Is There A Psychiatric Disorder That Makes People Think They're Victimized By Everyone In Life?
Personality Disorders - Other Reading
- Personality Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Support - HealthyPlace
Learn about NPD - Narcissistic Personality Disorder, BPD - Borderline Personality Disorder and others. Personality disorder symptoms, treatments, more.
- Personality Disorders and Personality Traits
The various symptoms for personality disorders and personality traits, including borderline personality disorder.
"Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited", by Sam Vaknin, is also available in a Kindle edition.
"Abuser As Victim"
"Is He Or Isn't He?" (A Narcissist)
A Thorough Description Of "Gaslighting"
More To The Point: Is There A Mental Disorder For Which The Primary Symptom Is Believing One Has Been Victimized By Everybody?
The above question was asked in HubPages' "Answers" section, and the phrase, "primary symptom" was used.
The short answer to the question of whether there is a mental-health disorder for which the primary symptom is believing one has been victimized by "everybody" is that I have not, in many years of reading/researching psychiatric disorders or in my research for this particular piece, run into a description of a disorder for which incorrectly believing one has been victimized by most people in his life is a primary symptom.
In Reply To The Above Question, Two Mental-Health Disorders Do Seem To Stand Out
One personality disorder which does include the person's presenting himself as a victim of others is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which will be addressed in more depth below. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is known for manipulative behavior, but so, too, is Substance Abuse and Dependence (not included with personality disorders, but as a separate disorder) . Because it would be beyond the scope of my research to offer input on whether anyone with any of the other mental-health disorders, particularly personality disorders, would be more prone to incorrectly believing he has been victimized by "everyone", I'd like to reiterate that the two disorders most commonly associated (at least from what I've researched) with a person's presenting himself as a chronic victim of others seem to the two mentioned above.
There's A Difference Between Presenting Oneself/Presenting One's Account And Actually Believing Something One Presents To Others
"Presenting oneself" as a chronic victim, however, can be a very different thing from actually believing that one is that chronic victim. There are many reasons a person may present himself as a chronic victim, none of which necessarily include actually and/or completely believing his own account. Obviously, not everyone who offers an account that involves presenting himself as a chronic victim can possibly have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Neither can everyone who presents himself that way be a substance abuser.
Worth noting is that with a disorder like Narcissistic Personality Disorder, many signs/symptoms are things that most people will exhibit at one time or another and/or to some degree or another; and something like narcissism is described as being on a spectrum that ranges from normal to abnormal. Circumstances, too, can lead perfectly healthy individuals to show what appears to others who don't understand the circumstances to be one of the signs of a mental disorder.
Still, to hear some folks tell it, it would seem just about everyone they've ever run into has victimized them. In a world where most of us have had drummed into us since childhood the idea that we need to take responsibility for our own problems, and that we need to be willing/able to accept blame for problems we've brought on ourselves, it can be natural to wonder whether the person who claims to have been victimized in too many ways is at best immature and unwilling to accept responsibility for his own problems/situations; or at worst mentally ill.
Of course, one important factor is that matter of whether the individual actually believes he's been victimized by "everybody" or whether he doesn't really believe that himself and is just using what is essentially a lie as an excuse, in order, perhaps, to try not to be thought less of by the listener. Another important factor to consider, however, is whether, in fact, the individual has been victimized by a number of people, and whether where the "by everybody" comes in is in the mind of the person hearing his story - not his own. In other words, is the individual a person who knows very well his own, realistic, accurate, life story and knows that he has been unfortunate enough to have been victimized by a handful of key people in his life; and does not think "everybody" has victimized, or will victimize, him. Sometimes it can just seem that way when the other person hears his account, hears how many people he has named, and jump to the conclusion that he thinks it's "everybody".
How Can One Know If The Other Person Actually Believes His Own Account Of Having Been Victimized?
How can a family member or friend tell if a person who presents himself as a victim of seemingly "everyone" actually believes his own account? Since reading the mind of others isn't generally something people can do, one might try asking the other person. Asking someone something like, "Do you actually believe what you're saying?", however, may still not get an honest reply. Why? Because first, if the person is painting what he believes is a more flattering picture of himself there's a good chance that it's because he doesn't want family or friends to think less of him, lecture him, badger him, etc. He isn't likely to admit that he doesn't truly believe what he's saying. Neither is the individual with NPD who needs to paint the picture of himself that he is trying to paint.
