An Insight Into The “Victim Complex” Or “Victim Mentality” In Relationship Scam Victims
It is important to understand the difference between a Victim and someone who suffers from a Victim Complex or Victim Mentality – they are NOT the same thing!
In our experience, most victims do not suffer from Victim Complex, but some do. If you see yourself in this, we suggest seeking local counseling or a mental health professional to explore it with you. You can find competent counselors or therapists counseling.AgainstScams.org – other resources are listed below.
What is Victim Complex/Victim Mentality
In clinical psychology, a “victim complex” or “victim mentality” or “victim syndrome” describes a personality trait of persons who believe they are constantly the victims of the harmful actions of others, even when made aware of evidence to the contrary.
Victim mentality is not a recognized psychological disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, it is a common term used to describe a pattern of thinking and behavior in which a person sees themselves as a victim of the circumstances of their life – it should not be confused with self-pity (which is momentary.)
People with a victim mentality believe that they are constantly being treated unfairly and that they are powerless to change their situation. In other words, they are constantly being victimized by others and often are very willing to express their dissatisfaction over it. They often blame others for their problems and refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.
Victim mentality can have a significantly negative impact on scam victims especially, as it will make it impossible to recover normally and will require professional mental health support to address it. It can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger. It can also make it difficult for a person to form and maintain healthy relationships.
Most people who have been victimized by a relationship scam or other emotionally traumatic experience go through normal periods of emotional distress as part of the grieving process. However, these episodes are temporary and minor compared to the perpetual feeling of helplessness, pessimism, guilt, shame, despair, and depression that consume the lives of persons afflicted with a victim complex.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people who have actually been victims of physically abusive or manipulative relationships (such as romance scams or pig butchering scams) to fall prey to a victim mentality.
An easy way to spot this in yourself is when you blame the messenger, the person trying to help you rather than trying to understand why your feelings take you there.
Victim Mentality in a Support Group Context
THIS SECTION IS FOR SUPPORT PROVIDERS
First, it is important to note that support groups for crime victims are not a place for psychological diagnosis and treatment. As a result, people exhibiting mental disorders may not be suitable for a support program, and should instead be referred to psychology professionals.
People with a victim mentality may respond to people trying to help them in a variety of ways. Some common responses include:
- Defensiveness: People with a victim mentality may feel defensive when others try to help them. They may feel like they are being judged or criticized.
- Resistance: People with a victim mentality may resist the help of others. They may believe that they cannot change their situation or that they are not worthy of help. They may also believe that they are somehow different and deserving of either special consideration or that their situation is worse than others.
- Blaming: People with a victim mentality often blame others for their problems. They may believe that they are not responsible for their own situation and that others are responsible for helping them. In the case of scam victims, of course, the criminals are to blame, but the blame often extends to those offering support, education, and guidance.
- Manipulation: People with a victim mentality may manipulate others in order to get what they want. They may use guilt or pity to get others to do things for them., or as a way of getting out of the things that they have to do
It is important to understand that these responses are often a way for people with a victim mentality to protect themselves. They may feel vulnerable and afraid of change. They may also believe that they cannot change their situation, so they resist help. The problem though is the complexity of the mentality and the fact that those not trained in providing professional care should not try to resolve it.
If you are trying to help someone with a victim mentality, it is important to be patient and understanding, but make sure they understand that they must see a professional mental healthcare provider. It is also important to be supportive and non-judgmental. It is important to remember that people with a victim mentality are not trying to be difficult. They are simply struggling to cope with their situation, however, this can also be extremely difficult for support providers, particularly since those with victim complex will often ignore personal boundaries and unleash criticism and abuse against the support provider.
It is important to remember that you cannot force someone to change. Only they can make that decision. However, you can provide them with the support and guidance to get the professional help they need and to make the changes needed to overcome it.
SCARS Policy is when we detect this we refer such persons to professional therapists before accepting them into our support and recovery program or allowing them to continue – this is for the victim’s own mental health.
Victim Complex vs. Martyr Complex
Sometimes associated with the term victim complex, persons diagnosed with a “martyr complex” actually desire the feeling of repeatedly being the victim. They sometimes seek out, even encourage, their own victimization in order to either satisfy a psychological need or as an excuse to avoid personal responsibility. Persons diagnosed with a martyr complex often knowingly place themselves in situations or relationships most likely to result in their suffering.
Outside of the theological context, which holds that martyrs are persecuted as punishment for their refusal to reject a religious doctrine or deity, persons with a martyr complex seek to suffer in the name of love or duty.
The martyr complex is sometimes associated with the personality disorder called “masochism,” regarded as a preference for and the pursuit of suffering.
In this sense, psychologists often observe the martyr complex in persons involved in abusive or codependent relationships.
Fed by their perceived misery, persons with a martyr complex will often reject advice or offers to help them.
