When I first started delving into this topic, I was thinking that we all have victim mentality at times. I was thinking of how anxiety plays a role in this as well. Anxiety likes to tell you that when someone doesn't text you back in 5 seconds, they are mad at you, hence you are the "victim". I was wrong. Now, the interesting thing is, if I had victim mentality, I would not be able to actually see that I was wrong. I would be of the belief that I was correct, but no one wanted to make that connection. I would be of the belief that people were purposely hiding the truth about anxiety and how it affects victim mindset. I would do everything in my power to find links just to say I was right. Well, in this day and age, I can actually find those links, but they are from Jane Doe who decided to spout her beliefs and act as though they are fact. There is no research behind it. Things like this then actually feed into victim mentality. My anxiety made me feel this way. Well, yes, there are definitely ways your anxiety makes you feel, but victimized it not one of them. Victim mentality can lead to depression or anxiety, but those are symptoms, not causes.
I have actually been quite surprised with where my research has taken me with this topic. Victim mentality is classified as a personality disorder as opposed to a mental illness. This basically means that, while those with victim mentality want to blame the fact they have a disorder, they actually can't use that as an excuse because it is something they can overcome. It is not misfirings in the brain, it is a perception or belief. A personality disorder can cause a person to fail to reach their personal potential if not changed.
In our house, we have discussed egocentrism for years and years and years. My kids knew the word "egocentric" when they were three. I feel the need to explain what this word means since it happens to be 9th grade vocabulary word that most of the kids in my son's advanced language arts class didn't know. Egocentrism is thinking only of oneself with no regard to others, self-centered. Most children outgrow their egocentric phase by age 9 at the latest. It's normal and natural for all of us to have self-centered moments, but that is what they are , moments. Why does it seem like I've shifted gears here? Because it's actually all connected. Those with personality disorders, especially victim mentality, are egocentric. They have a belief that everything is happening to them. They are the center of it all.
It is important to see this connection because a lot of the time, those with victim mentality are seeking outside attention, They don't care if that attention is positive or negative. Being a teacher, especially dealing with children who are still in the egocentric phase, I have seen kids act out and parents not understand why since the attention they get is negative. The reason is, that for some kids, negative attention is better than no attention. We have all seen these people all grown up. They are the kids in high school who act out in class on a normal basis. They are the employees at work who have to make a big deal on how unfair everything is or how they are the smartest ones there. I'm not talking about an occasional outburst, but constant behavior of having to be heard, whether it gets them good or bad attention. It is most likely that these people are suffering some sort of personality disorder. I found one quote that was actually very interesting. Studies from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology have found that playing victim leads to a sense of entitlement and selfish behavior. This then snowballs. These people then start to create situations in which they will receive special treatment. When their attempts are ignored, they lash out until and change to anger to get what they want. Have you ever dealt with a person who, when you don't show them the pity they are desiring, flips and becomes angry instead? This is what it means. If the cycle is not broken, it can lead to permanent behavioral changes.
Victim mentality has appeared to become more prevalent in our society in the past years. Here's where I thought for sure my research would show it's all because of social media. I was incorrect, again-- second time with my assumptions on this particular subject. Social media helps magnify personality disorders but does not have a direct link to causing them. Those with a victim mentality have a tendency to be more drawn to social media. Social media amplifies, or maybe the better term is justifies, those with victim mentality because they see others like them. No, I'm not saying everyone on social media has a personality disorder, I'm saying that social media feeds into the "look at me" part of personality disorders. If you go back to my first sentence of this paragraph, I state, "has appeared". This is also where social media comes into play. Before social media, there were probably just as many people with personality disorders, but in our technologically advanced age, we can see it on a greater scope. Through this, please note my use of the term "personality disorders". While victim mentality is my main focus, there are common threads of most personality disorders and I feel the need to make it clear certain points are all encompassing. So, as much as I would like to say that social media creates victim mentality, it does not. It is still a dangerous platform for those who seek attention, especially when that platform gets taken away or a post, picture, etc doesn't get as many responses as desired, which links to the above research findings that when a person does not get the attention they desire, they lash out in anger.
So, after all the research and what's not related to victim mentality, what does it look like? There are several key traits to identifying victim mentality. Those with victim mentality tend to: avoid responsibility, not seek out possible solutions, may feel powerless, have negative self-talk; self-sabotage, lack confidence, have a great deal of frustration, anger and resentment. Avoiding responsibility is one of the key traits. "It's not my fault," is a key phrase, usually followed by some excuse. A lot of the time that excuse is placing blame on someone else. It's not my fault, my teacher/boss doesn't like me. It's not my fault, so and so did this instead of that. It's not my fault my mom/dad/wife/husband didn't do it. The other key traits is having a lot of frustration, anger and resentment. No one likes me. They are always picking on me (with no evidence, because there is a line of bullying). I'm the only one who ever gets in trouble. We all say and feel a lot of these things. The difference is overcoming them. We change the situation. Those with victim mentality will have the same excuse and behaviors no matter how many times they change schools, jobs, friends, etc.
It is fine line when deciding if a person is actually being victimized or if they are only perceiving the victimization. Especially with children, we want to protect them and make sure they are not being bullied or hurt in any way. There are definitely teachers out there that don't like certain students. Yes, they may be tougher on those students, but that like or dislike does not typically impact grades. Yes, they can grade certain things more harshly, but, for the most part, an answer is either right or wrong and can be proven. We never want to assume a child is not being bullied when they say they are. This is where it gets harder. For me, this part is the hardest because I had a child who was bullied and you never want to assume that your child is making it up. Yet, for victim mentality, at the younger ages, they feel like everyone is against them and they are being singled out. In adults, you see this mentality with no matter what job the person has, co-workers or bosses are always unfair or out for them. (Sidenote, my next dorky research is going to be on narcissistic personality disorder because that plays a huge role in workforce issues as well). The biggest difference between victim and victim mentality is how you change the situation. Do you want others to change the situation for you every time or do you try to work it out on your own? It all circles back around to egocentrism and the need for attention. Victims do not want your pity, but those with victim mentality do because, again, negative attention is better than no attention.
Can this cycle of victim mentality be broken? Yes, unfortunately, though, for a lot of adults with this personality disorder, it's actually become critical to who they are and how they live. They seek out people who enable them. They thrive on putting themselves and those they love into into positions that are negative. Adults with victim mentality often have children with personality disorders, depression, or anxiety. Often times, one personality disorder can lead to acquiring other personality disorders. It's not uncommon to see someone who has victim mentality also have narcissistic personality disorder as well (see how I pulled that in there). A lot of times these people will develop OCD tendencies, especially if they see that it gets them attention, which they desire. When left to grow, victim mentality can lead to depression, rage, and isolation.
I would love to get more detailed with all of this, but I know this is starting to sound like a research paper! If anyone who read this is interested in learning more, there are several good resources I used. These are the ones that weren't so clinical. Don't worry, I did fact check through several different sources.