Is there a single word to describe a person who is constantly in need of help? I'm not looking for the word "helpless." Rather a person who acts helpless, possibly to just get attention. I thought possibly the word "waif" based on a very old Cosmo magazine article, but Websters doesn't agree.

  • 3
    Welcome to EL&U. The following is the rule of this community. Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests. Please edit your question accordingly with an example sentence where this word would be used. .
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 3:50
  • Sounds like the stereotype of the helpless female. Rathony is right: your question will be closed if you don't give more information on how you will use it. Follow his suggestions and links.
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 4:23

3 Answers 3


In Psychology, Histrionic Personality Disorder (according to Wikipedia)

...is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking emotions, usually beginning in early adulthood, including inappropriately seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval.

Waif is used more for when talking about helplessness due to outside control.

Histrionic is more deceitful. Histrionic people tend to put themselves into situations where they "feed" off of the attention in order to help the image of themselves and can stem from low self esteem or paranoia about how they look to others. In essence it is more pathological and compulsory and stems from the person themselves, not just from bad luck or some kind of cosmic outside force. In extreme instances it can cause people to flirt with suicidal actions in order to receive attention.


There's also this word: "a naysayer".

From Urbandictionary: "One who frequently engages in excessive complaining, negative banter and/or a genuinely poor and downbeat attitude. Naysayers are distinguished by their tendency to consistently view the glass half empty, make frequent one-way trips to negative town, and constantly emphasize the worst of a situation."


I have to avoid him because he's just a naysayer. He drains my batteries.


If need be, I'll suggest the common word:

needy adj.
needier, neediest
1. Being in need; impoverished; a charity that helped needy immigrants.
2. Wanting or needing affection, attention, or reassurance, especially to an excessive degree.

[needy. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved January 24 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/needy . Emphasis mine.]

'Needy', in my experience, is often used disapprovingly. It might well be taken as insulting, so be careful when using it.

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