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Free «Stockholm Syndrome» Essay Sample

The disorder can be seen in the case of victims and their captor, as well as in family relations, when husbands beat their wives, who have sympathy for them. Thus, Stockholm syndrome is a phenomenon where hostages express sympathy or empathy for their captors. Therefore, it is a collection of psychological symptoms that happen in some individual captives.

This syndrome has drawn much attention from the media, especially to famous kidnappers of 1974 and 2002, such as Hearst and Elizabeth Smart. The name ‘Stockholm’ appeared as a result of a bank robbery that took place in Stockholm, in Sweden, in August, 1973. In the city, a robber invaded a bank and captured four employees comprising three women and a man. The robber took them to a vault, where they spent up to 131 hours. After the release, the captives were seen to have paradoxical emotions towards their captor. It meant that the employees seemed to have been attracted to the robber more than they would have been to the policemen (Sheridan & Lasher, 2004).



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As the captives were interviewed by the media, they defended the criminal and further said that he was friendlier, unlike the policemen. It sounded unusual to many people, since captors have always been known to be unscrupulous people. They are also advised that if noticed, they should be brought to book. This case was different (Pilevsky, 2007).

History reveals that the syndrome came into being in the period from 1921 to 1988 from Nils Bejerot, who was then a medical professor of addiction. He was working with the police in Sweden as a psychiatric consultant. It was the period when the bank robbery incident occurred.  Stockholm syndrome was also named ‘survival identification syndrome’.

Stockholm syndrome is regarded a complex reaction to a frightening situation: experts seem to disagree with the characteristics that are attached to the syndrome, which appear to be making some people more prone to developing such related characteristics than others.

One of the reasons that has been explaining why experts do disagree with it is that in undertaking such a behavior on human beings, it will be unethical to conduct an experiment. In order to understand the syndrome better, data have been collected from various locations, incidences and the timeframe of such happenings, since they are suspected to vary from one incident to another; time and other factors may also contribute to it. Data collection has been going on from the first incident that occurred in 1973.

Disagreeing on the second  matter, the experts reveal that there are situations, when the syndrome can be used to explain a given historical situation. They can also be used to explain a given commonplace abusive relationship. In some cases, they are not applicable.

Basing on researches, Stockholm is used to explain certain behaviors of those people, who survived in World War II concentration camps.  Some of these survivors may include battered wives, physically and emotionally molested children and members of religious cults. It also includes those people, who were captured and made hostage by terrorists.

The experts are in terms with the fact that Stockholm has three key features, namely the fact that hostages normally develop positive feelings towards the captor, and, on the other hand, the hostage develops a negative feeling towards the police or any other authority. Lastly, a captor develops appositive feelings towards the hostage.

In order for this disorder to occur, a number of factors must be in a traumatic situation. There are up to four categories, which generate the occurrence of this disorder. In the first case, a person has the power to kill the victim and use this advantage to make threats to the other victims. Secondly, the victim does not have a chance to escape from the hands of the captor. Thirdly, in order for this traumatic situation to get on, the victim should be isolated from the rest. Therefore, in this case, the captive will develop a dependent environment by only relying on the information provided by the captor. Lastly, the latter should be able to be kind to the victim. The last point is the basis of the entire exercise, as the victim and the captor will get a chance to shift their emotions towards one another.

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The victim will be under severe stress, as the other victims will fear for their lives. The captor will win, if a little kindness is shown to them. The victims will think that the captor is concerned with them.

According to researchers, there are five motivational issues that are to be offered to the victims in order for them to accept a little kindness being offered by the captor as many gestures. After making the first offer, the captive should posses a strong motivation, not only physically but also mentally. The captive will not be much stressed, since the captor will have shown his/her a bit of kindness. Therefore, the victim will have the assurance of security. Secondly, the victim posseses motivation to avoid fear and pain. When victims see themselves and the situation that they are in as less threatening, they will develop fearlessness; thus, less stress will be experienced. Thirdly, the victim should be hopeful and gain meaning. Sometimes, the victims allow themselves to think that the captor is not as harmful as they expected, and that they possess similar characteristics, other than thinking that the main aim of the captor is to hurt them. The issue of the two parties thinking that they are both victims will strengthen their relationship only if the captor does not move ahead to kill the victims. Their relation can be hardened, as the victim will perceive that the captor is a nice guy.

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The fourth motivational issue that should be possessed by the victim is being able to find significance and security. After the realization of the victim that the abuser is friendly and has no intentions of harming him or her, his or her stress will be reduced, and the victim will feel warm to be with the abuser. At this point, the victims will feel safe being in the hands of the abuser, other than another person outside their sphere, as they may think that a third person may have the intentions of injuring them.

