The victim complex

Victim Mentality: Causes, Symptoms, and More

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on February 03, 2022

In this Article

  • What Does a Victim Mentality Mean?
  • Why Be a Victim?
  • Signs You Have a Victimhood Mindset
  • How to Stop Being the Victim

We all have our ups and downs in life. Bad things might happen to you or people you know on a daily basis. But there are some people who claim it is never their fault. They argue that they have no control over the tough situations and problems they encounter. It is simply always happening to them. 

Victimhood can become a part of a person's identity, but it is a learned behavior and can be changed.  It often evolves as a defense mechanism to cope with adverse life events.

People who constantly blame other people or situations for the events in their lives have a victim mentality. 

What Does a Victim Mentality Mean?

"It’s not my fault. " Someone who acts from a place of victimhood claims things that happen to them are the fault of someone or something other than themselves. It might be the fault of their partner, family, co-worker, friend, or "the way the world is." They ferquently complain about the bad things that happen in their lives. They are reluctant to take personal responsibility, asserting that the circumstances aren’t in their control.

It’s not a martyr complex. Victim mentality can sometimes be confused with a martyr complex. They are two similar behaviors, but there are some differences. Victims take things personally. Even if a comment or statement wasn’t directed at them, they will still absorb it as if it was. "What did I do to deserve this?" is a common question for them.

On the other hand, a person with a martyr complex will often go out of their way to take on extra tasks for other people, even if they don’t want to. They sacrifice themselves for others yet often feel resentful after the fact.  

Unhealthy coping mechanisms. People who have a victim mentality have often suffered through trauma or hard times, but haven’t developed a healthier way to cope. As a result, they develop a negative view of life, where they feel that they don't have any control over what happens to them. Because they don’t think anything is their fault, they have little or no sense of responsibility for their lives. It just happens to them. 

If someone tries to help or offer solutions, they’re often prepared with a list of reasons why that will not work. People who try to help are often left frustrated and confused. 

Why Be a Victim?

Why do people behave this way? There are some benefits to adapting a victimhood mindset.

No accountability. Being accountable for your life means you’re in the driver’s seat. You take responsibility. That can be scary to someone who has a victim mentality. You would have to admit life isn’t just the result of the actions of others. Taking responsibility bursts the protective bubble of victimhood. 

Secondary gain. Some people’s problems continue because of the secondary benefits. Sympathy, attention, and access to medication or funds are common examples of secondary gain. Someone with a victim mentality might not even realize they are getting these benefits, and often feel truly distressed. 

Satisfies unconscious needs. People with a victim mentality, especially when it comes from past trauma, unconsciously seek validation and help from others. They play the “poor me” card consistently. This can generate sympathy and help from others. 

Avoid taking risks. Projecting blame on others is a key part of the victim mentality. It’s a way to avoid being truly vulnerable and taking risks.   

Signs You Have a Victimhood Mindset

It’s normal to be unsatisfied in some parts of your life. But it’s important to look at the bigger picture. If you notice similar patterns across different areas of your life, you might have a victim mentality.  

The first step to solving a problem is to identify and acknowledge it. Look for these signs in yourself to see if you might have adopted a victim mentality: 

  • ‌You blame others for the way your life is
  • ‌You truly think life is against you 
  • ‌You have trouble coping with problems in your life and feel powerless against them 
  • ‌You feel stuck in life and approach things with a negative attitude 
  • ‌You feel attacked when someone tries to offer helpful feedback 
  • ‌Feeling bad for yourself gives you relief or pleasure
  • ‌You attract people who blame others and complain about their life 
  • ‌It’s difficult for you to examine yourself and make changes

How to Stop Being the Victim

Victim mentality is learned behavior. 

In other words, it’s not something you’re born with. It's something you learn in a social environment. It could be learned from family members or the result of trauma. However, you have the power to overcome it. Take the first steps in the following ways. 

Take responsibility. You are the only one who controls your actions. You might not be able to control others, but you control how you react to them. You control who you spend your time with, and where. Realize your potential and get in the driver’s seat of your life. 

Self-care and compassion. Victim mentalities are subconsciously adopted as a way to cope, often from past trauma. Be compassionate to yourself in your recovery. Practice self-care and self-love. Journaling can be a helpful tool to work through your feelings. 

Start saying no. You can say no to something you don’t want to do. It’s okay. Even if other people feel you are letting them down, take care of your energy and prioritize yourself.  

Educate yourself. Read books about the victim mentality and how it affects your life. Consider seeking therapy. The more you educate yourself on the topic, the more likely you are to stay on track with your recovery and avoid going back to your old way of thinking.  

