Subtypes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

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Persons with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can be generally described as having an exaggerated belief of superiority over others and an obsession with grandiose ideas of power and self-worth. These individuals always put their needs first, often displaying self-centered and manipulative behavior while lacking empathy for other people’s feelings. In addition, they constantly seek attention and admiration and may act in a controlling way or be emotionally abusive.

Essentially, however, individuals with NPD have fragile egos. They are usually vulnerable to criticism and lack self-confidence.

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If you review articles and research on NPD, you’ll note that researchers consider narcissistic personality disorder as a heterogeneous category that includes three major subtypes:

NPD Subtype 1: Grandiose “Overt” Type

Also known as Classic, Exhibitionist, or High-Functioning type, this is the subtype of NPD with the highest severity of poor psychosocial and interpersonal functioning. People who belong to Grandiose “Overt” type are the attention-seekers with a great fear of being abandoned and a desperate need to feel important. They experience swift mood swings and impulsive behavior with sudden anger and aggression.

Individuals with this subtype of narcissistic personality disorder can be very charming and persuasive. However, once you get to know them better, you will understand that these people are self-occupied, arrogant, and controlling. They will often brag for attention, put others down and look for opportunities to take advantage of people. An “overt” narcissist will do so in noticeable and unmistakable ways.

NPD Subtype 2: Vulnerable “Covert” Type

The vulnerable or Fragile narcissist subtype often experiences issues with fluctuation between high and low self-esteem. These individuals are usually highly vulnerable to criticism and preoccupied with perceived failures.

They are often people-pleasers oversensitive to rejection. Some researchers identified a special subtype of vulnerable narcissist known as Inverted Narcissist. Individuals who belong to this subtype of NPD usually end up in codependent relationships because they need other people’s approval to feel valued and confident.

Inverted narcissists usually grew up in dysfunctional families, never knowing what to expect and how to behave. As adults, they suffer from childhood abandonment issues and seek to attach themselves to another narcissist to feel special.

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Vulnerable narcissists are always “covert” narcissists – their style is passive-aggressive as they use secretive and sneaky methods to get their needs met. This NPD subtype has high comorbidity with anxiety and depressive disorders.

NPD Subtype 3: Malignant/Toxic Type

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This subtype is also known as a Toxic narcissist. These persons have many antisocial traits; they are usually manipulative and destructive and have an excessive need to control and dominate others. These sadistic traits differentiate them from the other two subtypes. People who belong to this malignant NPD subtype often lack remorse for their actions and may even enjoy watching others suffering.

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Understanding the subtypes of narcissistic personality disorder may help you get the picture of its complex nature and how to approach and help loved ones and other persons with NPD.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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