Over the years, victims of kidnap and hostages develop connections with their captors/abusers over time and you would wonder why such a person would want to be associated with someone who has made them go through a lot. You will be shocked to hear that it is not in any way their fault but has a psychological tune to it, and that is called Stockholm Syndrome.
According to Medicalnewstoday, Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological response that people often associate with infamous kidnappings and hostage situations. A person with Stockholm syndrome develops positive associations with their captors or abusers.
As much as experts do not fully understand their response in such situations, it has been termed as a coping mechanism for those in captivity. Also, Criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot originally devised the term Stockholm syndrome to explain the aftermath of a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973. This was where it all began.
On August 23, 1973, Jan-Erik Olsson attempted to rob the Normalmstorg bank. During the robbery, Olsson took four bank employees, Brigitta Lundblad, Elisabeth Oldgren, Kristin Ehnmark, and Sven Safstrom, hostage.
Later, Olsson’s former cellmate Clark Olofsson joined in the robbery. The two remained inside the bank with the four hostages. The situation developed into a six-day stand-off with police.
After the hostages’ release, the authorities found that they had developed strong emotional bonds with their captors. The hostages reported that Olsson and Oloffson treated them kindly and did not physically harm them. They defended their captors and refused to testify against them. Olsson even displayed positive feelings towards the hostages.
Examples Of Stockholm Syndrome
Mary McElroy: Twenty-five-year-old Mary McElroy was abducted while taking a shower in her father’s home on a peaceful evening on May 27, 1933. Mary’s abductors were brothers George and Walter McGee, Clarence Click, and Clarence Stevens. Walter McGee, a divorced ex-con from Oregon, and also the leader of the gang.
McGee and Stevens were said to have worn masks, forcing their way into the house with a sawed-off shotgun, and allowed McElroy time to dry herself and get dressed. She however thought they were joking when she was told that $60,000 was going to be demanded in exchange for her release,
Mary was taken to a deserted farmhouse and chained to a wall in the basement. The abductors later settled for $30,000, which Judge McElroy paid on May 29. Mary McElroy was released unharmed near the Millburn Golf Course after twenty-nine hours in captivity. George McGee and Clarence Click were apprehended sometime before June 21. Walter McGee was also arrested in Texas on June 2 after attempting to purchase a car with some of the ransom money.
However, Mary became traumatized after the abduction and she suffered several ‘nervous collapses’ in her years after the case. She lived with her father, Judge McElroy for most of her adult life. His death in 1939 left her devastated
On January 21, 1940, Mary’s maid discovered her body in her bedroom; she had committed suicide, shooting herself in the head with a small pistol. She left a suicide note which read: “My four kidnappers are probably the four people on earth who don’t consider me an utter fool. You have your death penalty now, so please give them a chance. Mary.”
Also Natascha Kampusch: In 1998, when Natascha was 10, she was walking to school, she was abducted by Wolfgang Přiklopil. He grabbed her and instantly pulled her into a delivery van.
He drove her to his home in a prosperous suburb called Strasshof and carried her into a tiny cellar room he’d evidently spent a long time drafting out this plan. It was beneath a trapdoor in the garage, down some stairs, through a hollowed-out concrete wall hidden on the other side of a small metal hatch concealed behind a cupboard.
It was so clandestine and fortified, it took an hour to get inside. It was five by five meters, bare, soundproofed, windowless, and filled with the constant irritating rattle of a plastic ventilator fan. He locked her up in a dark underground for 8 years, seeing no light, no proper care, no proper food.
Natascha’s abductor did all sorts of things to her but she still cared and showed kindness to him regardless. she finally escapes, and Přiklopil committed suicide. News accounts at the time report Natascha “wept
Causes Of Stockholm Syndrome
A lot of researchers, psychologists, and criminologists do not completely understand Stockholm syndrome, and some continue to doubt if it even exists at all. However, experts believe that Stockholm syndrome can develop when:
I. A captor treats their victims humanely and in this case the captive depending on how emotionally strong they are, their response will either be a symptom of violent disgust.
II. The captives and captors have significant face-to-face interaction, which provides opportunities to bond with one another. This is a basic life manipulation skill, love isn’t really an “at first sight thing”. It takes significant bonding and this will create confusing feelings in a normal person and will even be heightened when the person in question is offered no other choice.
III. The captives feel that law enforcement personnel are not doing their jobs well enough. In this case, they start holding a strong belief that the police are out to get them or just purely hate them and in that case makes it harder for them to get adequate help.
