Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stockholm Syndrome - in love with your abuser

Stockholm Syndrome is used to describe a psychological phenomenon when hostages express empathy and have positive feelings and attitudes towards the captors.

The name actually comes from a hostage incident in Stockholm, Sweeden. Four bank employees were held for six days by two ex-convicts who despite threatening their life, showed them kindness. Everybody was surprised when the victims were against the government’s efforts to rescue them. Two of the women got engaged with the captors. 
Other examples are the cases of Mary McElroy and Patty Hearst. Mary McElroy was kidnapped and when her captors were given harsh sentences, she defended them. Patty Hearst was also kidnapped and after two months in captivity she took part in a robbery with her kidnappers.

The Stockholm Syndrome can also be seen in romantic, interpersonal or family relationships. For example cases of an abusive husband or wife, parent.

Some of the symptoms are: positive feelings towards the abuser, negative feelings towards those who wish to rescue them, support of the abuser’s reasons and behaviors, helping the abuser, etc. 


It seems that the cause for Stockholm Syndrome is the fact that the captives begin to identify themselves with the captors. It starts as a defense mechanism and the small acts of kindness a captor does are magnified. Some experts say that the relationship between the victim and the abuser is modified in the eyes of the victim resembling a mother and her child. If the victim has absolutely no independence and its basic needs for survival are controlled, the perpetrator may start to seem more like a mother figure.

This syndrome is a great example of identification as a defense mechanism. The victims have an emotional attachment with their abusers and experience them as a part of themselves. 


  1. hi andreea, i remember the Patty Hearst case..
    looks like stockholm syndrome is quite common.. agree with you that it could be family or home/office stress can make a person's mind go stockholm's... thanks for sharing

  2. See, women always fall for the bad guys.

  3. @cookingvarieties yes,the stockholm syndrome is common in abusive relationships and it's a reason why some women never manage to escape their relationships.
    @Vlad bad guys are powerful and sexy for some :D

  4. Andrea, thanks for the comment on my guest post at cooking varieties! First time here and I gathered some knowledge about stockholm syndrome. It is becoming more and more commnon these days... people tend to compromise on whatever little affection they are getting and they forget about the abuses.
    Shall visit here soon...loved your blog!

  5. You are welcome, dear. Yes, it's true that some people are only able to see the small affection gestures ignoring the abusive ones. Unfortunately emotional attachment to an abuser is extremely risky.