Reasons To Steer Clear Of Victim Complexes

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Have you ever met someone who believes they are often the victim of relationships and life circumstances? Someone who believes nothing ever goes right for them, everyone’s out to get them, and nothing’s ever their fault? This is sometimes referred to as a victim complex, and it may be due to false beliefs a person has acquired over time. They may seek out persecution or suffering to either feed a psychological need or to help them avoid taking responsibility. This behavior can be dangerous to a person’s mental health, self-worth, self-esteem, and relationships.

You deserve to be happy

Reasons victim complexes can harm your mental health

There are several reasons why individuals may develop a victim complex, which tend to be based on false self-beliefs. The following are some reasons to try to stay away from a victim complex:

You do not deserve suffering or persecution

Individuals who have a victim complex may have been led to believe that they deserve to suffer due to a number of reasons:

  1. They have low self-esteem. One study found that people with low self-esteem were less motivated to find ways to feel good because they believed they didn’t deserve to feel good. This aligns with self-verification theory, which “asserts that people want others to see them as they see themselves and will take active steps to ensure that others perceive them in ways that confirm their stable self-views” (Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences). While a confident, self-assured person may expect to be treated with dignity and respect, an individual experiencing low self-esteem may embrace victimhood and suffering.
  2. They believe pain will atone for wrongdoing. Some individuals embrace suffering and persecution for past mistakes. Sometimes those who want to atone for wrongdoing, express regret, or just punish themselves may accept and invite suffering and victimhood into their lives. In some cultures and religions, suffering is viewed as a state of being that will purge oneself of undesirable traits or characteristics.
  3. They want to punish themselves. This disposition may stem from low self-esteem, trauma, or guilt. Self-punishment tends to be a common form of victimhood. Individuals who engage in destructive self-talk or even self-harm may be punishing themselves in one way or another. The desire to self-punish can be dangerous and even lethal. Self-punishment has also been linked to several mental health conditions, such as depression and eating/personality disorders. Individuals experiencing self-punishment behaviors can seek out help immediately.

Individuals who embrace victimhood often don’t believe themselves to be as worthy of love as they are. Research shows that a victim mentality may stem from an anxious attachment style. Individuals who experience a victim complex may experience low self-esteem, glorification of pain, or a belief that they deserve to suffer. The adoption of the victim complex can be profoundly unhealthy, and if left unchecked, it can have a significant impact on a person’s relationships.

You attract what you think you deserve

Despite what some skeptics and critics say, many researchers believe that some of the principles behind the law of attraction can play a significant role in life. The law of attraction states that individuals attract what they believe they deserve. For example, a self-assured and confident person may be more likely to draw support, favorable circumstances, and opportunities into their lives. Conversely, a sad, downtrodden individual who believes they deserve victimhood may attract situations, hardships, and even people who support this belief, regardless of how misguided it may be.


Victim complexes can kill productivity

A victim complex can significantly affect a person’s productivity, which, in turn, can affect how that person is perceived. This can affect employment opportunities, personal relationships, and other important aspects of life.

A victimhood mentality typically doesn’t help to boost life progression or achievements. How can this occur if a person is under the misguided belief that they deserve to suffer? According to Forbes, some of the most effective ways to boost productivity are to reward yourself after the accomplishment of a goal, embrace ambition, and seek out help when needed. 

However, each of these methods may be more likely to be implemented by a self-assured person with a healthy level of self-esteem than by a person with a victim complex. A person with a victim complex may be less likely to put in the work needed to increase their productivity. 

How to overcome a victim complex

Victimhood is often bred by certain experiences and life circumstances. However, in times of trouble, positive affirmations may help to counter a victimhood complex. Our beliefs can be impacted by what we consistently tell ourselves. Whenever we feel ourselves slipping into the trap of victimhood, we can repeat some helpful affirmations, such as the following:

  • I am stronger than any challenge
  • I am in control of my life
  • I deserve the best
  • I was born to thrive
  • I can do anything

Getting help

If you are experiencing thoughts and feelings related to a victim complex, know that you are not alone. It may help to speak with a licensed therapist about your feelings. If you don’t feel comfortable with traditional in-office therapy, you may benefit from online therapy, which research has shown to be just as effective as in-person therapy for a variety of concerns.

With an online therapy service like BetterHelp, you can talk to a licensed therapist from home or anywhere you have an internet connection. You can communicate with them via live chat, audio, or video chat. A counselor may help you get to the root of your victim complex and provide ways to overcome any narratives that may be holding you back. A therapist may also be able to help you change your thoughts and beliefs, and as a result, your behaviors. They may also offer some evidence-based techniques for positive change, such as practicing mindfulness and improving self-talk, which may reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as help build self-esteem.

You deserve to be happy


A victim complex can stem from a variety of life situations, such as childhood trauma or an anxious attachment style. Regardless of the cause, it can have a number of deleterious effects on a person’s mental health and relationships. 

If you think you may have thoughts and beliefs related to a victim complex, know that you are not alone. You may benefit from speaking with a licensed counselor, whether in person or online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience with whatever specific challenges you’re facing, whether related to a victim complex or not. Take the first step toward creating thought patterns that serve you and reach out to BetterHelp.

You are deserving of positive self-esteem
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