Victim Mentality: Signs, Causes And Tips To Overcome It

check_icon Research-backed

Disagreements are natural to occur between two persons or in a relationship. But did you notice that it is always you who is blamed? Maybe you do it to resolve the situation or to make the other person happy. Or is their victim complex personality manipulating you to surrender and make them feel good?

If you notice that your partner always becomes defensive when they feel wronged or unfortunate, and you feel hesitant to be held accountable for their actions, you may be dealing with someone who has a victim mentality. Read on to better understand what it is, its causes, and the techniques you can use to overcome it.

In This Article

What Is Victim Mentality?

Victim mentality or victim complex is an acquired personality trait. Those with this trait see themselves as victims of the world’s injustices. They often feel maltreated, persecuted, oppressed, or belittled and are sensitive to criticism. They may feel like everything in their life is unfair and cruel and that they cannot change their circumstances.

A person with a victim mentality may believe that their situation is put upon or caused by others and will find people to blame for their misfortunes. As a result, they may claim to feel helpless and refuse to take any responsibility for stopping or controlling their misery because they are sure it will not work.


protip_icon Be watchful
People with a victim mentality may draw out a person’s good and nurturing qualities only to set them up for manipulation.

What Are The Causes Of Victim Complex?

Victim complex can be due to trauma
share button

Image: Shutterstock

Many individuals who develop it tend to have some mental disorder, manifesting through the victim complex. Not everyone with this mindset may have an underlying mental illness. Nevertheless, the victim complex is borne out of trauma, distress, and pain in those who often cannot manage these feelings. Some of the origins of the victim complex are explained below (1).

  1. Childhood trauma: A person who may have experienced a traumatic childhood may find it hard to believe other people’s sincerity. Since they have suffered from helplessness, disappointment, and rage, they use the victim complex, a destructive coping mechanism, like a shield to protect themselves.
  1. Constant emotional issues:People experiencing continuous emotional turmoil may feel like they have no control over their lives and subject themselves to this mentality. It can make them feel vulnerable, trapped, and hopeless even about trivial things.
  1. Betrayal: It can also be a root cause of the victim complex. If someone has been betrayed repeatedly, they can be hesitant or feel it challenging to trust someone else, especially a romantic partner. Repeated betrayal can make a person feel disparaged and exploited.
  1. Unaccountability: A person may adopt the victim mentality to avoid responsibilities. Taking account of the decisions in your life and not having someone to blame the results on can be terrifying.
  1. Attention:A person who thrives on the attention and assistance of others may continue playing the role of sufferer. They may use people’s attention and sympathy as a tool for manipulation and control.

What Are The Signs Of Victim Mentality?

A person with a victim mentality may be unaware of their feelings. Here are a few signs to know if you or your partner is playing the victim (1) (2).

Behavioral signs

  • They tend to blame others for their aggrieved behavior. Their mood swings and changes in feelings depend entirely on other people’s actions and behaviors.
  • If they refuse to make any effort toward change, it can be a sign of a victim complex. They lack self-reflection to identify which parts of themselves should be improved.
  • They constantly put themselves down, feeling victimized and making others perceive them as victims.
  • They can be highly critical of themselves or others without intentions of changing themselves.
  • They tend to surround themselves with only people they think are like

Cognitive signs

  • They believe they are subjugated and have no control over any of the bad things that happen to them.
  • They have a pessimistic outlook on life. They always expect the worst things to happen, even if the situation is in their favor. They do not look forward to the future.
  • Constant wallowing in self-pity can be a sign of a victim complex. It may even seem like they enjoy feeling sorry for themselves.
  • They tend to catastrophize everything, exaggerating situations and always assuming the worst.
  • They draw attention to themselves and dwell on tragic stories or painful experiences tied to the past, presenting themselves as downtrodden and becoming inattentive to other people’s needs.

Emotional signs

  • A person with a victim mentality may likely suffer from anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem.  
  • They may resent other people for having what they don’t.
  • They may isolate themselves because they find it difficult to get along with others.
  • They may feel unseen and scorned because people are hesitant to interact with them.
  • They may suffer guilt or shame because of their behaviors.