Finally, the victim should be motivated to seek acceptance and relationship. Since the victim has been isolated from his/her world, he/she will be forced to seek human interaction with the abuser. In order for the victim to survive, he or she will be forced to seek relationship and acceptance from the abuser. If it is accomplished, then there will be a higher chance of survival for the two, and the disorder will take place.

Who may be affected by the disorder?

The history of Stockholm syndrome may be dated back to the times of hunters and gathers. During this period kidnapping also existed. It was at that time when it emerged. The ancestors were faced with this unethical behavior of being kidnapped by captors. It was a reality to them. In their situation, those, who emerged winners, would forcefully take women of those, who were defeated, and would assume to be there. Afterwards, they killed all men, who had been involved in the fight. The kidnapped women were left with no other choice than to accept the situation or be killed. Those women, who felt uncomfortable, were either killed or became mad. It is one of similar cases. It happened because women, who had been kidnapped, were to find acceptance from the winning tribe, as that was the last option in their life.

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Secondly, there is a situation when women are taken away from their loved ones to a far place, where they cannot communicate or think about coming back. One of these examples is soldiers or warriors, who are fighting in a war. At a given point, they will be heroes. A few from the losing team will have surrendered themselves to get spared by the enemy. At this time, they will be required to join the team only as juniors. Others will be used as gardeners to work in their farms receiving a small pay.


It is not those victims having suffered such a situation, who are so mentally unscathed.  The effects of Stockholm syndrome are great ranging from mental anguish to other psychological impacts. Most of them are  caused by this disorder in the captive’s mind causing a negative body image, depression, self-blame,  self-destructive behaviors,  low self-esteem, social isolation,  parenting problems,  relationship problems, sexual difficulties, guilt, loss and flashbacks (Mutsheller, 2008).

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Relationship between Stockholm and other disorders

There are other disorders that are related to Stockholm syndrome. They may not be as related as Stockholm syndrome. The first is the parental alienation syndrome, which is an intentional act of one parent ruining child’s feelings for the other parent. Some of the techniques that are used for this disorder may include deceptions, false stories, the negative narration of an event and rumors. At the time of custody and divorce proceedings, the child would have been confused and conflicted. The parent alienation syndrome is often achieved, when the child is brainwashed to develop hatred towards the other parent (Lines, 2008).

The parent alienation syndrome hardly causes Stockholm syndrome. The only relations that exist between the two are the emotions and physical abuse that is experienced within the relationship. Those victims, who are domestically traumatized, may be aware of their abuse situation and may have some chances of escaping, separating or helping during this traumatizing situation, unlike Stockholm syndrome. The victims of the PAS may not be able to defend themselves or support an abusive behavior, but may clearly get intimidated and develop fear (IMinds, 2009).

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Those parents, who engage in this intentional alienation of their children at the time, when there no legal, abusive, criminal, or emotional justification of protecting them from the parent, may often have control over an individual in the relationship. In this case, it is quite sad, as one party considers using the child for revenging more important than the emotional development of the child (Argus, 2009).

There is also the post-traumatic stress disorder, which is defined as such, which develops several features following a severe experience, where too much helplessness, fear or horror are experienced. Some of its symptoms include persistently avoiding any stimuli that are related to the event, regularly experiencing the event, a numbing overall responsiveness and finally additional arousal for at least one month.  A situation, where an intimate partner seems to abuse, repeatedly increase the abused person’s probability of exhibiting PSTD.

Treatment of Stockholm Syndrome

The treatment of Stockholm is the same as that of the PSTD. It is mainly indicated that medications are used when there are short-term sleep disturbances, and psychotherapy is applied only if symptoms persist. In dealing with the disorder, diagnostic criteria are often used by psychiatrists in cases of acute stress disorders. Most impacts caused by this disorder last for a lifetime in the captive’s mind causing negative body image, depression, self-blame,  self-destructive behaviors,  low self esteem, social isolation,  parenting problems,  relationship problems, sexual difficulties, guilt, loss and flashbacks (Graham, 1995).

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This disorder may be useful to the FBI, since they get to understand the tactics, which can be applied by captives. For instance, a captive may in one way or another defend a captor from the FBI acting as a barrier to investigations.  In this situation, the FBI should use a friendlier way, than the way a captive has experienced from the abuser.

It will also be useful to the FBI, since they will be able to differentiate a person, who has been held as a captive, from the captor. It is because the two will possess similar characteristics. The FBI will use proper procedures to reach the abuser.


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