The Superman Complex/Superwoman Syndrome in Healthcare

Healthcare heroes is a term that many of you have probably heard before. Your work as a healthcare professional is important and lifesaving, but burnout and stress go hand-in-hand with the job. A mistake can lead to dire consequences, and many healthcare professionals work long hours with limited breaks. This type of environment can breed the superman complex/superwoman syndrome, which can exacerbate anxiety and lead to poor mental health. How can you recognize if you have it, and what should you do to stop it?

What is the Superman Complex/Superwoman Syndrome?

These are an extreme form of perfectionism in which the person believes that they must do everything and do it perfectly. It might manifest itself as a physician who works overtime to ensure they are there for their patients or a nurse who has a hard time delegating tasks to other nurses. The chance of failure is simply devasting to them, so they put in more effort to perform perfectly.

This may stem from not being able to trust others to perform to their perceived standard of perfection or it could be that they believe that they are the best or only person able to do this. Regardless, doing all the work by yourself will lead to burnout and increase your anxiety.

Effects of the Complex

As a healthcare professional, having a superman complex may hurt you physically. If you are constantly overworking yourself and putting everything on your plate, you run the risk of hurting your back, neck, hips, and knees. Carrying heavy items, moving things, and running around can deplete you quickly, leaving you with muscle aches that can get worse if left untreated.

In addition to that, putting more emphasis on work can cause you to neglect your relationships. If you’re constantly worried about work, you won’t be able to connect with friends or family when you’re off the clock because you’re never truly off.

Do You Have the Superman Complex/Superwoman Syndrome?

You might have the complex if you have these following attributes:

  • High-achiever
  • Having extremely high expectations for yourself
  • Don’t take any rests or breaks
  • Staying “on” all the time
  • Thinking you’re the only one who can handle things
  • Workaholic
  • Fear of failing
  • Perfectionism

There are other traits that might suggest you have a superman complex/superwoman syndrome, but if you check off many of the items above, you most likely have it.

Treating the Complex

First, you have to recognize where the complex is coming from. One common practice for helping you fix the complex is to start delegating tasks to colleagues. Learn to trust your coworkers and strive to be more open to collaboration with your team. If you continue to overwork yourself and burn out, turn to a professional who can help you balance your work responsibilities.

If you want to learn more about the complex, join us December 10th for our Annual Radiology and Reindeer Mini Conference. We have great instructors coming to present various topics such as mental health for healthcare professionals, non-emergent patients, CT protocols, and much more. For more information, check out our website.


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