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I am going to begin with the least famous and flashy Narcissists (don’t get mad, though I know you will), the Covert or Vulnerable Narcissists.

These are the undercover Narcissists. They seem to be shy, meek and self deprecating. When you meet one it seems that they are quiet and reject being in the limelight. They project a distaste for socializing and seem withdrawn or shy. Even so, they project a big tendency towards altruism and generosity, showing they would go out of their way to help anyone. They are openly self critical so that people can reassure them. Their relationships are superficial and they have trouble making/keeping friends, because their demands on other people are unreasonable and they are always expecting something back for their own actions. They find it difficult to fit in because they secretly feel superior to most other people.

How can someone with these characteristics have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

These Narcissists hide the more obvious signs and use traits like being self effacing in order to hide the fact that they consider themselves to be special and entitled. They believe they deserve more appreciation and recognition than others for no reason in particular.

This is the mother that says ” I gave up my life for you.”

This is the friend that says ” I need you to do this for me, because I did this for you.”

This is the patient that says “You have not done your job well. You have not given me enough.”

They are “victims” of a bad world that has not treated them nor recognized them for who they actually are- more special and more deserving than other people.

How do they show this?

They are subtly condescending and passive aggressive. They put unreasonable demands on others, needing and asking for more attention in the specific way they want the attention, than anyone who is not a narcissist would. They expect people to do things the way they want them done. They always blame other people for their shortcomings and even their own mistakes. They expect other people to take care of them and to resolve their problems, complaining constantly about details that they are offended by (example: the food at the restaurant was not presented to them in the way that they like or something is too dirty for them, while someone else would not even notice). They even spend inordinate amounts of time trying to find things to complain about in order to have people paying attention and catering to their needs. A Covert Narcissist thrives on complaint emails and reporting problems and people.

“Woe is me” is the theme here. They show empathy in order to get what they need- constant attention. They get angry easily (but silently) because they feel they are more important than others and should receive special treatment. They are always looking for people to pity them. Their life must look more difficult than everyone else’s. Their problems are more important than anyone else’s and unique.

What can trigger Covert Narcissists?

1. The worst thing you can ever do to a Covert Narcissist is criticize them. They cannot take any form of criticism. or hear a truth that they cannot accept about themselves. If they are called out for not being what they wish to project, expect a passive-aggressive attack. They will project the problem back onto you or withdraw as it is unbearable to think that someone else could be right and that they could improve or are not as special as they think. They will justify this attack to themselves looking for many reasons why it is acceptable to make you the bad person.

2. If a Covert Narcissist feels ignored, they will demand attention. A text, email, phone call must be answered within the time they consider is adequate. Expect a passive-aggressive or open demand for an answer when you have taken too long to contact the Narcissist.

Covert Narcissists are dangerous because they go undetected in general since it seems they are underdogs. Do not be fooled. They think they are better than you, but need to act like victims so you give them the attention and recognition they think they deserve, They will use and manipulate you, only to discard you when they have gotten everything they need. They will attack passive-aggressively and disappear since they cannot deal with confrontation and conflict, unless it brings them some kind of gain. They use people to get what they want, then leave, with no empathy for the destruction they created.


And now, the Narcissists. There are 3 main types, that are very different in their characteristics.. This can make them hard to identify. There are Overt Narcissists, Covert and Malignant Narcissists.  

And we have a problem. “Narcissistic” has become a buzzword for people that are selfish and self-centered, which takes away from the gravity of the mental illness itself. In order for there to actually be a diagnosis, there are many guidelines to follow, a set of specific symptoms. And because it is such a common term, we minimize the importance of identifying a true Narcissist. This can have devastating effects on families, children and workplaces. A Narcissist destroys every relationship in its path an people who relate to them must know how to manage this.

The main characteristic of any person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a constant need for attention, an inability to understand emotions and the emotional world, a lack of self-awareness an inability to recognize other people’s needs, an inability to love due to superficial emotions, a deep feeling of envy towards everyone else and a tendency to use people to satisfy themselves. 

