Saviour Complex: When Helping Others Can Be Damaging

Generally speaking, helping others is positive and something to be both encouraged and admired. However, you can have too much of a good thing. This is where the idea of the saviour complex, or ‘white knight syndrome’ comes in.


What Is A Saviour Complex?


A saviour complex is very much what it sounds like, an almost compulsive desire to ‘save’ individuals around you. Whilst not a diagnosable disorder detailed in the DSM-V, this phrase is often used in therapy, counselling and life coaching sessions.


How Can A Saviour Complex Be A Bad Thing?


Being informed that you try to help others too much can be a difficult thing to accept. From early childhood and throughout our adult lives, this has typically been referred to as a wonderful characteristic, however, it may become harmful in several ways:

  • Sacrificing your own health

When all of your time, money and energy is being spent on helping others, you may neglect your own mental and physical wellbeing. Remember, if you burnout doing too much for those around you, you will not be able to look after yourself. When you can’t do that, you can’t be there at all for anyone else either.

  • Struggling to feel good about yourself

Feeling good about helping others is a great thing, but when your self-esteem comes from this alone, it is problematic. It’s important to find your self-worth from within, not just sourcing it from external factors.

  • Considering improving the lives of others as your singular purpose

You are more than a single thing that you do and even if you are doing something meaningful, you should not tie yourself exclusively to one thing.

  • Disrupted relationships

You may find yourself seeking relationships with the wrong people, as you are attracted to those that you think you can ‘save’. This takes a huge toll on your emotions and may actually hinder the other person’s development because they are not helping themselves.


Do I Have A Saviour Complex?


Without proper sessions and conversations, there is no way to give an answer to this question. It would not be appropriate to comment on this without a deeper understanding of an individual. However, if the above has resonated with you, you can discuss the saviour complex and much more with Dr Jan.


How Can I Care For Others In A Healthy Way?


Again, without knowing more about you, giving advice about how to deal with a saviour complex is really something that may not be beneficial. However, there are a few general tips that we can offer to avoid feeling as though you are letting others down:

  • Remember that you can’t please everyone

It’s vital to remember that not everyone wants to be helped. Try your best to set personal boundaries and accept that some people do not want your help even if you think they need it.

  • Talk to those around you

The people you care about most want to help you. If you feel as though we’re ready and willing to talk about your concens, don’t feel scared or ashamed to reach out.

  • Seek help

If you’re very concerned about your own wellbeing, booking an appointment with a GP is a good idea – they will be able to point you in the direction of specific help should you need it. If you need to speak to someone immediately, Samaritans are available 24/7 and they’re there to listen.


Let Dr Jan Help


If you would like to talk further about any of the above, please book your discovery call with Dr Jan. This complimentary 20-minute session could be your first step towards a happier and healthier life, for both yourself and the people around you.

If you’d like to learn more about what we do you can visit our website, or follow us on Instagram.