You can use a covert narcissist test to find out if the person—possibly you—who claims to be sensitive and introverted is actually a hidden narcissist.
Our world has genuine introverts and truly sensitive people.
There are also many who are both introverted and sensitive. And here comes the problem: Experts say that many of those self-proclaimed sensitive introverts are actually covert narcissists.
But how do you see the signs and recognize a covert narcissist?
Two Faces of Narcissism — Overt & Covert
In the 1990s, psychologist Paul Wink analyzed various narcissism scales, which led him to identify two distinct types of narcissism:
- “Grandiosity-Exhibitionism” and
We usually call the former the “overt” or “grandiose” narcissists, and the latter the “covert” or “vulnerable” narcissists.
Both types share the common traits of conceit, arrogance, and the tendency to prioritize one’s own needs over others.
The main differences lie in their external manifestations.
- The “overt” ones are more likely extroverted, aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have a need for admiration.
- While the “covert” ones were more likely to be introverted, hypersensitive, defensive, anxious, and vulnerable (to feelings of neglect or belittlement).
Covert Narcissism & The Highly Sensitive Person
Gordon D. Atlas & Melissa A. Them conducted two studies exploring the link between narcissism and sensitivity to criticism.
- Study 1 found that highly narcissistic people were more likely to seek feedback, while highly sensitive people were more likely to avoid it.
- Study 2 revealed that overt narcissists were less sensitive to criticism and sought feedback, while covert narcissists were highly sensitive to criticism and avoided feedback.
The authors concluded that there is a relationship between narcissism and sensitivity to criticism, with covert narcissists being more sensitive.
Research by Czarna & Wróbel (2014) showed that those with high narcissism are less likely to “catch the emotions” of others. Furthermore, their self-awareness about emotions and behaviors was generally low.
But how can you tell if you or someone you know is a hypersensitive covert narcissist posing as a sensitive introvert?
Finding The Hidden Narc: Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale (MCNS)
The 23-item “Extended Version of The Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale” (Cheek, Hendin, Wink., 2013), also called “Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale” (MCNS), can help you gain a deeper understanding of your personality.
Cheek’s team found that high scorers on the MCNS scale are more likely to show entitlement, shame, and neuroticism, as well as lower levels of self-esteem, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
In contrast, maladaptive overt narcissism was not related to shame, self-esteem, or neuroticism, even though these overt ones felt as much entitled as the covert ones.
The Covert Narcissist Test
Let’s try to decode if you are a sensitive introvert or a covert narcissist, taking help from the Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale (MCNS).
Here is the 23-item Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale (MCNS) and the corresponding rating scale:
Rating Scale: 1 = very uncharacteristic or untrue, strongly disagree. 2 = uncharacteristic. 3 = neutral. 4 = characteristic. 5 = very characteristic or true, strongly agree.
|No.||MCNS Question||Score On The Rating Scale|
|1||I can become entirely absorbed in thinking about my personal affairs, my health, my cares or my relations to others.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|2||My feelings are easily hurt by ridicule or the slighting remarks of others.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|3||When I enter a room, I often become self-conscious and feel that the eyes of others are upon me.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|4||I dislike sharing the credit of an achievement with others.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|5||I feel that I have enough on my hand without worrying about other people’s troubles.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|6||I feel that I am temperamentally different from most people.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|7||I often interpret the remarks of others in a personal way.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|8||I easily become wrapped up in my own interests and forget the existence of others.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|9||I dislike being with a group unless I know that I am appreciated by at least one of those present.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|10||I am secretly “put out” or annoyed when other people come to me with their troubles, asking me for their time and sympathy.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|11||I am jealous of good-looking people.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|12||I tend to feel humiliated when criticized.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|13||I wonder why other people aren’t more appreciative of my good qualities.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|14||I tend to see other people as being either great or terrible.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|15||I sometimes have fantasies about being violent without knowing why.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|16||I am especially sensitive to success and failure.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|17||I have problems that nobody else seems to understand.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|18||I try to avoid rejection at all costs.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|19||My secret thoughts, feelings, and actions would horrify some of my friends.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|20||I tend to become involved in relationships in which I alternately adore and despise the other person.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|21||Even when I am in a group of friends, I often feel very alone and uneasy.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|22||I resent others who have what I lack.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
|23||Defeat or disappointment usually shame or anger me, but I try not to show it.||○1 ○2 ○3 ○4 ○5|
Interpreting Your MCNS Score
- A score below 40 indicates a very low level of covert narcissism.
- Most people score in the mid-to-upper 60s, indicating an average level of covert narcissism.
- A score of 82 or higher indicates a high degree of covert narcissism.
- A score above 97 suggests that one may be a genuine covert narcissist, and need help from a mental health expert.
What weird things do covert narcissists do?
Five weird behaviors of covert narcissists:
1. Fishing for compliments: Covert narcissists may seek validation and attention by purposefully downplaying their skills or achievements to receive praise and reassurance.
2. Passive-aggressive behavior: When feeling hurt, betrayed, or angry, covert narcissists may become passive-aggressive, using tactics such as backhanded compliments or giving silent treatment.
3. Ruining your happiness: Covert narcissists may intentionally ruin happy or relaxing moments, such as starting an argument when someone is trying to sleep.
4. Gaslighting: Covert narcissists may manipulate others by denying their own behavior or making the victim doubt their own perceptions and memory.
5. Envious & resentful: Covert narcissists may become bitter or full of envy when someone else is the center of attention, often trying to redirect the focus back to themselves.
Are all covert narcissists shy?
No, not all covert narcissists are shy. While some covert narcissists may appear introverted or shy, others may be more outgoing or charismatic. The “covert” aspect of covert narcissism refers to the fact that their narcissistic tendencies are not immediately obvious to others. They may use various tactics to gain attention and admiration, such as portraying themselves as selfless or humble (“humblebragging”) rather than overtly displaying grandiosity or entitlement.
Are covert narcissists happy people?
Since each person’s experience is unique, it is impossible to generalize whether covert narcissists are happy or not. Even though some covert narcissists could seem content on the outside, they may actually be feeling empty, unsatisfied, or anxious. Covert narcissists may have poor self-esteem and turn to narcissistic behavior to deal with their insecurities or inadequacies. A deep-seated fear of rejection or failure may also fuel their need for approval and affection.
What are covert narcissists afraid of?
Five things covert narcissists may be afraid of are:
1. Fear of rejection: Covert narcissists may fear rejection or abandonment, and may go to great lengths to avoid situations where they feel vulnerable or exposed.
2. Fear of failure: They may struggle with feelings of inadequacy or insecurity, and may fear that they will fail to meet their own or others’ expectations.
3. Fear of vulnerability: Covert narcissists may be afraid of showing vulnerability or weakness, and may use their narcissistic tendencies as a way to protect themselves from perceived threats.
4. Fear of losing control: They often have a strong need for control, and may fear losing control over situations or relationships.
5. Fear of being exposed: They may fear that others will discover their true nature or motivations, and may go to great lengths to maintain their image or reputation.
Why do covert narcissists masquerade themselves?
Narcissists are generally aware that they are “narcissistic” and are more tolerant of others who behave narcissistically (W. Hart et al., 2018).
With so much social media noise over narcissism being a highly toxic trait, covert narcissists might pose as sensitive introverts to gain sympathy while creating confusion and misidentification.
The MCNS test is only a helpful tool to get a clearer picture of a test-taker’s personality.
You cannot diagnose someone as having NPD (Narcissistic personality Disorder), even if you or they score high on it. For proper diagnosis and treatment, a consultation with a mental health therapist is a must.
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Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Sandip Roy — a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher, who writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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