Stockholm Syndrome

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Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which victims of kidnapping end up identifying with and possibly even defending their kidnappers. The term comes from a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in which four people were held hostage for six days, and ended up attempting to ward off the police's rescue efforts.

Three things are key for Stockholm Syndrome to exist: A very uneven power relationship, the threat of death or severe injury, and a self-preservation instinct.

Notable examples

  • Well reported kidnappings that have been suggested as examples of Stockholm Syndrome include the kidnapping of Patty Hearst in the 1970s,[1] and more recently, the kidnapping of Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart.
  • In Austria Natascha Kampusch was abducted by Wolfgang Prikopil at the age of 10 and held captive for over eight years before she ultimately managed to escape in 2006.[2] Consequently, Prikopil committed suicide. Later, Austrian journal Profil controversially reported with reference to prosecutors that she had tried to escape already previously but twice returned voluntarily to her kidnapper.[3] Police believed Miss Kampusch suffered from Stockholm Syndrome as she also visited Priklopil's dead body and wept inconsolably and claimed she slept with him voluntarily.[4]
  • In one variant of the syndrome unrelated to kidnapping a victim of abuse can begin to defend its abuser. Richard Dawkins declared in his 2006 book The God Delusion that he as the victim of one of pedophiles should have felt obliged to come to their defence and that pedophilia is an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience.[5]


Howstuffworks - What Causes Stockholm Syndrome?

  1. David Kupelian (2011). "3.How terrorism really works (The Ultimate Stockholm Syndrome)", How evil works. Threshold Editions, 52–7. ISBN 978-1-4391-6820-2. 
  2. stockholmsyn (March 14, 2012). Natasha Kampusch's Captivity. Retrieved on 08 Dec 2012. “The positive feelings she developed towards Priklopil lead to some speculations that Natascha may have the Stockholm syndrome. Some experts say that she chose to live with him because of an affection she developed towards him during captivity. Because she felt she was threatened, she chose to make herself believe that she wasn’t in such a bad situation.”
  3. Emil Bobi (02 Jan 2010). Kampusch exklusiv: Drei Mal geflohen und zwei Mal zurückgekehrt (Kampusch exclusive: Three times fled and returned twice) (German). “The fact is, Kampusch has escaped three times, but twice returned voluntarily to her kidnapper Priklopil.”
  4. Telegraphs's Foreign Staff (29 May 2008). Natascha Kampusch may meet Wolfgang Priklopil's mother. The Telegraph. Retrieved on 08 Dec 2012. “Police believe Miss Kampusch suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, a condition where some abductees sympathise with their captors, following her freedom. She visited Priklopil's dead body and wept inconsolably and claimed she slept with him voluntarily.”
  5. Richard Dawkins (2006). God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “Nevertheless, it is clearly unjust to visit upon all pedophiles a vengeance appropriate to the tiny minority who are also murderers. All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety. That was indeed reprehensible. Nevertheless if, fifty years on, they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defence, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).” 

See also