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There are three different personalities which encompass the broader characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). While you might expect someone with a disarming smile and contagious energy to be the type of narcissist to cross your path, it is possible that someone with NPD could come across as more of a misanthrope than the talented Mr. Ripley.

This type of person is a vulnerable narcissist, and while they don’t express their suffering as outwardly – they tend to withdraw inward and often denigrate themselves – they can be just as manipulative and difficult to establish a lasting romantic relationship with.

What is a Vulnerable Narcissist?

Unlike their grandiose counterparts, a vulnerable narcissist is likely to wallow instead of exuding charm and a magnetic personality. But they usually manage to suck those closest to them into their vortex of negativity in order to gain control over whoever is closest to them.

Lisa A. Romano, a certified life coach specializing in codependency and narcissistic abuse, tells Lifehacker:

The vulnerable narcissist sees himself as the ultimate victim and his narcissistic supply comes in the form of your attention and his ability to make you care for him, feel sorry for him, or make him the center of your world.

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A vulnerable narcissist may seem shy or hesitant to attract attention, but deep down they crave validation and praise. There are a number of characteristics that indicate this personality type: “They are easily injured, are more introverted, feel ashamed, dislike mistakes or criticism, develop self-esteem from the outside, blame others, can be neurotic,” says Paulette Sherman , a psychologist and author of The Book of Sacred Baths and host of the podcast The Love Psychologist.

This type of person might cling to superficial notions of superiority, such as a flashy brand of clothing or a luxury car, to set them apart. While they may not appear to belittle people, they usually speak ill of other people when given the opportunity. A recurring theme for them is to express a certain level of sacrifice. “They may never admit that they feel inferior to others, but if you pay attention, their language is one of resentment, anger and arrogance,” says Romano.

What to do when you are with a vulnerable narcissist

Constructive criticism is natural in a relationship, but a vulnerable narcissist doesn’t get on well with it, even in the kindest possible way.

Romano says of people who have been in relationships with vulnerable narcissists:

They have most likely been accused of intentionally hurting them with the slightest constructive criticism. While a healthy partner would appreciate your honesty when it came to expressing your constructive and well-meaning opinions, a vulnerable narcissist sees even the slightest honesty as an attack.

It can be difficult to find yourself in a situation like this where you are being accused of being deliberately hurtful for expressing your feelings. As Sherman says, “You need to set boundaries, stand up for your needs and feelings, and possibly suggest that they seek therapy once you’ve decided to stay in the relationship. You can also choose to leave if you feel it is poisonous. ”

Relationships with narcissists rarely, if ever, go well. Trying to face the tendencies can ultimately prove pointless. So always understand that professional help is probably the best option.