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The Psychology of a Catfisher

Since 2010 when the American documentary ‘Catfish’ first appeared and coined the phrase, the problem of fake or stolen social networking accounts continues to grow. According to Screen and Reveal, romance scam incidents rose by 40% in 2020. Despite the best efforts of social networking sites to make apps safer, catfishing has flourished.


When it comes to the psychology of a catfisher, a few things stand out—most people associate catfishing with seduction, manipulation, and deception. But there's more to it than that. Catfishing can also be linked to attachment styles, poor self-esteem, mental health issues, targeted revenge, and to explore sexuality, to name a few.


Catfishing is also far more common than you might think. Statistics show that 1 in 10 online profiles are fake. So, if you're ever approached by someone online who seems too good to be true, be wary - they just might be a catfish.



What Motivates Someone to Catfish


In some cases, people may catfish to explore their own sexuality. Because they can create any identity they want, they may feel free to experiment with different genders or orientations without judgement.


In other cases, people may catfish as a way of predating others. Sextortion and catfishing are two genuine dangers that exist online. Sextortion is when someone blackmailed another person using sexually explicit images or videos.


Cyber-attacks are becoming more common in today's world. Catfishing revenge can often happen after a bad date or break-up where you're targeted online by someone who knows intimate details about your personal life (including photos). There have also been instances of fake LinkedIn profiles for candidate or competitor revenge.


Many people enjoy the thrill of the chase when it comes to catfishing. The excitement of the hunt, the anticipation of the catch, and the satisfaction of landing a big one are all part of the appeal. But what happens when the excitement of the hunt becomes an obsession, it may be time to re-evaluate priorities.



What is the Psychology of a Catfisher


A 2020 study found that there may be a link between attachment anxiety and avoidance for both a catfish perpetrator and target. Attachment anxiety is characterized by a fear of abandonment and a need for constant reassurance, while attachment avoidance is characterized by a wariness of intimacy and a tendency to withdraw from close relationships.


Individuals who engage in catfishing often do so because they struggle with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. In some cases, catfishing can be a symptom of more significant mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or loneliness.


If you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with the darker side of catfishing, it is vital to seek professional help. A registered psychotherapist can provide support and guidance that can help to address the underlying issues. With treatment, individuals who engage in catfishing can learn to build healthier relationships and develop a more positive sense of self.



Signs You Are Being Catfished


While it can be harmless fun for some, for others, it can lead to heartbreak and even danger. If you've been corresponding with someone online and you've never met in person, there's a possibility you're being catfished.


Here are some signs that you may be the victim of catfishing:

  1. You've been communicating with this person for a while, but they always have an excuse for why you can't meet in person.

  2. They seem too good to be true and engaging in love bombing

  3. They don't have any social media accounts, their accounts are new, or they have very few photos, friends, or personal information.

  4. The photos look like they were taken professionally or from a distance.

  5. They avoid video chatting or making phone calls.

  6. They ask you for money or financial assistance.

If you suspect you are being catfished, the best thing to do is to end all communication with that person immediately and block them from contacting you again. You can also report them to the site or app where you met them. If you have any doubts about who someone is online, it's better to err on the side of caution and move on.



Consequences of Being Catfished


Being catfished can be a very painful and traumatic experience. You may have invested a lot of time and energy into building a relationship with someone online, only to find out that they are not who they say they are. This can leave you feeling betrayed, ashamed, and even heartbroken. You may also start to question your own judgement and wonder if you can really trust anyone. If you have been catfished, it is important to give yourself time to grieve and process what has happened. Talking to a registered psychotherapist can also be helpful in dealing with the aftermath of being catfished. Ultimately, remember that this is not your fault and that you are not alone.



Consequences of Being a Catfisher


The most obvious consequence is that it is dishonest. You are not being yourself and hiding important information about who you really are. This can lead to a lot of pain and heartache when the truth finally comes out. In addition, catfishing can be very time-consuming, which can take away from time you could spend developing genuine relationships. Finally, catfishing can be dangerous. You never know who you are really dealing with online, and you could be putting yourself in physical danger if you meet them in person. If you are thinking about catfishing someone, it is important to consider the potential consequences before going ahead with it.


There are also growing calls for legislation. The US federal government introduced Carly's Law in 2017 after a notorious 2007 case of a 50-year-old pedophile who used 200 fake online profiles of young men to prey on underage girls, resulting in the assault and murder of 15-year-old Carly Ryan.



If you've been scammed by someone pretending to be someone else online, know that you are not alone. There are resources available to help you through this difficult time. If you need assistance finding those resources or help to deal with the aftermath of being catfished, please don't hesitate to reach out to your local Nomina Integrated Health clinic. We're here to support anyone affected by this type of trauma.



Psychology of a Catfisher