Bay Path College
5 March 2014
Although the term Stockholm syndrome is recognized throughout the world as the bonding between captor and captive, it is not actually recognized as a Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) in the psychological community (Namnyak, 2008). Regardless of the fact that the term “Stockholm syndrome” is not recognized as a Medical Subject Heading in the psychological community, there are four commonalities that individuals who have seemingly suffered from it all share:
“1) A genuine perceived threat to one's own survival and that there was a strong belief that the captor was willing to carry out threats, 2) The captive perceived some small kindness by the abuser toward the abused and it was appreciated. 3) The victim was isolated, and views of outsiders to the relationship were dissuaded leaving only the captors views to be adopted. 4) The abused had a genuine belief that they could not escape their situation” (Fisher 2010).
Chief among these are the way these people have come to identify with and even care for their captors as an unconscious act of self-preservation. Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that has been analyzed in professional articles by various scholars, but there still needs to be more findings and conclusions to more clearly define this complicated syndrome.
Before going into what Stockholm syndrome is and its relevance to the psychological community, it is important to understand how many people the syndrome affects. Through high profile cases of kidnapping and hostage situations, the media has over exaggerated the rate of people who actually show symptoms of Stockholm syndrome. In actuality 73% of captives show no evidence of Stockholm syndrome according to the FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System, which contains data concerning over 4,700 reported federal, state, and local hostage/barricade incidents (De Fabrique, N. Romano). Even though Stockholm syndrome does not affect everyone, those whom the syndrome affects should be able to understand why he or she feels the way they do towards their captor. On August 23rd 1973, a Thursday morning in Norrmalmstorg Square, Stockholm, Sweden, a 32-year-old prison escapee, Janne Olsson, armed with a submachine gun, walked into a bank called ‘Sveriges Kredibanken’. This is where the term Stockholm syndrome was originally coined by ‘Nils Bejerot, who was the psychiatrist involved in the hostage negotiations at the Stockholm bank robbery. At the bank robbery, Janne Olsson fired rounds injuring one police officer and then took four bank clerks hostage. He then demanded to have his 26-year-old prison mate, Clark Olofsson, released to join him, which was eventually granted. They then barricaded themselves and their four hostages in a 3.3 x 14.3 m vault (Namnyak, 2008). After being held captive for 131 hours, “The four hostages appeared to bond with the captors: they seemingly did not want to be rescued by the police. One is quoted as saying, “This is our world now… sleeping in this vault to survive. Whoever threatens this world is our enemy” (Namnyak, 2008). It is clear that there is something psychologically going on with these hostages, because no rightfully sane person would take the side and perspective of their own captor. Described in the Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention, during the 131 hours of captivity, the hostages developed strong attachments to their captors, coming to hold empathetic and protective feelings towards them to the point that the police were more threatening than their captors (Fisher 2010). According to the Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention, Stockholm syndrome is a “psychological and emotional process whereby the abused comes to identify with the abuser” (Fisher 2010). Dee Graham, a former research psychologist for the University of Cincinnati, came up with four conditions for Stockholm syndrome:
“The first of