While any one of us can display narcissistic behaviors from time to time, people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have near-continuous or constant feelings of superiority and self-importance that significantly impact their lives and relationships.
NPD is a challenging personality disorder that can cause you to obsess over things like becoming more successful or powerful than others. It might result in a constant craving for admiration, or in feelings that you’re entitled, or that you deserve special treatment in life.
All people with NPD have narcissistic traits, but that doesn’t mean that everyone with NPD behaves in the same way. There are different narcissistic personality disorder types that display unique characteristics. Knowing what to look for and how to distinguish between the various types can help you learn to deal with someone who has NPD in a healthier, more productive manner.
Here, we’re discussing the 2 main narcissistic personality disorder types. We’ll also look closely at 4 other types of people with narcissistic tendencies you may encounter in life.
What Are the Different Types of Narcissism?
There are 2 main types of narcissism: grandiose and vulnerable. Although both types share some traits, they also result in fairly distinct behaviors.
In addition to these types of NPD, there are other subtypes of narcissism. It can be helpful to think of NPD as a spectrum that includes shared behaviors as well as some notable differences. We’ll look more closely at each below.
“It’s important to recognize that narcissism can be seen in a few different ways. Not all people you meet who have narcissistic traits will have narcissistic personality disorder. People can present as either grandiose or vulnerable narcissists, which impacts their relationships differently.”Talkspace therapist Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R
Grandiose (also known as agentic and overt narcissism)
Narcissism is often seen in a negative light, but grandiose narcissistic personalities are typically charming and well-liked. Also known as “agentic or “overt narcissism,” people with grandiose narcissism tend to have a very high sense of self-esteem, which can cause them to overestimate their capabilities. Grandiose narcissism can make people spread flattering rumors about themselves while trying to shut down any information that contradicts their illusions of greatness.
Experts believe that there are two categories of grandiose narcissism: adaptive and maladaptive.
Adaptive narcissism causes people to build up their self-confidence in order to protect themselves. They’re natural leaders and are often drawn to careers that offer positions in leadership. They crave authority and prestige.
Maladaptive narcissism means someone will have a naturally high self-esteem and believe that they’re entitled to take advantage of other people. This causes them to try to control or manipulate those around them. They may become angry or aggressive when someone disagrees with them or tries to set boundaries.
Vulnerable (also known as closet or covert narcissism)
It’s commonly assumed that narcissism causes people to want to be the center of attention, but vulnerable narcissism typically results in behaviors that are introverted and withdrawn.
Vulnerable narcissism is also referred to as “closet” or “covert narcissism,” and it would generally be seen in someone who has a low sense of self-worth and craves praise and admiration so they can feel better about themselves.
Vulnerable narcissistic personality disorder types often have elaborate fantasies of becoming successful. They believe that they deserve positive feedback from others, but usually won’t take steps to earn that praise. The lack of recognition can lead to emotional outbursts, which may cause them to feel intense levels of shame. A common personality trait of vulnerable narcissism is playing the victim.
Research shows that vulnerable narcissism means someone is more likely to experience negative emotions, and they also may perceive compliments as insults. It’s also linked to high levels of neuroticism.
It’s common for people living with this type of narcissism to struggle with depression and paranoia. They’re often envious of the people around them and tend to blame others for their lack of success.
One important note is that studies show grandiose and vulnerable narcissism aren’t always mutually exclusive of one another. Personalities may fluctuate back and forth during various periods of time.
4 More Types of People You Might Come Across”
Most people with NPD fall into the grandiose or vulnerable categories, but there are other types of narcissistic personality disorders to be aware of, too.
A common trait between many types of narcissistic personality disorders is a gap between the way one views themself and how one behaves. People with communal NPD perceive themselves as highly generous and altruistic, but behave in the opposite way. While they may become outraged when they witness injustice or see someone being mistreated, they don’t apply that same level of scrutiny to their own behavior.
Competitiveness is a personality trait that’s associated with many narcissistic personality disorder types, but it’s especially noticeable in those with antagonistic NPD. A low level of trust in others creates a tendency to see the people around them as rivals. It’s common for people with antagonistic NPD to argue with others and treat most social interactions as a competition.
The narcissistic personality disorder symptoms of malignant narcissism are severe and can interfere with a person’s quality of life. They’re often paranoid and may obsess over perceived threats. It’s common for them to display vindictive or even sadistic behavior and show high levels of aggression when interacting with others.
People with seductive NPD understand the power of flattery. Like some other types of NPD, this version makes someone crave positive attention. They’ll freely shower targets with compliments in order to get the admiration they desire. When they’re not getting enough praise from someone, they have no problem dropping that person and moving on to a new target.
“You will encounter challenging people throughout your life. Not all of them will have the degree of narcissism that constitutes narcissistic personality disorder, but they might have many of the narcissistic characteristics described. Knowing how to navigate these personalities and keep your boundaries steady is crucial in dealing with narcissism.”Talkspace therapist Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R
How to Treat Different Types of Narcissism
When it comes to how to help a person diagnosed with narcissisc personality disorder, it can be difficult to persuade people with narcissistic personality disorder to get the help they need. People with NPD often harbor a belief that nothing’s wrong with them. They will likely see any encouragement to seek treatment as misguided or absurd.
“While it might seem counterintuitive to think someone diagnosed with NPD narcissist would seek help, it’s important to know that therapy can help people who want to work on how narcissism is negatively impacting their lives and relationships.”Talkspace therapist Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R
If they can be convinced to start care, however, NPD treatment can have a very positive impact on someone with NPD’s life and relationships. One study found that 60% of people with narcissistic personality disorder had a significant reduction in symptoms 3 years after starting NPD treatment.
When it comes to treating narcissistic personality disorder, the primary form of treatment is psychotherapy. Working with a therapist can help people learn how to deal with narcissistic personality disorder and become more empathetic and improve their relationships with others. Therapy for narcissistic personality disorder can also teach people ways to build self-worth without needing constant recognition from others.
Because it can create significant conflicts in interpersonal relationships, family or couples counseling can focus on recognizing the harm NPD has caused, strengthening personal relationships, and changing the way someone’s been treating others.
Although there is no true narcissistic personality disorder medication, some people with NPD benefit from both therapy and medication like antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
All narcissistic personality disorder types can benefit greatly from professional treatment. Many people with NPD aren’t aware of their harmful behaviors, and psychotherapy can offer awareness and coping skills. If you or someone you care about has symptoms of NPD, reach out for help today. You don’t have to live like this.
Talkspace is an online therapy platform that connects you with a certified mental health professional so you can get the treatment you deserve to manage your symptoms. Experience the most convenient, affordable way to improve your mental health. Start today.
Talkspace mental health services
Convenient and secure online therapy from the comfort of your home
Psychiatric treatment from a licensed prescriber
Relationship-centered therapy that connects you and your partner
Specialized online therapy for ages 13-17