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  • Writer's pictureMed Insider

The Understanding behind Stockholm Syndrome

By Senna Rogoyski

Highlights

  • Although the reasoning for why this syndrome only affects some people is unknown, there are many ideas that have been made as to why

  • Stockholm Syndrome is an emotional reaction where positive emotions are developed from trauma

  • There is not standard treatment, but there are alternatives

What is Stockholm Syndrome?


Stockholm Syndrome is the subconscious response of developing positive feelings towards and beginning to be sympathetic of an abuser or captor. Essentially, it is a psychological reaction and also considered a coping mechanism to survive with the trauma of being held captive or being abused for however long. This reaction can occur at any time of the abduction or abuse such as years, months, or even days of being in close contact with the abuser/captor. During this reaction, it is often that a close bond or a connection is made between the victim and the captor which ends up resulting in less harm and more caring treatments. Victims who face this syndrome generally end up developing feelings of love, empathy/sympathy, or a desire to protect their abuser/captor.


Why does Stockholm Syndrome occur?


Unfortunately, no one knows the exact cause as to why some people develop this syndrome, however, there are many theories in place.


One theory that some evolutionary psychologists believe is that this syndrome is related to the hunter-gatherer era and has been a method that was passed down. In early hunter-gatherer societies, women, most commonly, were always at a risk of being captured or killed by another tribe. This being said, when women were caught, building a connection with the tribe increased their chance of survival greatly. Over time, as the frequency of abductions increased so did this evolving trait in the human population overall.


Another theory that some psychiatrists believe is that this technique is related to how the brain is learned to cope. When being held captive or in an abused situation where the surrounding/conditions are completely different, this makes the brain feel highly emotionally overwhelmed and charged.


Because of this, to manage the shock and the environment, the brain shifts the person’s feelings by making the person develop feelings such as love and empathy for their abuser. By working with the abuser and overall bonding with them, this tends to secure the victims and ensure safety for them. When their abuser begins to punish them less and not treat them as poorly, this causes the victim to feel a great amount of gratitude which overall leads them viewing their abuser as humane for such kindness.


Why does Stockholm Syndrome occur?

Since Stockholm syndrome isn't considered a psychological condition, there is no standard treatment known for it. However, Stockholm syndrome treatments typically involve the use of psychological counseling and going to therapy. Going to therapy helped the victim with the syndrome understand their experience and what they went through. They also learn to recognize that they felt the way and acted the way they did was only a survival skill and coping mechanism. This way victims are able to move forward with their life and move on from this.


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