Stockholm Syndrome - Definition And Explanation

Stockholm Syndrome: Definition And Explanation

Stockholm Syndrome describes the phenomenon in which victims who have been taken hostage develop feelings of sympathy for their captors during their captivity.

Stockholm syndrome is characterized by a paradoxical situation in which a victim who has been taken hostage develops feelings of sympathy, affection, understanding, and sometimes even love towards their jailer. While being held hostage, the victim will become attached to their abductor, sometimes to the point of adhering to his causes, or understanding the reasons behind why they chose to commit their crime. Victims will also often be hostile towards the government or the police who try to free them.

Stockholm syndrome was named after a hostage situation that occurred on 23 August 1973. Two robbers took four bank employees hostage for several days. When the police finally managed to free the hostages, they showed sympathy for their jailers. The victims even went to prison to visit their former captors, and refused to testify against them during their trial.

Stockholm syndrome was first theorized by American psychiatrist Frank Ochberg.

CAUSES

Stockholm syndrome is a physic phenomenon developed by a hostage towards their jailers. The longer the victim is held hostage, the greater the risk of the occurrence of the syndrome. The phenomenon typically occurs both ways, that is, both that victim and the captor can develop feelings of sympathy for one another. 

The victim, who is typically shocked and traumatized from the very moment they are first taken hostage, sometimes decides to please their captor to save their own lives. This emotional connection gives the victim the feeling of moving away from danger. What takes place is an unconscious survival and self-defence mechanism.

Stockholm syndrome is more easily established if the kidnappers justify their actions with political or ideological rhetoric, and show no signs of hatred towards their hostages.

SYMPTOMS

To identify the occurrence of Stockholm syndrome in an individual who has been a hostage victim, the following three signs must be noted:

-The person gradually develops a feeling of sympathy, fraternity, attraction, or understanding of the actions and words of their captor.

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-Rather than persecute their abductor, the victim seeks to defend them by trying to justify their actions and by blaming the government, socio-economic inequalities, and social injustices.

-The victim continues to defend their captor even after their release, arguing that they were well-treated during their captivity.

TREATMENT

Feelings of sympathy and confidence that a hostage victim may have for their captor are usually temporary. The Stockholm syndrome sufferer usually abandons their position of submission to their jailer a few days, months, or even years after the event occurs. Therapy helps to bring about this awareness.

Abbie Marshall
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