10 Warning Signs You’re Addicted to Suffering

Addicted to suffering

I was born in the ghetto.

I’ve looked death in the face three times.

I spent years living with an eating disorder.

My father left me when I was just a little girl.

I’ve had to be hospitalized for major surgeries twice.

I’ve spent most of my life medicated; for physical and mental ailments.

Yet, despite everything, I’m a very happy person. I’m grateful for my life every day. I love being alive.

But I wasn’t always this way…

My Addiction to Suffering

I spent the majority of my adolescent and adult life wondering why bad things always happened to me. I expected tragedy every day. It’s no surprise I always got what I was seeking.

I spent so much time in a state of worry and misery, waiting for the next misfortune to reveal itself to me, that I became attached to the feeling of suffering. I was, in essence, addicted to suffering.

It was a constant in my life. It certainly would never let me down. I was comfortable in the arms of suffering. In fact, I was so cozy that I resisted any attempt to free me from my sanctuary.

As always, it’s only looking back that I realize what I was doing. At the time I attributed all of my hardship to the universe. It’s only now I see that suffering became a part of who I was as an individual.

10 Signs You May Be Addicted to Suffering

I’ve since found that this isn’t that uncommon. There are a lot of people who are comfortable swimming in their familiar pool of misery and anguish. What’s even worse, is they don’t even know it.

You may not know it. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can let go of all your grief and finally find out what it’s like to really be alive.

The following are ten signs you may be addicted to suffering. Be brutally honest, and take note every time you feel uncomfortable. Your body may be trying to tell you what your mind refuses to see.

1. You’re inconsolable.

When something bad happened to me, I refused to be consoled. Nothing anyone said made anything better. Even when they clearly showed me that there wasn’t anything to be upset about, I would remain upset. What business did they have telling me what to be upset over?

2. You believe people don’t have control over how they feel.

I used to welcome pain, sadness, and suffering since I didn’t think I had any control over my emotions anyway. I had no control over being devastated when I was rejected by a boy. I was entitled to hours of sulking, crying and, occasionally, amplifying the pain by playing the saddest, most anguish-filled music I could possibly find.

3. You focus on everything that’s wrong in your life.

I would dwell on all of the negative in my life. When a positive thought crossed my mind, I would find a way to make it inconsequential.

4. You play the victim.

In my addiction to suffering, I often felt like people didn’t get me because I was always the outcast in social situations. The truth is I went into the social setting expecting to be rejected, so I rejected myself before anyone could even give me a chance.

I thought I was woefully unlucky and just born into a life of perpetual hardships. I blamed my bosses for being unreasonable and my friends for not understanding. When all else failed, I’d blame my upbringing. (Just in case you haven’t heard yet, the statute of limitations on blaming your childhood for your problems has long since expired.)

5. You blame yourself for outrageous situations.

If my life was lacking in drama, I’d find the nearest calamity and blame (or abuse) myself for the disaster. It sounds funny now, but this is so common.

If I got a bad grade on a test, I would berate myself for being a failing idiot who could never do anything right in life and should be fed to a pit of snakes, but not before being set on fire.

6. There’s a pattern of bad things happening during good times in your life.

On the rare occasion I did experience respite from catastrophe, something would always happen. I was so focused on spotting the next calamity that I ended up manifesting it.

7. You take everything personally.

I used to not be able to handle constructive criticism. I always felt like I was being attacked or picked on.

These days, it takes a lot to get me down. As a matter of fact, I was rejected by this website for two of my pitches before this one because it just wasn’t a good match. I ended up publishing them elsewhere, and joked with the Editor, Peter, that I would get it right if it was the last thing I did.

8. You find it impossible to forgive yourself.

Whenever I did something I wasn’t proud of, I would bash myself to no end. I could never be kind to myself and I would let guilt consume me.

9. You can’t think of anything to be grateful for.

I used to get very uncomfortable whenever someone asked me this question because I honestly didn’t feel like I had anything to be grateful for. I thought I needed to be a cancer survivor to be grateful because, obviously, I couldn’t be grateful for the stupid simple things in my life.

This isn’t true. I don’t care who you are, you have something to be grateful for. Nothing is too small.

Just yesterday I was grateful for my glasses because they help me see better. Also, they’re my only pair.

10. You believe yourself to be a victim of circumstance.

Just like I felt like I couldn’t control my feelings, I felt like I had no control over anything about my circumstances. I would let my circumstances dictate the tone of my life when it should have been the other way around.

How did you do?

There are plenty of other warning signs, but in my opinion, these are the primary signs.

Now, just because you experience a few of those feelings once in a while, doesn’t mean you have to run and book an appointment with your psychologist.

