The Psychology Behind A Sense Of Entitlement

Updated January 13, 2023by 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. In fact, in society, 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, defined as "an unrealistic, unmerited, or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others." Online therapy can help you learn to manage your interactions with this kind of behavior. Before we can understand the psychological roots behind the sense of entitlement, we must first understand exactly what it means.

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. In simple terms, people experiencing this sense believe that the world owes them something in exchange for nothing. 

There are many reasons why someone may develop a sense of entitlement. Many people believe that when children are given everything they ask for without learning how to earn them, 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 cause such symptoms.

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. In more drastic forms, it is often a symptom of NPD or ASPD. 

When someone with a sense of entitlement doesn’t get what they want, it is not uncommon for them to lash out at others in anger or frustration. Maybe their attitude fluctuates often, especially when things don’t go their way. 

Such behaviors are usually 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 battle personal insecurities. Unfortunately, their attention-seeking behaviors and overbearing personalities often isolate them from people they once considered friends. This, in turn, can lead to further feelings of isolation and depression. 

Constantly Saying “Yes” To Your Child Can Create Entitlement

If you're struggling with issues like this, it’s important to know that you're not alone. You can learn ways to address issues and how to live a healthy, balanced life.

Understanding The Psychology Behind A Sense Of Entitlement

There are several theories regarding why some people may develop a sense of entitlement. Let’s discuss some of them in depth.

The Spoiled Child: Parents naturally want their children to be happy, confident, and fulfilled. This is 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. If you’ve seen the movie, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, then you may recognize Veruca Salt and Violet Beauregard as prime examples of children whose parents give them everything they want, thus supporting a sense of entitlement.

This type of behavior that is 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 generally become adults who expect others to cave to their demands. Often, they become adults who do 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 or neglect, some people develop a self-righteous 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 attitude that is rooted in resentment from past hurts or is an attempt to compensate for past wrongs endured can lead to major disruptions in both personal and professional relationships.

Personality Disorders: For some, a sense of entitlment has nothing to do with being neglected or spoiled, but may be the result of a personality disorder, such as NPD or ASPD.

Because personality disorders are characterized by altered views of oneself and others, it is not surprising that those with personality disorders often experience a sense of entitlement. People with a NPD or other forms of personality disorders generally perceive themselves as being superior to others, have a skewed view of the value of other people’s worth, and often don’t like to follow the rules. They may exhibit an elevated sense of self-worth or exaggerated façade of self-esteem. 

Learning To Overcome A Sense Of Entitlement

There are various strategies you can practice to eliminate a sense of entitlement and replace it with genuine self-esteem and gratittudel

  • Stop comparing yourself to othersRemember that you are a unique individual, and you can accomplish your own goals and dreams.

  • Take the time to think about things you want to achieve and make a list of things you are willing to do to make it happen.

  • Don’t be discouraged by temporary setbacks -- if you fall, get up and start over again. The feeling you get from accomplishing a goal on your own is going to be much greater than receiving something without investing any significant effort. 

  • Do something because it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect to be rewarded. 

  • Try and look at things from another person’s point of view; it can make doing things simply because they are right feel rewarding. 

Strive to live in the present.The way we handle past challenges often determines our outlook on other aspects of life.

  • Practice treating others with respect, compassion, and gratitude. If you are genuinely kind to others and commit to acts of selflessness without expecting a favor in return, others feel more free to return the same goodness to you. 

  • Celebrate the successes of others, even when you feel like a failure. 

Constantly Saying “Yes” To Your Child Can Create Entitlement

Learning To Change

While the idea of tackling personal issues and learning to overcome them independently is good, there may be times when you need some support. You might also want to spend time around those less fortunate than you. You can even make a difference in someone else's life. Volunteering time around others and seeing the struggles of other people can help you realize that everyone is the same and that everyone just wants to live a happy life. Additionally, when you're trying to overcome a sense of entitlement, it may be necessary to reach out for professional help. 

With appropriate intervention, people who have a sense of entitlement can learn ways of changing behavior and interacting with others. If you feel the need to reach out for help from a professional, consider making an appointment with a local mental health clinic or counselor. Additionally, there are options available to provide counseling and support from online sources.  

Online counseling, such as the services provided by BetterHelp, focuses on offering professional mental health care to individuals in the comfort of home or anywhere that there is a phone and/or internet connection. BetterHelp’s team of licensed, professional counselors, experienced clinical social workers, marriage and family counselors, and psychologists can help you navigate through the journey of managing the feelings you are experiencing and can help you develop an action plan to learn to cope with behaviors in a more effective way.

Online therapy is an effective method for treating many varieties of mental health conditions. For people who have developed a sense of entitlement as a result of enduring past trauma, internet-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 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.

While it is true that personality disorders like NPD and ASPD are some of the most challenging mental health conditions to treat (as a result of people living with these conditions refusing to seek treatment), those who do pursue support have found success in online therapy participation. In a systematic literature review of studies utilizing internet-delivered interventions for personality disorders, researchers identified at least five studies that showed promise in reducing reductions in personality disorder symptoms.

If you’re curious about what it might be like to participate in online therapy for replacing a sense of entitlement with a more empowered mindset, you may wish to read some of the reviews below from satisfied 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're living with a sense of entitlement and wish to make a significant change in your habits and personality, you’ve already taken the first step. Like others before you, you can change and develop healthy levels of self-love and self-esteem. Compassionate and knowledgeable online therapists at BetterHelp are equipped with a diverse toolbox of strategies to help you make progress. Complete the initial questionnaire today to get matched with someone who is ready to support you.

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