Helplessness is a learned behavior that a person uses to get what they want.  Typically they will manipulate others into providing care for them, monetarily, physically, or even psychologically.  A relationship is formed in which the helpless person becomes dependent on another.


  • One person manipulates others for their sympathy
  • Overplaying weaknesses or failures for personal gain
  • Becoming angry when a person doesn’t get their way
  • Emphasis on problems in the workplace, academic life, or social life
  • A predominant sense of incompetence
  • An apparent inability to deal with their own problems


When a person plays the victim role they are essentially acting, and therefore not allowing others to know their true self.  Playing this role allows them to hide their self while also gaining sympathy and attention.  Helplessness is usually a learned behavior, meaning that some life experiences have taught a person to use victim playing as a tool for getting what they need.  Childhood experiences in which a person is persistently made to feel out of control can lead to learned helplessness.  Helplessness occurs alongside other conditions, such as clinical depression.


Helplessness is not a distinct disorder and is likely a component of a larger condition like Major Depression.  In either case, psychotherapy is an option that will increase understanding of behavior patterns surrounding victimhood.  Awareness enables a person to think critically about their behavior and begin to change it.

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