What Is Martyr Complex? How Is It Different From Victim Mentality?

Last Update on November 19, 2021 : Published on November 20, 2021
understand martyr complex

We all have that one person we know who can’t stop themselves from doing something for others and end up being troubled all the time. It’s possible that they might be suffering from a martyr complex.

Martyr complex is like purposely going to the deeper end because you have some kind of guilt in you or you think that you’re supposed to be there. People who have this complex do not feel like a victim but are always feeling miserable about their condition.

What does it mean to call someone a martyr?

Ideally, a martyr is someone who wilfully sacrifices their life in order to protect something that’s sacred to them. They choose pain and suffering for themselves so that their kin can be at peace. A martyr complex is similar only the intensity is heavily reduced.

What is a Martyr Complex?

martyr complex

Martyr complex is when you choose to be in pain to help someone. The key point here is the urge to take others’ pain and suffering is all driven by guilt. You make your life miserable only because you feel like it’s your duty to do it.

This term can be used for someone who is always suffering in one way or the other. People with a martyr complex often have a story to tell about all the pain and suffering they went through. You might see them exaggerate their experience to make others feel guilty.

What is the difference between martyr complex and victim mentality?

Martyr complex looks very similar to the victim mentality but both differ in the origin of thought. Martyr is a willful act whereas the victim mentality is thought that everyone is looking to abuse and exploit you.

Victim mentality makes you feel like you are a poor victim even when no one is looking to victimize you. The Martyr complex on the other hand never feel like victims but often make others feel guilty of the pain and suffering they went through because of them.

Also read: Victim Mentality: What is it, How to Identify, and How to deal?

What do symptoms of the Martyr complex look like?

There are no straightforward signs and symptoms of a martyr complex. But there are some situational signs that show that you might be suffering from a martyr complex…

A. You continue to help other even when they fail to appreciate your efforts

It is natural for us to help our friends and family in need. It’s because of the love and compassion we have from them. What makes this behavior martyr-like is when you continue to help them even when they don’t appreciate your efforts.

B. You find yourself cribbing about not being appreciate for your efforts

Making an effort even when your pain and suffering is not acknowledged is a typical martyr complex behavior. Another thing that accompanies this behavior is constant cribbing and complaining about your efforts not being appreciated and still repeating the same.

C. You hang out with mean selfish people

The people you spend time with can have a huge impact on how you feel. If you have a martyr complex it’s not easy for you to cut ties with toxic people. The people you spend time with might always want you to do something for you while constantly criticizing you.

D. Self-sacrificing behavior

This trait of a martyr tendency can be found in the past relationships of an individual. This can be seen long before you develop a martyr complex. It mostly looks like multiple attempts of self-sacrificing behavior in order to put others in peace.

E. You are not satisfied with anything

You don’t fail to find loopholes and faults in your life. If you have developed a martyr complex, it’s possible that you might not feel like you are completely happy and satisfied with your job, relationships, etc. You always feel disappointed.

F. You work too hard

You think that it’s your moral duty to help your friends and family, irrespective of how they choose to treat you. You have so much on your plate because you have volunteered to help each person on earth. You have no choice but to work at all times.

Also read: Why Is Kindness Important & What Are Its Benefits?

Effective ways to deal with a martyr complex

If you are struggling with a martyr complex then I am sure your quality of life must have significantly decreased. Fortunately, there are ways you can deal with the martyr complex effectively and make your life guilt-free and easy…

  • Working on developing stronger communication skills.
  • Learn to say ‘NO’ when you already have a lot to do
  • Express your emotions and feelings freely
  • Don’t suppress your needs
  • Don’t indulge in passive-aggressive behavior
  • Do not hold back frustration and resentment, find a way to let it out
  • Take care that you don’t store negative feelings in your heart, vent then out
  • Use ‘I’ statements when you express your concern about someone’s harsh behavior towards you
  • Set boundaries and let the people around you know about them
  • Make self-care a must
  • Keep some time for recreational activities
  • Give enough importance to your emotional well being
  • Get enough sleep, balanced meal and physical exercise


Many of us may have developed a martyr complex. I think it is a very painful and toxic interpretation of altruism. You should not be helping others by putting yourself in pain. You dont have to martyr yourself to save others.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you wish to read more such articles stay connected with Calm Sage. you can follow us on all social media platforms.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.


  1. Charise Gary
    Charise Gary

    Thank you for the article! This article is so me. I love helping anyone who ask for help . I'm asked often because I take pride in what I do for whom ever it may be. I have been helping so much lately that I am behind on my housework and bills but most importantly it takes a lot of time away from caring for my 2 grandsons, 13 and 15. My daughter, their mother passed away, so I am raising them by myself at 62 years old. Several people have told me I need to learn how to say no. I don't know how to say no. I love helping people. I really need help with saying no. I would feel so bad if I had to tell someone no.

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