Relationship signs

  • A person with a victim mentality may have trust issues because of betrayal in the past. This could lead to intimacy issues.
  • They are emotionally unavailable and lack empathy for others.
  • Some experience trouble receiving constructive criticism and may misunderstand it, feeling insulted, humiliated, or slighted.
  • They keep bringing up the past and the things their exes did wrong.
  • They hold grudges and keep score.

Is Victim Mentality Permanent?

Victim mentality is a learned response that can be unlearned if the person decides to take the necessary steps. This can be accomplished through therapy by addressing the unhealed traumas and issues and working towards change.

The person may not have had any control over what happened in the past, but moving forward, they have the choice to end the victim mentality by putting an end to their self-pity behaviors. If this mentality is neglected, it can become permanent and hinder the individual’s personal growth.

Someone who has undergone trauma deserves empathy and kindness, but they do not have to stay tormented and wait for others to give it to them. Instead, they can start by analyzing their feelings and the other person and be kind.

protip_icon Point to consider
The difference between a victim and a person with a victim mentality is that the latter is a self-perpetuating victim.

How To Deal With A Person Having Victim Complex?

Help a person with victim complex
share button

Image: Shutterstock

The victim mentality can be ingrained in the person for a long time. Expecting them to change their ways can become unfruitful. But this does not mean that you stop associating with a person who has a victim complex.

If you know someone who has a victim complex or is your partner, you must first suggest they see a mental health specialist or a professional counselor. Below are a few tips for dealing with the person.

  1. Do not get involved emotionally: It can be challenging to remain impassive if your partner is sharing something that is causing them pain, but remember that people with a victim complex try to gain your attention. You can be empathetic by encouraging and validating their feelings but refrain from getting involved in their tactics.
  1. Do not become the savior: When you see your partner struggling, it can be your basic reflex to help them and become their knight in shining armor. But this does not work with people who have a victim mentality. They are not interested in being saved because they enjoy wallowing in their misery, especially when someone pays attention to them.
  1. Set a time limit: This can be a little difficult if you try to be a supportive partner, but listening to someone endlessly drone about their problems can mentally and emotionally drain you. It can become detrimental to your mental health, so setting boundaries and prioritizing yourself comes first.
  1. Change the topic: If your partner is digging themselves into a self-pity hole, you can turn the conversation around by changing the subject. But do not cut them off abruptly, instead stir the topic towards a more positive route.
  1. Do not accuse or call them names: If you know that your partner is playing the victim card, calling them out will do you no good. They may use this as an opportunity to retreat further into their victimhood. It can be a continuous cycle. If you choose to address this behavior, do not be hostile but be subtle about it.
  1. Maintain distance: Spending too much time with a person with a victim mentality may stress you. It can make you feel frustrated, angry, annoyed, or even physically sick. Before this happens, take some time away from your partner and create a space for yourself to recover and practice self-care.

How To Overcome Victim Complex In A Relationship?

Address the unhealed trauma
share button

Image: Shutterstock

You may have identified that your partner has a victim mentality through the signs, but what if you, too, are suffering from a victim mentality? If you are having a victim complex, feeling and acting like a victim all the time can devastate your relationship. However, understanding and learning how to overcome this mentality can help you build a nurturing and healthy bond with each other.