There are many ways in which these symptoms play out in each type of Narcissist, but those are the basic traits. Hardly traits that are favorable to the upbringing of any child or to the creation of a healthy romantic relationship. 

What differentiates a Narcissist from a Psychopath? 

A Narcissist has feelings, they just do not know how to identify them and cannot see them in other people. Their lack of empathy comes from only believing they have feelings/needs and no one else has them. }A Narcissist may feel guilt or remorse, but will quickly turn the story around in their heads so someone else/everyone else is at fault. They never apologize unless they need to manipulate. 

What is the tricky part? 

We tend to think of the Narcissist as the Grandiose/Overt type: the arrogant, the show-off, the ones who openly ask for affirmation and admiration, the ones who think they are “special” in some way and are entitled to special treatment. That is what society identifies as “Narcissistic”. 

This is why many go unnoticed or misdiagnosed. I believe many women throughout history were misdiagnosed as Borderline Personality Disordered women instead of Narcissists, because it was considered more of a masculine diagnosis.

The truth is some Narcissists are quietly Narcissistic, manipulating from the shadows, pretending to be dependent in order to get attention, manipulating stories and acting innocent even when caught. These people are covert narcissists: they seem fragile, helpless, are hypervigilant to other people, deeply envious, feels inadequate and need attention consistently in order to feel worthy. These people are just as, or even more destructive than overt Narcissists. 

Mlaignant Narcissists are the most destructive of the three categories.

Narcissistic Parents 

If you are unable to identify other people´s emotions, because yours are the only ones that matter, how can you raise a child? A child must have parents that can read their needs and feelings and respond to them. Most Narcissistic parents feel bothered by their children’s expressions of sadness and anger as it disturbs their peace. Healthy parents help a child learn to identify and express themselves in a safe way and respect that children are not an extension or trophy, but a separate human being from them. 

Narcissistic parents enjoy their children until they are no longer idealized or their child wants to take a different path than the parent.

These children grow up feeling unseen and unheard if they do not play the accomplishment game- “I accomplish good things to get my parents’ attention/in order to be loved”. They grow up feeling that love must be earned. Perfection is required and then maybe, just maybe, their parents will see and hear them, identifying them as a whole being. They hide their “negative” emotions in order not to burden their parents and are hypervigilant to what makes their parents happy.

And I am afraid that this is only the tip of the iceberg for the trauma and abuse caused by Narcissistic parents. 


When we think of Psychopaths, we think of serial killers first, but that is not accurate. Some Psychopaths may be serial killers, some serial killers may be Psychopaths, but most of them walk around in the general population living a life much like our own.  
Yet, they are shells of people. Psychopaths do not experience emotions except for sexual arousal/excitement or rage. They thrive on excitement and conflict. They may seem like they feel but have studied people closely in order to understand when to act out a certain emotion. They are observers. They know they are not the same as other people, can see that they are not like other people but must pretend to fit in. 

This leads to a series of implications. Psychopaths cannot feel empathy for other people nor remorse for their actions. Due to this, they can perform callous and violent acts with no second thoughts for the consequences. Other people are seen as simple objects to be used for their own needs and satisfaction. They manipulate and lie their way through life. They feed off of other people’s pain. They usually cannot support themselves, so they find ways of leading a parasitic life. They do not have the ability to establish nor carry out long term goals and are irresponsible in their actions. 

What does this mean for a child who grows up with a Psychopathic parent? 

There is most certainly abuse in all of its forms: sexual, physical and emotional. The Psychopath displays sadistic traits and can torture a child with no guilt. Since they are excellent manipulators, outside observers cannot see these events happening. They use their children in order to obtain their own needs and punish their children when their needs are not met, accordingly. They expect their children to be a source of income and to live off of them for as long as possible. 

These children live in an impossibly confusing and dangerous world. It is difficult to tell truth from reality, especially when the parent is adept at lying skillfully. The children question their own perception of the world. They must keep silent or the abuse increases, because the Psychopath knows no limits when it comes to violence. The children are used in games that allow the parent to obtain what they need and are often witnesses to other acts of violence. 