People with NPD are said to be very skilled at coming across as very credible. They're known for fooling mental-health professionals, people in the court system, and any number of people in their personal and/or work lives. For that matter, however, many people with substance abuse problems are also able to convince family members or others of what they say - at least for a time.
On the other hand, there are people who have no real mental-health disorder, and aren't substance abusers, who are quite skilled at being verbally/emotionally manipulative of others - sometimes only because they've learned how effective being manipulative can be and/or they've grown up seeing how effective a manipulative parent has been. In other words, not all manipulative behavior is a mental-health disorder.
Because Narcissistic Personality Disorder appears to me to be a disorder that could well be behind a person's inaccurately presenting himself as a victim, I've included three videos presented by Sam Vaknin, author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited". Vaknin has a series of videos on YouTube that I found enlightening and easy to understand. I've selected the three videos that, to me, most seem to apply to this page and/or that are most likely to offer a reader a "mini-course" on Narcissism (again, as it applies to the subject being discussed here).
Below I'll address the possibility that the individual who claims to have been victimized by a number of key people and/or others in his life may actually have been every bit as victimized as he describes.
How Realistic Can It Possibly Be That One Person Be Victimized In So Many Ways By So Many People?
While it can certainly be hard to believe that one person might have been victimized by enough other people that it seems he has been victimized by "everyone", the fact is it's a lot easier than one who doesn't know better might image for one person to be victimized many ways and/or multiple times.
A Few "Key People" Can Cause A Lot Of Victimization And "Spin-Off" Victimization
A simple example might be the person who was victimized by one or more family members as a child, who grew up gravitating toward people with whom he felt most comfortable (people like those in his childhood family), married someone whose behavior/attitude was similar to those of family members, became victimized as a spouse, and - like so many other divorcing people - became victimized by the court system if the need for divorce arose. It is not uncommon for the court system to be abusive toward people going through any number of kinds of legal cases, including divorces, custody cases, cases involving parental neglect or abuse, or even non-family-related civil cases.
"Legal Abuse" And Other Poor Treatment By The Court System
Included on this page are videos that provide information about what has now been called, "legal abuse", and what is now understood to result in PTSD for people who have been the targets of it.
Legal abuse aside, and for lack of more refined wording, the court system is also known for "kicking people to the curb". It is, therefore, not difficult to understand that any person who has found himself in court (particularly, perhaps, over family matters, which are particularly emotional and crucial in the lives of those involved) to find himself having been victimized whether or not he's someone who would prefer to use the word, "victim", in describing himself.
If you think of the number of people who have been involved with court cases, particularly cases in family courts; it's easy to see how a whole lot of people have been at risk of being victimized by the court system; and if not the court system, then the circumstances and people at the heart of a case.
Emotional Abuse Is Far More Common Than Many Realize Or Recognize
Not all targets of abuse (whether in the family, in a marriage, or in the workplace) are victims of obvious, "dramatic", abuse. While physical battering and sexual abuse are certainly and unfortunately very common, emotional and verbal abuse is more insidious and far less easy (even for the target sometimes) to recognize and every bit as, if not more, common as physical and/or sexual abuse. In fact, at least two well known authors specializing in the subject of verbal/emotional abuse (Beverly Engel, "The Emotionally Abusive Relationship"; and Patricia Evans, "Controlling People") have stated that the problem of emotional abuse is alarmingly widespread. Although it can be, not all emotional abuse is intentional. Engel points out that most people can discover that they've been emotionally abusive to someone at one time or another. Both authors point out that emotionally abusive individuals don't see the target of abuse as separate and/or equally human people
Without getting into all the dynamics of emotionally/verbally abusive relationships, the point is that someone who understands how widespread, insidious, and difficult-to-recognize the problem is can also easily see how believable it is that one person could be victimized in many ways and/or by several people in his life. One might assume that, say, the victim of an abusive father "ought to know better than to marry a guy like her father". Again, though, emotional abuse isn't always something the target recognizes. Further, while one person may have had at least one emotionally abusive parent and may even have recognized it, the ways in which controlling people attempt to manipulate and exercise control over others can be different. In fact, for example, a woman may have had a fairly overtly emotionally abusive father who belittled her but a mother whose behavior included, for example, being manipulative and yet generally/otherwise kind. Such a woman may know well enough to stay away from people who belittle her the way her father did, but she may not recognize different types of manipulative behaviors in a future husband because she may not have recognized them in her mother.
