Why are some people susceptible to Super-Helper Syndrome and what can be done about it?
Chartered Psychologists Jess Baker and Rod Vincent coined the term Super-Helper Syndrome as a useful moniker for the net effects of compulsive helping and not meeting one's own needs—where helping others is to the detriment of one's own wellbeing. Together, they have written an award-winning book that includes excerpts from their qualitative research to offer insights into this common phenomenon that until now has gone unexplored. In this article, the authors provide an overview of Super-Helper Syndrome and why some people are more susceptible to it than others. They describe the range of practical interventions that have been most successful in ameliorating its harmful effects.
Helping is essential to all human relationships. It is a key part of every job, especially those in the health and social care professions. Our ability and desire to help others is a beautiful part of our humanity. However, our desire to help others can also be the cause of our own downfall. Often, people feel compelled to help others, even to the detriment of their own wellbeing; this is what the authors refer to as Super-Helper Syndrome. The word ‘syndrome’ here is not meant to imply some sort of medical condition or personality type. It is used to describe a characteristic combination of emotions or behaviour.
It is not surprising that during the authors' research on the psychology of those who just cannot stop helping, they found themselves talking to nurses. When the authors asked the question: ‘Why did you become a nurse?’, the most common response was: ‘to help people’. It is an obvious career choice.
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