Specifically, I'm looking for a word or phrase that captures the feeling of wanting someone to need you to care for them, and feeling guilty that the desire implies that you want the other person to be hurt or vulnerable.


2 Answers 2


I think there’s a more specific answer (something like Reverse Nightingale Effect), but co-dependency sounds about right. The following symptom can be found under Control Patterns on Wikipedia:

I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.


In the event that the person takes up on their desire to hurt the other person in order to care for the other person, the term you are looking for is Münchausen syndrome by proxy (International), or factitious disorder by proxy (US English), or induced illness disorder (UK English):

Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP or MBP) is a controversial term that is used to describe a behavior pattern in which a caregiver deliberately exaggerates, fabricates, and/or induces physical, psychological, behavioral, and/or mental health problems in those who are in their care.

The name "Münchausen syndrome by proxy" is derived from Münchausen syndrome, but it is important to distinguish one from the other, as they describe very different (but related) conditions. People with Münchausen syndrome have a profound need to assume the sick role, and will exaggerate complaints, falsify tests, and/or self-inflict illnesses.

MSbP perpetrators, by contrast, are willing to fulfill their need for positive attention by hurting their own child, thereby assuming the sick role by proxy. At times, they are also able to assume the hero role and garner still more positive attention, by appearing to care for and 'save' their child.

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