The two books I mentioned (as well as some other books by Patricia Evans) are like mini-courses in the dynamics of emotionally abusive relationships. In order to understand “how it all can work”, but also that strong people who aren’t “willing” to be victims can be targets of controlling others, it would probably require reading at least one of those books; or else other books on the subject that are equally enlightening and informative.
The point is that emotional abuse (as well as other forms of abuse, of course) is everywhere. Some people can have a kind of “perfect storm” of traits, characteristics, or circumstances that come together and amount to one person’s finding himself a victim in a number of ways, or of a number of different people. The “kick-a-person-when-he’s-down phenomenon” can kind of “kick in” once a person has been victimized even in one substantial way; and sometimes even people who try to be supportive can essentially contribute to emotional abuse by not recognizing/understanding, exactly, what the other person has experienced or continues to experience.
Time, Circumstances, and "Kicks" Don't Help A Person Avoid Further Victimization. In Fact, They May Place Him At Increased Risk Of Yet More Of The Same
As time, circumstances, and “kicks” continue to add up the individual who has been victimized can be at a financial and/or emotional disadvantage; which, when combined with what may be either emotional “exhaustion” and/or diminished self-confidence and sense of sureness; individual can either feel suffocated or else as if he’s in quicksand.
It can take tremendous courage for a person to even try to discuss what has gone on in his life, and he can have the need to do that not because he’s looking for sympathy, or even help, from anyone else; but because he may feel as if he’s suffocating because he’s in the world completely alone, and apparently invisible. In the meantime, he may well be being treated without compassion by just about anyone he runs into. Even though he may know people truly want to be compassionate, when they don’t understand the reality of his situation they will offer him suggestions, help, lectures, or whatever else they deem appropriate for a situation they don’t see because a. they won’t listen to the victim, or b. they’ve drawn conclusions based on something other than what the victim has tried to tell them.
Narcissists Sometimes Attempt To Control "By Proxy"
One other thing to keep in mind is that when a victim is dealing with, or has dealt with, someone with at least some narcissistic thinking; that victim may also be dealing with/having dealt with being victimized by others “recruited” by the narcissist as a way of “controlling by proxy”. The fact, alone, that narcissists may do this “recruiting” should readily make it clear how easy it is for one person dealing with one narcissist, or one narcissistic individual, to find himself victimized by several individuals.
No Matter How Many Times People See How The Court System Can Fail, There's Still A Tendency For Many People To Automatically Believe Lies That Have Been Presented In The Court System
Another thing to keep in mind is that when mistakes or lies take hold in something like a legal case, and when times goes on and damages go up, there will be more and more incentive for anyone involved with “contributing” to that case to dig in his heels in order to preserve his own self-respect, or even professional license/reputation.
Another Major Factor When One Person Has Been Victimized Many Times
Whether a person has ever been the target of emotional abuse by one or more people, and whether he has ever been involved with any court case at all; when people find themselves in financial trouble or without income it's easy for them to become victimized, no matter how hard they try to do the right thing and get, or keep, themselves out of financial trouble. It is beyond the scope of this page to get into the ways in which perfectly hard-working, responsible, conscientious, intelligent, people can find themselves victimized once they find themselves among the ranks of the financially disadvantaged.
In fact, all the ways in which one individual can be victimized are well beyond the scope of this page. It's worth noting, however, that even the most amazingly strong and responsible people will eventually find themselves emotionally and physically compromised and less and less able to withstand yet more victimization. Also, if an individual must stand by and see his children and/or other family members hurt or damaged that person's victimization is made far worse than if he were the only one he had to worry about.
The Automatic Assumption That The Apparent "Chronic Victim" Is The "Guilty Party"
It is both a realistic and unfortunate thing that upon reading the title question, or considering this subject, many people will automatically either call upon memory or references to come up with the assessment that the person who tries to come across as a victim may be a controlling, attention-seeking, drama-loving, individual and possibly narcissist. That's true.
On the other hand, there are perfectly normal, responsible, conscientious, well adjusted people who are far from willing to be victims - at least when the game is played fairly - and who encounter "deaf ears", possibly suspicion, maybe even hostility; or at best, perhaps condescending words or lectures about taking the responsibility and blame for one's own problems. I would assess the process of multiple victimizations as involving nothing more than person or two in an individual's life who opens the door to another few people from outside the family and therefore opens a door to possible additional victimization. In at least this type of situation - and, of course, there are others that I'm not covering here - once the initial "breakdown of boundaries" has taken place then yet more doors are open to other forms of what I'll call "secondary victimization".