Common Traits of Victim Complex Sufferers
Persons with a victim complex tend to dwell on every trauma, crisis, disease, or another difficulty that they have ever suffered, particularly those that happened during their childhoods. But in the case of scam victims, it also manifests in criticism and complaints against those trying to offer help – they will often accuse them of victimizing them again.
Often seeking a survival technique, they have come to believe that society, friends & family, helpers, or even support organizations simply “has it out for them.” In this sense, they passively submit to their unavoidable “fate” as perpetual victims as a way of coping with problems from tragic to trivial.
Some common traits of persons with a victim complex
Not all of these will be present in every case, and the degree to which they exist will vary. That is why a professional diagnosis is important.
At the center of these is the victim blaming others for what they feel or experience when it is the result of their experience, their trauma, or reluctance to embrace their own recovery.
- They tend to blame others for their feelings
- They refuse to accept responsibility for dealing with their problems.
- They never accept any degree of blame for their problems.
- They always find reasons why suggested solutions will not work.
- They carry grudges, never forgive, and simply cannot “move on.”
- They are rarely assertive and find it hard to express their needs.
- They believe everyone is “out to get them” and thus trust no one.
- They are negative and pessimistic, always looking for the bad even in the good.
- They are often highly critical of others and rarely enjoy lasting friendships.
According to psychologists, victim complex sufferers employ these “safer to flee than fight” beliefs (can also be seen by outsiders as passive-aggressive) as a method of coping with or completely avoiding life and its inherent difficulties.
As a noted behavioral scientist, author and speaker Steve Maraboli puts it, “The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.”
This does not mean that those who exhibit this mindset do nothing but sit at home, they can be very active and functional in their daily lives. But it does mean that their first response to intense emotions is that it is someone else’s fault. Often believing that their pain and suffering were increased by that outside entity rather than recognizing it is their own reduced resiliency.
The Victim Complex in Relationships
In relationships, a partner with a victim complex can cause extreme emotional chaos. The “victim” may constantly ask their partner to help them only to reject their suggestions or even find ways to sabotage them. In some cases, the “victim” will actually wrongly criticize their partner for failing to help, or even accuse them of trying to make their situation worse.
As a result of this frustrating cycle, victims become experts at manipulating or bullying their partners into making draining attempts at care-giving ranging from financial support to assuming full responsibility for their lives. In this sense, bullies — looking for someone to take advantage of — often seek persons with a victim complex as their partners.
Perhaps the most likely to suffer lasting damage from these relationships are partners whose pity for the victim transcends sympathy to become empathy.
In some cases, the dangers of misguided empathy can be the end of already tenuous relationships.
When Victims Meet Saviors
Along with bullies looking to dominate them, persons with a victim complex often attract partners or others with a “savior complex” looking to “fix” them.
According to psychologists, persons with a savior or “Messiah” complex feel a consuming need to save other people. Often sacrificing their own needs and well-being, they seek out and attach themselves to people who they believe desperately need their help.
Believing they are doing “the noble thing” in trying to “save” people while asking nothing in return, saviors often consider themselves better than everyone else.
While the savior partner is certain they can help them, their victim partners are equally certain they cannot. Worse yet, victim partners with a martyr complex — happy in their misery — will stop at nothing to make sure they fail.
Whether the savior’s motives in helping are pure or not, their actions can be harmful. Incorrectly believing their savior partner will “make them whole” the victim partner feels no need to take responsibility for his or her own actions and never develop the internal motivation to do so. For the victim, any positive changes will be temporary, while negative changes will be permanent and potentially devastating.
How to Overcome Victim Mentality
There are a number of things that people can do to overcome a victim mentality. However, the most important thing is to recognize that you need professional help, and that is not something a support group provides.
One important step is to identify the thoughts and beliefs that are contributing to the victim mentality. Once these thoughts and beliefs have been identified, they can be challenged and replaced with more realistic and empowering thoughts. This is not an easy process for victims alone, which is why psychological help is so important.
It is also important to take responsibility for one’s own actions and choices. This does not mean blaming oneself for everything that has gone wrong in one’s life. It simply means acknowledging that you have control over your own reactions and behaviors.
Finally, it is important to surround yourself with positive and supportive people. These people can help to challenge negative thoughts and beliefs and provide encouragement and support. But you have to be willing to acknowledge and allow that help. Too often people with a victim mentality attack or are constantly criticizing those trying to help.
If you are struggling with a victim mentality, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you to identify the root of your victim mentality and develop strategies for overcoming it.
Where to Look for Advice
You can find a suitable counselor or therapist in our directories at counseling.AgainstScams.org
In the United States, registered professional psychologists are certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPA).
Lists of certified psychologists or psychiatrists in your area can typically be obtained from your state/provincial or local health agency. In addition, your primary care doctor is a good person to ask if you think you may need to see somebody to help you with your mental health.
Editor’s Note: We thank Robert Longley for his excellent article – portions of it were used along with original content written by the authors.