  1. Take up responsibility: Usually, a person with a victim mentality tends to disregard responsibilities. To overcome this mindset, self-reflect and understand what you want to do moving forward. You do not have to wait for someone to help you achieve your goals. Please put in the effort and labor, and start working towards it.
  1. Do not play the blame game: It is easy to fall back into old patterns and blame others for how you feel. If you notice yourself doing this, control the urge and shift your attention to something else.
  1. Learn to say no: Remind yourself that you control the situations you get yourself into. If something or someone makes you upset or uncomfortable, you can say ‘no’ and stand by that decision. Do not be afraid to walk away from situations that drain your energy.
  1. Address the unhealed trauma: If your victim mentality stems from traumas in the past, addressing them will help you come to terms with them so it doesn’t affect you anymore. Take into account that this should be done with a trusted mental health professional.
  1. Change your narrative: If you find yourself retelling stories where you are the victim, learn how to change this mindset. This can be done using narrative therapy (3). You can use your stories to transform yourself from a ‘victim’ to a ‘survivor,’ a tale of frailty to a tale of empowerment.
  1. Learn how to help others: If you always perceive yourself as the victim, you cannot see outside your pain and suffering. You can get out of this position by choosing to help others. Being kind and understanding can help you refocus your attention from your problems to helping others with theirs.
  1. Learn to practice gratitude: Instead of sloshing in your misfortune, change your frame of mind to something that makes you happy. Savor and pay attention to even the minor things that give you a sense of gratitude instead of complaining about the things you lack.
  1. Practice active listening: When listening to people, try to be empathetic. Active listening involves not just listening for the sake of responding or reacting. Do not compare your experiences with theirs, just be there for them.
  1. Learn to forgive: Forgiving someone who has caused you pain can be difficult, but holding a grudge can be more damaging than you think. It can make you resentful and prevent you from moving on. Learning to forgive can help you let go of hurtful experiences.
  1. Learn to deal with anger: Anger is an emotion that breeds resentment, stress, and inappropriate behaviors. Learning to acknowledge and redirect this emotion can help you become a better and more productive person.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is a person with a victim mentality a narcissist?

A person with a victim mentality can be narcissistic if they exhibit traits like superiority and entitlement, an excessive need for attention, lacking empathy, and engaging in blaming and deflecting (4). But we cannot generalize by saying that everyone with a victim mentality is a narcissist.

2. Is victim mentality a symptom of depression?

People with depression may experience negative emotions like sadness and hopelessness. They may also show bodily symptoms like fatigue and lack of sleep (5). Studies have shown that victim mentality can be identified with depression (1).

3. Are there any potential benefits or positive aspects to a victim mentality?

While the victim mentality may aid in bringing attention to issues and providing temporary comfort to an individual, it can be harmful in the long run as it promotes a sense of powerlessness and hinders personal growth. Embracing resilience, accountability, and proactive problem-solving can yield positive outcomes and foster self-growth.

The victim mentality is not a permanent trait and can be changed. You can learn to develop healthy coping mechanisms to avoid going back to this vicious cycle that deters you from growing into the person you wish to become. Life will never be a walk in the park, but the attitude with which you choose to face it will help you transform the good and bad experiences into life lessons. The decision of whether to remain a victim or not depends on you.

Infographic: Shifting From A Victim Mentality To A Can-Do Mentality

Having a victim mentality can be draining, for yourself or the people around you. However, nobody is born with it, which makes it possible to eliminate this trait. To change from a victim mentality to a can-do mentality, you need to understand some core differences between them. The infographic below can help you gain insight into achieving the can-do mentality.

victim mentality vs can do mentality (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get the high-quality PDF version of this infographic.

Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • The victim mentality is a personality trait.
  • People with a victim complex may have experienced past trauma.
  • It is not permanent.
victim complex_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Narcissists harbor a victim mentality to hide their flaws. Let’s understand the nuances of victim mentality in these personalities. Learn about their behavior, motivations, and the impact on those around them. This insightful video sheds light on navigating relationships with narcissists.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries. (2012). Are You a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?
    https://sites.insead.edu/facultyresearch/research/doc.cfm?did=50114
  2. 14 Clear Signs Someone Is Always Playing the Victim; LifeHack
    https://www.lifehack.org/287448/14-signs-someone-always-playing-the-victim
  3. Lorraine DeKruyf. (2008). An Introduction to Narrative Therapy.
    https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=gsc
  4. Michael E McCullough et al. (2003). Narcissists as ”Victims”: the role of narcissism in the perception of transgressions.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15018676/
  5. Depression.
    https://www.who.int/health-topics/depression#tab=tab_1
Was this article helpful?
thumbsupthumbsdown
The following two tabs change content below.