Victim Mentality: Signs, Causes, and What to Do

A victim mentality is where you often feel like a victim, even when the evidence says otherwise. Signs include frequently blaming others and having trouble accepting personal responsibility.

We all have days when we feel like the world is against us.

Maybe you try to connect with others, but they don’t seem to understand the extent of your pain — or when making positive changes, you might self-sabotage or give up quickly.

This is natural from time to time. But if this sounds like your situation most (or all) of the time, you may be living with feelings of victimhood.

A victim mentality can make it feel like life is unfair. You may even feel there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstances — but that isn’t true. There’s always something you can do. We asked two experts how to cope.

A victim mentality is when a person feels like a victim across situations, even when the evidence suggests otherwise. They may feel they have no control over what happens to them.

This outlook can impact many areas of your life — like relationships, work, and health.

Victim mindsets can develop as a coping mechanism for previous traumatic experiences, says Dr. Julie Landry, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in San Antonio, Texas.

It may feel like you have little control or impact over external factors in your life. She explains that it commonly stems from:

  • experiencing multiple situations where you lack control
  • ongoing emotional pain that leads to learned helplessness
  • betrayal by someone closest to you

People with alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder may find that a victim mentality keeps them in the spiral of addiction. They may feel helpless to change their circumstances, asking for support from others while feeling unable to support themselves.

A victim mentality can manifest in many ways, says Landry. It can involve feeling like the world is out to get you or having difficulty taking personal responsibility for what happens in your life.

The signs of a victim mentality include:

Behavioral signs

  • often placing blame on external factors or other people when things go wrong
  • having trouble taking personal responsibility or seeing how you may have contributed to a situation
  • being overly critical of yourself or others
  • self-sabotage
  • associating only with people who think like you

Mental (cognitive) signs

  • seeing the world as unfair or unsafe
  • cognitive distortions, like catastrophizing
  • harmful thinking patterns or pessimism
  • ruminating over past wrongs and hurts
  • thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Relationship signs

  • difficulty with intimacy and trust
  • emotional unavailability
  • limited empathy for others
  • mistrust of authority figures
  • keeping score in relationships
  • trouble accepting constructive criticism

Emotional signs

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • feeling unseen
  • guilt or shame
  • low self-esteem
  • resentment of others
  • social isolation

A victim mentality can affect your life in many ways, from stopping you from applying yourself at work to disrupting your relationship dynamics. You might also have trouble maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

It’s hard to say if victim mentality is a symptom or a personality trait, as more research is still needed.

One 2020 study suggests that the victim mentality may be a personality trait, dubbed the “Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood (TIV).” In this case, it spans multiple types of relationships and includes four patterns:

  • a desire for recognition as a victim
  • feelings of moral superiority
  • limited empathy for others
  • frequent rumination

A sense of victimhood may also be a symptom of another mental health condition, including:

  • borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD)

To determine the root cause of your feelings, you may find it helpful to work with a therapist familiar with trauma.

If you’re ready to change how you feel, many strategies can support you.

Consider professional support

You don’t have to go through this alone. Therapy can help you process past trauma and increase your emotional intelligence, says Landry. “It can help you learn to choose to either leave a situation or accept it, and take responsibility for what you can control in life and how you react,” she says.

A therapist may also work with you on goal-setting and developing self-efficacy, so you feel more in charge of your life. To complement your work in therapy, consider journaling to process emotions and cultivating a gratitude practice, she adds.

Try to practice self-compassion

Take a moment to appreciate yourself for everything you’ve been through, says Katie Ziskind, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Niantic, Connecticut.

“Experiencing abuse can lead to shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem,” she explains. “It’s really common for victims to think that they are the reason why someone has abused them, so counseling can help you build positive self-talk to remove any self-blame.

Consider shifting your self-identification

Research suggests that, in some cases, it can be difficult to overcome a victim mentality if there are incentives for staying in that role — for example, medical benefits, income, or another form of security.

You may find it helpful to change your language, says Ziskind. “Instead of calling yourself a victim, you can switch over to calling yourself a survivor of abuse which can be more empowering and help create emotional confidence for future relationships.”

Try to own your story

A 2021 study found that women who had experienced sexual violence were able to move from a victim role to a survivor mentality by:

  • securing social support
  • reclaiming their story
  • letting go of a set timeline for healing

There are many ways to own your story, like writing an article to help other people in a similar situation, volunteering with a nonprofit, and creating art, among other ideas.