But if you identify with several of the signs mentioned, it’s time to reflect and ask yourself whether you are addicted to suffering, and if so, start taking steps to overcome this addiction.

75 thoughts on “10 Warning Signs You’re Addicted to Suffering”

  1. Any recommendations on how to guide someone to let go of this addiction? I’m able to work with myself on this and often able to help many others, but I have one friend that returns to suffering again and again. Any advice?

    Dan @ ZenPresence

    1. He needs self motivation.

      You can’t help him if he is not ready to help himself.

      Also, you can give him so inspiration books to read and ask always him what he learns from the book.

      1. I don’t think that they need motivation, I think it is a matter of very negative programming in their subconscious mind. I’ve suggested positive books, videos, etc…They help for a while, but……

    2. Boy, I feel for you Dan. Sometimes it’s really painful to see a friend caught up in something like this. Like Liz says … it can be an addiction. And if someone doesn’t want to admit it, they’re just not going to change. They don’t want to. What I try to do is just be there for them … and if they ever ask, I’m there. Good luck to you!

    3. Hey Dan,

      Wow that’s a tough one. One one hand, you want to help the people you love. But on the other hand, this can be very draining for you.

      As everyone said, like any addiction, he’ll need to want to help himself and admit the behavior pattern before anyone can help him.

      Not sure why I assumed this person was male, but the same applies for a female friend!


    4. Hello
      I know what she is talking about and I have been there myself and been working on myself for years. Found this modality just last year and it changes your thinking with ease at your Subconscious level and Super-conscious levels.
      This allows your old programming that seems to be running your life to be changed .
      It works on so many levels and its fast.. It is called ” PSYCH-K ” and I was directed to it by my MOM that had just passed away . It has techniques to help you shift your CORE beliefs.
      Hope this helps. I can work via skype .

    5. I think the most effective way Dan is to share your thoughts about addiction and about anything with a true friend, every time he wants to go to his addiction to pick up the phone and call this true friend… you can watch Flight Movie to know more about what I am saying

  2. Hi Dan

    Hypnotherapy is wonderful way to access inner resources and learnings that can be applied to addiction issues. Feel free to message me through my website or call to discuss further.

    1. Hi I have been addicted to almost everything. Now getting attention is addiction. Constantly searching for someone else to fix me, thinking is an addiction, telling myself things that aren’t even happening is an addition, and then trying something else seems like I’m just covering up from an addiction or maybe I just have to distract myself. Even not following through with anything is an addiction so I can never get better–from what I don’t know. Lots of childhood behaviors. I just don’t want face reality.

  3. So now I’ve identified this addiction… how do I change it? I haven’t been able to escape the cycle thus far, though I desperately want to.

    1. For me and many, repeated exposure to positive videos – look up igodmind on youtube – reading positive self help books, AND deep contemplation can help. It’s not easy work. Some need further assistance. I know some people that do not respond well to self-help. Maybe professional help is needed at this point.

      Dan @ ZenPresence.com

      1. I disagree with Dan. The worst thing a misery addict can do is to focus on themselves and their problem. I am a serious misery addict, and have just been told so by an insightful and extremely productive individual who cares about me. He told me I have to face it and stop being proud of being miserable and victimized. Tough love. But he also pointed out that it is horribly self-indulgent and I should stop wallowing in it, and to me, that is much, much harder than watching self-help videos or self meditation. Self reflection can be a good thing, but people wallowing in misery and victimization need to get outside of themselves and love and care for others.

    2. Hey Lex,

      Dan is right. It’s all good and well for me to write about the signs, but to actual make change takes massive work.

      If you’re interested, I’m opening my coaching practice to the public and the first five clients will get 3 months free. I usually do this by personal referral, but I’m scaling up now.

      LizS@alifeonyourterms.com if you’re interested.

      If not, find another professional. Life is so good, Lex. I want you to feel it.


    3. Go do something for other people or animals; volunteer in your community.

      If you have something that you even vaguely enjoy doing, you can find a volunteer opportunity. If you want to meet new people, go fold newsletters for Habitat for Humanity. If you want to pet kitties, find a no-kill shelter and ask how you can help. If you like to read, go shelf books at the library (they don’t care if volunteers shelve slowly if they read as they go). If you have a profession (like cutting hair or electrician) – there are elderly and poor, disabled people who need your help.

      Give of yourself and you will find riches within yourself that you didn’t know existed.

    4. Cordelia Reynolds

      I’m in the same boat lex. They say awareness is the first step but I’ve been aware for years and I can’t stay consistent on any of the changes I want to make. Maybe I’ll be good for a day or two but as soon as my home life starts to thrive I have to throw a wrench in and create a nightmare around me. I’m so sick of failing! What do we do?!

