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Last Updated: September 27, 2014  63 views

What is Stockholm Syndrome?

in: Hot Shot

Stockholm Syndrome is used to describe the behavior of kidnap victims who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. This kind of behaviour has been shown in many movies Hollywood and Bollywood movies. In Bond movie “The World Is Not Enough” Bond girl Elektra King has her villainy blamed on Stockholm Syndrome to her captor Renard, whom she supposedly falls in love with and joins in the pipeline terrorist attack. The name derives from a 1973 hostage incident in Stockholm, Sweden. At the end of six days of captivity in a bank, several kidnap victims actually resisted rescue attempts, and afterwards refused to testify against their captors. There are many example from world history. Mary McElroy, a young girl of a rich Judge in US was kidnapped and held for ransom in 1933 and released by her captors unharmed. When three of her four captors were apprehended and given maximum sentences (including one death sentence), McElroy defended them.

According to reports, she suffered from feelings of guilt concerning the case which compromised her mental and physical health. She took her own life in 1940. What is the cause behind Stockholm Syndrome? Captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since finding perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. Rescue attempts are also seen as a threat, since it’s likely the captive would be injured during such attempts. These symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse, and has been observed in battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors.

An inverse of Stockholm Syndrome called “Lima Syndrome” has been proposed, in which abductors develop sympathy for their hostages. It was named after an abduction at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru in 1996, when members of a militant movement took hostage hundreds of people attending a party in the official residence of Japan’s ambassador. Within a few hours, the abductors had set free most of the hostages, including the most valuable ones, due to sympathy.