Victim Mentality and Its Influence on Substance Use Disorder and Recovery

April 05, 2023

It's hard to ignore the impact of a victim mentality on those misusing drugs and alcohol or diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD). The self-affirming belief that one is a puppet of destiny, being a perpetual victim, can be a powerful force with insidious intentions that can derail a recovery. However, with the right reframing of thoughts, possessing a victim mentality can also be an opportunity for growth and healing.

This article explores the concept of a victim mentality and how it can impede recovery for people with substance use disorder. It looks at how this mentality can manifest itself in behavior and thinking patterns and how to recognize and address it. SUD's emotional and psychological aspects can often be the most difficult to address, making it challenging to recognize and overcome. To better understand the role of the victim mentality in a SUD and recovery, this article looks at how it can manifest in those affected by addiction.


Defining the Victim Mentality

The victim mentality or victimhood mindset is one of the most pervasive influences on substance use disorder and recovery. It refers to a pattern of negative thinking, which can manifest in different ways, such as feeling powerless, helpless, and hopeless. This thinking can lead people to feel they have no control over their situation and blame external forces, such as their environment or other people, for their problems.


When it comes to addiction and recovery, the victim mentality can be particularly damaging, as it can lead to feelings of hopelessness that prevent people from taking action to improve their lives. It is essential to note the difference between being victimized and having a victim mentality, as being victimized is a real experience that deserves to be acknowledged. In contrast, the victim mentality is a way of thinking that can be changed.


Recognizing the Symptoms of Victim Mentality and Thought Patterns That Accompany Them

A person with a victim mentality may have thoughts like believing that the world or others are out to get them or that their views and opinions don’t matter. For these individuals, "things always happen" to them. They are defeated before the match begins and don't take responsibility for their lives and circumstances. They may also feel like they can’t trust anyone, are misunderstood, and are judged unfairly.


A person’s victim mentality can profoundly affect their ability to manage their substance use disorder and progress in their recovery. When you feel like a victim, a marked entity who is merely a plaything of the powers that be, you may be less likely to seek help for a SUD or be less motivated to stick to your treatment because you think what’s the good from it.


A person with a victim mentality generally emanates a pessimistic disposition and may believe recovery is possible only for some but not for them. A person may misuse drugs or alcohol to escape the effects of trauma or unfortunate circumstances but having a victim mentality can perpetuate continued substance use because of their perceived sense of helplessness.


Here is a more extensive list of victim mentality symptoms:


Behavioral indicators

  • self-sabotage
  • inability to accept personal responsibility
  • being too critical of oneself and others
  • avoids being around others who don't share their worldview


Emotional signs 

  • isolation-related anxiety 
  • anger towards other people 
  • feeling unworthy of love or admiration 
  • depression 
  • emotions of guilt and humiliation caused by feelings of being unseen by others


Cognitive (mental) symptoms 

  • irrational
  • suicidal ideation
  • catastrophizing and other cognitive distortions
  • dwelling on the worst-case scenario
  • being too concerned with what others are thinking and feeling
  • pessimistic or fearful outlook on life. 


Telltales within interpersonal relationships

  • problems taking criticism in a productive way 
  • keeping score in relationships, distrust, and intimacy issues 
  • social isolation
  • aversion to those in positions of power 
  • low capacity for compassion 


Understanding these symptoms and thought patterns can help individuals circumvent potential barriers to effective addiction treatment and long-term recovery.


Locus of Control in Recovery

A person's locus of control refers to how much sway they believe they have over the outcomes of their own lives. It's multifaceted, with spectral influences ranging from genes to environment to nurture, similar to many people's predisposition for developing an addiction or mental health issues. Having an internal locus of control has been linked to substantial success, health, and more happiness than having an external locus. 


A victim mentality is closely linked to the locus of control, a psychological concept related to the degree to which people believe they have control over their own lives. People with a victim mentality tend to have an external locus of control, meaning that they believe their fate is determined by external forces such as luck, fortune, or influential people outside their power. This mentality can give a person with an addiction a false sense of reality by removing objectivity and responsibility in favor of blame on society, relatives, and the environment for their drinking and drug misuse.


In studies, participants reported a constant increase in their sense of internal control over their life when they had a positive early impression of the parts of the therapy process that encouraged the desired change in addictive behavior.


A victim mentality can also manifest in developing codependent relationships. An individual in treatment relinquishes autonomy owing to an external locus of control by having someone else be their caretaker, which can impede progress. This is where a survivor's mindset is helpful. It focuses on personal responsibility, which can be beneficial in reducing the risk of relapse and may increase the chances of successful recovery.


Strategies for Healthier Coping and Rewrite Your Story

Awareness of a victim mentality is the first step in understanding its influence on substance use disorder and recovery. A key factor for many individuals in addiction recovery can shift from a victimhood mindset to a survivor mentality. Here are four strategies for healthier coping and rewriting your story:


  1. Acknowledge the difficulty of troubling experiences. Recognizing the pain and difficulty of the long withstanding after-effects of trauma or mistakes can help individuals to see their journey in a more positive light.


  1. Practice self-compassion. It is essential to be kind to yourself and recognize that you are doing your best with what you have.


  1. Focus on solutions. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of the victim mentality, focus on solutions. Find ways to move forward, even if it’s just taking small steps.


  1. Reframe your story. Revising your story where you rise above the inner current of perpetual victim mentality can help to create a more positive and empowering narrative, the foundation for a better future. Taking the time to rewrite the story can be a powerful tool in the recovery process.


Seeking Professional Help When it's Time to Survive and Thrive

A victim mentality is a pervasive belief and set of thinking traps that can significantly influence how people cope with addiction and substance and alcohol use disorders. All too often, those suffering from addiction can feel like there is no hope for them, and they become consumed by feeling helpless and powerless. It's crucial for those on the road to recovery to recognize that they are standing in the way of their success.


Recovery is personal, but you don’t have to tread the path alone. Professional treatment can help individuals recognize and address any underlying trauma and beliefs contributing to their addiction. Through behavioral and cognitive therapy, socioeconomic support, and peer accountability, individuals can learn to take control of their lives and become empowered survivors.


Review the signs of a victim mentality, make the one decision that will impact the rest of your life, and contact a luxury dual diagnosis treatment center like Wish Recovery in southern California. Suppose you’ve been blaming the world and not owning your actions and self-destructive behaviors. In that case, addiction specialists can help you unearth the underlying causes of a victim mentality and help you understand its role in stagnating growth and healing.


Therapists at Wish Recovery are ready to aid you in taking an honest inventory of your actions, attitudes, and limiting beliefs so you can begin challenging them and living your best life, happy, healthy, and free. Contact us for more information about our treatment options and insurance verification.

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