is a psychological
response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which they have been placed. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery
, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23
to August 28
. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their victimizers, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term Stockholm Syndrome was coined by the criminologist
and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot
, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast.
It should be taken into account that according to Namnyak e.a. (2008) the Stockholm Syndrome "is not a recognized Medical Subject Heading (MeSH), that most sources of information for widely publicized cases were of varying reliability in terms of the events that led to the diagnosis of Stockholm syndrome; the authors had no access to primary sources and identiﬁcation of a pattern of features exhibited in Stockholm syndrome may be due to reporting bias."'''
Loyalty to a more powerful abuser — in spite of the danger that this loyalty puts the victim in — is common among victims of domestic abuse
, battered partners and child abuse
(dependent children). In many instances the victims choose to remain loyal to their abuser, and choose not to leave him or her, even when they are offered a safe placement in foster homes or safe houses
. This mental phenomenon is also known as Trauma-Bonding or Bonding-to-the-Perpetrator. This syndrome was described by psychoanalysts
of the object relations theory
school (see Fairbairn
) as the phenomenon of psychological identification with the more powerful abuser. A variant of Stockholm Syndrome includes cases of abusive parents and abusive siblings in which the victim, even after entering adulthood, still justifies the family abuse.
According to the psychoanalytic view of the syndrome, the tendency might well be the result of employing the strategy evolved by newborn babies to form an emotional attachment to the nearest powerful adult in order to maximize the probability that this adult will enable — at the very least — the survival of the child, if not also prove to be a good parental figure. This syndrome is considered a prime example for the defense mechanism
Potential examples of Stockholm Syndrome
- Colleen Stan, a.k.a. "Carol Smith" was held captive from 1977 until 1984 by Cameron and Janice Hooker in locked wooden boxes. She slept in a coffin-like box under Hookers' bed. During her imprisonment Colleen was consistently tortured and sexually assaulted to the point of complete mental and physical subservience. For an in-depth synopsis of the case, see The Case of the Seven Year Sex Slave and Perfect Victim: The True Story of "The Girl in the Box" by the D.A. That Prosecuted Her Captor [ISBN 978-0440204428]. Also documented with A&E's 'American Justice" episode 166.
- Millionaire heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. After two months in captivity, she actively took part in a robbery they were orchestrating. Her unsuccessful legal defense was that she suffered from Stockholm syndrome and was coerced into aiding the SLA. She was convicted and imprisoned for her actions in the robbery, though her sentence was commuted in February 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, and she received a Presidential pardon from Bill Clinton.
- Natascha Kampusch, a 10-year old Austrian child who was kidnapped by Wolfgang Priklopil before escaping at the age of 18 in 2006, showed signs of having suffered from Stockholm syndrome, as evidenced by her grieving after her captor's suicide.
- Shawn Hornbeck was kidnapped at age 11 in 2002 and held for four years by Michael J. Devlin in Missouri. Shawn Hornbeck started using Devlin's last name and despite talking to police on two separate occasions about other unrelated matters, Shawn Hornbeck did not seek the assistance of law enforcement. There have been many questions raised in the media reports surrounding his rescue in January 2007 about why he did not speak out earlier leading to reported speculation that he suffered from Stockholm Syndrome. However, there are many, including other victims of sexual abuse, and others who have been victims of kidnappings, who have expressed their understanding and support Shawn's decisions not to make an attempt to escape.
- Elizabeth Smart, a 14 year old girl, was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City in June 2002 by two members of a fundamentalist polygamist sect, the homeless preacher Brian David "Emmanuel" Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee. At first Smart was kept tethered to a tree in a wooded canyon, dressed in white robes, and confined to a twenty-foot long trough with a lean-to over it, but after two months, the couple was able to take the girl with them to restaurants and other public places, her face veiled, and she no longer tried to escape. The trio traveled to San Diego, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, with Smart claiming to be the couple's daughter, but they eventually returned to Utah. By this time, Smart had become so attached to her captors that when she was finally approached by Utah law enforcement officials, who had been searching for her for nine months, she told them that she was 18 years old and Mitchell's polygamous wife. Only when she was shown a picture of herself as she had looked before her abduction did she admit she was, in fact, Elizabeth Smart.
- Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist, was captured by the Taliban while disguised in a burqa and held captive for 11 days. "I was horrible to my captors. I spat at them and was rude and refused to eat. It wasn't until I was freed that I became interested in Islam." She converted to Islam in the summer of 2003, stating that her new faith has helped put behind her three broken marriages and a reputation as the "Patsy Stone of Fleet Street." BBC News has written that "It has been suggested that [Ridley] is a victim of Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages take the side of the hostage-takers." Ridley rejects this, however, saying "that at no time did anyone try to brainwash her."
The Japanese embassy hostage crisis
in December 1996 is currently touted as an example of so-called Lima Syndrome
, in which effects reciprocal to the Stockholm syndrome came to light. Rather than the captives becoming submissive, this incident showed signs of the MRTA guerrillas becoming more sympathetic to the plights and needs of their hostages.
The syndrome is sometimes mistakenly called "Helsinki syndrome" after the capital of Sweden's neighbor Finland
. This error has appeared in the film Die Hard
(as a joke, not as a mistake by the writers), the X-Files
episode "Folie a Deux
", the Babylon 5
episode "The Illusion of Truth", the film Knockin' on Heaven's Door
, and Brad Neely's Wizard People, Dear Readers