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What is a God Complex?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated: Mar 03, 2024
References

When someone is said to have a god complex, it typically means that he or she is extremely arrogant, might consider himself or herself to be infallible and might try to control or manipulate other people. This slang term essentially suggests that the person behaves as though he or she is a god. The term might be used colloquially to refer to people who behave as though they are superior to other people and demonstrate little empathy and compassion for others. Although "god complex" is not a medical term and is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it is sometimes associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Characteristics

There is no specific definition of the term "god complex," but there are certain characteristics that are common in people who are said to have this. These characteristics include arrogance, bullying or manipulating others, being judgmental and believing that he or she is never wrong. Someone who has a god complex might also be prone to becoming angry when things do not go his or her way, might be poor at interpersonal communication and might not be receptive to criticism. He or she also might try to exert a great deal of influence in various matters or relish having power, authority or control. Many people exhibit some of these characteristics in certain situations, even if they would not be said to have god complexes.

More Common in Some Professions

People in certain professions are often accused of having god complexes. Among the most common are doctors, surgeons, politicians and managers. Many such professions require a great deal of knowledge or skill and involve having influence or authority over other people. In many cases, people will develop god complexes only after obtaining power, perhaps giving credence to the old saying "power corrupts."

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Although narcissistic personality disorder is not the same as a god complex, there are some similarities. Among the characteristics of NPD are an overinflated view of one's self, a lack of empathy toward others and reacting angrily to criticism. A person who has NPD might also become jealous easily and might take advantage of other people.

Self-Esteem

Despite the ways that people who have god complexes or NPD behave, many psychoanalysts believe that they actually have very fragile and delicate self-esteems, drawing their self-esteems from the approval and attention of others. This sensitivity might be what drives them to behave callously, because when they feel threatened or marginalized, they might lash out. It also might be difficult for people to recognize that they have god complexes, and they might interpret such suggestions as criticisms that are designed to undermine them rather than to help them.

God Complex Symptoms

It's usually pretty easy to spot people with a god complex within the first few conversations you have with them. You'll notice that they get uncomfortable if the topic strays too far from them or their particular interests. They may nod and smile while you are talking, but you will probably get the impression that they're just waiting for you to stop so they can talk more about themselves. There are several god complex symptoms to look out for:

  • Self-importance - They tend to believe that their own desires outweigh the needs of others and expect others to recognize their superiority.
  • Need for admiration - People with a god complex are drawn to those who fawn over them and stroke their egos.
  • Lack of empathy - Because they are so self-absorbed, it may be difficult for them to give the attention to others that is necessary to understand their position or feelings.
  • Sense of entitlement - When people walk through life acting as if they are owed certain privileges, particularly ones that other people lack, this may be a sign that they have a god complex.
  • Manipulative behavior - Sometimes, to get what they want, people with this type of personality may resort to extreme measures such as gaslighting, bullying or guilt trips.
  • Lack of personal responsibility - When things go wrong, they never think it's their fault. In their minds, they can do no wrong, so it may be difficult to get them to attempt to make amends.
  • Grandiose fantasies - People with a god complex are often obsessive in their fantasies about the ideal life, relationship, home, income or physical attractiveness and tend to set impossible standards that not even they themselves can meet.

God Complex Examples

A god complex can manifest in many different ways. When you first meet people who think this highly of themselves, they are likely to come across as confident, open and friendly. Soon, however, you may see signs that they don't regard you with the same consideration. God complex examples play out differently depending on the type of relationship you share with these individuals.

Professional Colleagues

When you work with people who think they are superior to others, it is likely that they only act as team players when doing so gets them what they want. Otherwise, they may do whatever they can to make themselves look like heroes, even if it means downplaying others' contributions or throwing them under the bus when something goes wrong. If you supervise them, it may be difficult to get them to take constructive feedback seriously, because they have a hard time admitting that they're not perfect. Mistakes or misunderstandings are likely to be blamed on other people.

Social Acquaintances

It can be difficult to get to know people who have god complexes. It is hard for them to see other people as their equals, so they may isolate themselves from others whom they don't know well. As an acquaintance, you may find that your invitations are ignored and your phone calls or text messages are not returned. If you do manage to get ahold of them, it's probably because they need a favor or want you to do something for them. They are likely to act graciously as long as you are agreeable. When you challenge them, however, their behavior may become condescending and manipulative.

Romantic Partners

Being in a romantic relationship with people who have a god complex can be particularly challenging. As the primary social contacts in their lives, even the most selfless, giving partners may find the pressure of meeting their many needs overwhelming. Partners often feel unfulfilled and eventually break up with them when keeping them happy becomes more than they're able to give. It's not unusual, therefore, for a person who displays god complex examples to jump from relationship to relationship and feel abandoned by exes.

Interacting With Someone With a God Complex

While you can choose your friends and romantic partners, you may not always be able to pick everyone you interact with in other areas of your life. Chances are, therefore, that you will need to know how to respond to people with god complexes. You can't control their attitudes or behaviors, but you can control your own. Set boundaries early and communicate them clearly. Try not to depend on them for approval. If you do, you are likely to be disheartened when you can never seem to measure up to what they ask of you. Finally, know when to recognize that the relationship has become too toxic to continue.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon970472 — On Sep 18, 2014

Maybe they only think the world exists in their own mind. I mean, after all, that is the truth.

By anon925802 — On Jan 14, 2014

My observation is that people with "God complex" always have enough time to express their own views but never have time to listen to the others' views.

Also, they don't like if others talk to them as equals. (You don't talk to God, you can only pray to God.)

Thinking about themselves as "special" and above others, they allow themselves what is not allowed to the others. The environment often re-enforces this behavior by saying "it's just Bob being Bob". They are simply wicked men or women.

By anon271064 — On May 24, 2012

I would like to point out people with God complexes are not bad people. They just like helping others, and having power goes hand in hand with being able to help people. They don't aim to hurt others; it's just they like knowing they have knowledge. They don't always see the world as an enemy; they just don't like opening up to others because the moment you tell someone something personal, they have power over you.

By anon176746 — On May 16, 2011

The God complex is due to the fact that we as human beings are born at enmity with God and need a new nature. That nature comes when we are born-again by the incorruptible Word of God. The malignant narcissist is being led by the spirit of Satan who is antichrist. These people have been turned over by God to their own lusts and will end up in hell with their father the devil. Psychology is pseudoscience and a false religion. Call on Christ for salvation; there is no salvation outside of Him. God bless you.

By JavaGhoul — On Dec 21, 2010

This is similar to the Oedipus complex in that it is a strong desire to take the place of someone in power. The Oedipus complex may be more common because it is not as strong: it is the libidinal urge of a child to usurp his father. The God complex is more than that: it is the urge to take the place of God and have supreme power. This kind of arrogance can drive people to do some ridiculous things, and may require psychiatric attention.

By SilentBlue — On Dec 20, 2010

God complex psychology is often encouraged by user-centered video games in which the user is always made out to be the hero and can control a civilization or a course of events without inhibition. Many violent video games encourage this sort of behavior, since it may appeal to the user's inherent desire for power without boundaries set by the society.

By ShadowGenius — On Nov 30, 2010

It seems that this has a lot in common with Inferiority Complex and Paranoia in that it sees the world as a big enemy to be ignored or challenged. Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler had major God Complexes and chose to see everyone as a potential enemy or as someone to be controlled and manipulated. I think this was largely because they lacked good fathers, but were both beaten and mocked by their fathers, while being doted upon by their mothers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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