The defense mechanism of seeking emotional support through arousing sympathy. “Sympathy seeking” is more commonly used than sympathism.The individual dwells endlessly on his misfortunes and usually insists that they are bad breaks due to an unkind fate or the faults of others. To elicit concern, he may also exaggerate minor physical ailments or even declare that his mind is too muddled to handle his difficulties. If others respond with expressions of sympathy or outright help, he will probably make little or no effort to solve his own problems.The individual may be totally unaware that he is striving to arouse sympathy; in that case, this behavior pattern can be clearly classed as a defense mechanism. Frequently, however, it may be a partially conscious process; and in some instances, of course, it may be completely deliberate and calculated.Sympathism can be quite effective as a means of reducing anxiety, particularly when it is coupled with other mechanisms such as rationalization or projection. Parents who show extreme concern for their children’s slightest failures or illnesses run the risk of establishing an unconscious pattern of sympathy-seeking which will be utilized in later life.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "SYMPATHISM," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed March 21, 2023).


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