What is Stockholm Syndrome? Everything explained


If you’re a movie buff, you must have watched movies like Dog Day Afternoon, Three Days of the Condor, Buffalo, and even the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast.

So, what do all these films have in common?

Their protagonists suffered from Stockholm syndrome.

What is Stockholm Syndrome?

Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological reaction that occurs when an abuse victim or hostage begins to bond with their abuser/captor. This happens when they have been in captivity for a long time.

This condition is a bit threatening. This is because the clear line between danger and camaraderie ceases to exist. Stockholm Syndrome is believed to be commonly associated with high-profile kidnapping and hostage situations.

Stockholm syndrome has a history

Have you ever wondered where the term Stockholm Syndrome comes from?

A robbery took place in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973. During the robbery, thieves held four bank employees captive in a safe for more than five days. Something strange happened during the captivity as the hostages began to bond with their captors. It was because of their small acts of perceived kindness. Eventually the captives began to fear the police more than the thieves. They even became resistant to the idea of ​​rescue.

The behavior of the captives confused the police and the general public. Not only that, even the captives wondered. After much study and research, psychiatrists have linked such a reaction to shell shock or a term used to describe post-traumatic stress. He further explained that the captives were grateful to their captors rather than the police.

This whole episode coined the word Stockholm syndrome.

Know the Symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome

People with Stockholm syndrome may experience the following symptoms.

  • Positive feelings towards their captors.
  • A sense of sympathy for the behaviors and beliefs of their captors.
  • Negative feelings towards the police or other authority figures.
  • Other symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. They include flashbacks, feeling irritated, distrustful, nervous, anxious, inability to enjoy things you used to enjoy, and difficulty concentrating.

What are the causes of Stockholm syndrome?

Many researchers who have studied several cases of this syndrome have not been able to establish the exact reason for the problem.

One of the theories suggests that this condition is a learned technique passed down from ancestors to their children. At the beginning of civilization, there was a risk of being captured or killed by another group. As a result, ties with the kidnappers increased their chances of survival. According to some evolutionary psychiatrists, this ancient technique is a natural human trait.

Another theory states that the situation of captivity or abuse is very emotionally charged. People adjust their feelings and begin to develop compassion for their abuser if they show kindness to them.

How to treat the condition?

Because Stockholm syndrome is not recognized as a psychological condition, it has no standard treatment. The same treatment methods can be used as those used for PTSD.

It is good to seek therapy as it can help you understand your experience. You may learn how sympathetic behavior towards your captors was a survival skill. With the help of therapy, you can also learn how to move on with your life.

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