I often get asked which is the worst type of narcissist. I feel like this is kind of like asking which type of fish smells worse once it’s rotten. They’re all terrible. I will say, however, that the “Covert”  or “Fragile” might tip the scales of more awful ever so slightly. A big reason for this is that we don’t see them coming. The “Overt” or “Malignant” narcissist is much more apparent, and we might notice red flags more quickly.

The relationship starts on fire with nearly all narcissists, regardless of type! Zero to 100 miles an hour in a matter of a few seconds. They put the development of a relationship on hyperspeed because they have learned to take advantage of the “honeymoon” stage of the relationship. They will try to convince you that you two are soulmates and meant for each other. Most of us haven’t been swept off our feet that way (unless we’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist before), and we believe in the seeming fairytale that lies before us.

This won’t last for long, though, so be careful. As soon as you do something that takes your attention away from them (care for your children, go to work, start school, catch a cold, to name a few), you will begin to see the projection of what they hate about themselves being directed at you. They will blame you for all of their failed relationships and the pain they feel from the early, toxic relationship they likely had with their caretakers/parents.

Once the drama starts, which it always does, you will start to see the abuse cycle:

First Phase: Tension-building stage: the abused partner is submissive and walks on eggshells to avoid an outburst; the narcissist becomes increasingly demanding, controlling, and irritable.

The Next Phase: Explosive episode: erupts after the tension builds to a high point,  and the narcissist needs to project blame and hate.

Last Phase (then it all starts again): Honeymoon period tension drops completely immediately following the explosive episode; the narcissist feels better than acts like nothing happened and expects you to do the same. The abused partner feels relieved and hopeful that the episode is over and often enjoys the love-bombing that usually occurs in this phase (until they recognize this is part of a cycle). The abused partner is also resentful about the abuse, which causes them to withdraw, and the narcissist feels this. The narcissist will try to win the abused partner over but quickly give up and get angry with the abused partner for not giving in to their “charms” then; we return to phase one of the cycles.

This is typically no matter what type of narcissist you’re dealing with, but to get back to the original question, “Which is the worst type of narcissist?” Add to this toxicity the unique and devious behavior of a covert narcissist, and you will see why they are slightly worse.

Covert Narcissists will act like they care and even shed a tear when it benefits them. They are very skilled at playing the victim even when they are the one that has freshly doled out the abuse. They will turn everything said in a conversation with you to make you out to be the toxic one. They will turn your words upside down and backward and might even convince you that you were the abusive one. A sneaky deviousness exists in the covert narcissist, making them a little harder to see at first. It takes longer (sometimes much longer) to see what a clandestine narcissist is about. So in answer to the question, the covert narcissist might be the slightly more stinky fish referred to in the first paragraph.

Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse

About the Author: Brenda Stephens

Brenda Stephens, LPCC, LMHC, LPC: Brenda is a therapist, speaker, coach, and author working with survivors of narcissistic abuse for the past 16 years. We aim to help survivors heal, reclaim their lives, and learn how to avoid toxic relationships.



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