Stockholm Syndrome Symptoms: This can lead them to support their captors or even help them in criminal activities. One famous example is Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped in 1974 and ended up joining her captors in robbing a bank.
People often thought she was brainwashed, and her actions were attributed to Stockholm Syndrome. However, it’s important to note that Stockholm Syndrome is not officially recognized as a mental health condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 TR). Instead, it is seen as a psychological response by experts.
It can occur when someone goes through extreme trauma, like being kidnapped, experiencing domestic violence, or being trafficked. It’s a way for them to cope with the situation and protect themselves mentally and emotionally. Stockholm Syndrome can also happen in other situations, like abusive relationships or unhealthy workplaces. Psychologists study it to understand how it affects people in different circumstances.
Stockholm Syndrome Symptoms
The way victims behave in situations like Stockholm Syndrome is unique and different for each person. It’s a response that happens when the victim’s defense mechanism kicks in, and they start to identify with their captor, even though it’s a mistake.
The victim is in a very stressful and traumatic situation where they feel powerless. They may act in a way that seems like they’re being both passive and aggressive towards the captor, just to protect themselves and survive.
It’s important to understand that when someone takes away another person’s freedom based on their own demands, it puts the victim in a very unstable and imbalanced situation. The victim feels a lot of pain, anxiety, and fear because they don’t know what will happen to them.
In such a situation, the victim only sees two choices: rebel against the captor or accept their control. But rebelling can have bad consequences, so the victim might choose Stockholm Syndrome as a way to protect themselves, even though it’s not the best option.
What Is Stockholm Syndrome?
Stockholm Syndrome Symptoms, According to Melissa Goldberg Mints, a psychologist, Stockholm Syndrome is when a victim develops positive feelings towards the person who is harming them. It may happen because it feels less scary to think that the person hurting you is not completely evil, but rather someone whose motives you can understand or sympathize with.
Noel Hunter, another psychologist, explains that this defense mechanism can help victims survive if they form a close bond with their abuser. In some cases, the victim relies on the person who is hurting them for basic needs like food, safety, and shelter. They are trapped because they are dependent on their abuser, and they can’t fight back or push them away without risking their own well-being. It’s a difficult situation where they are both being hurt and dependent on the same person.
How Did Stockholm Syndrome Get Its Name?
In 1973, there was a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. The strange thing was that the hostages seemed to form a bond or trust with the robbers during the week they were held captive. This surprising response led to the term “Stockholm syndrome.” Since then, people use this term to describe situations where victims become protective or affectionate towards their captors or abusers.
Causes of Stockholm Syndrome
According to Carla Manly, a psychologist and trauma expert, Stockholm syndrome develops when the victim feels isolated and forms an emotional connection with the abuser, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. Another important factor is the lack of support from others outside the abusive situation.
A study conducted in 2018 interviewed female sex workers in India and identified four main criteria for Stockholm Syndrome Symptoms:
- Feeling like their survival is at risk.
- Experiencing acts of kindness from their captor.
- Being isolated from other perspectives or sources of help.
- Believing they are unable to escape from the situation.
Risk Factors of Stockholm Syndrome
Not all victims will develop Stockholm syndrome as a way to cope with their situation.
There are several factors that can influence why it happens in some cases and not in others, as explained by Dr. Goldberg Mintz. These factors include how long the victim is held captive, how much interaction they have with the person harming them, and their individual coping styles.
Stockholm syndrome can be a coping strategy or emotional response for victims of different types of abuse, such as domestic violence, child abuse, or human trafficking. It can also happen in abusive workplaces or certain relationships where there is a power imbalance, like between coaches and athletes. According to Dr. Hunter, this mentality can occur in any situation where the victim feels trapped and dependent on their abuser, who holds authority or power over them.
Specific Situations where Stockholm syndrome
Child abuse: According to Dr. Goldberg Mintz, it can be hard for a child, especially a young one, to see their parent in a negative way, even if the parent is hurting them. In cases of ongoing child sexual abuse, a study from 2005 suggests that Stockholm syndrome can often occur, creating a strong bond between the abuser and the victim that may continue into adulthood.
Family relationships: Stockholm syndrome can happen when someone is physically abused by a family member or in other forms of abuse. For example, one partner may constantly criticize the other’s eating habits or control their food intake.
Workplace relationships: Our jobs can be a big part of our identity and self-worth, making us vulnerable to certain dynamics in the workplace. This could include situations where our employer or boss doesn’t respect our boundaries.
Athlete-coach relationships: In cases of an abusive coach, enthusiastic athletes might reframe emotional abuse as a sign of passion or belief in their abilities, rather than recognizing it as harmful. This justification can be even stronger when the abuse seems to lead to successful outcomes, like winning games.
Sex trafficking: Victims of sex or human trafficking may experience Stockholm syndrome because they depend on their abuser for basic necessities like food, water, and shelter. This meets the main criteria for Stockholm Syndrome Symptoms.
Signs of Stockholm Syndrome
Dr. Hunter explains that Stockholm syndrome is not an officially defined disorder with specific symptoms in the DSM-5 TR. It is more of a general description of a psychological phenomenon. However, there are some warning signs to watch out for, especially in cases of domestic abuse. Some of these signs include:
- Feeling like you’re acting out of character or doing things that don’t feel like yourself.
- Feeling depressed and helpless.
- Having thoughts of self-harm or engaging in self-harming behaviors.
- Believing that others don’t understand your relationship.
- Always wanting to defend someone who others say is hurting you.
- Feeling angry at friends or loved ones who try to protect you.
- Experiencing general feelings of anxiety, fear, and shame.
Dr. Manly adds that people with Stockholm Syndrome Symptoms tend to defend those who oppress them. They focus on the positive traits of the abuser and the situation, even if their experiences are difficult. The victim may show signs of fear, anxiety, depression, or noticeable emotional reactions if separated from or asked to go against the oppressor, despite displaying positive or neutral emotions.
How to Treat Stockholm Syndrome Symptoms?
Dr. Goldberg Mintz explains that since Stockholm syndrome is not an official diagnosis, there are no specific treatments that are proven to work. However, she suggests that long-term trauma therapy can be helpful. This therapy focuses on helping the individual acknowledge what happened, recognize that it was abuse, and build empowerment and awareness that they are no longer trapped.
Dr. Hunter adds that if there is trauma associated with Stockholm syndrome, addressing the trauma through therapy can also be beneficial. The goal is to gradually untangle the victim’s connection with their abuser and work through the trauma they experienced, as well as address any behaviors and feelings of shame.
In particular, Dr. Manly states that individuals with Stockholm syndrome often benefit from focused trauma treatment using techniques like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or other trauma-focused practices. These approaches can help them process and heal from the trauma they have experienced.