Stockholm Syndrome: What is it? Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Therapy

of Stockholm is the name of the particular psychological condition that causes the victims of a kidnapping to feel sympathy towards their kidnappers.


The causes of Stockholm syndrome are unclear; studies on the subject, however, have shown that in all cases of Stockholm syndrome there were 4 situations, which are:

  • Development, by the hostage, of positive feelings towards the kidnapper;
  • No previous relationship between hostage and kidnapper;
  • Development of negative feelings on the part of the hostage towards government rescue authorities;
  • Confidence of the hostage in the humanity of those who kidnap him.

The kidnapped who develops the Stockholm syndrome exhibits completely unique behaviors, including for example: feeling sympathy, attachment or other similar feelings towards his kidnapper; refuse to escape, even if they have the possibility; refuse to cooperate with the police; attempting to please the kidnapper; defend the actions of the kidnapper, refuse to testify against the kidnapper.
Stockholm syndrome is not a psychiatric disease and does not require any specific therapy.

, leave the possibility to use the toilets, etc.)
Positive feelings, therefore, are an expression of gratitude towards a favor received.
Studies on human behavior have shown that, in the course of a kidnapping, the courtesies, acts of kindness and favors coming from the aggressor can have an impact on the psyche of the hostage, such as to induce the latter to overlook his condition as victim and that someone is depriving him of his freedom;
  • At the origin of the negative feelings that the hostage develops towards the savior is the sharing with the kidnapper of a situation of isolation from the outside world.
    In other words, the hostage's aversion towards whoever has the task of saving him is caused by being isolated from the external environment, in the place of the kidnapper;
    The negative feelings towards the rescuers bring the hostage so close to the kidnapper that often the victim ends up helping his kidnapper in case of need;
  • In a more advanced phase of the kidnapping, when a certain degree of sympathy / attachment has already been created, the aversion towards the savior in the hostage is fueled by the fear that the latter may harm the kidnapper;
  • What leads the hostage to believe in the humanity of his kidnapper is not so much to be found in the behavior of the latter, but rather in the acts of violence that he could commit but which in fact he DOES NOT commit.
    In other words, the hostage believes that the kidnapper is endowed with humanity, because this does not treat him violently or treat him less violently than in reality;
  • According to experts, an "important (but not indispensable) situation favoring the development of Stockholm syndrome would be the prolonged duration of the seizure.
    A prolonged kidnapping, in fact, would cause the hostage to get to know his kidnapper better, become familiar with the latter, strengthen sympathy and attachment towards him, begin to feel dependent on him for food and other daily needs, feel grateful for the fact that you have no longer harmed him or spared his life, etc.
  • Did you know that ...

    Fearing Stockholm syndrome (too confidential a relationship between hostage and kidnapping perpetrator can lead to the failure of the entire plan), the organizers of kidnappings and robberies recommend that those acting on their behalf always have a rude and violent attitude, and they plan continuous replacement of the men in their service, so that the hostage has no way and time to establish a relationship with a single kidnapper.

    Stockholm Syndrome: Who Is Most at Risk?

    Stockholm syndrome is more common in women, children, people particularly devoted to a certain cult, prisoners of war and concentration camp prisoners.


    According to the FBI - the famous federal police investigative agency of the United States of America - about 8% of kidnapping cases are characterized by the phenomenon of Stockholm syndrome.

    Antonio Griguolo

    Graduated in Biomolecular and Cellular Sciences, he obtained a Specialized Master in Journalism and Institutional Communication of Science
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