Signs of Resentment

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on December 29, 2022
3 min read

Resentment describes a negative emotional reaction to being mistreated. There is no one cause of resentment, but most cases involve an underlying sense of being mistreated or wronged by another person. 

Experiencing frustration and disappointment is a normal part of life. When the feelings become too overwhelming, they can contribute to resentment. When this happens, trust and love in relationships are broken and sometimes never repaired. 

A person experiencing resentment will often feel a complex variety of emotions that include anger, disappointment, bitterness, and hard feelings.

Resentment is commonly triggered by:

  • Relationships with people who insist on being right all the time
  • Being taken advantage of by another
  • Feeling put down
  • Unrealistic expectations of others
  • Not being heard
  • Interactions with people who are always late

Resentment leads to the inability to let go or forgive, at least temporarily. Several signs, however, can indicate that you or someone you know might be on the path toward experiencing overwhelming resentment. 

Here are some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for:

Recurring Negative Feelings

It’s common to feel recurring negative feelings toward people or situations that hurt you. These emotions may include:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Hostility 
  • Bitterness
  • Hard feelings
  • Uneasiness 

When these feelings become unbearable, they can lead to resentment.

Inability to Stop Thinking About the Event

Sometimes resentment leads to an inability to stop thinking about the event that caused intense emotion. Recurring negative thoughts may take over and linger for long periods of time — sometimes even years.

Feelings of Regret or Remorse 

For some people, resentment may cause feelings of disappointment or remorse. When a person thinks back to a stressful event, they may respond to regret and remorse with self-blame and wishing they had acted differently. 

Fear or Avoidance

When you feel resentful, certain people or situations may trigger unwanted memories of wrongdoing. This may cause you to avoid situations or people who bring up these negative emotions. People will often do this to protect themselves and their own well-being. 

A Tense Relationship

Resentment can bring about changes in your relationship. Some people deal with resentment by holding grudges and acting out passive-aggressively

For others, resentment can lead to ending relationships where the wrongdoing took place.

Feeling Invisible or Inadequate  

Engaging with people or places that remind you of past mistreatment may make you feel invisible or inadequate. When this happens, old feelings of anger and bitterness may begin to reappear and grow stronger. 

If you’ve been hurt by someone and start to notice any of these things, it could be a sign that you’re beginning to experience resentment. 

Inability to Let Go of Anger 

In some instances, resentment may make it hard for you to let go of anger. You might even experience a strong desire for revenge. Holding on to such a high level of negativity takes a toll on your mental health. 

Recognizing the signs, taking preventive action, and getting treatment can help.

If you’re beginning to feel as though your resentment is becoming too much, talk to your doctor. They may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The right solution for resentment depends mainly on its cause and the individual. The path to healing involves forgiveness and finding a way to make peace with what happened so you can move on with life. 

Consider Why It’s Difficult to Forgive

When you consider moving on from resentment, what feelings come up? When you first try to let go of resentment, it’s normal to have a lot of emotions come up like resistance, fear, and anger especially when resentment has been held for a long time.

It can be helpful to take time to process these feelings. 

Use Self-Compassion

Some people use resentment as a coping mechanism to help them deal with painful or difficult emotions. While this may feel soothing at first, it can be damaging in the long run. 

Extending compassion to yourself helps you heal so you can process your pain with mindfulness and kindness. 

Try Empathy

Exploring why the situation or person caused resentment allows you to uncover potential misunderstandings. By trying to see things from another perspective, you may be able to reduce resentment.

Lean Into Gratitude 
It’s normal to get caught up in all the negative things happening around you. You can bring more happiness and positivity into your life by focusing on the things that are going right. It can help to think about things and people you are grateful for.