When the victimization includes children and/or other close family members one might say that there is also "shared-yet-individual" victimization.
The frightening and disgusting part of this is that the individual who tries to explain how one person can easily become victimized by more than one is that just by trying to explain it, one can appear to "be paranoid".
One reason I've included, and recommend, the book and video of Sam Vaknin, books and YouTube videos of Patricia Evans, videos of Karin Huffer, and book by Beverly Engel is to highlight the fact that victimization is not a matter of one person having horrible luck and running into a number of different situations; but is, instead, something very calculated on the part of the victimizer, with the victim as the clear and often sometimes only target.
When Being Victimized By A Number Of People Happens To Young/Middle-Aged Adults It's Bad Enough, But How Can Children Or Elderly Adults Withstand It And Stay Whole? I'm Not Sure They Always Can.
A sickening thing to think of is that whether young or middle-aged adult, child, or elderly adult; the individual who finds himself without support from anyone within his own circle and/or within The System is at even higher risk of being yet further victimized. All those people are people I just mentioned are people that I think of and worry about. They're also the people for whom I hope this page has spoken.
Who Is "Everybody"? Sometimes "Everybody" Doesn't Even Include The Court System, And Not Everybody Has A True, "Abnormal-End-Of-The-Narcissistic-Thinking/Behavior Scale", Narcissist In His Personal Life
Is the individual really saying he's been victimized by "everybody", or does the "everybody" really come from the listener who hears the victimized individual mention more than one guilty party and make the jump, on his own, to the word, "everybody"?
If the victmized individual were asked, "Have you been victimized by EVERYBODY," might he say something like, "No. Not everybody, just - now wait until I count - eleven people."?
Again, a large number of people can seem extreme to someone who doesn't understand how one individual can be victimized over and over again. If you think about it, though; and if you don't consider someone's becoming the victim of crime committed by a stranger, people's "personal worlds" of others who would have the opportunity to victimize them are most often fairly small, no matter how big someone's "personal world" or social circles may be. Friends and neighbors, by virtue of having SOME place in a person's world, could certainly victimize someone; but the most common/serious kinds of victimization most often involve someone who has some "legitimate" power/impact in the individual's "personal world".
For the most part, that's generally family and a fairly limited number of outsiders whose role includes some degree of potential to adversely impact an individual's life/well-being. Most of the time the impact most outsiders have on someone's life is either neutral or positive. Only in some cases it is negative, and in even fewer instances is it extremely negative to the point of amounting to "victimization". Worth noting, too, is that most of the time when someone from a person's "immediate outer circle" does something that victimizes the individual, it's a matter of either someone who doesn't know any better causing unntentional problems/victimization, or else it may be a matter of something like corporate/government indifference toward customers/citizens.
The bigger and more important a role someone/something plays in a person's personal world, the more emotion and ego tend to become involved.
Here is a breakdown of the main, "immediate outer circle", places/situations where potentially abusive people might be found in anyone's life, but also where there can be kind and caring people who mean well but do things that amount to victimizing someone else out of ignorance and/or ego.
Domestic Victimization Of One Type Or Another, Intentional Or Unintentional - The Home/Inner-Circle
Childhood Family - Living and/or Deceased, Immediate or Extended
Adulthood Family - Children, Step-Children, In-Laws, Others Considered "Family"
Other Adult Relationships
Non-Domestic, "Personal-Life/Business" Settings/Situations - The Immediate Outer Circle
The Work Setting
The Court System
Financial Institutions, Large Corporations, Other Businesses
The Health-Care System
Obviously, children and adults don't always have the same mix in their "immediate, outer, personal-life, circles. For children, adults in their most immediate "personal circle" can essentially, for good and/or ill, form a kind of firewall that can separate children from their personal little world from the outer world. Adults most often choose when to open a port in that "firewall"; and no matter how much parents work hard to try to make sure their child is part of the larger world, children generally very much remain behind that firewall - some children more than others.
