Stockholm syndrome

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Police snipers eyeing the Credit Bank where the hostage crisis that gave Stockholm Syndrome its name took place.
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Stockholm syndrome is the name given to the alleged psychological phenomenon wherein, after enough time in captivity, hostages begin to identify more with their captor (or captors) and less with their life before captivity. The term "Stockholm syndrome" was first used to describe the events of a six-day hostage situation that followed a bungled bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. By the time they were released, the hostages sympathized with and defended the robbers (of course, nobody ever mentions that the Swedish authorities straight-up told the hostages that they should prepare to die).

Cult members and others who have been brainwashed also exhibit many of the traits of Stockholm syndrome. Their ability to parrot dogma and talking points combined with their inability to accept any facts that contradict their worldview are telltale signs that one has been indoctrinated while in captivity.

The Stockholm syndrome is itself fairly dubious as an actual condition, and little to no research has actually been done on the proposed syndrome.

Proposed causes[edit]

Supposedly the process goes that the captives are often isolated from the outside world allowing them to see the viewpoint of their kidnapper. Hostages can also feel their kidnapper is doing them a favor by not killing them. This can make hostages see their captor in a more positive light. In addition, living together for long periods can bring two different people together. The hostage and the kidnapper may start to share their common interests.[1]

However, the impetus for the label of this "syndrome" saw the police act without regard for the safety of the hostages. This forced the hostages to negotiate for their own safety with their captors as they realized they couldn't trust the police to do it for them.[2] Kristin Enmark, one of the hostages, criticized the police for agitating their captors without regard for the safety of the hostages, including pointing guns at the robbers while the hostages were in the line of fire. Ultimately, Enmark explains, the hostages became more afraid of the police than the hostage-takers.[3]


Jess Hill in her treatise on domestic violence See What You Made Me Do describes how Stockholm syndrome contains misogynistic undertones. As explained above, during the Stockholm crisis, the police made the victims feel more unsafe than their captors did. Notably, hostage Kristin Enmark was told by Swedish Prime Minister Olof PalmeWikipedia that the Swedish goverment won't negotiate with criminals and that the hostages should "content yourself that you will have died at your post." Enmark was only "diagnosed" with Stockholm syndrome after publically criticizing Olof Palme.[2]

A 2008 review of the literature found that there is little research done on the supposed syndrome, and what research has been done is contradictory and doesn't often agree on what Stockholm syndrome actually is.[4] If you can't even agree on what your supposed diagnosis actually is, then it has no utility as an actual diagnosis.

New Zealand-based therapist Wade Allan called Stockholm syndrome and other supposed conditions like "traumatic bonding" (which disproportionately get applied to women) as attempts to silence critics of negative institutional responses. Allan notes that such labels shift focus away from the traumatic events themselves to supposed pathologies in the victims' minds.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. Gavish, Shavit (October 6, 2010). "Stockholm Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms, Cases and Treatment". Prime Health Channel. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hill, Jess (24 June 2019). See What You Made Me Do: Power, Control and Domestic Abuse. Black Inc. ISBN 978-1743820865.
  3. Westcott, Kathryn (August 22, 2013). "What is Stockholm syndrome?". BBC. 
  4. "'Stockholm syndrome': psychiatric diagnosis or urban myth?". Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 117 (1): 4–11. January 2008. doiWikipedia:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2007.01112.x. PMID 18028254. 
  5. Wade, Allan (1 May 2015)." "The myth of 'Stockholm Syndrome'" Archived from the original on January 23rd, 2016.