What is Stockholm Syndrome?

What is Stockholm Syndrome?


How many of us have watched the Bollywood movie “Highway” with Alia Bhatt in its lead role and have wondered how she ever ended up falling in love with somebody who was technically her kidnapper? Have you ever given a thought as to how those romantic or even affectionate feelings were developed within the kidnapped person?

Stockholm syndrome is a proposed psychological condition wherein an individual who is held captive or as a hostage develops affectionate feelings or emotions towards the kidnapper or the abuser. With this condition, hostages or victims of torture may begin to sympathize with their captors. This is the polar opposite of the fear, horror, and contempt that one might expect victims to exhibit in similar situations. Some victims do grow to acquire good sentiments for their captors over time. They may even grow to believe they have similar aims and reasons. The victim may come to have ill will against the police or other authorities. They may detest anyone who tries to assist them in getting out of their unsafe circumstances.

Why is it called Stockholm Syndrome?

The term Stockholm syndrome was coined for the first time in 1973 on the face of a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. 2 men held 4 people as hostages during the bank robbery for about 6 days. After these hostages were finally released after 6 days, they were interrogated for the details of the heist and their captors. Surprisingly, these hostages refused to utter even a word against their captors and even went to the extreme level of saving and raising money for the latter’s defence.

Even though these events have occurred earlier in the account of history and have been recorded, this robbery induced the psychologists and psychiatrists to name it Stockholm syndrome from the place where the very bank is situated. Despite having scientific records of multiple incidents proving the existence of the syndrome and the likelihood of people developing these symptoms in the face of being kidnapped or being held captive, the syndrome has not yet been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-V)

Read More: What is Forensic Psychology?


Researchers are baffled as to why some prisoners get Stockholm syndrome while others do not. According to one idea, this is a taught method passed down from our forefathers. There was always the possibility of being caught or slain by another social group in early civilization. Bonding with captors improved survival chances. According to some evolutionary psychiatrists, this ancient approach is a normal human feature.

Another viewpoint holds that a captivity or abuse scenario is very emotional. When people are treated with kindness over time, their sentiments change and they begin to have sympathy for their abuser. Victims might also ensure their safety by cooperating with rather than opposing an abuser. When a victim is not hurt by their abuser, they may feel thankful and even consider themselves lucky. The syndrome may also unfold in an individual in the face of repeated instances of child abuse, emotional, physical and verbal abuse, and even human sex trafficking and not alone in facing terrorist captivity or any other uncommon situations.


  1. The victim develops highly favourable sentiments for the individual who is torturing or abusing them.
  2. The victim develops hostile attitudes against police, authority people, or anybody else who may be attempting to assist them in escaping their captor. They may even refuse to comply with their kidnapper.
  3. The victim comes to see their captor as human and believes they share similar aims and beliefs.
  4. The victim may feel dependent on the captors for their survival until the time they are released from the captivity and this may induce feelings of obligation and

Psychological Effects

Apart from these attitudinal shifts towards the captors, these victims may also develop multiple psychological effects that are almost similar to that of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They may develop feelings of irritation and anxiety. They may suffer from flashbacks of the unfortunate incidents that might have happened in the course of the captivity or while being held hostage. They may feel jittery and worrisome and may even develop emotions of distrust about the people they are surrounded with. They may even face trouble concentrating and focusing on their daily activities. These victims may suffer certain symptoms of depressive disorders and may not find it possible to enjoy the activities they earlier did.

Treatment Plans:

There is no conventional therapy for Stockholm syndrome as it is not recognized as a psychological illness under the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V. However, treatment for Stockholm syndrome, just like the treatment for PTSD, typically includes psychiatric and psychological counselling (“talk therapy and/or medication.)

If one suffers from any of the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome, therapy may aid them to identify these symptoms and classify them accurately under the diagnosis and provide them with adequate coping strategies. Therapy at the right time from the right professional would help these victims to recognize their unique experiences and not compare their hardships with those of others, restrain them from belittling themselves. It may aid them to comprehend that these affectionate feelings they once nurtured for their abusers were actually survival tactics that they themselves devised for their safety.

Psychiatrists and psychologists consider Stockholm syndrome as another coping mechanism that produces quite gruesome psychological effects and consequences. Instead of dread, anxiety, and animosity towards your abuser, you may learn to feel humanity and compassion for them. If you or a loved one has suffered from Stockholm syndrome, please understand that your good sentiments towards your abuser are not your fault. What you’re experiencing is an understandable reaction to what happened to you.

Read More Articles from Psychologs>

Leave feedback about this

  • Rating