The History of Stockholm Syndrome


The idea of Stockholm Syndrome is so strange that you might not even believe it exists and some scientists may agree with you. A captive having POSITIVE feelings towards someone who has hurt them and taken them away from comfort? It is a strange phenomenon but there are many cases of kidnapping and hostage situations with those same characteristics. In the following paragraphs, I will talk about Stockholm Syndrome’s odd beginning and an intriguing case.

The term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined by the criminologist Nils Bejerot in 1973 following an infamous bank heist in which four captives felt no fear towards their captors. The perpetrator, Olsson, was seemingly very kind to the captives. In one account, Olsson gave a jacket to a shivering woman and calmed her down after a bad dream. The captives seemed so infatuated with him that when Olsson threatened to shoot a captive in the leg he later told a journalist from The New Yorker, “How kind I thought he was for saying it was just a leg he was gonna shoot.” Later, Olsson was captured and taken to jail but during his departure from the captives there seemed to be some sadness and remorse in their eyes. This strange encounter between captors and their captives made many people wonder if this was all an act or something far deeper than that.

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response to days, months, or even years of abuse or fear. The captives develop a relationship or positive feelings towards their captors. The victims may even defend them and have negative feelings towards police or even people who may put them or their captor in danger. This response may occur for many reasons. This may be a survival tactic for some victims, they may think that the only way to survive this traumatic experience is to pretend they are on their side. Another reason for this may arise because of our human need for connection. The captors may not always be harming or abusing the captives. Sometimes abusers might take the victims out to breakfast or even go shopping. This is sick behavior and most likely deepened the psychological wounds that these captors have created within their victims. There could be lists more of reasons why this my occur all depending on the situation and possibly even the victim’s past.

Stockholm Syndrome only effects 8% of victims, so when a case exhibits the traits and characteristics of Stockholm Syndrome it becomes harder to fully grasp. The most well known case of Stockholm Syndrome is the kidnapping and brain-washing of Patty Hearst. Patty was the granddaughter of William Hearst the “Publishing Tycoon” and was in turn part of an incredibly wealthy family. The Symbionese Liberation Army, also known as the SLA, kidnapped her from her apartment hoping they could exchange her for a fellow member of the SLA who was in prison at the time. But only two months after her kidnapping, Patty was seen holding a weapon and wearing a beret and robbing a bank with other members. Patty’s voice was recorded saying that she was part of the SLA which became a huge piece of her trial about a year later. Patty was sentenced to 35 years in prison for all the criminal activity she engaged in while in the SLA, but Patty would only serve two years of it due to Jimmy Carter pardoning her. This case still leaves many wondering if Patty actually suffered from Stockholm Syndrome or if she’s just a pardoned criminal.

Yes, Stockholm Syndrome effects hostages in banks and high stakes kidnapping, but it can also affect people who suffer from sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. If you or anyone you know maybe suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or abuse of any kind call 1-800-799-7233. You are worth love and respect and don’t let any one tell you different.