IV. A captive thinks that the police and other authorities do not have his/her best interests at heart. This is even more dangerous because it means they’ll always get into trouble and look for alternative ways, which might lead to more trouble.
Similarly, someone who has Stockholm syndrome might have confusing feelings towards their abuser, including Love, Sympathy, Empathy & Desire to protect them.
Stockholm syndrome might also cause the hostage to have negative feelings toward the police or anyone who might try to attempt a rescue.
In this part of the world, mental education is quite still in a developing phase. So anyone who isn’t very strong mentally might have a strong case of this and without proper diagnosis, there won’t even be correct treatment.
The causes locally are even more intense than in the advanced world because of the tendency of third-world countries like Nigeria to exhibit corruption and other economic defeats.
Using the End Sars issue in Nigeria as a case study, this can be a major cause or trigger for Stockholm Syndrome among young Nigerians but without a diagnosis, nobody is taking notice of this triggering effect on an entire nation. In this terrain, End Sars will be a major trigger for Stockholm’s Syndrome among Nigerian youths who have had to endure Buhari’s government for a while now.
Symptoms Of Stockholm Syndrome
So far, one thing has been made clear; Stockholm syndrome is a psychological illness. But very unfortunate it is that we could so easily miss the signs because these symptoms are mostly feelings and humans are incredibly adaptable even to the most insane of circumstances.
These symptoms could be categorized into Social, Cognitive, Emotional and Physical.
1. The abused begin to adopt the same goals, world views, and ideologies as the captors or abusers
2. The affected person perceives kindness or compassion from their captor or abuser
3. Positive feelings towards their captors or abusers begin to develop. They get emotionally attached to the abusers.
4. feel pity toward the captors or abusers
5. These people get to a point where they are now so much attached to their abductors that they refuse to assist police and government authorities in prosecuting perpetrators of abuse or kidnapping. They see no wrong in the abusers considering that they have, over time, being conditioned to rely on them for survival.
1. Learned helplessness
2. Excessive dependence
3. Loss of interest in activities
4. Difficulty trusting others
5. have negative perceptions towards police, family, friends, and anyone else who may try to help them escape their situation
4. They feel stuck and assume perceived inability to escape
5. The abused begin to experience confusion and guilt
6. Startling easily
However, these symptoms typically happen because of the emotional and highly charged situation that occurs during a hostage situation or abuse cycle. It is a dicey situation and people diagnosed with this illness should be treated with utmost care and caution especially when trying to be recaptured from their captors.
This is so because people who are kidnapped or taken hostage often feel threatened by their captors, but after a long while, they begin to rely on them for survival. If the kidnapper or abuser shows them some kindness, they may begin to feel positive feelings toward their captor for this “compassion.” Over time, that perception reshapes their mindset and skews how they view the person keeping them hostage or abusing them.
Treatment For Stockholm Syndrome
Stockholm syndrome has been widely regarded as an unrecognized psychological disorder and does not have a standardized definition. As a result, there are no official treatment recommendations for it.
However, psychotherapy and medication can help relieve issues associated with trauma recovery, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. People can work with licensed psychologists and psychiatrists. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications that may help alleviate mood disorder symptoms.
Psychologists and licensed mental health counselors can help people develop strategies and tools to use when trying to understand and work through their experiences. Also, a therapist can help you learn coping mechanisms and help you process the way you feel. They can help you reassign attitudes and emotions to understand that this is a survival mechanism you used to get through an experience.
It is important to note that Therapy is of different types and it can be of help in resolving mental or emotional issues.
There is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – where a therapist uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to explore the relationship between a person’s behavior and thoughts, feelings, or both.
In Summary, the major concept is that Stockholm syndrome is a rare psychological reaction to captivity and, in some instances, abuse. Feelings of fear, terror, and anger towards a captor or abuser may seem more realistic to most people.
However, in extreme situations, such as kidnapping, a person may develop positive feelings towards the captor as a coping mechanism when they feel that their physical and mental well-being is at stake.
While experts do not officially recognize Stockholm syndrome as a mental health disorder, people who have been abused, trafficked, or kidnapped may experience it. People who have Stockholm syndrome may experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
A commonplace with a series of people who go through Stockholm syndrome and are rarely aware of the situation they are in is Nigeria. People who are almost steadily abused by different sectors of the country.
Therefore, it is well-advised that proper treatment can help improve a person’s recovery and help them move forward.