It can be frustrating if you know someone who displays signs of a victim mentality, especially if you love them and want to see them stand in their power.

In this case, you may find it helpful to:

  • encourage them to seek professional support
  • remind them how strong and capable they are
  • set and maintain healthy boundaries
  • limit interactions that feel draining
  • resist the temptation to rescue others
  • learn about how to prevent codependency

Working with a licensed professional may help you feel more empowered, particularly if your challenges stem from trauma or a mental health condition. You may find it useful to use Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource.

Remember: you are strong. You got this.

what is it and how to get rid of it?

Constant feeling that bad situations only happen to you? As soon as your trolley bus breaks down, as soon as the last goods are taken away in front of you, as soon as you get your new shirt dirty? These are manifestations of the victim complex. It is laid down from childhood. But this does not mean that it is impossible to get rid of it.

What is a victim complex?

The victim complex is the attitudes, life position and behavior of people who tend to act as a victim in different situations. It is with them that unforeseen situations, accidents, failures in various aspects often happen. nine0003

It is typical for a representative with a victim complex to:

  • always complain about something;
  • get into ridiculous situations;
  • blame other people for their problems: family members, friends, acquaintances, employees at work or classmates, a seller from the nearest store;
  • be unsure;
  • to think that all troubles are due to coincidence;
  • accepting pity from other people for showing love; nine0014
  • afraid to express their feelings and opinions;
  • often lose hands in the face of difficulties, give up quickly;
  • always and everywhere to wait that something is about to happen;
  • desire to become better, which no one notices;
  • feel awkward when asking for help;
  • it is difficult to refuse someone's proposals, requests;
  • wait for approval from others to move on;
  • often ask for advice from acquaintances without making a decision on their own; nine0014
  • bad mood, feeling of oppression, sometimes depression.

It is easy to calculate from the phrases: “ Don’t pay attention to it - it’s always like this with me ”, “ I don’t count on the best in this life ”, “ Nothing depends on me ”, “ I’m not lucky constantly ”, “ When will all this stop? ".

Eternally sick and unhappy - this phrase is about them. These are people who catch a cold very often, or have more severe chronic illnesses. Because illness and poor health is an easy way to become the object of attention and care. nine0003

This behavior is habitual for the victim . There is no understanding that all negative situations are not accidental. But only a consequence of thinking and acting. In fact, he just wants to receive love from others. But he does not know how to build strong relationships. Therefore, one has to subconsciously manipulate in this way.

Take a personality test

Causes of the victim complex.

Most of our complexes come from childhood. And this one is no exception. As a rule, this is facilitated by a specific type of education of two extremes. In one version, the parents do not love and do not appreciate the child, do not attach due attention. Therefore, in order to attract their attention, it was “needed” to get sick or invent a problem. nine0003

Also, a child with this type of upbringing is not supported in his undertakings and is not praised for good deeds and achievements. Therefore, he grows insecure in himself. It is difficult for him to make a decision on his own, because he is afraid to take the wrong step. For which sometimes could be punished.

In another parenting option , the child is under overprotective care. Parents are always near him, and they do not allow him to make a choice. But at the same time, he is in very comfortable conditions, when all problems are solved by mom and dad. That is, it grows and looks at the world through rose-colored glasses. nine0003

When he gets into real life, he has to cope with situations himself, build relationships with other people. Problems are unclear, how to solve them? Therefore, there is nothing better than to become a victim who does not understand anything and cannot get out of the vicious circle.

The child was always wrapped in love and care . And here in the big world, no one just wants to show warm feelings for him. They must be earned. Therefore, often, for lack of a better option, he shows himself weak and defenseless in order to attract attention and return that part of great love in childhood. nine0003

Complexes may develop into adulthood. For example, at the university or at work, the team was not accepted for various reasons. There is a feeling of oppression, self-esteem falls. In this mental state, problems are attracted by a magnet. And a person becomes a victim of both surrounding people and situations.

Pass a self-assessment test

Types of the victim complex.

The victim complex can manifest itself in two forms:

  1. Submissive . The person is very quiet, obeys everything, obeys everyone. He endures negative situations, lowering his head and making excuses that this could only happen to him, this is normal. nine0014
  2. Demonstrative . He loudly and theatrically proclaims: “What do I need all this for?” It is imperative that it be heard by the people around whose attention it wants to achieve. He wrings his hands and expressively indignant at a bad fate.

This way of life can also be classified according to gender. Because both articles express the victim complex in special ways.