  4. You certainly have turned things around! Recognizing these things about ourselves is the awareness it takes to make a change. They say you can’t get anywhere else until you know exactly where you’re starting from. That seems to be exactly what you’re saying.

    Awareness and non-judgment are so crucial. Sometimes we think being aware leads to self-condemnation/judgment … and it can but it doesn’t have to! The judgment just sends us right back to the self-pity of being addicted to suffering.

    Great points, Liz. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Carmelo! I appreciate that. I’m glad you also bring up non-judgement. Once you’re aware and decide to do something about it, it’s going to take time.

      We’re not doing ourselves a favor when we berate ourselves when we fall into victim mode. Compassion for yourself is important!

      1. Liz, compassion for oneself is important. Unfortunately, in today’s individualistic world, there is no place for compassion for others. You can not have compassion for others if you don’t have it for yourself … the problem arises when it comes at the cost of others.

  5. Sure do. Read my book “Four Notorious Barriers to a Meaningful Life” , and do the exercises. Get on my site, click on bookstore, you’ll find it. Good luck, Magic Marge
    Been there, done that, it works!

  6. Sounds like rough stuff, I was lucky to be born in a good family (large with 11 kids) but good. I have a sister who is somewhat like this and it seems her problem is she doesn’t surround herself with 1) Good people but more importantly 2) People who listen.

    Some feel lost bc they don’t have anyone that will just listen and empathize with what they’re saying, then they bottle it up b/c no one will listen and they fall into depression.

    I’m glad your doing good Liz, love reading your honest, bad-ass truth on ALOYT

    1. Hiya Joe!! Great seeing you here!

      I can’t believe you had so many siblings! I didn’t even know that happened anymore. My mom also was born into a family of 11 children. I’d love to hear about your experience with that.

      A lot of the time, suffering is a good way to get attention and validation when other healthy ways don’t work. Especially if no one emphasizes with them. They don’t feel understood and they never have that need met: the basic need for a human to belong.

      Thanks Joe! Talk soon.

  7. Great post Liz. Thank you so much for sharing. The victim game is so easy to get trapped into. It seems like our society is set up to encourage it. It is also the most powerful way that we dis-empower ourselves. Seeing what your up to is an important first step. Congrats for taking it and sharing it.

  8. Liz,

    Thanks for the post..It hit home to hear someone else say the things I have always known. Seeing them and hearing how they manifest in another persons life brings them closer to the surface.

  9. This is a great story about self discovery Liz. If only everyone could go through this same process in life. Then we’d all find out that life isn’t nearly as bad as we originally thought. Thanks again.

  10. I just wrote about this on Tuesday. One of the issues is your personal operating system, the base level beliefs that you use to live your life. Another issue is the vocabulary you use to invoke your now. When you use always and never, you get to be right.

    Sometimes there are also energetic issues.

    More information, check out my site: energyismagic.com

    1. Hey Nicole!

      I love the topic of your blog. It’s definitely one I want to learn more about.

      And it’s funny because I just wrote a post on emotional vampires, and here you are with a great one on energy vamps. :)


  11. Liz, I just haven’t been able to even get close to figuring out what is going on with me. It was just the other day when my thoughts were wandering in this general direction, then just now, I read your story. Everything got a little brighter and there were angels singing in the background, do you think that might have been a sign, lol! You’ve given me some hope where there hasn’t been any for a long long time now and for that, I want to thank-you … Tammy

    1. You’re so very welcome Tammy.

      It warms my heart to hear that. It’s the only reason I do what I do and I’m grateful you decided to let me know about your experience. Really I am.

      Let me know if you need anything else in the future. I’m always here to help.

      Good luck on your journey!


  12. A very good read. I can relate to many warning signs. The playing music just to feel the pain, The on and off quitting of smoking cigarettes and then urge to just seem to make things hard is tempting. Never thought so much into it until now. I knew something wasn’t right. Gambling years ago and in the back of my mind wanting to lose alot just because I got this high off of FIXING it and cleaning up the mess I made. hmmmm. Interesting. Liz you could be going in a path that can open up alot of things for people. Thanks

    1. Hey Maryann!

      It’s ok to play sad music when you are genuinely sad. But I used to put the music on when I started to feel better! Just so that the pain wouldn’t go away and I could continue feeling the hurt.

      This topic can get so complex. The reason behind why I used pain as a shield was because I didn’t know how to be happy, and I was afraid to try. Also, it was a great way to get attention and a good excuse to not be responsible. It relieved me of the responsibly of taking control of my life, and I felt like I needed that. Eventually I didn’t know who I was without it. I didn’t know how to be without it.

