Experts Reveal 12 Signs Someone Is Sad-Fishing You

Angling for sympathy with trauma as the bait.

Woman sad fishing, online Zanuck | Canva

Catfishing, kitten-fishing, woke-fishing, so many lines dangle in the social media ocean. it makes you wonder who are the fish, and who the anglers are since most of the anglers use some smaller fish to catch you. For sad-fishing, depression, trauma, and grief are the bait on the hook.

Here are 12 signs of sad-fishing, according to YourTango experts:

1. Sympathy before friendship

When you meet someone online and they can't wait to tell you a sad story about themselves, their relationship, or a health issue, they are probably attention seekers, aka sad-fishers. They want to get your sympathy before you know them. Often, there is a hidden motive or someone seriously manipulative behind the tale.


Gloria Brame, Sex therapist and sexologist

2. Frequent vague posts

Sharing vague or ambiguous messages that suggest distress without specifying the problem, often prompts followers to ask what's wrong.


Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

RELATED: Talking About Mental Health Issues Is Not Attention-Seeking

3. Excessive use of emojis

Overuse of sad or crying emojis to convey distress in posts or comments.

— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

4. Dramatic language

Using overly dramatic language or phrases to describe minor inconveniences or common struggles.

— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

5. Seeking validation

Consistently posting about their emotional state and explicitly asking for likes, comments, or messages of support.

— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

6. Attention-grabbing photos

Sharing photos that depict them in a distressed state, such as crying selfies or pictures with sad expressions.


— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

7. Frequent updates

Posting multiple times a day about their emotional struggles creates a narrative of ongoing and escalating distress.

— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

RELATED: 6 Hidden Signs Your Depression Is More Than Temporary

8. Cryptic messages

Writing cryptic or mysterious status updates that suggest something is wrong but leave out specific details, encouraging followers to inquire further.

— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

Stressed woman at computer looks like someone is sadfishing her - Yuri A


9. Comparative posts

Making comparisons to others who appear to have better lives, often to highlight their feelings of inadequacy or sadness.

— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

10. Response to comments

Promptly and emotionally responding to comments of sympathy or concern, reinforcing the idea of their distress.

— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

11. Contradictory behavior

Alternating between posts that seek sympathy and posts that show them engaging in positive or fun activities, creates a confusing and inconsistent emotional narrative.

— Erika Jordan, Dating Coach / NLP Practitioner

RELATED: Going To Therapy Is Easier Than You Think


12. They need to 'borrow' from you

It's easy for a scam to be set up using sadfishing as the start to borrow emotional labor before opening your bank account. One of the more popular scams is to pretend to be a resident who has either recently moved in the last two years, or who is in the process of moving.

Here's how it goes. They get called back to their home country to do a lucrative job with either really important people, for a really good commission, or a big paycheck. Once overseas, something horrible happens that leaves them broke or close to broke — their money got stolen from the hotel, the taxi driver stole it, the airlines forced them to check their luggage and their money was in it.

Whatever the reason, a smart person, or one who travels, knows better than to let it occur.


They ask you for a temporary loan. Think about this. Why you? Don't they have any friends or family who could help if the situation was true? How much money is being requested? Is the amount of money being requested realistic for the situation described?

Sharon Lynn Wyeth, Author

Woman stares blankly into screen as she read sadfishing posts Tzido Sun via Shutterstock


Are they scammers looking to land a payday, or chronically depressed and caught in a cycle of sad-seeking attention, like the mental health epidemic forced attention-seeking behavior to evolve? Sad-seeking by sad-fishing craves the attention that enables depression to fester.

Whether by money or emotional labor,sad fishing takes a toll on those who take the bait, so healthy boundaries are needed if you want to help the sad fish. Chronic depression and other mental health issues can manifest sad-seeking behavior and are serious. Those who have this experience most likely find sad-fishing by way of a survival need. Co-dependence and enabling won't help them, but authentic social support with healthy boundaries will.

RELATED: Influencer Happily Reveals When She First Noticed She Was An 'Attention Seeker'

Will Curtis is a writer and editor for YourTango. He's been featured on the Good Men Project and taught English abroad for ten years.