Stockholm syndrome refers to a group of psychological symptoms that occur in some persons in a captive or hostage situation. The term takes its name from a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 1973. The robber took four employees of the bank (three women and one man) into the vault with him and kept them hostage for 131 hours. After the employees were finally released, they appeared to have formed a paradoxical emotional bond with their captor; they told reporters that they saw the police as their enemy rather than the bank robber, and that they had positive feelings toward the criminal. Stockholm syndrome’s significance arises because it is based in a paradox, as captives’ sentiments for their captors are the opposite of the fear and disdain an on looker may expect to see as a result of trauma. The syndrome was first named by Nils Bejerot (1921–1988), a medical professor who specialized in addiction research and served as a psychiatric consultant to the Swedish police during the standoff at the bank. Stockholm syndrome is considered a “contested illness,” due to many law enforcement officers’ doubt about the legitimacy of the condition. Stockholm syndrome is also known as Helsinki syndrome or referred to as Survival Identification Syndrome, Capture Bonding, Terror Bonding and Traumatic Bonding.
- The hostages have negative feelings about the police or other authorities.
- The hostages have positive feelings toward their captor(s).
- The captors develop positive feelings toward the hostages.
Causes & symptoms
- The crisis situation lasts for several days or longer.
- The hostage takers remain in contact with the hostages; that is, the hostages are not placed in a separate room.
- The hostage takers show some kindness toward the hostages or at least refrain from harming them. Hostages abused by captors typically feel anger toward them and do not usually develop the syndrome.