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What Is Victim Psychology?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2014
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Victim psychology is a frequently heard term in modern discussions of mental health. The term generally refers not to a person who is the victim of a terrible act, such as a natural disaster, but rather to someone who avoids personal responsibility or bad feelings by blaming others. Many therapists and mental health professionals see victim psychology as a destructive mechanism that can inhibit personal relationships and a happy life.

The psychological journey of a person prone to victimized thinking is complex, and may begin in early childhood. Some people who have abusive or highly critical parents develop strong feelings of shame and guilt in early life. If these problems are not dealt with and managed, it is easy for them to be carried into adulthood and manifest as a victim psychology; rather than deal with the shame or guilt that reminds them of past trauma, a person thinking like a victim will blame others for the situation.

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A person displaying victim psychology may be obsessed with fairness or morality. Generally, he or she believes that good things that occur are deserved, and bad things that occur are because someone else is being cruel, thoughtless, or unfair. It is difficult for a person with victim mentality to take responsibility for his or her part in a problem, because that may leave him or her vulnerable to the painful feelings of shame, guilt, or fear of rejection for being wrong. While the behavior of a person with victim mentality may seem illogically selfish or narcissistic, it is important to bear in mind that it is actually an unfortunate and often unhealthy reaction to traumatic pain, not necessarily an inherent arrogance.

Like a deer in the headlights, victim psychology can paralyze a person and prevent him or her from making logical decisions. Being so caught up in how unfair a situation is, a person may be unable to think of ways or actions that could solve the problem. Instead of determining how to fix an issue, arguments or problems can quickly dissolve into accusations of blame, which is generally helpful to no one.

Dysfunctional relationships can cause a tendency toward victim psychology, even without an early trauma of affections. A person in a relationship with an alcoholic partner has a legitimate complaint against the addiction, yet may instead begin to use the addiction as a means of justifying his or her own passivity or actions. For instance, if the spouse of an addict began having affairs and blaming them on his or her partner's refusal to stay clean, this is an example of victim psychology. Even in a situation where there is a legitimate complaint, a person is responsible for his or her own actions.

Therapy for a person caught in victim psychology can take many forms. Generally, the person must confront the underlying feelings of shame, guilt, and poor self-esteem in order to recognize the problem. The work then becomes in learning to accept responsibility for personal actions and feelings, and channeling efforts into taking action rather than assigning blame.

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Discuss this Article

candyquilt
Post 4

@ysmina-- Of course it's not right for people to label one another. Only a psychologist or psychiatrist can determine whether someone has this type of psychology. And having victim psychology does not mean that the individual is stuck with it forever. People can change but they have to recognize the problem and work on it.

ysmina
Post 3

I can't believe that people try to diagnose one another and label one another with various psychological conditions like victim psychology. I'm sure that some people suffer from this but I don't think it's their fault. We all are who we are due to our childhood and how our parents treated us at that time. Everyone deals with problems in different ways and a victim psychology is just one way of dealing with it.

literally45
Post 2

I don't mean to turn this into a religious discussion but the victim psychology is a notion that I've encountered in religious texts as a type of human behavior. I think that this type of psychology has existed since humans have existed. Religious opinion seems to explain this by saying that those who have victim psychology are ungrateful to God. When they are rewarded with good things by God, they feel that they themselves are responsible for it and do not thank God. But when something bad happens to them, then they blame it on God saying that God is punishing them.

As controversial as this opinion may be, I think there may be some truth in it. I for one do not believe that positive individuals who are grateful for whatever they have, will blame other people or shy away from their responsibilities. This type of worldview will not allow the individual to feel that they are a victim of anything.

Lostnfound
Post 1

Dealing with someone who has victim psychology is draining. Nothing is ever their fault, and how ever they react to something, they are justified in doing so because they are the victim and they are being mistreated.

My sister-in-law is a classic example of this. She can be vulgar and overbearing, but when she lands in hot water at work for it, it's always the other person's fault, or they just don't like her, or they're just trying to get her fired, or something. She's never at fault, and even if she screwed something up, it's because she wasn't trained properly, or something similar.

Considering how inept my father-in-law was at relating to his kids, this is not surprising. My husband spent most of his time with his mother, which explains a great deal.

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