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Stockholm Syndrome and Other Related Hostage Syndromes

Updated on March 6, 2019
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Margaret Minnicks has been writing for HubPages for a long time. She is an expert about a variety of subjects she writes about.

Most people are familiar with Stockholm syndrome where hostages establish a relationship with their captors. There are many other syndromes related to the situation even though Stockholm syndrome is used more often than the others.

Almost every Stockholm syndrome case has the following characteristics:

  • Personal time spent with abductors
  • Comfortable being on a first name basis
  • Personal conversations
  • Feelings are for abductors and against authorities

Stockholm Syndrome: Definition

Stockholm syndrome is a condition that causes hostages to develop a relationship with their captors after spending time with them. It starts off as a way of survival, but it deepens into something more serious.

The hostages form a bond with their kidnappers and against law enforcement. After the captives are set free, they still have positive feelings for their abductors. Often they refuse to give the police information to convict the kidnappers.

Stockholm syndrome is not limited to just kidnapped victims. It also describes the actions and attitudes of those suffering from domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. It could describe experiences of political and religious oppression. Instead of thinking the worst of their oppressors, victims sympathize with them and refuse to blame them.

Stockholm Syndrome: Origin of the Expression

Stockholm syndrome was not named after a person. Instead, it was named after the place where it was first recognized. Stockholm, Sweden in 1973 when an escaped convict went to a bank and took four employees hostage. He kept his victims in a vault for more than five days. During that time, they got on a first name basis with the convict.

They turned against law enforcement when they were questioned about their ordeal. They defended their abductor after they were released. They refused to testify in court against him and even collected money for their abductor's legal fees.

Worldwide Example of Stockholm Syndrome

One of the highest profile cases of Stockholm syndrome was that of Patty Heart who is now 65 years old. At the age of 19, the granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst was taken and held hostage by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. This was just one year after the name was given to the psychological condition.

Patty denounced her family and changed her name. She became a bank robber to satisfy her abductors. She was arrested in 1975. Her famous lawyer F. Lee Bailey used Stockholm syndrome as his defense. It did not work at the time, but her 35-year prison sentence was reduced to seven years. That sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter and eventually pardoned by President Bill Clinton who believed it was Stockholm syndrome that caused Patty to do what she did.

A more recent case is the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. She was kidnapped at the age of 14 in 2002 from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her abductor was Brian David Mitchell who was later joined by his wife Wanda Barzee.

Elizabeth was abused for nine months, but she didn't escape when she had several chances to do so. When she was questioned by the police during her abduction, she did not reveal who she was.

This is described as Stockholm syndrome because Smart did display some empathy to her kidnappers, but it was not as clear cut as the Patty Hearst case.

Lima Syndrome

Lima syndrome is just the opposite of Stockholm syndrome. Instead of hostages developing a relationship with their captors, the captors develop a relationship with the hostages.

When the Lima syndrome exists, the abductors have second thoughts about what they have done and begin to feel sympathy for their hostages.

Just like Stockholm syndrome gets its name from Stockholm, Sweden, Lima syndrome gets its name from Lima, Peru. In 1996, hundreds of hostages were taken from a party at the home of a Japanese ambassador by a militant group.

London Syndrome

Here is another syndrome named after a place. London syndrome is the response when hostages do not cooperate with their captors at all. In fact, they become hostile, disobedient and argumentative.

London syndrome is named after the Arab separatist took over the Iranian Embassy in London on April 30, 1980. The 26 hostages were released six days later when the embassy was stormed on May 5, 1980.

Helsinki Syndrome

Helsinki syndrome is a psychological condition in which a person being held captive begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to his or her captor while at the same time turning against the police or other authorities.

Which Syndrome?

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