      It’s different for every individual, but I just wanted to give you some insight into my journey.

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate it and you’re very welcome.

  13. I think suffering sometime isn’t that bad ’cause it can make you become stronger, anyway this is good post for these people who suffering bad things

    1. That’s completely true. It’s important to let yourself feel grief when appropriate. You shouldn’t hold in genuine grief.

      But to hold on to suffering as a crutch isn’t helpful. That was the suffering I was referring too.

      Thanks for bringing up that distinction!

  14. Absolutely brilliant Liz! Yes, the “comfort zones” we become accustomed to – and cling to sometimes until death do us part – can be pretty bizarre! But if that’s the “truth” program that’s been installed in our subconscious minds, that’s all we have to operate with. Fortunately, as you prove, with the right guidance we can reverse these ‘misery memoirs’…..Like you, I learned the hard way. Now I train and write books about it!

  15. Ah.. If someone is in misery and even if you tell them a million times, they wouldn’t listen to it, one should self realise to understand the misery and come out of the well (we have a saying in India, Koopa-manduka, meaning frog in a well).. Some people just lie in that pain, it happened with me as well and one has to be a warrior to come out of it.. so very true..Ah.. brilliant writing!!

  16. I had not thought about this in terms of addiction before, but rather habits, mostly thinking habits, thinking habits that we developed sometimes without even knowing it or ever questioning it. The addiction model makes a lot of sense in relation to habits.

    For me, I spent a lot of my life hypervigilant, expecting disaster if I lowered my guard. Thankfully I wore myself out and changed my life from the inside out.

    If you have gone through this transformation in your own life, then you know (1) it can be done, and (2) what it takes to do it. All the more painful, then, to see someone else stuck in being a victim rather than moving towards being a victor.

    This list of warning signs you offered will surely be a sobering wake up call for many people

  17. I recognise all of the above from a time long past now. Happiness and self esteem are intrinsically connected. I don’t know a single person with low self esteem who is really happy.

    The way I pulled myself out of it was to push the bounderies of my comfort zone. I did things that i was fearful of and overcame them. The more I did it the more control I felt over my life and situation, the more my self esteem and happiness grew.

    Unfortunately it takes work, there’s no magic pill, but it was worth it.

    1. Great point about self-esteem. You’re so right.

      And it does take a lot of work. You can have help, support, and guidance along the way, but you’ll have to pull most of the weight.

      Great comment Darren.

      1. Good point about pulling most of the weight. I didn’t have much support in a direct sense because I didn’t really tell anyone, however, the friends I had at the time enouraged me when I went on to confront my fears.

        I made a decision one day. ‘NO MORE’. I went out and bought loads of self help books, the real turning point was when I found Unlimited Power and Awaiken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins.

        I wrote a list of all the thing I wanted to do with my life and started doing them. The biggest fear I overcame was a parachute jump. I did 13 more just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, after that things really changed, I felt like I could do almost anything and I did. As a result of this my self esteem and happiness increased dramatically.

        You’ll notice a common theme above,

        1. I made a decision to change
        2. I took responsibility for that change
        3. I took action to make change

        Without any of the three about I would still be addicted to suffering, of that I’m I have no doubt

    2. I used to blame my parents- especially my mother- for not giving me self-esteem. She went back to university, got a Ph.D., was a role model and mentor for so many younger women- and I felt deprived and angry that, however much she loved us, she wasn’t able to give the same kind of help and support and encouragement to me and my sister. Finally one time when I was once again trying to tell her, tears in my eyes, about all the things I ‘couldn’t’ do because she hadn’t given me any self-esteem, she snapped. She told me she couldn’t give me what she hadn’t had herself. That she had built her self-esteem slowly by trying things she didn’t think she could do and finding she could, after all. I finally began to realize that nobody can ‘give’ an adult self esteem. You feel your way into it slowly by trying, and trying again until you start to succeed. In retrospect, what my mother told me that day was one of the most helpful things anyone has ever told me.

  18. This isn’t me. In fact, I’ve truly been a victim: of a cult as a child, of the loss of my first child, of an unfair divorce and custody battle (I’m a single dad), and other of life’s dishes. Rather then act the victim, I use all my life experiences to communicate love, hope, forgiveness, mercy, non judgement and other positive values through story, poem, and song.. That’s not to say I don’t complain and feel a bit sorry for myself from time to time, but it’s not the focus of my life and art.

  19. I completely identify with this. When I was younger many of these things applied to me. I think I got it from my surroundings, it just how others acted. Thankfully I realized early that it was not the way to be and that I was more powerfully than I originally thought. I can’t imagine living with that midset now.