Beautiful women want to be protected and loved. And also to be admired. But not everyone knows how to achieve this or choose the right partner in life. So they resort to manipulation. nine0003

  1. Unrequited love . Women who have not learned to value themselves and think that they deserve a good life partner will always fall in love not mutually. Or a man will love, but not be a reliable support. Often such girls are subjected to physical or psychological violence, and do not leave such a family. They feel miserable and unable to find something better.
  2. Unsuccessful housewife . If a woman wanted to have a good job, but could not. He will envy his careerist friends. And in order to realize herself somewhere, she becomes a housewife. To keep busy throughout the day, and her husband praised her. For the sake of pleasant words, she is ready to put up with any prohibitions, limits, instructions. And then complain in the kitchen to friends about how difficult it is for her. nine0014
  3. Mother for all . Such a girl tries to console everyone: her husband, her friends, and her work colleague. She is willing to spend her time listening to others. He tries to give them advice so that they consider her good and love her. But it is difficult to ask for help from someone who does not attach due attention to himself. Therefore, it becomes an unfortunate victim.


Men want to feel strong, like a hero. But if this does not work out, then they begin to look for women with a steel character. To protect them, take responsibility, control everything. And then the wife turns into another "mother". nine0003

  1. Dependency . Males are emotionally dependent on their partner. They are unsure of themselves and their decisions. Therefore, a woman does everything for them.
  2. Failure . It is so inherent in nature that a man wants to conquer, achieve something, has great ambitions. If, after some attempts, his aspirations are crowned with a loss, then the grip is lost. He begins to complain about the circumstances around him, consider himself a loser and a hostage of unforeseen situations. nine0014

How to get rid of the victim complex?

The victim complex can create not only psychological, but physical discomfort. Because often such people commit an act of violence. Therefore, this is the negative type of thinking and behavior that you should get rid of as soon as possible. To do this, you need to work both on your self-esteem and rethinking the way you get attention.

Take the self-doubt test

1. Accept responsibility. nine0101

It is very convenient to push the responsibility for one's life onto a random situation, bad weather, work colleagues, a black cat. And the person seems to have nothing to do with it, respectively, can not decide anything and take responsibility. But it might be different! After all, only he is the cause of what is happening around him. As soon as he feels like the culprit, it will become easier, because this means that he can fix everything!

2. Not being convenient to others.

Victims are often used because they cannot refuse, they want to be praised for selflessness. If there is no time or desire to help someone, then you can stop agreeing to everything. There is a right to say “no” if something does not suit you. The interlocutor will understand such reluctance. It is even possible that a firm position will be more respected. nine0003

3. Do not ask permission.

It's about not always having to ask others if something can be done if one has the right to do so. In public transport, instead of: “May I remove your handbag from the next seat?”, You can say: “Please take your bag. I want to sit down." It is easier to achieve what you want if you confidently handle and talk with people.

4. Talk about yourself.

It is worth talking about yourself, about your feelings, experiences, dissatisfaction. And don't just be a listener. After all, I also want to share about the sore. In most cases, this helps to establish problematic relationships, get rid of negative thoughts. nine0003

5. Demand quality services.

Know your rights as a customer and buyer. If you cheated, you can politely point out the problem and ask for a refund. Or if you are dissatisfied with the performance of services, then inform the manager or the highest authority about this so that they compensate for this. In this case, they will think carefully next time whether it is worth doing such a bad job, especially for the one who complained, or selling expired products.

6. "No" to being late. nine0101

In order to be loved and respected, punctuality plays an important role. Always being the victim of traffic, coffee spilled on yourself in a rush in the morning, or a pedestrian almost hit by a car on your way to work is not a coincidence. You can set the alarm earlier, order a taxi a couple of minutes earlier. Thus, there will be enough time for a hot invigorating drink before the working day, and it will be possible to safely cross the pedestrian crossing to the green light.

7. Be attentive. nine0101

Following on from the point above: mindfulness is an important trait! After all, it is precisely because they do not look under their feet that they often stumble over branches, a curb, a running dog. No one spoiled karma for anyone, no. When leaving the house, it would be nice to leave the world of your fantasies and get to the right place without incident. Also when performing important tasks.

8. Love yourself.

Everyone always deserves the best. Constant spending time for self-flagellation has a bad effect on the mental state, self-confidence in particular. If you open your eyes and look at your positive traits, you can see a large number of them. After all, everyone has them! If you allow yourself to love yourself, then others will reach out. If you are not satisfied with your partner, you can look for a more suitable one, because everyone deserves to be happy, and not endure negativity all his life. nine0003

There are other ways to attract attention, receive care and love. For example, working on relationships, strengthening them, mutual understanding. And by taking responsibility for what is happening, you can get rid of constant oppressive situations and the victim complex once and for all. Therefore, the sooner you undertake to change your thinking and position, the faster the troubles will go away.

