The 7 Types of Narcissists You Need to Know About

If you encounter #7, run for the hills.

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DEAR DR. JENN,

I've dated a string of narcissists lately — guys who are charming and seductive, but also arrogant, entitled, and seemingly incapable of being vulnerable enough to form a deep emotional bond. After ending things with my last narcissistic boyfriend, I really want to break this dating pattern and date a down-to-earth, empathetic guy that won't just cut me out of their life when things get tough. How do I not fall for the trap next time? —No Longer Drowning in his Reflection Pool

DEAR REFLECTION POOL,

Narcissists are a hot topic these days. I can't scroll through Instagram without coming across a good quote or meme about narcissists or what it's like to date one. So, are we more aware of them, or has their presence among us actually increased? Probably both. Studies show that the number of college-age students with narcissistic personality traits has increased significantly over the past two to three decades which means, yes, you are more likely to date one (or be one).

The Narcissist Phenomenon

Experts believe that we are seeing such a dramatic increase in narcissists due to a few factors. Many parents misunderstood the self-esteem movement and thought that telling their kids how great they are would help them to feel good about themselves. But this unmerited praise has created a generation of narcissists who expect to have their egos stroked all the time regardless of their performance or behavior.

Media, especially social media, has also become a narcissism superspreader event. Reality TV is saturated with people behaving badly, demanding attention, and preening for the camera. And it's no surprise that there is a correlation between excessive use of social media and narcissism. Social media encourages us to take lots of selfies, promote our "brand," and reinforces a belief that everybody is interested in what we are doing at all times. The focus on materialism — the emphasis on the acquisition of things rather than relationships — and showing off contributes as well.

Now granted, narcissism occurs over a continuum. We all need to be a little bit narcissistic, otherwise, we would not put ourselves together and walk out the door looking presentable. But when someone's narcissism has crossed the line from healthy to pathological, dating them can be a nightmare.

Types of Narcissism

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), the handbook therapists use to diagnose personality disorders, identifies the nine traits that make up a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. While the DSM does not break down NPD into subtypes (and therefore these are not official diagnoses), others have identified various types of narcissists. It can be helpful to recognize them so you can steer clear the next time you encounter these traits in your next potential partner.

1. Overt Narcissism

Also known as grandiose narcissism or agentic narcissism, this is what we typically think of when we talk about a narcissist. These people are usually extroverted, aggressive, and attention-seeking. They can be very charming and typically expect special treatment. They can be predatory in their ability to see vulnerability in others and use it against them. They are highly competitive and are willing to humiliate others in order to gain a perceived win.

2. Covert Narcissism

Sometimes referred to as narcissistic vulnerability or closet narcissism, a covert narcissist tends to be passive-aggressive but comes across as very helpless. They tend to present themselves as victims and are quick to cry or stage a crisis to gain attention. They also tend to struggle with anxiety and or depression.

3. Hypervigilant Narcissism

These types of narcissists tend to be highly sensitive to the body language, facial reactions, tone, and reactions of others. They tend to take things personally and be hypersensitive to criticism. They are prone to feeling shame or humiliation and can be self-effacing. They are likely to direct action toward others and prefer not to be the center of attention.

4. Oblivious Narcissism

While most narcissists are unaware of the feelings of others, this type is known for being completely lacking in awareness and sensitivity towards others. They are missing that sensitivity chip. They are self-absorbed, arrogant, aggressive, and need to be the center of attention.

5. Exhibitionist Narcissism

The need for constant attention is like a bottomless pit for these people. They think they are better than others physically and intellectually. They look down on others, even their friends and family. They are very status conscious and materialistic. They think they are very special and have an enormous need to be admired all the time.

6. Sexual Narcissism

The sexual narcissist feels entitled to have their sexual needs met. They have a self-centered view of sex and tend to not be skilled at emotional intimacy and therefore are not very interested in their partner's needs. They frequently overestimate their skills in the bedroom because they are not very tuned into their partners. Yet, they need and expect a lot of praise for their performance in bed. They react poorly to sexual rejection. They expect sex in return for gifts or nice gestures and will pressure, trick, or manipulate you into having sex with them. They feel entitled to get sex elsewhere if you do not meet their sexual requirements, regardless of your agreement about monogamy.

7. Malignant Narcissism

This dangerous type of personality disorder is really a cross between narcissistic personality disorder and what we shrinks call antisocial personality disorder. This means that they have no ability to feel empathy. They are what pop psychology calls a 'psychopath' or 'sociopath'. These aggressive, hostile, paranoid people are sadistic and dehumanizing to those around them. Many experts believe that Adolf Hitler was a malignant narcissist. This is the most dangerous type of narcissist and if you think you might be dating one, run for the hills. This type of person will hurt you physically, emotionally, financially, and sexually and not bat an eyelash or have any remorse.

In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sex and relationship questions — unjudged and unfiltered.

Sources
InStyle uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Twenge JM, Foster JD. "Birth cohort increases in narcissistic personality traits among american college students, 1982–2009." Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2010.

  2. "The relationship between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey." Addictive Behaviors. 2017.

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