Adults Who Used To Be Children - In Other Words, When Aspects Of The Childhood Family Rear Their Heads In Adulthood
As for adults, some of what takes hold in the individual and/or in the family gets it roots in childhood and can be brought into adulthood. So, depending on what adults bring into childhood, some dynamics from the childhood family can remain - and sometimes through no fault of the individual, but, instead, through the fault of someone, for example, who isn't willing, able, or knowledgeable enough to let go of childhood roles and imagined roles and instead see the adult individual as the capable, decent, strong, adult that he is.
Parents of grown kids tend to struggle often with realizing that their child has grown into a capable, strong, good, adult. Some parents struggle more than others, of course. Some can be quite skilled at winning that struggle most of the time. On the other hand, many parents don't ever seem to even be aware that they should even trying to struggle. Instead, they can't/won't seem to let go of the idea that the individual they raised is not the same as the baby and child he once was. Siblings, even cousins, too can can view an individual in ways that aren't accurate; and that's often because parents act as that "firewall" and decide what "version of the presentation" of the child and events will get past it, and what won't. It's not always that parents present an inaccurate version out of dishonesty. Sometimes, in the forest-for-the-trees situation, as well as without the ability to read the mind of their child, parents unintentionally - although sometimes quite intentionally - skew the presentation of who/what the child is, events, and facts that gets through that firewall.
In varying degrees, events and/or inaccurate presentations from childhood do follow people into adulthood. Under the most ideal circumstances there won't be a whole lot of those inaccurate presentations, so there aren't a lot of problems. Under the better of circumstances, the seemingly minor issues in childhood families seem to be outgrown or forgotten. The individual and family grows into maturity knowing that the family was "close to ideal", and it is sometimes only when a big family crisis/concern arises that brings out/highlights inaccurate beliefs from the childhood family and causes family members to view others through "old lenses", but lenses that were distorted in childhood.
Adults - Separate From Whether They Do Or Don't Have Much Of Anything By Way Of Family Distortions Factoring Into Their Present Situation
While some elements of a child's immediate outer circle can certainly impact the child and/or his life at times, it is the elements that have been given/taken power in a child's life that have the opportunity to victimize the child in the way being discussed here - in other words, in ways not related to out-and-out crimes, major or minor. Looking at the lists above, you'll note that children have pretty much no "regular" immediate, outer circle of their own because of the "firewall" aspect in a child's life. Children generally have school and health care in that immediate outer circle. Some have the court system, government agences, or programs. For the most part, regardless of what is in a child's immediate outer circle, children's outer circles include the input and screening of parents and/other adults.
Adults, on the other hand, can have completely immediate outer circles that are completely independent of family and/or the input of anyone other than the adult, himself. An immediate outer circle including school is usually either non-existent for adults who have finished schooling, or else can have less potential of victimizing the person and harming his personal well-being once people are grown/mature. Adults often, of course, have a "work circle". People can certainly be victimized at work, but when they are that's usually a matter of an isolated situation occurring for one person in one workplace. In other words, the workplace usually only has limited power to victimize "the whole person" or "his whole life"; although, of course, being laid off, while not being intentional victimization, can lead to a person's life turning into a mess through no fault of his own.
The point is that school and work aren't ordinarily the biggest problems when it comes to an adult who finds himself have been victimized over and over again. Both can be isolated situations of victimization at times, and they can be yet one more instance of it to be added to the list of the person who has found himself victimized in a number of different ways or times in his life; but they aren't usually the "main contributors".
The "Main Contributors" For Adults
The "main contributors" to major, repeat and/or long-term victimizations of one individual seem to be - as far as I've been able to determine through personal experience and research - the government and court system, financial institutions, occasionally other businesses, and the health-care system.
Sometimes these "main contributors" are independent of one another with regard to impact and potential to victimize an individual. In other instances they begin to be connected. Either way, these non-family immediate outer circles of adults can often include staff who aren't as skilled, fair, or honest as they should be; or they include situations that amount to a matter of "garbage-in/garbage-out" in files. They can also include situations in which it is clear the individual has been the victim of a mistake or mistreatment, but in which nothing is in place for such victims to have their concerns, complaints, and even clear and obvious mistreatment/injustices at least reviewed, and ideally addressed.
To Put All This Quite Bluntly......
It doesn't take a whole lot of screw-ups in someone's outer circle for his situation to contribute a substantial element to a "perfect storm" that will invite victimization into the life of an individual who is perfectly sound and well adjusted, mature, willing to work hard, willing to take responsibility for his own actions, and essentially all the things that a normal, healthy, decent, capable, individual is supposed to be.
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