If you’ve ever experienced grandiose narcissism, you would likely answer this question by saying they are definitely extroverts. But there is more complexity here than meets the eye. There are actually several different types of narcissists, and not all exhibit the stereotypical bellicose behavior that is common for the grandiose or exhibitionistic narcissist. Some narcissists are more withdrawn, and that can make it difficult to identify they even have a problem.
Like many other personality traits, narcissism exists on a continuum. The different types of narcissism exhibit varying degrees of extroversion or introversion. Vulnerable narcissists are more introverted and have developed different strategies for getting their narcissistic supply needs met.
It’s helpful to examine the different kinds of narcissism to understand better where they might be on a sliding scale from introverted to extroverted.
As Lin Ritter so eloquently puts it, “People who suffer from NPD are individuals who come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.” There are types of narcissists who are more extroverted and others who are more introverted. It gets even more complicated when you also consider that the traits of introversion and extroversion can mask narcissistic tendencies, and narcissism can get to the point where it can override other natural personality preferences.
In general, grandiose or overt narcissists tend towards extroversion, and covert or vulnerable narcissists tend toward introversion. You can see the difference in the way they behave.
Overt narcissists are the stereotypical narcissists who are constantly bragging about their accomplishments or talents. They are loud and love being the center of attention. Covert narcissists, on the other hand, are shyer. They keep to themselves more and they prefer to let others be in the limelight.
They still want the same narcissistic supply as overt narcissists do, they still feel entitled to the best things in life, and they still lack empathy and see other people as extensions of themselves. They just go about getting their narcissistic supply in a more quiet, subtle manner than their exhibitionistic counterparts.
That’s because introverts and extroverts experience energy differently. Moreover, whether or not a narcissist is introverted versus extroverted is a different facet of their personality than that of their narcissism.
What Determines If You’re Introverted or Extroverted?
The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is basically related to how they experience energy. Extroverts receive energy from interacting with other people whereas introverts have their energy drained by these kinds of interactions and need time alone to recharge their batteries.
Both types enjoy social activities, but introverts are drained by them and tend to prefer smaller groups or one-on-one contact. The reason for this has to do with differences in the speed and amount of the brain’s activity. Introverts have a naturally higher level of cortical arousal than extroverts do. That means they process more information per second, and therefore, become overwhelmed in social situations with lots of stimulation.
What Does Science Tell Us About Extroverts and Introverts?
The science of these types shows there is a real difference in the way the brains of introverts and extroverts process information. One experiment was conducted using the drug Ritalin which stimulates the brain to release dopamine.
Participants on Ritalin watched various videos that showed different nature scenes. After three days of watching videos, the participants were taken off the drug and watched the videos again.
Extroverts were excited by the videos, but introverts were not. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical released by your brain as a reward, so the fact that the extroverts were excited by the videos suggests they were expecting to feel that ‘high’ you get when your brain releases dopamine.
The introverts were not excited, which indicates that they tend to weigh internal cues more strongly than external ones. That means introverts process information from their environment in a fundamentally different way than extroverts do.
Finally, introverts react differently to human faces than extroverts do. Extroverts pay more attention to human faces whereas introverts respond to human faces in a similar manner as they do to flowers. That suggests that people, in general, are more significant to extroverts than to introverts.
Extroverts, Introverts, and Narcissists
Given the differences in the way introverts and extroverts process information, you can see why grandiose narcissists are likely to be extroverts and vulnerable narcissists are more introverted. Grandiose narcissists get energy from social interactions, and that explains their penchant for being in the limelight.
Vulnerable narcissists, on the other hand, avoid the limelight, and instead, prefer to get their narcissistic supply through association with people they admire. They also don’t openly brag about their abilities or accomplishments; rather, they use more subtle means of getting that adoration. This aligns well with the tendencies of introverts.
The Effects of Introversion and Extroversion on Narcissism
One study found that the effects of introversion and extroversion on narcissistic tendencies were stronger than the effects of neuroticism on NPD. Moreover, the researchers found that introversion and extroversion could mask the common core traits of both types of narcissism. This means that introversion and extroversion can act as moderating factors with regard to the development of narcissism.
Part of the reason for the strong influence of introversion and extroversion on NPD is that these personality differences are highly genetically determined whereas narcissism is correlated more strongly with certain environmental factors like parenting styles. The study also found, however, that once narcissism becomes more pronounced in an individual, it can override the more fundamental personality characteristics of introversion and extroversion.
Narcissists can be either introverted or extroverted, and in fact, these highly genetically determined personality traits can mask the characteristics of narcissists, particularly in the case of vulnerable narcissists.
Once narcissism becomes more pronounced in an individual, however, it can overrule their tendencies toward either extroversion or introversion. That speaks to the serious nature of a personality disorder like narcissism.
It is evident that the mixture of personality traits is complicated with certain traits masking or overriding others. These factors can make it more difficult to identify specific problems. It is important to remember, however, that just as with other people, narcissists do not all exhibit the same characteristics.
Now that you have a better understanding of how introversion and extroversion interact with narcissistic personality disorder, you might be interested in this video about how to spot the characteristics of narcissism in children.
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