All You Need to Know About Savior or Messiah Complex

Having a desire to help others can be beneficial for your well-being, but when it becomes necessary and you prioritize it over your needs, it can be a problematic.  This is known as messiah complex, savior complex, or white knight syndrome.

While it may not be a significant issue in some cases, it can be more severe in others. People with a messiah complex may feel a responsibility of helping others and may have good intentions in doing so. They may also have self-serving motives such as seeking praise, power, and sense of self-worth.

Although the savior complex is not an official medical diagnosis, individuals with certain mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, and schizophrenia may be more prone to it.

Why savior complex is complicated?

A savior complex can be a complicated issue because individuals with this complex can have either positive or negative intentions when trying to help others. While their actions may have good intentions, they may also have negative consequences for both themselves and the people they are trying to help.

 It is important to be mindful of overdoing it, as even well-intentioned actions can have negative impacts on one's physical and mental health. If a person is motivated by superiority or power, or if their actions harm others, it may be a sign that they need help. In some circumstances, people with a savior complex may poorly treat others and demand obedience.

What are the symptoms of savior complex?

Symptoms of a savior complex can include:

Desire to help others

If you have a strong desire to help others, you may try to save them in a situation that even harm you. While helping others can have numerous benefits, it can become problematic when it begins to negatively impact your and others wellbeing.

Desire to better self esteem

Individuals with a savior complex may seek to improve their self-esteem by helping others, which can be harmful to themselves or others. This desire for self-improvement is not necessarily negative, but it can become problematic if it leads to neglecting own needs.

People with megalomania, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, may also have a messiah complex. Megalomania is different from narcissism, as it involves feeling more important than one actually is, rather than an inflated sense of self-love and need for attention. In some cases, megalomania can be a part of delusional disorder.


Codependency is another factor that can contribute to a savior complex or pathological altruism. If a person feels responsible for fulfilling others needs and behaves negatively, they may have more chances of experiencing a messiah complex. Additionally, if a person is already in the habit of trying to save others they know, such as in the case of codependency, they may extend this behavior to strangers as well.

Eating disorder

There are a few other factors that can contribute to a savior complex or pathological altruism. Individuals with eating disorders often have a messiah complex, as they prioritize helping others over taking care of themselves.

Collect animals

Individuals who collect animals may be associated with pathological altruism, as they may not be able to fully care for the animals.

Believe they know what’s best for others

If a person believes they know what's best for others and acts on that belief, they may be prone to a savior complex. However, this can sometimes backfire, as the person may not actually be helping the other person in the way they think they are.

Desire for dominance and self-value

A desire for power or feelings of self-worth can also contribute to a savior complex. While some individuals may genuinely want to help others, they may begin to crave the power and self-worth that comes with helping others. In some cases, individuals may only help others for the sake of gaining power and self-worth.

Racial superiority beliefs

Beliefs about race can also play a role in the development of a savior complex. In particular, the white savior complex involves feeling obligated to help others based on one's race.

Experience other mental health conditions

Certain mental disorders, such as megalomania, delusional disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, may be linked to a messiah complex. However, having one of these disorders does not necessarily mean that a person has a savior complex.

How can a messiah complex affect me?

While a desire to help others is positive, feeling like one must help others can have negative consequences, such as:

  • Attempting to save someone in a dangerous situation can put you at risk
  • Being unable to save someone can negatively impact your mental state
  • Neglecting your needs to help others can also lead to physical illness and burnout

Is a savior complex a mental disorder?

A savior complex is not a mental disorder, but it can be linked to other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and delusional disorder. These disorders can involve an exaggerated sense of one's importance or identity, which can contribute to a messiah complex.

Are the savior complex and white savior complex same?

The white savior complex is related to the savior complex, but it involves a white person believing that their race automatically gives them the ability to help a person or community of color. Some experts argue that efforts to help people often overlook the question of whether the need for help was caused by white people. The white savior complex is also referred to as white savior or the white savior industrial complex.

What should I do if I have savior complex?

While there is no diagnostic test for a savior complex, a therapist or counselor can help you identify it. Seeking professional support can help you work through your feelings and desires to help others without overdoing it. If a messiah complex seems to be rooted in a desire for power over others or a belief that one is actually a savior, therapy can help a person explore how these beliefs are impacting your and others life.