The Vulnerable Dark Triad.

credit: “Triad” by Shane Peterson

I wrote an earlier post about The Dark Triad (Narcissism + Machiavellianism + Factor 1 Psychopathy), but only touched on a variation, the Vulnerable Dark Triad (VDT).

A Dark Triad person is likely to be a malignant overt/grandiose narcissist or a antisocial psychopath who is very manipulative (Machiavellianism), classically narcissistic (overt and grandiose, arrogant, lacking empathy, and seemingly overconfident–the type described in the DSM), and has the charm and calculated dishonesty of the classic psychopath.

In contrast, a person of the Vulnerable Dark Triad has traits of BPD (emotional instability, impulsiveness, and fearful of rejection) + Covert Narcissism (shy, possibly socially awkward, overly sensitive to criticism, self-conscious, and fearful of negative judgment; the main things a covert N has in common with a classic N is lack of empathy and use of others to get supply) + Factor 2 Psychopathy (impulsive, sometimes reckless, or destructive behavior during BPD rages).

Factor 2 Psychopathy can be distinguished from Factor 1 Psychopathy (Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist tests for both) because of its lack of planning or premeditation. It doesn’t involve cunning, underhanded manipulation, and dishonesty, but instead is distinguished by impulsive, destructive behavior, which is commonly seen in both Borderlines and people with Antisocial PD, but not NPD.

I score low on classic NPD tests (which are based on the DSM criteria) as well as in Dark Triad traits. Most professionals who use the DSM would probably not diagnose me with NPD at all, since Covert Narcissism isn’t recognized, and is more likely to be diagnosed as either BPD or Avoidant PD, or sometimes both in the same person (which is the case with me as I received both a BPD and AvPD diagnosis in 1996 and 1997).
However, I do score high in both Covert Narcissism and VDT (Vulnerable Dark Triad) traits.

Covert Narcissists, who act so much like Avoidant Borderlines, are usually much lower functioning (less successful in life) than classic (overt) Narcissists and are much more likely to be unhappy with their lives and feel like failures or even victims. Because their disorder is more ego-dystonic than people with classic NPD, they do seem “crazier” and less functional. Borderlines can also seem very crazy compared to classic narcissists, who usually don’t have any problems with their disorder (it’s everyone else who does). Because of that, an ego-dystonic covert narcissist (or a Vulnerable Dark Triad person) is far more likely to seek treatment on their own than someone with classic NPD or who has non-vulnerable Dark Triad traits; these people are ego-syntonic: they are usually functioning well in life but just make everyone around them miserable.


2 thoughts on “The Vulnerable Dark Triad.

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