The hero syndrome is a phenomenon affecting people who seek heroism or recognition, usually by creating a desperate situation which they can resolve. This can include unlawful acts, such as arson. The phenomenon has been noted to affect civil servants, such as firefighters, nurses, police officers, programmers, and security guards. Acts linked with the hero syndrome should not be confused with acts of malicious intent, such as revenge on the part of a suspended firefighter or an insatiable level of excitement, as was found in a federal study of more than 75 firefighter arsonists. However, acts of the hero syndrome have been linked to previously failed heroism. The hero syndrome may also be a more general yearning for self-worth.
A screening method has been developed, based on the case that those who commit the acts are generally young and are looking for an opportunity to prove or flaunt their bravery. However, there are no formal scientific studies on the hero syndrome. Some claim that those with the syndrome are “narcissists in a slump”, pointing to people who have failed to achieve their dreams and ambitions, downtrodden by society’s infatuation with fame.