It is common for people to think that someone needs to be held hostage for a long time before they develop Stockholm syndrome, but new research suggests this is not true. Experts believe it is the intensity of the experience, not the length, that is most likely to cause anxiety in someone experiencing it. Stockholm syndrome occurs in people who have been kidnapped, taken hostage and held against their will. It is a psychological reaction that people often associate with the notorious kidnapping and hostage situations. Psychologists also believe Stockholm syndrome is more likely to occur in situations where hostage takers do not physically abuse their hostages. The term Stockholm syndrome was created by Dr. Nils Bejerot, criminologist and psychiatrist, to describe this dynamic. It is a name for the psychological response to imprisonment and abuse, and it is also the name of a mental disorder.
Tying yourself to a perpetrator may be the most common form of mental illness among victims of domestic violence, but professionals who work with victims and hostages now view it as a common phenomenon. Maltreated children, abused women and even children in prison share the same experience of this dynamic, which takes place in a powerless and helpless situation.
Stockholm syndrome occurs when the victim, unconsciously or involuntarily, begins to sympathize with his abductor. They have no conscious idea of what they are doing, but their feelings for their victim and their desire to free them make them sympathetic. The psychological processes underlying Stockholm Syndrome include the person who perpetrates the violence and takes the perpetrator’s point of view.
At this point, it is clear that Stockholm syndrome is situational, which means that a person develops it under a number of very traumatic circumstances. Stockholm syndrome occurs in special circumstances, but can also occur when certain dynamics are involved. The condition can arise when the victim of abuse believes that he or she is threatened with violence by their abuser. They also believe the threat would be carried out by their abuser or someone else in the family. Stockholm syndrome is a condition in which the victim waits for bad behavior, as for crumbs for the good behavior that is bestowed upon them. If they are treated humanely and allowed to live simply, they feel grateful and attribute positive qualities to their kidnappers who believe that they were indeed good people. People with Stockholm syndrome identify with and care for their abductor, and they often report to look after their abductor.
In most classic cases, the victim defends and cares for his captors even after they have escaped from captivity. This usually happens in the aftermath of a major crisis, such as a terrorist attack, and the effects do not usually end when the crisis is over. After it became clear that the bank employees had developed a strong bond with the people they were imprisoning, criminologists and psychiatrists who investigated the event coined their own term, Stockholm Syndrome, after the crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that as many as 8% of kidnapping victims show signs of Stockholm syndrome. No one knows for sure why victims develop Stockholm syndrome, but it is probably due to a combination of factors. When the standoff ends, the victim appears to develop positive feelings toward his captors, even expressing sympathy for them. The hostage-takers must be kind to him, or at least refrain from harming him.
Although this unusual phenomenon is rare, it is known that it is difficult to understand how a hostage would identify with his captors and build an emotional bond with them and defend them during such a horrific, life-threatening ordeal. In addition to the occurrence of hostage-taking, psychologists suspect that the syndrome could also affect sect members and victims of domestic violence. While hostages and kidnapping victims can behave in this way, people in abusive relationships or members of cults can.
The name “Stockholm syndrome” derives from Stockholm, where four hostages were held for six days. During the captivity, the hostages seemed to defend the robbers’actions, despite the damage that happened along the way. They asked their captors not to be harmed during the rescue, and despite their captivity and damage on the way out, they defended themselves and their hostages.
Many researchers believe that Stockholm syndrome helps explain the behavior of abused wives and criminal terrorists who take a person hostage. It is well documented that harmful relationships, which include sexual abuse, domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault, can also cause Stockholm syndrome.