9 Symptoms & Signs Of A Savior Complex In Someone You Know

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woman trying to comfort

There are two types of people in this world: givers and takers. We all recognize the latter because they latch on to good people, taking what they can and offering nothing in return.

But givers are a different story. They are helpful and resourceful, going above and beyond to help others in their times of need, even at their own expense.

Aside from the obvious fault of not prioritizing themselves, some givers have a savior complex. Although it appears they are in the business of serving, if you pull back the layers, you might find that their intentions are not entirely pure.

What is a savior complex?

A savior complex can be a good or bad thing, depending on the motivations behind it. Though helping others is good for your health, needing to do it to feel good about yourself is not.

There are a few names people use when referring to a savior complex. They might call it white knight syndrome or a Messiah complex, and it is also very similar to Wendy syndrome.

People with a savior complex believe they have a calling to help others. They think it is a responsibility rather than an option. It is not an official mental diagnosis, but is common in people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

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People who play savior do it for different reasons. Some genuinely want to help others and feel a sense of purpose when volunteering their time and resources.

Then, there are people who adapt a savior complex for their own self-interests. They want praise, power, or believe saving others makes them more valuable, and their assistance does more harm than good.

A savior complex can be birthed out of the need to shield others from the pain and trauma you might have experienced in your life.

People with disorders can also have a savior complex. Like narcissism and megalomania, it includes grandiose ideas about oneself. It is also found in people with delusional disorder and other mental illnesses.

But having a mental disorder is not a prerequisite for a savior complex. You can start off meaning well, but then become addicted to the accolades and codependence of others, developing it over time.

9 Signs You Or Someone You Know Has a Savior Complex

1. You have a strong desire to help people.

Wanting to help people is not a dead giveaway for a savior complex. Everyone should strive to help others where they can. However, if you put yourself at risk or volunteer excessively, you may have a savior complex.

If giving of yourself is interfering with the priorities you should have in life, it can become a problem for you, the people you love, and even those you want to help.

2. Your self-worth depends on it.

Helping others should be an act of love. If your self-esteem is based on being needed by others, you may go to extreme lengths to do it.

Everyone wants to feel worthy and have high self-esteem, but craving adulation and admiration constantly could be a sign that you have a savior complex and are doing it for the wrong reasons.

3. You are codependent.

Two codependent people feel as if they need each other to survive and thrive in life. If you believe you are vital to the needs of another person outside of your small children, you may have a savior complex.

When you are codependent, you will always be looking to save others; however, you’d be willing to take on the charity cases of strangers if they make you feel needed.

4. You believe your way is the best way.

People with a savior complex think they know how to navigate life’s obstacles better than anyone else. They are always ready with just the right answer to save the day.

If this is you, there will be times that you think you are helping others when you aren’t. You could give out the wrong information and cause irreparable damage. You are blinded by your desire to be the hero.

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5. You want power at all costs.

People with a savior complex will go to the ends of the earth to get the power and praise the need. Even then, their satisfaction doesn’t last long.

At first, they really just want to be of service, but as the appreciation pours in, it gives them a sense of power. Even when they don’t want to help, they do it to get a dose of the influence they so greatly crave.

6. You feel superior based on your race.

This version of the savior complex is known as the white savior complex. Here, affected white people believe they automatically come from a better background than those of other races.

Because of their assumed white privilege, they feel an obligation to swoop in and help minorities, even those that never asked for help. They often insert themselves where they are not needed or wanted.

7. You are attracted to weak people.

Those with a savior complex need vulnerable people around them to enable them to live out their knight in shining armor fantasies.

Like peanut butter needs jelly, saviors need people to rescue. You are drawn to the long-suffering and believe you are the one thing that can turn their life around.

8. You always have a solution.

Sometimes people just want to be heard. They don’t need an answer to their problem. They simply need someone to listen without judgment.

As a savior, that’s not your style. You find it hard to sit and listen when you, of course, have the perfect solution to their issue. You see yourself as a fixer and can’t seem to just be a shoulder to cry on.

9. You try to change people.

For someone with a savior complex, if you’d just listen to them, you’d have the perfect life plan. Saviors believe they have magical powers to influence others, and no one is immune from their suggestions.

Someone with a savior complex might suggest a career change, a hobby, even a diet if they believe it would benefit you, thereby giving them the credit they undoubtedly deserve.

What to Do if You Have a Savior Complex

If you’ve taken a long, hard look at yourself and recognized that you have a savior complex, there are things you can do to overcome it.

Start by listening instead of acting. Fight the urge to offer your assistance or input, especially if it was not directly requested. Wait until someone asks before jumping in with all the right solutions.

Let go of the need to control others. Understand that the only thing in this world that you have absolute authority over is yourself.

If you are still having trouble letting go of the need to rescue other people, talk to a licensed therapist. It can help you work through our savior complex to develop your self-esteem, move past trauma, and have healthier relationships.

RELATED: 7 Signs The Person You Love Acts Has A Martyr Complex

NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and the author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment & news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.