Sometimes, you probably feel like the world is conspiring against you. Maybe you go to the grocery store and they’re out of your kids’ favorite pasta sauce. Then it takes you 20 minutes to check out. And then you get a flat tire on the way home. It’s understandable to feel singled out on a day like that.
But if you look at the world that way almost all the time, you might have victim mentality. “Victim mentality is a way of looking at life’s adverse events from a helpless perspective,” said Srinivas Dannaram, MD, a psychiatrist with Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, AZ.
If you have victim mentality you may:
- Brood about things that happened in the past, reinforcing your belief that you’re a target for bad events.
- Ask questions like, “Why does this always happen to me?”
- Be argumentative as a way to fight your frustrations. For example, you may snap at the checkout clerk at the grocery store about your wait, even though all the lines are long.
- Blame others or the situation when things don’t go well.
- Focus on problems rather than solutions.
- Be preoccupied with failure.
- Assume that success is easy for other people.
- Resist change and feedback. You may even perceive criticism as “bullying” or “abuse.”
- Be pessimistic about solving problems and about the future in general.
What makes people feel like victims all the time?
A lot of factors can cause victim mentality, Dr. Dannaram said. Experiences you’ve had in your life—and the support and reassurance you received after those experiences—can influence whether you develop victim mentality. It can be associated with trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dysthymia, and anxiety. It can subside and reemerge.
How can you overcome victim mentality?
If you often feel like a victim, there are three things you can do on your own that can help you feel more in control. You can:
- Focus on living in the moment. That’s because when you have victim mentality you compare the present with past events and expect that you will fail. Instead, look at your current situation as a new opportunity. After all, you probably learned something from your past failures that will make you less likely to repeat them.
- Take a step back and challenge your belief system. Ask yourself, “Is the grocery store really out to get me when they run out of my pasta sauce? Or is it just an unfortunate thing that happened?”
- Position yourself as a person in control. For example, instead of focusing on your flat tire, remind yourself that you remembered to renew your auto club membership last month, so you can easily call for help.
If your problems are pervasive and impair your personal, social or work life, seek professional help. A mental health practitioner can help you learn how to change your thought patterns.
The bottom line
If it feels like everyone is conspiring against you, you might have victim mentality. But you can beat it, either on your own or with professional help, and take back control of your life. If you’d like to connect with a behavioral health specialist, visit bannerhealth.com.
To learn about related mental health conditions, check out:
- Impostor Syndrome: What Happens When You Feel Like a Fraud
- Do I Have Anxiety, Depression, or Both? Here’s How to Tell
- 5 Facts About Mental Illness You Have All Wrong