7 Signs of Vulnerable Narcissism in Relationships: What to Look Out For

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Understanding Vulnerable Narcissism: What You Need to Know

Do you know someone in your life who always seems to be the victim? They might seem sensitive and introverted, but they are always demanding attention. These could be signs that they have vulnerable narcissism. But what exactly is narcissism, and what makes it vulnerable?

In this article, we will explore the characteristics of vulnerable narcissism, what causes it, and how it differs from grandiose narcissism.

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism is a personality disorder that is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have an overly inflated sense of self-importance and feel a need to be recognized as superior to others.

Narcissists often engage in manipulative behavior, gaslighting, and have low self-esteem. While there are different types of narcissism, the two most common types are vulnerable (or covert) and grandiose (or overt).

Types of Narcissism

Classic narcissism is what most people think of when they hear the term, but there are other types of narcissism as well. Malignant narcissism is characterized by a combination of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism.

Vulnerable narcissism, on the other hand, is characterized by feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and sensitivity. Because of their insecurity, individuals with vulnerable narcissism are more likely to lash out or use manipulative tactics to manipulate others.

Characteristics of Vulnerable Narcissism

Vulnerable narcissism is often characterized by feelings of entitlement, perfectionism, and sensitivity. People with vulnerable narcissism feel as though they are owed attention and recognition, but often feel as though they are not receiving it.

They can be perfectionists and may feel as though they are not living up to their own high standards. Other characteristics of vulnerable narcissism include victim mentality, introverted personality, and attention-seeking behavior.

Causes of Vulnerable Narcissism

There are several different factors that can contribute to the development of vulnerable narcissism. Childhood experiences, such as neglect, abuse, or trauma, can play a role in shaping a person’s personality.

Genes and psychological factors may also contribute. Additionally, excessive praise or criticism in adolescence can also lead to the development of narcissistic traits.

Comparing Vulnerable Narcissism to Grandiose Narcissism

While both vulnerable and grandiose narcissism share certain characteristics, such as a lack of empathy, the two are fundamentally different. Grandiose narcissism tends to be more aggressive and dominating, with a focus on material things and looks.

Vulnerable narcissism, on the other hand, is more subtle. People with vulnerable narcissism may use negative remarks or engage in paranoia, but may also suffer from depression or jealous thoughts.

Vulnerable narcissists may have social anxiety, but believe that they suffer more than other people.

Danger of Vulnerable Narcissism

People with vulnerable narcissism may engage in tactics such as gaslighting or emotional manipulation to manipulate others. They may also try to suck others in or hit back with a counter-punch when they feel threatened.

This can be especially risky for those with vulnerable narcissism because they are more prone to depression and anxiety. It is important to be aware of the signs of vulnerable narcissism to avoid falling into a cycle of emotional manipulation and abuse.


Vulnerable narcissism is a type of personality disorder that is often characterized by sensitivity and a need for attention. While it may not be as obvious as grandiose narcissism, it can still be damaging and detrimental to personal relationships.

By understanding the characteristics of vulnerable narcissism, we can better identify it in ourselves and others. By doing so, we increase our chances of avoiding the detrimental effects of this disorder and building healthier relationships.

Signs of Vulnerable Narcissism in Relationships: Understanding What to Look Out For

Relationships can be challenging at the best of times, and when your partner has vulnerable narcissism, it can become even more difficult to navigate. Characterized by needing attention and a sense of entitlement, this personality disorder can manifest in various ways that may not be immediately obvious.

In this article, we will explore some of the signs of vulnerable narcissism in relationships, and how you can cope with them.

Trauma Dumping

People with vulnerable narcissism can become self-absorbed and inhibit empathy with their partner, leading to a behavior called trauma dumping. This can occur when a person shares so much of their emotional struggles that it becomes overwhelming for the other person, leaving them with little room for their own emotional needs.

Contemptuous Social Anxiety

The behavior of people with vulnerable narcissism can turn hostile, making them become overly critical and negative towards people around them. They tend to believe that they have been treated unfairly and are often dismissive of the needs of others, making relationships difficult.

Desire to Rescue Narcissist

People with vulnerable narcissism may draw the attention of their partner with their drama and lack of emotional stability. This can lead the partner to try and rescue them from their emotional turmoil, leading to empathy exhaustion.

Jealous of Success of Others

People with vulnerable narcissism can feel envious of the success of others, which can drive them to be overly critical and even sabotage others’ successes. This desire to bring others down and make them feel small can be a red flag in relationships.

False Sense of Outsized Suffering

People with vulnerable narcissism can sometimes have a sense of dramatic victimization about the challenges they have faced, making it difficult to differentiate between genuine suffering and their own exaggeration. This exaggerated sense of drama and their suffering can take a toll on relationships.

Perceiving Others Through a Hostile Lens

People with vulnerable narcissism may have a tendency to interpret what others say or do through a negative lens, increasing the likelihood of a passive-aggressive response. This behavior can erode a partner’s sense of trust and lead to further communication breakdowns.

Lack of Emotional Intelligence

People with vulnerable narcissism can struggle with emotional regulation and tend to project their feelings on others. They can be quick to take offense and slow to apologize, which can lead to explosive outbursts and controlling behaviors.

Coping with Vulnerable Narcissism

Recognizing the Signs

Recognizing the signs of vulnerable narcissism in your partner is crucial in navigating the relationship. Awareness of the signs allows you to become more sensitive to their behavior and take measures to guard your emotional and mental well-being.

Emotional Disengagement

Holding your emotions at arm’s length from the relationship or turning them off altogether can be an effective coping mechanism, especially when the behavior of your partner is toxic. It allows you to remain objective and avoid being drawn into the drama that can often accompany vulnerable narcissism.

Setting Firm Boundaries

Setting boundaries for your own self-respect and emotional well-being is one of the most important things you can do when dealing with a partner with vulnerable narcissism. Clear communication of these boundaries can also help you to avoid getting drawn into their dysfunction.

Get Help

Seeking emotional support from friends, family, or professional mental health practitioners can be an excellent coping mechanism when dealing with a partner with vulnerable narcissism.

Avoid Falling for the Charade

It’s important to remember that people with vulnerable narcissism can be manipulative. Try to recognize when you are being manipulated and avoid falling into the trap of their behavior.

Leaving the Relationship

It may be necessary to leave a relationship with someone with vulnerable narcissism to focus on your own self-care. Prioritizing your well-being and seeking healthier relationships should be your main focus.


Living with a partner who has vulnerable narcissism can be challenging, but it is possible to navigate the relationship successfully by being aware of the signs and practicing healthy coping mechanisms. Remembering to prioritize your own emotional and mental well-being can help you to survive and even thrive in the relationship and prevent the narcissistic tendencies from eroding your self-esteem and happiness.

In conclusion, understanding vulnerable narcissism and its characteristics is crucial for identifying and navigating challenging relationships. Vulnerable narcissism is characterized by feelings of entitlement, sensitivity, and victim mentality, which can manifest as jealousy, trauma dumping, and dramatic victimization.

While coping with these behaviors can be difficult, recognizing the signs, setting firm boundaries, seeking emotional support, and avoiding manipulation can help manage the relationship. Remembering to prioritize your own well-being and focusing on healthy relationships are essential steps to prevent vulnerable narcissism from eroding your sense of self and happiness.

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