Stockholm syndrome: What is it and what are the Symptoms

Stockholm Syndrome What is it Definition

Continuing with the world of disorders and psychological processes, we are going to talk about the famous Stockholm Syndrome, which you have surely heard many times, but perhaps you do not know as much about it.

Therefore, in these lines we are going to talk about it in depth. To begin with, it must be said that the Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological state that appears in victims of a kidnapping for which they end up establishing emotional ties towards the captor. In fact, many times it happens that this bond makes the victim herself end up understanding and approving the cause of her executioner.


Psychology places the birth of the Stockholm Syndrome in 1973 when a thief tried to rob the Stockholm Credit Bank in Sweden. In that robbery, the thief took three women and one man hostage, all of them employees of the branch.

After threats from the authorities, the hostages ended up helping and protecting the thief. So much so that at the end of the events one of the hostages stated that she fully trusted her captor and that she would travel around the world with him. This type of reaction was baptized by the psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, an adviser to the Swedish police, as the Stockholm Syndrome.

Paradoxical cases of this type have occurred over time and come to explain a mental defense mechanism of victims who believe they are powerless in a life or death situation. Arguments such as the Stockholm Syndrome have also served as leitmotifs to tell many stories in the theatrical, literary or film fields (many series about it).

With so much history behind, more than 45 years have passed since the opinion of the Swedish psychiatrist, the international manuals of psychological disorders do not include this disorder. Therefore, in principle, there would be no defense in a judicial process.


To assess the symptoms of this syndrome, various emotional states of the victims of a kidnapping concur that finally explain its outcome.

At first, someone who is captured and suffers from this syndrome has a sense of danger, anguish and insecurity that is logical at the time. The longer a capture lasts, the greater the probability that Stockholm Syndrome will appear, especially if the capture is not violent.

In this way, as time passes, the mental journey of the captured person moves towards doubt and, activating the mental defense mechanisms, attraction. The instinct for the shared survival of both subjects is what will lead to a rapprochement. The Syndrome is fully active when the hostage understands and justifies the act and adheres to the cause. Even after the kidnapping, the consequences of the syndrome can manifest itself in a greater attraction and even falling in love.

From these symptoms we can understand certain patterns in the behaviors shared by the hostage and the kidnapper:

  • Both have the desire for survival and, therefore, collaborate for it.
  • They protect themselves. The hostage wants to continue living and the captor wishes the same so that the police can give him what he asks for.
  • Both are stories of personal development.
  • The psychological pressure of both is very high.


No drug or magic solution is known to make this Syndrome disappear and the way to treat it is based on psychological therapy. With the help of experts, a person can overcome this situation and with the passage of time the recovery of the routines of the person suffering from this syndrome, the good feelings towards their captor tend to disappear.

Closely related to Stockholm Syndrome may be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), since many victims have ended up being diagnosed this way by psychologists. In these cases, the solution is through cognitive behavioral therapy, social support and indicated medications.  



This approach that hostages of kidnapping have towards their captor is a very similar process to the one that occurs in numerous cases of gender violence, one of the scourges of the 21st century.

As incredible as it may seem, this syndrome can also make an appearance in women who are abused or humiliated by their partners. Unable to report the situation, victims become even closer to their attackers for various reasons.

Unfortunately, there are also cases today of women who even withdraw the complaint against their partners and their affective relationship intensifies. The same psychologist who named the Stockholm Syndrome admits that this psychological process is more eloquent in these phenomena.


Transferring all these features to the workplace, we can also find this syndrome in companies. In many of them, an employee can find herself very attached to them and at the same time be mistreated by her colleagues or bosses.

Also in this case it can be said that there are victims and executioners and despite everything, the affected person wants to continue carrying out their work. In fact, there are cases in which all this becomes customary in a person, getting to obviate the negativity of this other abuse. As we did initially, now we are going to look at the patterns and behaviors to detect Stockholm Syndrome within an organization:

  • The affected person only sees the positive part of working in the company in question.
  • He does not want to leave despite psychological abuse, humiliation or unfair wages.
  • The organization often stands out for maintaining a toxic work environment.
  • Hierarchical structures are usually very pyramidal. Everything is hierarchical. There is a lot of submission on the part of those affected by the syndrome.
  • Fear and disrespect are frequent dynamics.


Many of the cases of Stockholm Labor Syndrome appear when the so-called mobbing occurs, that is, the set of actions that try to intimidate, degrade and corner workers in a company. A large part of these mobbing actions try to force the worker to leave his job, resign and, therefore, not receive compensation. However, there may be other purposes such as accepting degrading conditions or even mobbing can only pursue humiliating a professional.

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