What is Stockholm Syndrome? – History, Symptoms, Causes And More

Stockholm syndrome refers to symptoms that can occur in a person who is in a hostage situation or is stopped. Typically, these feelings can be described as sympathy towards the captors or developing a bond with the captor or captors. This reaction can also be recognized in those who have left religious services, abusive relationships, or other traumatic situations.

What is Stockholm syndrome?

Stockholm syndrome is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity; these feelings result from a bond formed between the captor and the captives during the time they spend together. Generally, they are considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. This disorder typically consists of “strong emotional ties that develop between two people where one person intermittently harasses, hits, threatens, abuses or intimidates the other.” The FBI hostage database system shows that approximately eight percent of victims show evidence of this syndrome.

Four key components generally lead to the development of Stockholm syndrome:

  • The hostage development of positive feelings toward his captor.
  • A refusal by the hostages to cooperate with the police forces and other government authorities
  • The belief of a hostage in the humanity of his captor, for a reason, that when a victim has the same values ​​as the aggressor, they are no longer perceived as a threat.
  • It is considered a “controversial disease” due to the doubt of many law enforcement officials about the legitimacy of the condition.

The Stockholm syndrome has also come to describe the reactions of some victims of abuse beyond the context of kidnapping or hostage-taking, actions and attitudes similar to those of victims of sexual abuse, discrimination, terror, and political oppression.

A story about Stockholm syndrome

The syndrome is derived from a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. In August 1973, four Sveriges Kreditbank employees were held hostage in the bank vault for six days. During the confrontation, a seemingly incongruous link developed between captive and captor, a hostage, during a phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, stated that he fully trusted his captors but feared he would be killed in a police attack on the building.

The most infamous example of Stockholm syndrome may be the one involving the heir to a hijacked newspaper, Patricia Hearst. In 1974, about ten weeks after being taken hostage by the Symbionese Liberation Army, Hearst helped his kidnappers rob a California bank. Still, during the hostage crisis in Iran (1979-81), the syndrome of Stockholm made its way into the public imagination. The syndrome was also cited after the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847; However, the passengers were subjected to a hostage test that lasted more than two weeks; upon being released, some openly sympathized with the demands of their hijackers, Terry Anderson. (1985-1991), Terry Waite (1987-1991) and Thomas Sutherland (1985-1991), All of whom had been abducted by Islamist militants in Lebanon, claimed that they had been well treated by their captors, even though they had often been kept in solitary confinement and chained in small, dirty cells. Similar responses were exhibited by hostages held at the Japanese embassy in Peru from 1996-to 97.

Psychologists who have studied the syndrome believe that the bond is initially created when a captor threatens the life of a captive, deliberates, and then decides not to kill the prisoner, the captive’s relief from the removal of the death threat being transposed into feelings of gratitude to the captor for having given him life.

As evidenced by the Stockholm bank robbery incident, this bond takes only a few days to consolidate, demonstrating that, from the outset, the victim’s desire to survive outweighs the urge to hate the person who created the bond. Situation.

The survival instinct is at the heart of Stockholm syndrome; victims live in forced dependency and interpret infrequent or minor acts of kindness amid horrible conditions as a good deal. They often become hypervigilant to the needs and demands of their captors, establishing psychological links between the captors’ happiness and their own.

The syndrome is marked not only by a positive bond between the captive and the captor but also by a negative attitude towards the authorities that threaten the relationship on behalf of the captive. The negative attitude is mighty when the hostage is of no use to the captors, except as an influence against a third party, as has been the case with political hostages.

By the 21st century, psychologists had broadened their understanding of the syndrome to other groups, including victims of domestic violence, members of cults, prisoners of war, hired prostitutes, and abused children. The American Psychiatric Association does not include Stockholm syndrome in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Physical and psychological effects of Stockholm syndrome

Cognitive:  Confusion; blurred memory; refusal to accept the reality of events; recurring memories.

Emotional: Lack of feeling; afraid; impotence; despair; aggression; depression; fault; captor dependence; development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Social:  Anxious; irritable; cautious; remoteness.

Physical:  Increased effects of pre-existing conditions; development of health conditions due to possible restriction of food, sleep, or outdoor exposure.

Symptoms of Stockholm syndrome

Hostage-related incident studies indicate that Stockholm syndrome appears to be more likely to occur when people are held captive for several days and have close contact with their captors; these individuals are generally not harmed by their captors and may even be treated with kindness. A person who develops the syndrome experiences symptoms of post-traumatic stressnightmaresinsomnia, flashbacks, a tendency to startle easily, confusion, and difficulty trusting others.

