Do You Have The Damsel In Distress Syndrome?

Do You Have The Damsel In Distress Syndrome?

Those who have the damsel in distress syndrome, often forget that the one person who actually needs rescuing is them  

You may have heard legends and folklore about a knight in shinning armour who rescues a damsel in distress. But what happens when there is nobody to be rescued, but you still insist on it? Well, if that’s the case, you are probably suffering from the damsel in distress syndrome. 

Real-life knights—who could be from any gender or race—often enter in a relationship with either vulnerable partners or ‘damsels.’ Or, have an inclination or the need to rescue those that may not be vulnerable. This is not an unusual syndrome and compels those who have it to act like heroes. 

What Is A Damsel In Distress Syndrome? 

A damsel in distress syndrome is one where you feel compelled to ‘rescue’ your partner, often at your own expense. Although the term is synonymous with animated female characters, it can imply to any race or sex. Here, you want to take care of your partner’s needs and insist on ‘solving’ all their problems so that they reply wholly and solely on you. 

Typically, people with the damsel in distress syndrome can be of two subtypes. One, those who may be overly empathic rescuer owing to neglectful parents. Second, can be a terrorised rescuer who manipulates because of his/her own traumatic childhood experiences. 

These, as we mentioned twice could be from any gender. But if you look closely, you’ll be able to recognise how both gender project this syndrome differently. 

Gender Projection Of The Damsel In Distress Syndrome 

damsel in distress syndrome

Men who suffer from it tend to treat their partners as an extension of themselves and may try to control them in the guise of helping them. | Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Men who often exhibit the damsel in distress syndrome act as the knight in shinning armour and feel the need to ‘rescue’ or ‘protect’ their partner. They often take chivalry a wee bit too far. 

In fact, if they are not in a relationship, men with this syndrome are often attracted to those who may seem helpless or exhibit the need of support. They tend to treat their partners as an extension of themselves and may criticise or control them in the guise of helping them. 

But subconsciously, men often do this in the hopes that their behaviour would be reciprocated with love and affection. And that they will be rewarded for their effort. 

Women, on the other hand, exhibit this syndrome primarily because of social conditioning. Most women are ‘taught’ to be caretakers and nurturers, and may likely be drawn to caring for those who may or may not need as much attention. They may be overly protective of their partners and try to give excuses for their behaviour (even if destructive). They may even feel the need to shield their partners from any consequence or accountability. 

While there is nothing wrong with compassion towards your partner, it can sometimes overlap with codependency. And helping others without boundaries does not amount to a healthy relationship. In case you wish to check if you’re suffering from it too, scroll down to see the five prominent signs that are a clear indication of this syndrome. 

5 Signs You Suffer From Damsel In Distress Syndrome 

1. You base your self-worth on the ability to ‘help’ people 

People with the damsel in distress syndrome pride themselves in their ability to ‘save’ their partners. It becomes their main identity in their relationship.

They may even consciously seek out emotionally unhealthy partners who appear to be needy. All this, so they can ‘fix’ and ‘rescue’ them. 

However, in an effort to seek out emotionally dependent partners, they often end up in a toxic relationship. And this prevents them from healing their own self from previous emotional trauma.

2. You have a history of emotional trauma  

Those who suffer from this syndrome also come from experience of emotional abandonment. They may have helped a family member such as a parent to overcome an addiction or trauma themselves. 

Since nobody came to their rescue, they project their needs on their partner. They try to give to their partners, what they have never received.

Unfortunately, the ‘rescuer’ often behave this way out of a ‘enmeshment.’ They might unnecessarily get involved in the ‘issues’ of their partner.   

3. You gravitate towards those who may seem ‘needy’

This may be especially true for those knight in shinning armour kinds. You feel the need to be with somebody who may be needy or fragile and unable to take care of themselves.

You place this partner of yours on a pedestal. But in doing so, you encourage an unhealthy dependency in your relationship. So much so that your partner depends on you for their emotional and physical needs.  

4. You micromanage your ‘needy’ partner’s life

In order to ‘help’ your partner, you want to micromanage their life. From their friendships to their professional lives, you want to be in the know and take decisions for them.

You might do this as a way to prevent harm, but subconsciously it stems from the need to control. In the guise of helping your partner, you try to take the focus off your own wounds. 

5. In response to distance, you manipulate your partner to increase dependency 

When your partner tries to find independence or decrease their dependency on you, you try to bring them back into a live of dependency. This is a classic behaviour by somebody who suffers from the damsel in distress syndrome. 

You want your partner to rely on you and know that this is different from empathy. You are not in a relationship where partners support each other equally. You want to assume the role of a parent, causing your partner to feel helpless without you. 

After reading all these signs, if you feel you suffer from the damsel in distress syndrome, its time to take a step back and evaluate your relationships. You need to first heal your own abandonment wounds and re-establish agency over your own emotions and life. 

Remember that in an effort to try and rescue other, you often neglect the one person who needs to be rescued the most—you.  

Also read:Covert Narcissism In Relationships: Are You Dating A “Secret” Narcissist?

(All images courtesy: Shutterstock)

Written by

Deepshikha Punj