Maybe it doesn't exist, but I feel like there's an idiom for a situation where, in an effort to solve one issue, you exacerbate or create a second related issue, probably directly.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire doesn't really work because that idiom refers from going from bad to worse, and it wasn't necessarily your fault; I need this to be explicitly that fault of the person performing the action.

Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face also doesn't work since it's not about making something better that inadvertently creates something worse, it's about making something worse out of spite, even knowing it will hurt you in some way.

Edit: backfired/more hindrance than help isn't connotatively what I'm looking for exactly (though it might be as close as I get). The implication in the former is that the action you took had the opposite effect as intended, whereas for my needs the action has to succeed in its original intent, but create problems elsewhere. The latter doesn't seem to match the needed connotation either because it carries an implication that the problem being "solved" is the most important thing but I need the whole situation (problem solved and problem created) to be treated under the same idiom with equal weight. Something along the lines of backfire, but without the implication listed above.

Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Sort of “collateral damage”?
    – user 66974
    Dec 2 '21 at 6:28
  • Damned if you do; damned if you don't. (Not an answer so much as a suggestion.) Dec 2 '21 at 12:23
  • "Cut your losses" could tell someone to stop their efforts in order to prevent further damage. Dec 2 '21 at 14:47

One phrase (which doesn't really fit the potential duplicate question) is unintended consequences.

There are three types of unintended consequences listed in Wikipedia:

  • Unexpected benefit: A positive unexpected benefit (also referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall).
  • Unexpected drawback: An unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy (e.g., while irrigation schemes provide people with water for agriculture, they can increase waterborne diseases that have devastating health effects, such as schistosomiasis).
  • Perverse result: A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse).

The unintended consequences of an action are almost always detrimental — which is possibly a question in itself. Consequences seems to have a vaguely negative import ("Actions have consequences"); and "unexpected benefit" is an up-beat phrase easily used where there is an unexpected benefit.


Dictionary.com has the idiom "shoot oneself in the foot" which they define as:

Foolishly harm one's own cause, as in He really shot himself in the foot, telling the interviewer all about the others who were applying for the job he wanted. This colloquial term alludes to an accidental shooting as opposed to a deliberate one done so as to avoid military service.

The situation they allude to in the example is maybe someone who goes to a job interview, talks enthusiastically and gets carried away, but ends up praising other people so much that they get the job instead.

As they say, it's distinct from the action of deliberately shooting oneself in the foot to get out of something unpleasant (as with a soldier who wounds himself to get sent home from the front).


I would suggest the phrase "gild the lily." Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary, as cited by idioms.thefreedictionary.com, offers this definition:

Try to improve something which is already perfect, and so spoil it: The dress is perfect. Don’t add anything to it at all. It would just be gilding the lily.

This comes from Shakespeare’s play King John. Gild means ‘to cover something with a thin layer of gold’. A lily is a very beautiful flower.

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