Think of a scenario similar to your classic fairytale, where a damsel in distress is rescued by the prince, and she falls in love with him. Is there a name for this as a syndrome or similar? Nightingale syndrome seems to come close, but that seems to be specifically for when someone falls in love with their caregiver. I'm not sure if it applies to a rescuee falling in love with their rescuer.

Some clarification: The term I'm after wouldn't necessarily imply the rescuer and rescuee form a relationship. Merely that as a result of being rescued the rescuee forms an attachment to their rescuer. It might be unrequited. And it wouldn't necessarily involve any sort of inappropriate behaviour, such as the rescuee stalking the rescuer, or the rescuer taking advantage of this effect to form an inappropriate relationship. If anything, the rescuer may recognise the rescuee's feelings are just due to this effect, rather than being genuine, and therefore use this as a reason to rebuff any advances from the rescuee, until such time as the effect has faded. Similar concepts include a patient developing a crush on their nurse (Nightingale Syndrome/Effect), or a student developing a crush on their teacher (transference effect?).

Also, it doesn't need to include the word 'syndrome' or similar. It would also be acceptable if it is a more general term that applies to a number of situations, not just the rescuer-rescuee scenario I've described above.

If such a term doesn't exist, it could perhaps be called something like 'damsel in distress effect', although ideally without implying the rescuee is helpless or female.

  • 9
    If your rescuer was Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and if, after he saved you, you started following him everywhere, we might refer to your behavior as "Holmes-stalk Syndrome."
    – Sven Yargs
    Oct 12, 2018 at 5:53
  • Hero worship perhaps
    – Kris
    Oct 14, 2018 at 2:44

4 Answers 4


It’s called “transference” where one begins to attaché romantic feelings to a person in a professional protector role such as a doctor, therapist, policeman and such.

  • This possibility has already been considered by the OP.
    – jsw29
    Nov 27, 2020 at 22:07
  • 1
    The OP is ignorant of the actual meaning of transference and seems to believe it only applies to pupil/teacher relationships.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 5, 2022 at 19:44

What about referring to “Prince Charming” i.e. the archetypal handsome rescuer who saves the damsel in distress, and whom she always falls in love with, and then lives with happily ever after.

Prince Charming is a fairy tale character who comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress and must engage in a quest to liberate her from an evil spell. This classification suits most heroes of a number of traditional folk tales, including "Snow White", "Sleeping Beauty", and "Cinderella", even if in the original story they were given another name, or no name at all. Often handsome and romantic, these characters are essentially interchangeable, serving as a foil to the heroine; in many variants, they can be viewed as a metaphor for a reward the heroine achieves for the decisions she makes. [...] — https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Charming

However, the term Prince Charming Syndrome, is already used for someone waiting (in vain) for the perfect relationship :

Dr. Robi: The person who has the “Prince Charming Syndrome” is also someone who is very inflexible when it comes to love and relationships. They have such a romanticized version of what love should look like [...] - https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_6498436

but perhaps you could say a “Prince Charming” relationship or “Prince Charming & damsel-in-distress” relationship or suchlike ?

  • Sven Yargs already provides the likely desired answer, though in a tongue in cheek way, in a comment under the question. It’s definitely a syndrome, but not the “Prince Charming” one :)
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 13, 2018 at 13:50
  • 1
    @DanBron Stockholm syndrome is I believe for hostage situations where victims have relationships with captors, whereas I thought this question was about relationships with the rescuers?
    – k1eran
    Oct 13, 2018 at 13:53
  • Maybe that’s a better interpretation than mine. We’ll see if it works for OP.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 13, 2018 at 13:56
  • The Prince Charming Syndrome has nothing to do with falling in love with your rescuer; it describes people with unrealistic expectations that cause them to fail in their real life relationships. Oct 13, 2018 at 16:19
  • 1
    OP asked specifically for a term describing a syndrome. IMHO, bringing Prince Charming into this in any form is apt to be confusing (I myself did not realize you were making a distinction until now). Oct 13, 2018 at 20:27

There are the terms "white knight" and "knight in shining armour".

white knight

n. 1. One that comes to the rescue; a savior.
American Heritage Dictionary

n. 1. a hero who comes to the rescue.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary

1A person or thing that comes to someone's aid.
Oxford Living Dictionaries

The terms are not really used (for women). The term may have originated from the knight errant stock character or the "damsel in distress" narrative. Note the "white knight" disambiguation page on Wikipedia lists "knight errant" as a possible meaning. The article itself has a section on romance, and also mentions the term "damsel in distress".

Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed? (song lyrics)
I need a hero

Knight in shining armour

knight in shining armor
A selfless, chivalrous man who helps a woman in distress.
When the police officer pulled over to help the old woman change her flat tire, she hugged him and said he was her knight in shining armor.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

As to using either of these terms with the word "syndrome", you'll want to be careful. The term "white knight" has acquired a generally pejorative meaning of a man who is very obliging towards woman, affects this behaviour, or stands up for women's rights. This is the general meaning given in Urban Dictionary. It also lists "white knight syndrome" from 2005, there are various meanings given, including when a man becomes attracted to a damsel in distress. We can't know what currency these definitions have, so I would be careful.

Following on from my caution above, when using some of these relatively uncommon terms you're quite liable to being misunderstood. For example if we take your example of Florence Nightingale Effect or Syndrome some sources will define it as either a caretaker developing romantic feelings for their patient, or the reverse, or both. Segen's Medical Dictionary also gives an entirely different meaning.

Both the terms I mentioned are idioms for a person who saves or rescues another person (nearly always man saving a woman). As far as I know there is no well accepted term for the phenomenon you talk about. But these may be of use to you if you want to use your own term.


I often refer to the situation mentioned as a form of trauma bond. Trauma bonds can include many other types of scenarios as well with Stockholm Syndrome being one of the best known types. Trauma bonds can also be formed by groups of people who survived the same disaster together or similar high stress situations separately and now foster friendships with one another as a result. Think Fire Fighters all over the U.S.A. on 9/11 or soldiers who were in the same unit during deployment.

That being said my knowledge of this subject is not unlike the person asking the question as I have often searched for a definitive term and found none sufficient. I base my answer entirely on first hand experience as an Emergency Medical Services Professional, and the trauma bonds I have formed or have seen with coworkers. I have one good friend who was my partner on the ambulance for about six months. He and I had multiple "once in a career" and "career ending" kinds of shifts together. Neither one of us works for that ambulance service anymore nor do we even work for the same company at this point. Yet, we remain in daily contact as a means of accountability for our mental health.

Also, I had a trauma bond with a former coworker who suffered two of his own crises at work. I was the first person he encountered as coming to his aid in both situations. Again neither of us work for the same company anymore. We never became involved beyond sending each other random reminders of the silly things people do that make us laugh at our jobs, and this relationship has faded with time, though we do still occasionally find laughable situations about which to message the other.

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