7 Harsh Signs Someone Has Main Character Syndrome

Your life isn't a movie.

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It was the third or fourth time that my guy friend Jared* couldn’t figure out what he did wrong with his ex, Peggy*. Peggy had recently been in contact with the local police department for a restraining order.

Why? Well, Jared had decided to hang out in front of her apartment with a boombox knowing she was home. She ignored him, so he climbed up the tree to throw a rock at her window.

He wanted to win her back like in that one stupid movie. She called the cops.


Tada. It failed in a way that couldn’t have been more spectacular.

Jared couldn’t understand what happened. In the movies, the guy always gets the girl and he tried so hard. He knew that she’d eventually want to be with him if she’d only see him.

While I could go on and on about courtship disorder, the truth is that this was one of many different stunts that proved that Jared couldn’t see a world that involved viewpoints that weren’t his. He’s got Main Character Syndrome up the wazoo.

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What’s main character syndrome?

Main Character Syndrome isn’t a DSM-V mental disorder, but it is a common phrase used to describe a person who thinks and acts like they’re the main character in a slightly (or wildly) fictional version of their life. In other words, this is a slang term for people who feel like the world revolves around them and who are starting to have a hard time keeping themselves grounded in reality.


They may make a point of constructing a narrative that isn’t real or may sink into a life they create digitally.

As Psychology Today points out, Main Character Syndrome can make a person act like a fictional character. Depending on the connotation or who you ask, some people with Main Character Syndrome tend to lose their grip on reality altogether. However, that’s not the mainstream definition.

Mainstream, it just means that you see yourself as the main character in your life and that you have an exceptionally self-centered view of life.

To be frank, I’d say that a lot of this is narcissism or egoism — possibly mixed in with too much anime. With that said, this is a pop culture diagnosis and I’m not a psychologist. I just know a vibe when I see one and have my own observations about what’s going on in life.


How can you tell if someone has Main Character Syndrome? Honestly, it depends on the definition. I’ll add clues to the most common issues that I’ve seen with this particular term…

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Here are 7 harsh signs someone has main character syndrome: 

1. The person in question acts and thinks like they’re the main character in a movie

They’re the hero. They’re the cool kid. They’re the one who is going to have a redemption arc because that’s how it happens in the movies.

They may just believe that they are just super special and that everyone will eventually like them.

Obviously, in reality, everyone is doing their own thing. Sometimes, everyone gets together to celebrate one person. Usually, everyone is more worried about what they’re going through to praise or act as a supporting character to others.


So, uh, yeah, their expectations and beliefs tend to be unrealistic.

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2. In most cases, they tend to try to position themselves as the center of attention

A person with Main Character Syndrome cannot stand being ignored by people, much like a typical narcissist.

Everything is going to be about them, their struggles, and what they’re doing.

If the focus isn’t on them, they may end up being sour or making a scene so that the attention ends up back on them.

3. Criticism is not something that they handle well

Guyyyyyyss…You can’t criticize the main character! He/she/they are the ones everyone loves!!! You’re not allowed to say Superman is a jerk!


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4. They frame their lives (or themselves) as perfect, action-packed, or otherwise incredibly unique

This is why a lot of people on TikTok note that Main Character Syndrome tends to happen with people who are social media personalities. There is a certain drive to present yourself as perfect, popular, and cool at all times.

Some might call this "framing," since it frames their lives in a particular way and gives them a way to control the dialogue around them. People with MCS might be exceptionally protective of how they want others to perceive them.

Much like narcissists, they will lash out and punish people who potentially threaten their image.


Even if there’s evidence that they are the most boring people ever, a person with this Syndrome will jazz it up until they are the coolest human ever.

Make no mistake about it, this is how they’re controlling their lives — or at least, trying to make it look like they have a sense of control.

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5. They lack empathy and can’t see how others could perceive their actions

Technically, this could be a trait of several different mental illnesses that are prone to Main Character Syndrome. It could be narcissism, it could be antisocial personality syndrome or it could be something as simple as autism.


However, it can also be a reason why Main Character Syndrome takes root or worsens.

When you can’t empathize with people, you’re going to do a lot of stuff that seems or is selfish. Why? Because you may not be able to figure out why it would upset others — or you may not care.

In the case of Jared, he genuinely thought his crazy gesture would go over well. In reality, he couldn’t figure out that he was going to scare the crap out of the girl simply because he couldn’t put himself in her shoes.

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6. The person may be obsessed with a certain media form, story series, or scene

Been there, and yes, I can admit that it happens when you’re abused and neglected to the point of needing an escape from reality.


Unfortunately, gross consumption of fiction has a way of warping some peoples’ ability to stay grounded.

This is often a root cause of the "awkward otaku" trope.

After a while of too much isolation and too much bombardment of poorly written, unrealistic crap, people will lose their social skills. And they lose their grip on life.


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7. They obsess over love interests and friendship interests, assuming that it’ll be part of their "character development" or perceived plot line

So, I’ve been this person and I can offer insight into it.

Their obsession is generally one that is sparked from a number of things, including the common narrative that "the guy gets the girl" or from repeatedly being told that they’ll have a guy save them.

In most cases, they’ll get the hint (and be heartbroken) when rejection occurs. However, some people might think that a person’s rejection isn’t really a rejection, but a "convince me." That’s how you end up with well-meaning but often disastrous people like Jared.


In other cases, the Main Character Syndrome-having person can end up lashing out at their targeted obsession. This can get ugly or even dangerous.

Sound like someone you know? If so, you’re not alone. Part of the weirdness of our modern tech is that the conditions that would encourage Main Character Syndrome (living online, loneliness, lack of human interaction, a self-centered society, feeling out of control, and neglect) are pretty common.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a syndrome that seems to be increasingly common. Thankfully, most people who have Main Character Syndrome can grow out of it — often when they finally find the group they need or have the safety they didn’t have before.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.