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5 Toxic Subtypes of Narcissism

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“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” —Paramhansa Yogananda

“It’s not easy being superior to everyone I know.” —a narcissist

Narcissism can be defined as an individual’s tendency to consider him or herself superior, entitled, or “special,” along with the propensity to marginalize, demean, and invalidate others in order to feel good about oneself. In our “I”-centered, status-conscious, and materialistic society, narcissism is often widespread and highly destructive.

Not all narcissists are the same. Many chronic narcissists may have multiple subtypes in their pathology, which can emerge alternately or in combination, depending on the situation and relationship.

The following are five subtypes of narcissism, with references from my books How to Successfully Handle Narcissists and A Practical Guide for Narcissists to Change Towards the Higher Self.

1. The Overt Narcissist

“That’s enough of me talking about myself; let’s hear you talk about me.”

“Once again I saved the day—without me, they’re nothing!”

The overt narcissist possesses many of the most common traits associated with narcissism, including and not limited to grandiosity, attention-seeking, superficial charm, exaggeration, one-upmanship, excessive self-importance, blatant entitlement, aggressive manipulation, negative put-downs, arrogant condescension, etc.

Significantly, narcissists in general, and overt narcissists in particular, often show a strident lack of consideration toward people—only what they think and do matter. They expect the world to revolve around them.

“You’re sick? But what about driving me to the mall?”

2. The Covert/Introverted Narcissist

“One cries because one is sad… I cry because others are stupid, and that makes me sad.” —from The Big Bang Theory

Not all narcissists are grandiose and overtly offensive. Characteristics of the covert/introverted narcissist include, but are not limited to, quiet smugness/superiority, self-absorption, lack of empathy, being quick to judge people or tasks as “boring” or “stupid,” or taking pride in being the “misunderstood special person.” While the overt narcissist tends to obtrusively demonstrate their false superiority complex, the covert/introverted narcissist will subtly manifest their barely hidden conceit.

“He doesn’t say it, but you can tell by his smirk and body language he disapproves of most people.”

3. The Passive-Aggressive Narcissist

“Whenever my husband feels he isn’t being catered to, he would make everything difficult, while saying there’s nothing’s wrong.”

“My colleague’s favorite tactic when she doesn’t get her way is to take twice as long to get anything done.”

Passive-aggressiveness can be defined as hostility in disguise for the purpose of gaining underhanded psychological and/or material advantage. Some narcissists utilize passive-aggressive tactics as primary ways of fulfilling their selfish needs or to exact “punishment” onto those who fail to cater to their whims.

When the passive-aggressive narcissist doesn’t get their way, they will devise subversive schemes to make the lives of those around them miserable. Examples include disguised verbal hostility (i.e., negative gossip), disguised hostile humor (i.e., sarcasm), disguised relational hostility (i.e., the silent treatment), saying one thing but doing another, blaming, stalling, excuse-making, pretend ignorance, and subversive sabotage.

4. The Situational Narcissist

“Success went to his head.”

Narcissism may arise after an individual gains a certain level of status, acclaim, recognition, and/or achievement, and consequently begins to believe that he or she is above others. Situational narcissists often acted in a socially and professionally acceptable manner at one time but became more egocentric as they attained higher levels of success.

Behaviorally, situational narcissism changes an individual for the worse, as he or she becomes more arrogant, entitled, and self-absorbed. In severe cases, the situational narcissist’s claim to success or fame creates a superiority complex with little empathy.

5. The Sexual Narcissist

“My boyfriend’s so fixated on performance when he makes love—oftentimes I feel like he’s more concerned with his performance than he is with me.”

Sexual narcissism can be defined as the physical and emotional exploitation of another for the purpose of sexual gratification and false ego-validation. Sexual narcissism is often characterized by inequity in power, boundary violation, blatant physical/emotional manipulation, and repeated use/abuse/neglect of the victim. Research has found correlations between sexual narcissism in certain instances and sexual addiction, domestic violence, and relational infidelity.

Can a narcissist change for the better? Perhaps. But only if he or she is highly aware and willing to go through the courageous process of self-discovery. For narcissists no longer willing to play the charade at the cost of genuine relationships and credibility, there are ways to liberate oneself from falsehood and progressively move toward one’s higher self. For those who live or work with narcissists, perceptive awareness and assertive communication are musts for establishing healthy and mutually respectful relationships. See references below.

© 2019 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.


Ni, Preston. How to Successfully Handle Narcissists. PNCC. (2014)

Ni, Preston. A Practical Guide for Narcissists to Change Towards the Higher Self. PNCC. (2015)

Ni, Preston. Understanding Narcissism’s Destructive Impact on Relationships — An Indispensable Reader. PNCC. (2018)

Bursten, Ben. Some Narcissistic Personality Types. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis. (1973)

Gabbard, Glen O. Two Subtypes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. (1989)

Hurlbert, D.F., Apt, C., Gasar, S., Wilson, N.E., Murphy, Y. Sexual Narcissism: A Validation Study. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. (1994)

Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2016)

McNulty, J. K., & Widman, L.. Sexual Narcissism and Infidelity in Early Marriage. Archives of Sexual Behavior. (2014)

Johnson, S. Humanizing the Narcissistic Style. W. W. Norton & Company. (1987)

Johnson, Stephen. Character Styles. W. W. Norton & Company. (1994)

Keiller, S., Twenge, J. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, DSM-IV. Sex Roles. (2010)

Ornstein, Paul (ed). The Search for the Self. Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut: 1950-1978. Volume 2. International University Press. (1978)

Sherrill, Stephen. Acquired Situational Narcissism. The New York Times. (December 9, 2001)

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