation experienced in a relationship with a covert narcissist can lead to significant emotional distress and trauma.

– Intimacy and trust issues: Victims may develop difficulties forming and maintaining intimate relationships due to the betrayal and emotional abuse endured in their prior relationship.

– Anxiety and depression: The ongoing emotional abuse can contribute to the development or exacerbation of anxiety and depression symptoms.

– Boundary issues: Covert narcissists often disregard boundaries and manipulate their partners into relinquishing their own needs, which can result in boundary confusion and difficulty asserting oneself.

Related: 5 Weird Things Covert Narcissists Do To Manipulate Their Victims

Can covert narcissists be codependent?

Covert narcissists can exhibit codependent tendencies, although they are distinct concepts.

Codependency involves an unhealthy reliance on others for self-worth and identity.

While covert narcissists may rely on others for validation, their primary focus remains on maintaining control and gaining narcissistic supply.

Consequently, their codependent behaviors are often manipulative and self-serving.

Do covert narcissists have a sense of entitlement?

Like overt narcissists, covert narcissists also possess a sense of entitlement.

However, their entitlement is often more subtle and hidden beneath a facade of vulnerability or neediness.

They believe they are deserving of special treatment, admiration, and constant validation from others.

This entitlement fuels their manipulative behavior and sense of superiority over their targets.

Related: Best 10 Books On Gaslighting

Can covert narcissists experience shame or guilt?

Covert narcissists may experience moments of shame or guilt, but it is important to understand how they differ from healthy individuals in their experience and expression of these emotions.

For a covert narcissist, shame and guilt are often transient and shallow, serving as fleeting superficial emotions rather than genuine self-reflection.

They may feel ashamed if their manipulative tactics are exposed or if their facade of vulnerability crumbles momentarily.

However, this shame tends to be more focused on protecting their image rather than genuinely recognizing and addressing the harm they’ve caused.

Guilt, on the other hand, is typically minimized or denied by covert narcissists.

They may rationalize their behavior or project blame onto others to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

This lack of genuine remorse or accountability underscores the core traits of narcissism, making it difficult for them to genuinely experience guilt.

Do covert narcissists struggle with intimacy?

Intimacy often poses significant challenges for covert narcissists.

While they may appear initially open and vulnerable, their true motives involve manipulation, control, and obtaining narcissistic supply.

Consequently, covert narcissists tend to struggle with several aspects of intimacy:

– Emotional detachment: Covert narcissists are skilled at maintaining emotional distance, even in seemingly close relationships. They may struggle to authentically connect with their partners on a deeper emotional level, as their primary focus remains on their own needs and maintaining control.

– Lack of empathy: Empathy is an essential component of intimate relationships. However, covert narcissists have difficulty genuinely understanding and empathizing with their partners’ experiences, feelings, and needs. This lack of empathy limits their ability to form truly intimate connections.

– Fear of vulnerability: Covert narcissists often fear being truly vulnerable with others, as it may threaten their carefully constructed facade and expose their true motivations. They may resist sharing their innermost thoughts and emotions, hindering the development of genuine intimacy.

Related: The Narcissist’s Prayer Explained

Can covert narcissists have stable and healthy relationships?

While it is possible for covert narcissists to have relationships that appear stable on the surface, truly healthy and fulfilling relationships are rare.

Here are some reasons why stable and healthy relationships can be challenging for covert narcissists:

– Exploitative behaviors: Covert narcissists often exploit and manipulate their partners to meet their own needs, leading to an imbalanced dynamic that undermines the health and stability of the relationship.

– Lack of genuine connection: Covert narcissists struggle to establish authentic connections based on trust, empathy, and mutual respect. Their self-centered focus and manipulative tactics hinder the development of healthy relationship dynamics.

– Difficulty with compromise and teamwork: Covert narcissists tend to prioritize their own needs and desires above all else. This can lead to challenges in compromise, collaboration, and shared decision-making, which are essential for a stable and healthy partnership.

By Hadiah

Hadiah is a counselor who is passionate about supporting individuals on their journey towards mental well-being. Hadiah not only writes insightful articles on various mental health topics but also creates engaging and practical mental health worksheets.

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