The children’s needs are not fundamental. The financial needs can be taken care of by the provider and the Psychopathic parent does not even realize that the children have emotional nor psychological needs. The parent’s needs are the only issue that matters. This usually involves manipulating and creating conflict as well as dangerous situations for the family. 

Children with a Psychopathic parent grow up in a home full of violence and neglect, confusion because of the constant lies, must become hypervigilant to all external signals of danger and do not experience unconditional love. Or love of any sort from that parent. 


When we think of Complex- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it is impossible to ignore the family environment in which children are raised. In order for there to be recurrent trauma in life, most of the time it would have to begin in the home as a child, although there are a few exceptions.

Recurrent and consistent abuse, negligence and abandonment in childhood, usually point towards mental illness in parents or siblings, for many reason that we will explore in this post.

I have centered my research based on parents with two diagnoses: Psychopathy and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Bot diagnoses do not allow a parent to be able to understand emotions, identify them for good reasons in their children and do not allow unconditional love, a necessary condition for a child’s stable mental health.

This does not mean that I exclude other mental illnesses as causes for C-PTSD. Addiction/ Alcoholism/ Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder are also strong mental illnesses that lead to trauma for different reasons, but I have had the chance to explore the aforementioned ones with a higher frequency. Also with a lot of these mental illnesses there is a high comorbidity (they can be present at the same time).

Why Psychopathy?

In short, a Psychopath does not feel emotions, remorse or shame. There is a need for destruction of some degree in all of their relatioships. As parents there is an almost inherent need for abuse that causes severe trauma due to the sadism and coldness that can be observed in their personalities.

What is a Personality Disorder?

A personality disorder is a mental illness that are characterized by patterns of behavior from adolescence on that seem different from what is expected from a person in society, being unhealthy or rigid. It seems as if the person sees the world in a different way from most people and their behavior usually causes distress in other people´s lives, especially their children’s lives. There are 10 types.

Why Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

People that have Narcissistic Personality Disorders can only center their attention on themselves. They are not able to consider the fact that other people have needs and needs that can be different from their own ones. They use people to satisfy their need for attention and do not have the ability to love unconditionally, either, a factor that is fundamental to the mental health of a child.

Both of these types of mental illness cause repeated trauma in a child: C-PTSD.


A long journey has led me to this point in my career.

Many patients started coming to me due to intense emotions and difficulty managing said emotions that seemed to come out of nowhere or were too “big” for the situation that was actually happening at the moment. They had diagnoses such as Bipolar Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, yet they had a sense of self-awareness uncommon to these types of mental illness. As I explored their stories in order to make sense of this, many of these patients had grown up with parents that had mental illness. They did not know this most of the time, but they described Personality Disorders, Psychopathy, Addiction and others.

Trauma was not taught to us as Psychologists twenty something years ago, unless it referred to PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) a one time situation that impacted a human being and came from extreme situations such as assault or war. PTSD was exclusive to big, violent, intense, one time/one period of time events.

Back then, no one talked about recurring trauma and what happened when a person was subjected to constant abusive events- including neglect and abandonment. This was even less common if we were talking about children and the idea of C-PTSD ( Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ) had not even entered the books and classes we had. The idea that someone could be constantly subjected to abuse, negligence and abandonment, and that this could produce specific symptoms in the affected person was starting to be developed in Family Therapy Theories and there was inkling of this in Psychoanalysis, but not to the point where it could be named as a set of symptoms.

And even today there is resistance to validate the existence of C-PTSD even though there is sufficient biological and psychological evidence to back it up.

These adult patients labeled with other mental illnesses were mainly people who had been living in an environment that threatened their existence physically or psychologically for years and had triggers (reminders of the trauma) that would spark intense emotions similar to those in Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.

It is time we talk about C-PTSD, because it does not come form the inside of a person, it is something that is done TO a person.