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Stockholm Syndrome

Several hostages during the infamous Norrmalmstorg robbery, in which they came to sympathize with their captors.

Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon.


Stockholm syndrome occurs when hostages empathize with and/or pity their captors, sometimes to the point where they defend them. Such emotions are generally considered irrational due to the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for some sort of act of kindness. Roughly 8% of victims of captivity show evidence of Stockholm syndrome, as calculated by the FBI's Hostage Barricade Database System.

The concept arose to public attention in the wake of the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken in Stockholm, Sweden, in which several bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault from August 23-28, 1973, while their captors negotiated with police. During this standoff, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors (even rejecting assistance from government officials at one point) and even defended their captors after they were freed. The term "Stockholm syndrome" was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot as Norrmalmstorgssyndromet (a Swedish term which is the local term for Stockholm syndrome) but it became known by its more well-known name abroad.

Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but instead describes "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other". One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory, which suggests that the bonding is the individual's response to trauma in becoming a victim; in other words, captives bond with their captors in order to defend themselves from any harm.

The concept of Stockholm syndrome has become popular with the public. Many police-procedural shows often depict characters who suffer from Stockholm syndrome.

On Criminal Minds[]

Stockholm syndrome has been referenced a number of times on Criminal Minds, usually in episodes in which captives have begun showing loyalty and obedience towards their captors. Examples are:

Real World[]

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