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Stockholm Syndrome 101

By Mavis Brown

Stockholm Syndrome, also referred to as capture-bonding, is a psychological occurrence first seen in 1973 when hostages showed sympathy and had positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. These feelings are normally considered irrational because of the danger or risk the victims will experience because they mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for kindness.  The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that around eight percent of victims show signs of Stockholm syndrome.

Stockholm syndrome can be perceived as a form of trauma bonding, which does not always require a hostage situation, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” One hypothesis often used to describe the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian Theory. It implies that the bonding is the individual’s reaction to trauma in being a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the mind defends itself. When a victim has the same morals as the aggressor, they are no longer perceived as a threat.


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