The words vulnerable and narcissism are not typically used together in the same context. When you think of a narcissist, you probably picture someone who struts like a peacock, demands complete attention, lacks empathy for others, and expects people to worship the ground they walk on. But interestingly enough, vulnerable narcissism exists. But what is it exactly?
Vulnerable narcissism is when someone believes they are very important, very smart, or exceptional, but no one notices. Vulnerable narcissists are more introverted, and their symptoms may lead you to believe they have another mental health issue.
What are the Characteristics of a Vulnerable Narcissist?
Vulnerable narcissists are also known as covert narcissists. They are the polar opposite of what you might expect when you hear the term narcissist. Unlike the more common form of narcissism, vulnerable narcissists are much more sensitive, but they are also unaware of how they affect the emotions of others. They are also extraordinarily introverted and suffer from feelings of anxiety and shame.
Furthermore, vulnerable narcissists tend to abandon themselves to be accepted by others. With vulnerable narcissism, depression-like emotions such as withdrawal and fear of abandonment, and feelings of low self-worth are common. Because of their high emotional volatility, vulnerable narcissists are prone to outbursts of rage and hostility, and they tend to blame others in every situation. (Source: Psych Central)
What Causes Vulnerable Narcissism?
There is still much to learn about narcissism and vulnerable narcissism from research. Childhood trauma, abuse, sexual exploitation, and genetics have all been found to play a role in the development of narcissism. Both environmental and genetic factors can play a role.
It is also believed that interruptions to healthy and uncompromised development can be a cause of why someone develops a narcissistic personality disorder when the brain is developing.
Manipulative family dynamics and over-or under-recognition are examples of triggers. Unstable or emotionally volatile home environments can also contribute to developing this personality disorder as a person ages.
Any extreme, too much or too little, whether it is praise, admiration, or indulgence, can develop a type of narcissism known as vulnerable narcissism. The overall lack of balance and stability causes the internal homeostasis to malfunction, resulting in various mental health issues, including selfishness or vulnerable narcissism.
Brain scans of a person with narcissistic personality disorder revealed that this person’s brain had a minor gray matter in the part of the brain that controls cognitive and emotional regulation, including empathy and compassion, two traits that are commonly lacking in any narcissistic personality. (Source: Choosing Therapy)
What Are Some Tips on How to Deal with Vulnerable Narcissists?
In order to deal with vulnerable narcissists, you need to set firm boundaries from the start. It is critical to establish firm boundaries and recognize that the narcissist will try to push and test these boundaries. Setting boundaries from the beginning may appear unfair to those who have a sense of self and can empathize with others, but keep in mind that the vulnerable narcissist will take as much as you give without giving anything back.
Get an Unbiased Opinion on the Situation, ideally, with the Help of a Therapist. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your efforts will be recognized; instead, consider how the relationship appears from the outside. Allow Them to Sit in Their Pain, Soothing their hurt ego or feelings, especially at the expense of your own emotions, will not help them with their accountability struggle.
Don’t fall for their ruse. They’ll put on a show for a while until you’re convinced that giving them another chance is worth the risk, and then you’ll be back in the same cycle of narcissistic abuse.
(Source: Choosing Therapy)