What is a word for when someone feels overly sorry for themselves?

John writes how his life was ruined by only being potty trained a year later than other kids of his age. Sally responds saying John is self [ ....... ]

I thought of pity party but it doesn't fit into the context. I'm thinking of a more formal word perhaps that tries to convey an over-exaggeration of feeling sorry for oneself or making one's life circumstances seem much worse than it is


12 Answers 12


The act of reflecting on one's perceived woes is also known as self-commiserating.

And then he sighed a querulous, self-commiserating sigh, as if in pure regret that he, the loved and courted of so many worshippers, should be now abandoned to the mercy of a harsh, exacting, cold-hearted woman like that, and even glad of what kindness she chose to bestow, (Chapter 48, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte)

  • This is kind of a funny phrase, given that "commiserating" literally means "to share misery with someone else" (hence the "co-" prefix.) So "self-commiserating" is a bit of a contradiction in terms. Maybe it should be "automiserating" instead. Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 13:03

The term you are looking for is self-pity:

  • a feeling of pity for yourself because you believe you have suffered more than is fair or reasonable.


  • ....John is self-pitying.
  • 1
    You would have to add a modifier to that like "unfairly" to capture the original meaning.
    – K Dog
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 15:33

Consider: catastrophizing.

"Sally responds saying John is catastrophizing."

This is a term, used often in the psychological field, for making a catastrophe out of an otherwise minor event.



you could say he is

playing the victim


other phrases include the "poor me routine". a more clinical analysis of the situation might suggest that this is an attempt at "emotional blackmail" as part of a "passive-aggressive" relationship strategy.




I would call them a drama queen.

A person who often has exaggerated or overly emotional reactions to events or situations.


If the problem is small and being exaggerated, an idiom would be making mountains out of molehills

Idiom: To exaggerate a minor problem.

  • This site strives to provide objective answers. Take the site tour or have a look at the help center to find out more about good answers.
    – Helmar
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 13:54
  • 3
    @Helmar I am uncertain why this answer is not considered objective. Is there a site specific rule I am not following? Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 15:04
  • The only extent, really, to which this is not objective is, until you provide some sort of reference (e.g. to a respected dictionary) it is little more than your opinion. You, of course, have provided a link to a reference, which is good stuff :) It is better, though, to quote relevant parts of your source in your answer so that it is self-contained and because your link could go dead. It's also nice (although hard to do with these kinda questions) to explain why your suggestion is good, perhaps by elaborating on the usage of the idiom, talking about its history or explaining the image
    – Au101
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 20:29

To self-pity is to pity oneself, especially in an exaggerated or self-indulgent manner. However, I have found that using this word may make people feel strongly that they are being wrongly judged. In your example, perhaps Sally should simply say that John is exaggerating.


Adding to other great suggestions, I like the expression, to make a federal case out of nothing when someone

exaggerates the seriousness of something.

You can use to make a big deal out of nothing, too. Here, nothing represents a very small and trivial thing or issue.

[McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs]


Self flagellating sounds like it fits what you're trying to convey.

It literally means to whip oneself(usually in a religious context), but figuratively it means complaining or over-stating how bad a situation someone is in.


You could say john is wallowing. This is often followed by "in self-pity" or "in nostalgia" or "in victim status". It is a metaphor for stewing in mucky sentiment, as an animal wallows in the mud.

Examples: "...Wallow too much in sensitivity and you can't deal with life, or the truth." from The Terrible Truth About Liberals By Neal Boortz

"I'm not one to sit and wallow - I would rather figure out a way around so I can move past it and be at peace with things. I don't like bad feelings gnawing away at me." Sarah McLachlan http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/sarahmclac469538.html

Definition http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wallow "to spend time experiencing or enjoying something without making any effort to change your situation, feelings, etc." "to roll about in deep mud or water"

  • FYI - my use of the Neal Boortz quote is purely illustrative of the term and does not reflect my personal opinions.
    – Elby Cloud
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 17:07

John statement is so exaggerated one could say he is self-absorbed

A person who cannot stop thinking about themselves, and constantly reminds all others around them of their good and bad qualities


I'm surprised no one has yet posted whinging or whining

Whinge Oxford English Dictionary

To whine; esp. to complain peevishly

Examples for whinging

1907 J. M. Synge Let. 31 Mar. (1971) 121 Forgive this contemptible sort of whinging. I am so lonely and miserable I cant help it.

1983 Sunday Times 31 July 33/1 ‘What sort of people do Australians hate most?’ ‘The whingeing Pom... Poms that come over and do nothing but whinge.

As for whine, The Free Dictionary says:

To complain or protest in a childish or annoying fashion

You can't go, Amy, so don't be a baby and whine about it (Louisa May Alcott, Little Women)

I had a boss who had a sign prominently posted on his desk, consisting of a circle with the word whine inside and a diagonal slash across the circle -- like a traffic sign telling you what not to do. If he thought someone was unproductively complaining, he would tap the sign. Very effective.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.