Stockholm syndrome

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Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm, Sweden, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28 in 1973. 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.[1]

Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm

In 2007, a group of scholars studied twelve highly-publicized cases of Stockholm syndrome, publishing their results in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia. They argued that, as the media accounts lacked "access to primary sources" or an "identification of a pattern of features exhibited in Stockholm syndrome," the characterization of any of these events as Stockholm syndrome could have been due to reporting bias.[2]


[edit] Psychoanalytic explanations

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 of identification.[3]

[edit] Potential examples of Stockholm syndrome

  • 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[4], although she explicitly denied ever commiserating with him, stating that with his death, she lost the chance to get several questions answered.[5]
  • 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.[6]
  • 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 travelled 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.[7]

[edit] In popular culture

  • In the HBO series The Sopranos, Big Pussy (Sal) Bompensiero becomes disenchanted with Tony's dismissiveness of him, and so actively begins contributing to the FBI's investigation of the Soprano family that his FBI handler refers to Sal as a "Junior G-Man" and reports his concern that Sal has the worst case of Stockholm Syndrome that the FBI Agent has ever seen.
  • In the February 1, 2009 episode of the Sally Forth comic strip, Sally's daughter suggests that their mother-daughter bonding while cooped up indoors by the cold weather is really just a case of Stockholm Syndrome.
  • In the movie Die Hard, there is a scene in which there is a reporter and a psychologist discussing about the hostage situation taking place in the Nakatomi Plaza. The psychologist then says that some of the hostages might develop the Stockholm Syndrome, although he refers to it as the "Helsinki Syndromme".
  • In Episode 7 (titled Five Brothers) of Season 3 of The Unit the team must rescue a journalist from captivity. During his rescue, the journalist begins to exhibit behaviors of stockholm syndrome leading the team leader to note that the journalist has become "Stockholmed."
  • On the episode called "Insane in the Mainframe" during Season 3 of Futurama (originally airing on 04/08/01) Roberto the bank robbing robot takes the Planet Express crew hostage and threatens to kill Bender. Bender pleads for his life claiming that he's developing Stockholm Syndrome.
Roberto: "I'm gonna kill you, no-good fifty-sixing..."'
Bender: "Don't kill me yet! I'm starting to come down with Stockholm Syndrome...handsome!"
  • In the episode "The Good Wives' Club" of the TV show NCIS, a kidnapped victim attacks one of the NCIS agents and then attempts suicide as they rescue her from her underground prison once she learns that her kidnapper is dead.
  • During the Simpsons episode Blame It On Lisa, the Simpsons travel to Brazil, and Homer is kidnapped. When the family pays the ransom, Homer is reluctant to leave, prompting his captor to remark that he has "the Stockholm Syndrome."
  • It is also the title of a song by Muse on the album Absolution released in 2003.
  • The Spanish movie Atame features a kidnapped girl who falls in love with her kidnapper, who is also in love with her.
  • In the anime "Black Lagoon" the main character, Okajima Rokuro, joins the Lagoon Company, willingly, even after they kidnap and threaten to kill him. He even uses the phrase:
Rock(Okajima): "I guess this is what they call 'Stockholm Syndrome'.."
  • In the stealth/action video game Metal Gear Solid, Snake speculates that Otacon suffers from Stockholm Syndrome when he becomes attracted to Sniper Wolf, a ruthless killer who mortally wounded the heroine (Meryl).
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm tells Reese that he is coming down with Stockholm Syndrome when he lets the people who took over their house hit golf balls at him.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

[edit] External links

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