In psychology, a person who has a martyr complex, sometimes associated with the term victim complex, desires the feeling of being a martyr for his/her own sake, seeking out suffering or persecution because it feeds a psychological need.
In some cases, this results from the belief that the martyr has been singled out for persecution because of exceptional ability or integrity. Theologian Paul Johnson considers such beliefs a topic of concern for the mental health of clergy. Other martyr complexes involve willful suffering in the name of love or duty. This has been observed in women, especially in poor families, as well as in codependent or abusive relationships. It has also been described as a facet of Jewish-American folklore.
The desire for martyrdom is sometimes considered a form of masochism. Allan Berger, however, described it as one of several patterns of “pain/suffering seeking behavior”, including asceticism and penance.