Vulnerable narcissism is a form of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People may also call this subtype “covert narcissism.” Those with this diagnosis may experience hypersensitivity, defensiveness, and introversion.
A personality disorder is a mental health condition in which a person experiences ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving that deviate from the expectations of the culture, cause distress or problems functioning, and last over time.
With NPD, a person may experience a pattern of need for admiration, a lack of empathy for others, or feelings of self-importance and entitlement. People with the vulnerable subtype of NPD may experience these characteristics but also display a more introverted personality.
This article discusses vulnerable narcissism, including its signs, possible causes, and treatments.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, people with NPD may crave admiration from others and can demonstrate a lack of empathy for people around them.
Other terms used for vulnerable NPD
- covert NPD
- fragile NPD
- hypersensitive NPD
- implicit NPD
A person with the vulnerable subtype of NPD may try to hide things about themselves they feel self-conscious about. This may make it harder for a healthcare professional to diagnose the condition.
Various signs may indicate a person has vulnerable NPD, such as:
More recent research supports this, including a 2019 study that appears to confirm the hypothesis that people with vulnerable NPD tend to demonstrate negative self-esteem and often construct their self-image based on how other people see them. These patterns can create anxiety around interacting with others.
The findings of a
The research notes that individuals with grandiose NPD also appear more likely to experience Facebook addiction, with anxiety possibly contributing to those cases in a similar way.
However, it is important to note that introversion is a personality trait that many people without NPD exhibit, and it exists on a spectrum.
A person with vulnerable NPD may experience hypersensitivity to criticism or feeling judged by others. A 2022 study notes that other people’s remarks can easily hurt people with this subtype. They may also interpret comments as being hostile when they are not intended that way.
Research from 2019 suggests that people with vulnerable narcissism may experience low self-esteem. This may manifest as anxiety in social situations where they cannot control how people perceive them.
- that others treated them harshly or unfairly
- that they were victims of attacks from others
- that people took advantage of them
Research from 2019 suggests that people with vulnerable narcissism can experience the following in relationships:
Researchers do not yet know the causes of NPD. However, the collection of traits it encompasses may result from a
A 2020 study noted that people with vulnerable NPD reported higher levels of childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences than people with grandiose NPD. However, further research is needed to investigate these results.
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy: This can focus on a person’s defenses that are present during a therapy session.
- Transference-focused therapy: This focuses on the interaction between the person and their therapist.
- Schema-focused therapy: This combines therapy techniques to help a person change rigid patterns of thinking.
People who have grandiose NPD
Although people with vulnerable NPD may share some of these traits, they usually do not have the same level of self-confidence and extroversion that someone with grandiose NPD tends to have.
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about vulnerable NPD.
Do people with vulnerable NPD have empathy?
People with vulnerable and grandiose NPD
Are people with vulnerable NPD capable of love?
Yes, people with vulnerable NPD can love other people. However, in relationships, they may demonstrate behaviors that are:
- fearful of rejection
They may also display a tendency toward victimhood and excessively seek signs of love and acceptance from a partner.
There are two basic forms of NPD: vulnerable and grandiose. NPD can cause a person to experience an intense level of focus on themselves and have feelings of superiority. In addition, people with vulnerable NPD tend to display personality traits such as introversion and hypersensitivity.
The causes of vulnerable NPD are not currently clear. However, researchers believe it may result from a combination of genetics and childhood experiences.
Although there is no standard treatment for NPD, healthcare professionals can treat its symptoms using therapy and medication.