Take the test: Self-esteem scale

Victim complex: how to live with it and is it possible to get rid of it? - Psychology


WomanHit. ru expert - psychologist, member of the professional psychotherapeutic league Lidia Gorkova - about what to do with the eternal desire to be defeated

Lidia Gorkova

2 February 2017 14:39

that the cause of troubles is something from the outside


The victim complex is always those people who are sure that everything that happens in their life is not their fault. Often this statement is: “Life makes me like this. She leads me. And if so, then these factors free me from personal participation and personal responsibility. These are people who use people only in this way to get attention, sympathy and pity for the love they need so much, but other ways of exchanging love are not available to them. All failures are described as proof that they are unworthy of the emotional intimacy they so desperately need. Everything is inaccessible to them, because they have the experience of failure, and this is the only experience they believe in. nine0003

They feel like unappreciated heroes and convince everyone around them that they are struggling with circumstances, but circumstances are above them. Suffering and carrying themselves through this unfair life, they hope that their suffering will be rewarded later, in some, apparently, another life. And, as a rule, such an unconscious existence, subject only to false beliefs and, possibly, instincts, allows you to live and not think at all about yourself or your life. After all, when they think about it, they do not receive the answers with which it is so convenient and safe to live and which are so unbearable and no longer suitable, but they are dear and attractive. This is an eternal dispute and struggle, but always with a clear result - the desire to be defeated. And all this is denied and condemned at the level of consciousness, but in the unconscious scenario it is so. The victims of circumstances are people with internal low self-esteem, with a deep sense of inferiority and with a predisposition to negative expectations. nine0003

What to do to part with your sacrifice and start respecting yourself and your life?

For starters, stop talking about your losses and insolvency to everyone around you .

This can only be done with a psychologist or psychotherapist. If you have already decided to part with this role and all the scenarios assigned to it. Each time you heal your wounds and finally heal them, you can talk about it later as an experience that can help others. nine0003

If you have the feeling that you are a victim of your whole life and all the circumstances that are around you, then most likely you are pushing away true friendships, putting off love and success in your life. And then follow the route of the already invented scenario.

Analyze your self-sacrifice.

This will be the first step towards getting rid of, first of all, sacrificial thinking.

Sacrificial thinking is the thinking that everything that surrounds you is the cause of your troubles. Perhaps, and most often it happens, such thinking is the result of deep and long-imposed beliefs that now make up your idea of ​​yourself, your picture of the world and your life, and most importantly and dangerously, that in such a situation this is the prospect and your future. After all, external circumstances and what surrounds you now are directly related to your internal beliefs and states. nine0003

Take responsibility for what is happening in your life right now.

Not an easy task when there is no such habit. But to admit that you yourself are to blame for what is happening around you - this is the path to liberation. Because at this very moment you have the power to change everything in your life and live as you dreamed.

Sometimes it's important to say stop.

Say "stop" to everything that's happening and start making decisions about your life. Because by making the same safe, as it seems to you, decisions, built on the same thoughts and beliefs, you walk in the same circle. Getting the results that match your expectations. Highly charged, emotional experiences are sometimes so strong that you can dedicate a lifetime to de-escalating them. And all my life to prove that this is true. nine0003

It is necessary to create a field of positive emotions around you every day.

A person is influenced by everything that is in him and everything that surrounds him.

Therefore, having dealt with your deepest statements and having seen the scenarios of your own behavior, it's time to look at who and what surrounds you. These are people who may treat you badly, or maybe these people even want to harm you. Never mind. The important thing is that these are the five people with whom you are in an emotionally close relationship. Try to figure out what they bring into your life. nine0003

You are what you see and hear.

This applies to all TV programs, music and films. It is important to be very selective and precise in choosing this, because all this affects you too.

And, probably, the most important thing is good thoughts towards yourself.

Make it a rule every day, when you wake up in the morning, but before you get out of bed, find those thoughts that will support you all day. During the day, remember what was pleasant in the morning, and in the evening, before going to bed, expand these positive thoughts. It's very difficult. After all, there is already a certain, automatic habit of thinking. And at first, gloomy thoughts or their absence will be the first thing you think about. We are so arranged. We are designed to simplify. Do not despair. Remember: you have the right and the power to change everything in your life. And you are not the first and not the last person to succeed. nine0003

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