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A messiah complex (also known as the Christ complex or savior complex) is a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief that they are destined to become a savior.[1] The term can also refer to a state of mind in which an individual believes that he or she is responsible for saving or assisting others.

The term "messiah complex" is not addressed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), as it is not a clinical term nor diagnosable disorder. However, the symptoms of the disorder closely resemble those found in individuals suffering from delusions of grandeur. An account specifically identified it as a category of religious delusion, which pertains to strong fixed beliefs that cause distress or disability.[2] This form of delusional belief is most often reported in patients suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. When a messiah complex is manifested within a religious individual after a visit to Jerusalem, it may be identified as a psychosis known as Jerusalem syndrome.[3]

Adolf Hitler is considered to have had an acute case of the messiah complex. This was evident in his preoccupation with himself as a political actor, his meticulous concern for his self-presentation, and his identification with himself as the savior of the German people.[4] Hitler believed that he was fated to lead Germany to a thousand-year-long period of European domination and that he was chosen to rid Europe of undesirable people.[5] This example shows how the messiah complex in such rare individuals can cause unimaginable destruction when combined with narcissistic and paranoid traits.[5]

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  1. ^ "Messiah Complex Psychology". flowpsychology.com. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  2. ^ Clarke, Isabel (2010). Psychosis and Spirituality: Consolidating the New Paradigm, Second Edition. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell. p. 240. ISBN 9780470683484.
  3. ^ "Dangerous delusions: The Messiah Complex and Jerusalem Syndrome". Freethought Nation. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  4. ^ Post, Jerrold (2010). The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders: With Profiles of Saddam Hussein and Bill Clinton. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 46. ISBN 0472098381.
  5. ^ a b Haycock, Dean (2016). Characters on the Couch: Exploring Psychology through Literature and Film: Exploring Psychology through Literature and Film. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 152. ISBN 9781440836985.