How to Spot Covert Abusers

The Truth About Covert Narcissism: How to Spot Covert Abusers

Many people commented or messaged me with concerns, after my previous video, “What’s the Single Greatest Danger of Covert Narcissism,” that I was suggesting there’s no such thing as covert abuse (where the abuse is carefully hidden, disguised by a clever mask of generosity or caring or sensitivity).

That’s not what I said–or at least, not what I *meant* to say.

Covert abuse is horrifyingly real, and there are clear traits that reliably predict it–namely, the Dark Tetrad:

Sadism–hurting others for pleasure.

Psychopathy–a pattern of remorseless lies and deceit.

Narcissism–an addictive drive to feel special or unique

Machiavellianism–a cold calculating, chess-playing approach to life (and love).

Of all the Dark Tetrad traits, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy appear to be linked most strongly to covert abuse. Which isn’t surprising since both traits are all about careful, cold, predatory behaviors.

Combined with the more recently researched, fourth trait of the Dark Tetrad, Sadism, these three traits blend with narcissism to shape a personality prone to gaslighting and trickery.

It is the Dark Tetrad narcissist, then, who commits covert abuse.

Covert narcissism, best thought of as a trait where someone presents as fragile (sort of…more on that later) on the outside and grandiose on the inside, is no more likely to predict covert abuse than overt narcissism, in which the fragility is hidden and grandiosity is worn like a badge of honor.

To see the most accurate predictors of covert abuse, look for the Dark Tetrad cluster of traits, especially Machiavellianism.

Covert and overt narcissists may or may not possess the other Dark Tetrad traits, which means they may or may not perpetrate covert abuse.

Of course, as you’ve probably learned from my work if you’ve followed it, your greatest protection against any form of abuse is to look for signs your partner is capable of attachment security. Securely attached people don’t perpetrate abuse. Ever.

For more on this topic