This phenomenon can be understood as a survival mechanism from a psychological perspective. Some experts may even encourage those in a hostage situation to act as if they are experiencing Stockholm syndrome to improve their chances of survival, as a connection to the perpetrator can potentially make the situation more bearable. The victim and captors are more inclined to satisfy the basic needs of the captive.

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition and has its symptoms, some of which are described as follows:

  • Show admiration and love for the kidnappers or kidnappers.
  • Resist rescue attempts by the police.
  • Defend the kidnappers.
  • Try to please the kidnappers.
  • She refuses to testify against the captors.
  • They refuse to run away from the kidnappers or kidnappers.

What Causes Stockholm Syndrome?

Although the exact cause is complicated, a period of investigation has led to the understanding of several factors that can cause Stockholm syndrome.

  • When hostages feel that their abductor is doing them a favor by not killing them, this causes the hostages to view their captor positively and can cause Stockholm syndrome.
  • If the abductees are treated with sympathy and their captors provide the victims with a good environment, the hostages begin to view the abductors favorably. Kidnappers are generally expected to treat their victims harshly, and cruel behavior creates a sense of hatred, while kinder treatment of captives establishes a sense of empathy for captors.
  • Those kidnapped or captured are isolated from the outside world; this helps make them see the kidnapper’s point of view. It may be that the kidnapped entities begin to understand the circumstances in which the captor was forced to commit such a crime; that is why captives often help their kidnapper and become sympathetic to the kidnappers and their causes.
  • Often abducted people and, in most cases, women begin to develop a physical/emotional bond with the kidnappers. When the captive and the kidnapper live together for many days, the two different people become closer, then they begin to share their interests, and this can lead to Stockholm syndrome.
  • Kidnapped people, and in this case, primarily women, develop a habit of appeasing their kidnappers. Initially, the captured woman is forced to please the captor, they are imprisoned, they make sure they do not run away, and they are forced to satisfy the kidnappers to escape harsh punishment or murder.
  • When it becomes a habit, the behavior is maintained despite the absence of force.
  • When a woman is kidnapped, initially, that person may try to escape the kidnapper’s clutches. However, if that individual fails, over some time, she develops a kind of slavery and dependence on her kidnappers; this often happens if the kidnappers have no close relatives, if the kidnapper has murdered the victim’s relatives, the victim feels powerless and needs the kidnapper for food and shelter, this becomes a necessity even though there is no threat from the kidnapper’s end.

Risk factor’s

As we have said before, in this syndrome, the victim falls in love with the kidnapper or kidnapper; this leads to a distancing in the relationship between the victim and his family members. It forces society to support antisocial activities, such as forced kidnapping, a victim suffering from Stockholm syndrome does not cooperate with law enforcement agencies, and this leads to more crimes of this type.

People who are at risk for Stockholm syndrome are:

  • Abused children
  • Battered females.
  • Captives of war.
  • Sick with incest.
  • Criminal hostage conditions.
  • Prisoners of the concentration camp.
  • Intimidating relationships.
  • Cult members.

Stockholm syndrome prevalence

An FBI study conducted to understand more about Stockholm syndrome suggests that approximately 8% of people in hostage situations develop observable features of the syndrome. However, theories about this reaction cannot be easily proven, as placing people in a hostage situation for a trial is not considered ethical.

Because there is little data on the syndrome and because the existing data were obtained from widely varying situations, experts do not fully agree on what characterizes Stockholm syndrome or what causes some people to experience it and not others. . Some researchers also disagree on the application of this syndrome to other traumatic situations, such as abusive relationships.

Steps to treat Stockholm syndrome

  1. To treat Stockholm syndrome, the person must see a specialist doctor or a psychologist develop a strategy to overcome this situation since involving health professionals is essential.
  2. Do not insist. People with Stockholm syndrome do not see the situation’s complexity, do not try to convince them of what can happen, or try to force them to change their minds. Just talk to them and explain your point of view calmly.
  3. Show them affection. Try to show your love and support; you must convey confidence so that they do not see you as an enemy.
  4. Try to keep in touch. Often in this situation, the person tends to isolate themselves, so it is essential to maintain communication but try not to make them feel overwhelmed.
  5. Keep calm.  This situation generates a feeling of helplessness; the important thing is to stay calm to avoid pushing the person. Be patient; they will listen to you if you convey confidence and understanding.
  6. Look for more information on the subject to be sure of what you are dealing with; local health centers offer advice on the matter and can help you resolve this situation.
  7. Listens. If they feel like they can trust you, they will talk about their situation. When this happens, you must control your feelings, do not show that you are angry or enraged if the person with Stockholm syndrome defends or identifies with the abusers, listen to them, and when you think it is necessary, give your opinion. However, be careful how you do it and say it to avoid getting defensive.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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