The Psychology Behind A Sense Of Entitlement

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you ever met someone who seems to act like the world owes them? Someone who is not satisfied unless their own needs are met? Trying to maintain a relationship with someone who acts this way can feel frustrating. This type of behavior typically attracts strong criticism and condemnation.

If this sounds like someone you know, you may be interacting with someone who has a sense of entitlement, which is a belief that one is inherently deserving. Below, we’ll explore some of the possible psychological explanations of a sense of entitlement, ways that a person might overcome this tendency, and how a person might get help navigating their relationship with a person who has a sense of entitlement.

What does it mean to have a sense of entitlement?

A sense of entitlement is a personality trait that is based on a person’s belief that they deserve privileges or recognition for things that they did not earn. People experiencing this sense tend to believe that the world owes them something in exchange for nothing.

There are several possible reasons why someone may develop a sense of entitlement. Some people believe that when children are given everything they ask for without learning how to earn those things, it causes them to expect the same treatment when they become adults. On the other hand, certain personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), may lead to a sense of entitlement.

Signs that someone has a sense of entitlement

A person who has a sense of entitlement may come across as having extreme self-confidence or a belief that they should benefit from any given situation. 

When someone with a sense of entitlement doesn’t get what they want, they may lash out at others in anger or frustration. Their attitude may fluctuate often, especially when things don’t go their way.

Such behaviors may be rooted in their belief that they should be admired and respected. Although they may come across as having a bold personality or a great sense of self-confidence, many people with a sense of entitlement can experience personal insecurities. The attention-seeking behavior they may exhibit can also isolate them from loved ones in their lives, which can lead to further distress.

Do you or a loved one have a sense of entitlement?

Understanding the psychology behind a sense of entitlement

There are several theories regarding why some people may develop a sense of entitlement. Below, we’ll discuss some of them in depth.

The spoiled child

Parents naturally want their children to be happy, confident, and fulfilled. This can be a healthy and natural urge, but when parents make the mistake of always saying "yes" to their kids, it can gradually instill a sense of entitlement. 

This type of behavior, which is often allowed during early childhood, may cause impressionable children to believe that these sacrifices are acceptable patterns and behaviors throughout life. Children who are always given what they want and are not required to earn rewards for good behavior may become adults who expect others to cave to their demands. As adults, they may not know how to effectively communicate with others, and they may have trouble developing healthy relationships or maintaining stable employment.

An attempt to overcompensate for past wrongs

In some cases, after experiencing maltreatment, unfairness, or neglect, some people develop an entitled attitude. For example, a child who is deprived of love and affection may grow up to demand it from others because they did not receive it at a young age. A teenager who never got picked to be on the All-Star Team may eventually grow up to believe they should coach a team with only the best players and may become upset if someone who is not an exceptional athlete is allowed on the team. 

An entitled attitude that is rooted in victimhood or resentment from past hurts may be an attempt to compensate for past wrongs. This may lead to major disruptions in both personal and professional relationships.
Getty/Halfpoint Images

Personality disorders

For some, a sense of entitlement may be the result of a personality disorder, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Personality disorders are typically characterized by altered views of oneself and others. People with NPD or other personality disorders may perceive themselves as superior to others, have a skewed view of the value of other people’s worth, and may not like following rules. They may exhibit an elevated sense of self-worth or an exaggerated façade of self-esteem.

How a person might overcome a sense of entitlement

There are various strategies that someone can practice to reduce a sense of entitlement and replace it with genuine self-esteem and gratitude. If you know someone with a sense of entitlement, they may benefit from some of the strategies below, but it may be difficult to get them to work on this aspect of themselves. Regardless, it may help to keep these strategies in mind as you think about how to interact with them while preserving your own mental health:

  • They can try to stop comparing themselves to others. Someone with a sense of entitlement may benefit from remembering that they don’t need to compete with others and that they can accomplish their own goals and dreams.
  • A person with a sense of entitlement may benefit from thinking about goals they want to achieve and making a list of things they are willing to do to reach those goals.
  • It may be important for someone with a sense of entitlement to learn not to be discouraged by temporary setbacks. The feeling they may get from accomplishing a goal on their own is likely going to be much greater than receiving something without investing any significant effort.
  • An entitled person may benefit from trying to see things from another person’s point of view. This can make doing things simply because they are right feel rewarding.
  • It may help a person with a sense of entitlement to strive to live in the present. The way they handle past challenges may influence their outlook, but they may learn to live in the present and not identify with negative experiences from the past.
  • When someone has a sense of entitlement, they may benefit from practicing treating others with respect, compassion, and gratitude. If they are genuinely kind to others and commit to acts of selflessness without expecting a favor in return, others may feel a desire to return the same goodness to them.
Getty / D3sign
Do you or a loved one have a sense of entitlement?

Therapeutic support for entitlement concerns

While the idea of tackling personal challenges independently can be helpful, there may be times when a person needs some support. With the support of a licensed counselor, people who have a sense of entitlement may be able to learn ways of changing behavior and interacting amicably with others. If you know someone with a sense of entitlement, they may be hesitant to see a therapist in person. If so, they may be more amenable to online therapy. 

Also, it can be challenging to navigate a relationship with someone who has a sense of entitlement. You may benefit from speaking with a licensed online counselor about ways to handle such a relationship while caring for your own mental health.

Online counseling platforms like BetterHelp allow individuals to connect with a therapist from the comfort of home or anywhere there is an internet connection. They can engage in therapy in a way that is comfortable for them, including via live chat, phone, or videoconferencing. 

Research shows that online therapy is an effective method for treating a variety of mental health conditions. Individuals who have developed a sense of entitlement as a result of enduring past trauma may benefit from internet-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which has been proven to reduce PTSD severity along with co-morbidities of depression and anxiety within a five-week period, and these results were sustained after three months.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

While it is true that personality disorders like NPD and ASPD can be challenging to treat (sometimes as a result of people living with these conditions refusing to seek treatment), those who have pursued support have found success in online interventions. In a literature review of studies utilizing internet-delivered interventions for personality disorders, researchers identified studies that showed promise in reducing symptoms of personality disorders. Several of these studies involved the use of mobile apps as a supplement to traditional in-person therapy, and participants rated these apps as useful and feasible.

Below are some reviews of counselors by BetterHelp clients.

Counselor reviews

"Tyson really helped me out with my depression by finding out what my goals were in life, especially around my career and family. He left me with techniques and exercises that have really helped me observe negative thoughts and break their cycles. I have actually gone through a true, positive transformation in my life thanks to Tyson. Highly recommend!"

"I was skeptical of BetterHelp and therapy in general. After my first call with Dr. Cox Lance, I knew I made the right choice. She was patient and listened to my problems. She helped me identify my goals and ways to change my perspective on the problems and annoyances I faced. Strongly recommend."


If you know someone with a sense of entitlement, it can be challenging to interact with them at times. You might consider speaking with a licensed counselor about ways to navigate your relationship with this person while safeguarding your own mental health. You may even be able to encourage them to speak to an experienced counselor through online therapy, which may be more comfortable for them than in-person therapy. Take the first step toward managing your relationship with someone who has a sense of entitlement and reach out to BetterHelp.
Work through personality disorder symptoms
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started