  20. I had the thought that as a young person I was always living in the future. As an older person, I was often living in the past. Those past hurts which seemed to boomerang like sound in an echo chamber were so draining. I have finally realized that the hurts have already happened and that they are NOT occurring right NOW. This is an extremely freeing realization for me. Much psychic weight has been lifted.

    Thanks for your great list.

  21. Hi Liz…. Thanks for this post. It is making me relate to few things which I am constantly doing “1. You’re inconsolable.

    2. You believe people don’t have control over how they feel.”
    Though I feel something is wrong, But I am so used to if and like doing it, because I am addicted to it and living in it. So, I avoid thinking that it is wrong, instead I think it is the fact….


      1. Liz…. Sometimes I know I can get out of it…. but I dont act on it…. and sometimes I dont even get into suffering….
        One more thing about me, I am an optimist for my friends, I motivate them and they get influenced too. They like my company. They come to me when they need any kind of suggestion or motivation. But I hardly go to them, because I know that I know the remedy, using it is not in my control sometimes… Its strange about me or complicated rather :(


  22. I too can relate to this story. I was this way a few years ago and what I realized is that even though I was going through bad situations with work, relationships, and family the common denominator for me was the negative company I kept. They were negative in all aspects so for sure I was too. It took deep soul searching, renewing my faith with God, and him delivering and bringing good people in my life.

  23. I think that if you grow up in a family when a parent (or both of them) are abusive, your body is constantly under stress, you can’t really relax because you live in constant fear of when their next episode will come about, so I think that your body kind of gets used to this kind of life and needs to learn with age (when your parent(s) stop being abusive or when you move out) that this is not how it has to be. Perhaps writing a journal of all the good things that have happened might help – this way you always have proof of all the good in your life (even of some things you might have forgotten because they happened a long time ago), and good friends with whom you can just do some relaxing and fun things so your body gets used to happiness and feeling relaxed.

  24. Wow, that was a very honest look at how you used to be and I’m sure many of us can relate to some of the things mentioned if not all. Thanks for the courage to share your personal experience!

  25. Great story! Very good work defining the issues and getting them down in such an organized way so clear to understand, I am going to show this to my friend, he has many of the same issues! Thank you.

  26. Liz, thank you for writing this. It literally describes the pattern of life-sabotage that I have trapped myself (those nearest to me) in for my entire life, and especially my adult life. It describes why I do the opposite of what I want to do, why I hurt those I love, and why most efforts by others to intervene to help me have failed.

    My husband has told me in the past that there is such a thing as being addicted to suffering and that it’s very possible that it was experiencing it, but I didn’t take him seriously because my self-esteem was already so low, and well I guess because I was so stuck in the addictive pattern as it was… It is very helpful to see myself in the mirror like this again and to see that there is hope for recovery and change. To know I’m not the only one who has done this, and to know that there is light on the other side. I see what I have done, and I am ready to be done with the addiction to misery and to make meaningful change. Any suggestions or advice for going forward and breaking the old patterns would be sincerely appreciated — so far I have ordered two self-help books on misery addiction as a starting point.

  27. Liz. I love this. Coming from someone who was eternally unhappy and powered through it, recognized the bullshit and tells it to everyone straight!
    I’m the eternally happy. I know I have tons to be grateful for.. yadda yadda.
    But ew.. how boring.
    See, a family member of mine is the eternally unhappy. Relishes in the attention she gets by being and constantly stating how unhappy she is.
    I want to shake her.
    Two beautiful healthy kids. A guy so in love with her and determined that everything he does is to make her happy.
    I think, what if it were the other way around? And he was eternally unhappy no matter what she did to try to make him happy. It’s on him right now but when her kids are older they’ll try too.. to make her happy. But no. It’s comfortable, requires little effort and feeds that attention monster. Or pity. Not realizing how sad they are that even they can’t make her happy. Realizing that she does not want to be happy and has no intention of being happy ever.
    Happiness. Gratitude.
    No one wants to hear that. B O R I N G.
    I’ve come to loathe these victims who squander their short lives. Surrounded by love they won’t accept bitching about their fate. Woo is me. Their loved ones tiptoeing around them, coddling them. Enabling them. No empathy for others but expect it from them. I’d feel like shit if I were her child. Or partner. Sad to see. For them. For her I feel disgust.


    I’m exactly the same! In a constant loop running from myself! round and round and round i go. I am constantly trying to work out what is wrong with me too and reach to others to do it. i just cant be with me. i live in my head 24/7 like a neurotic freak.

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