All of these different types of narcissistic mothers, even though their behaviors appear to be different, will ultimately affect you as their adult child in a negative way.
Also, these types of narcissistic mothers can still affect you no matter how old you are, even if you no longer live with your mother, or if she is no longer alive. Her behaviors can have a lasting impact on you in many ways.
In this article, I will describe the different types of narcissistic mothers (If you are not sure what a Narcissist is, read more about it here.) and then include how they can affect you as an adult using examples that I have made up and not representing anyone I have worked with in the past.
Three Different types of Narcissistic mothers
Covert Narcissist Mother
If your mother is a Covert Narcissist. By “Covert” we mean her behaviours are more hidden or not immediately apparent.
A mother who is a covert narcissist would in many ways be more challenging for her adult children. This could be because she has symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) but those behaviors are more subtle and less obvious than some who are overtly Narcissistic, which I will go more into next.
To you, your mum may appear very shy, fragile and extremely sensitive, especially if any form of criticism could be directed at her. As she is more prone to anxiety and depression than the other types of NPD (Narcissist Personality Disorder), you could from a young age, feel very responsible for how she is and how she feels.
Another problem is that you may also find it difficult to explain to someone the hurt and confusion you may be experiencing with her as she can often appear kind and caring, needy, insecure, and helpless.
You may end up feeling guilty about asserting yourself or wanting to withdraw from her to live your own life as an independent adult.
You may have found that she is attached emotionally to one or more of her children, especially the more caring and compassionate ones. That child or children who she has assigned as her “helper” would see their mum’s neediness and find it difficult to live their own life.
Because below the apparent care and concern, as with other types of Narcissist Mothers, everything ultimately is about what she needs and wants from you.
Your covert narcissist mom may appear to take responsibility for her life by being very self-deprecating and beating herself up a lot. All that would happen here is that this would draw you further into taking care of her needs. Even when you try to assert yourself, she could often make use of sympathy, voicing physical illnesses, etc to keep you close to her.
A covert narcissist mom would seem very kind and caring but as you get older, it becomes more obvious that that care is linked more to getting something from you.
A simple conversation about your working day would always lead back to how things are for her. You always get the feeling maybe that she is waiting for you to finish so she could fill you in on how things are difficult for her.
You may also find that your mother has little regard for your abilities and successes.
Example of a Covert Narcissist Mother
Julie has three children but is especially close to her middle child Brenda. Brenda was always a sensitive child that went above and beyond for her family, especially her mum who has been diagnosed with an invisible illness that leaves her physically unwell at times.
She can look after herself but chooses to depend on her children, especially Brenda.
Brenda has always dreamt of being an air hostess from when she was about 8 years old but she had to turn her dream job down as her mum cried over a few days about how difficult things are for herself, how she is struggling, and not sure what the future holds for herself.
Brenda knew that working as an air hostess would reduce the time she is available for her mother’s needs. What makes her mother’s behaviour more covert is that she didnt directly ask her to stay and look after her.
Her mother escalated in her choice of words about how things are difficult for her, how she is struggling, and how she can’t cope. Brenda then felt she had no choice but to stay and look after her.
Overt Narcissist Mother
An overt Narcissist mother is not necessarily the opposite of a mother that is covert.
Underneath it all, she has the same insecurities, self-importance and lack of empathy, etc but she would be more expressive and vocally direct in her demands.
Simply means not hidden or seen as it is easier to spot an overt narcissistic mother than a covert one.
Your overt narcissistic mother would be more upfront with her behaviors by often bragging and putting you down in front of others. Overt Narcissists are a lot easier to spot as they may also not be afraid of tooting her own horn.
Her demands for attention and admiration would be more direct and she would clearly lose patience when she is not getting what she needs. Whereas the Covert narcissist would use more underhand manipulative tactics such as Brenda’s mother where exaggerating her difficulties and struggles so her daughter would continue to give her what she needs.
An overt Narcissist mother would have told Brenda directly that she doesn’t want her to go and that she won’t cope without her and even go as far as telling Brenda that she owes her.
Overt Narcissist moms are very arrogant and is extremely entitled. They are very vocal in their demands. Vocal in their high expectations of you and others. They would also be vocal about how other people see them, especially if they envy them.
Example of an Overt Narcissist Mother
Godfrey’s mother has always bullied him and his siblings. She has always been aggressive verbally and physically at times especially when her high standards are not met to her expectations.
His partner Robert is often shocked by her rants when she leaves a voice message (sometimes ½ hour long) telling him how bad he is as a son and how much he has let her down.
She is very upfront in telling Godfrey about how much he has failed as a son due to how much she has given as his mother.
Malignant Narcissist Mother
A Malignant Narcissist isn’t a formal diagnosis like a covert and overt narcissist but is used to describe someone with both an antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder traits.
A mother with malignant narcissistic personality disorder tends to display the most severe traits of both personality disorders and is extremely difficult to relate to on any level.
As a mom, she would be obsessed with being powerful and having control. She would go as far as using tactics to obtain that power
She like other types of NPD can also hold grudges but as a malignant narcissistic mother, she would take it one step further and take revenge as well.
Example of a Malignant Narcissist Mother
Sue’s mother Jackie has had problems with alcohol and drugs for most of Sue’s life. Unfortunately for Sue, due to her mother’s addiction, she has been in and out of foster care.
When Sue turned 14, she refused to go back into foster care as her mother wanted her to stay with her. She was then “trained” to do shoplifting to fund her mother’s drug habit.
Even when Sue herself was arrested and detained. Her mother never visited her or showed any remorse for encouraging her in this lifestyle. In fact, when she was released from custody her mum would be waiting for her and being aggressive if Sue showed any signs of wanting to change for the better.
Nothing is ever her fault and she could be pretty ruthless in trying to get what she wants.
Of the three different types of narcissistic mothers, I have listed here, which one can you relate to the most? Remember that nothing is ever black and white and you might find that your mother’s traits cover more than one category.
Some mothers fluctuate between being totally overt in their achievements to being very degrading of themselves, depending on life circumstances.
The main thing to look at is what is driving her behaviour i.e. being extraordinarily self-absorbed, behaviour very pompous and superiour. Even if she is hidding it more as a covert narcissist.
What to do next
You can read more about the psychiatry diagnosis and perspective from the American Journalist of Psychiatrists.
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