What is the term for (a person who responds/the act of responding) to a request as though it were a much more demanding/unreasonable request?


Andrew (at home) texts, "I'd like to take the car to get an oil change sometime soon."
Barbara (driving) replies, "I'm driving Charlie to the ER with a broken ankle, but I can turn around right now and bring the car to you. I'm 30 minutes away from the house."

The feeling Barbara is trying to evoke is that she's a long-suffering person doing her best to satisfy Andrew's whims, no matter the cost. Or like the Jewish mother/lightbulb joke whose punchline is "Go, have a good time, I'll just sit here in the dark, alone." Except that Barbara's behavior is more intended to suggest that Andrew is both demanding and capricious, when he is neither.

I'm looking for a word or phrase that describes either Barbara or her behavior. "Hyperbole" isn't quite right, nor is "melodrama" (although it's closer)...

"Barbara's ________ makes me not want to talk to her at all."

  • 1
    "over-reacting" seems too obvious?
    – Tom22
    Jun 21, 2017 at 23:26
  • Eh, it doesn't really capture what I mean. "Passive-aggressive" is a phrase (like OCD) that's thrown around to mean a lot more than it actually does, but the word I'm looking for does have a flavor of "passive aggression" (is that the noun form?)
    – Annabel
    Jun 21, 2017 at 23:33
  • 1
    You ruled out melodramatic so this one probably won't work... but it is sort of melodrama with a manipulative twist .. histrionic en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/histrionic
    – Tom22
    Jun 21, 2017 at 23:43
  • Dramaticism - Barbara's [over-the-top] dramaticism makes me not want to talk to her at all
    – 3kstc
    Jun 21, 2017 at 23:51
  • 1
    Would you say her sarcasm is putting words in his mouth? Jun 22, 2017 at 4:56

3 Answers 3


Martyrdom [mahr-ter-duh m]/ noun

  1. the condition, sufferings, or death of a martyr.

  2. extreme suffering; torment.

Though in the sense that it is an exaggeration of Barbara's actual suffering, you could describe it as "purported martyrdom" or "melodramatic martyrdom".

Purported [per-pawr-tid, -pohr-]/ adjective

  1. reputed or claimed; alleged.


Melodramatic [mel-uh-druh-mat-ik]/ adjective

  1. of, like, or befitting melodrama.
  2. exaggerated and emotional or sentimental; sensational or sensationalized; overdramatic.

"Barbara's melodramatic martyrdom makes me not want to talk to her at all."

Histrionics [his-tree-on-iks]/ noun, (used with a singular or plural verb)

  1. dramatic representation; theatricals; acting.

  2. behavior or speech for effect, as insincere or exaggerated expression of an emotion; dramatics; operatics:

"Barbara's histrionics makes me not want to talk to her at all."


self-pity - a feeling of pity for yourself because you believe you have suffered more than is fair or reasonable (Merriam-Webster)

That probably fits for Barbara.

There's also martyr complex or persecution complex which is to say that her feelings of being either a martyr or persecuted are inflated or imagined.


dramaticism -

a dramatic character or way of behaving (Collins Dictionary)

Using your sample sentence as an example:

Barbara's [over-the-top] dramaticism makes me not want to talk to her at all.

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