Suppose that person A expresses a criticism of person B, and person B responds by beating themselves up and spiraling downwards, which forces person A to drop their criticism and instead try to comfort person B to help them feel better. Is there a name for this type of behavior by person B?

  • Is person B doing this intentionally so that they know that the criticisms will be dropped? Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 16:53
  • @NagarajanShanmuganathan If there's a word for the case where the behavior is done intentionally, so that the criticism will be dropped, that would be helpful. But I'm also interested in the case where the behavior is unintentional. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 16:55
  • A might say to B Don't play the victim here!, but I can't think of a single-word noun or adjective that he might use when talking to C about what happens and why: It's no good trying to tell B what she's doing wrong, because she's XXXX. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 16:56
  • The intentional one is crybully (derogatory) A person who engages in intimidation, harassment, or other abusive behaviour while claiming to be a victim. It's not exactly the term you are asking for.
    – puppetsock
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


They are engaged in self-flagellation, defined in Merriam-Webster as

: extreme criticism of oneself

The term literally referred to priests and monks who would beat (flagellate) themselves in penance for their sins (Wikipedia). Usage since has generalized to any kind of excessive self-criticism. Among 89 results in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, this example leapt out to me. It's from Slate's Dear Prudence, and applies to your situation well:

Late is better than never, and calling yourself " the worst " is less an apology and more a deflection designed to escape any criticism by conspicuous self-flagellation, and conspicuous self-flagellation does not fall under the subheading of Great Manners.


Touchy might be the word you're looking for.

Tending to take offense with slight cause; oversensitive.

Even hypersensitive might go well.

  • 1
    It's always possible that a touchy person might respond to criticism by becoming angry, aggressive, defensive, etc. Alternatives such as fragile, delicate more strongly imply a reaction that (deliberately or incidentally) invokes sympathy. And victimhood-oriented isn't exactly a commonplace turn of phrase, but I imagine most people would understand it as even more accurately describing OP's character B. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 17:04

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