Stockholm Syndrome 2023- The phenomenon of Stockholm syndrome is frequently depicted in popular culture as kidnapping survivors falling in love, expressing sympathy for, or joining forces with their captors. Patty Hearst, a 19-year-old American media heiress, was kidnapped by a group of domestic terrorists in 1974. Hearst helped her captors rob a bank after she was taken away, announcing her support for the group. Manyd argue that the teen was brainwashed as the nation followed her case through front-page headlines. The famous victim’s actions were attributed to Stockholm syndrome, a relatively new condition at the time. The Stockholm syndrome is a complicated condition that is frequently misunderstood.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 TR) does not classify Stockholm syndrome as a mental health condition. Instead, it is regarded as a mental and emotional response by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Some people experience Stockholm syndrome as a psychological defense or coping mechanism after experiencing extreme trauma, such as kidnapping, domestic violence, or human sex trafficking. We talked to psychologists about Stockholm syndrome and what it might look like in different situations, like abusive relationships and unhealthy workplace dynamics, so we could learn more about it.
The behaviors of victims are distinct and distinct. It is a one-of-a-kind response that cannot be applied to all situations. However, the victim acts in a manner that leads him to mistakenly associate himself with his kidnapper as a result of the victim’s defensive mechanism. The victim is forced into a traumatic and stressful situation that makes him appear passive-aggressive in front of the captor, leading him to act out of survival instinct to defend himself.
It is essential to keep in mind that denying someone their freedom on the basis of another person’s demand places the victims in an unstable and unbalanced situation. The sufferer experiences pain, anxiety, and terror as a result of the unclear situation they are placed in. Because there are only two outcomes—rebel or accept it—and because rebellion can have negative consequences, Stockholm Syndrome is the least harmful option.
According to Melissa Goldberg Mints, a licensed clinical psychologist in Houston, Texas, and the author of Has Your Child Been Traumatized?, “In the simplest terms, Stockholm syndrome refers to the experience of a victim having positive feelings towards their perpetrator.” She explains that from a psychological point of view, it may feel a lot less terrifying than someone who appears truly unredeemable or evil if you can identify with the person holding you captive or abusing you, so someone whose motives you can relate to or feel some kind of sympathy or compassion for.
According to Noel Hunter, a clinical psychologist who is also the director of Mind Clear Integrative Psychotherapy in New York City, this psychological defense may also make it possible for some victims to survive if they learn to form a close bond with their abuser. The victim is trapped when the person they depend on for food, safety, and shelter is also their abuser, says Dr. hunter. They are completely dependent on their caregiver, so they cannot attack them or risk driving them away. They are being abused or tortured at the same time.
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How Did Stockholm Syndrome Get Its Name?
A failed bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973, just one year prior to the Patty Hearst kidnapping, resulted in hostages bonding with their captors, giving rise to the term “Stockholm syndrome.” This response was puzzling because the bank employees appeared to have a strong bond with the robbers or, at the very least, to have faith in them after spending nearly a week together. Since then, the term “Stockholm syndrome” has been used to describe situations in which victims are protective of or affectionate towards their captors or abusers.
Causes of Stockholm Syndrome
Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist, author, and trauma expert in Sonoma County, California, explains, “The victim’s sense of isolation and the emotional connection that the abuser fosters (intentionally or unintentionally) are the key to the development of Stockholm syndrome.” According to Dr. Manly, another crucial factor in the development of Stockholm syndrome is a perceived or actual lack of outside support.
A 2018 study analyzing personal interviews with female sex workers across India notes four main criteria for Stockholm syndrome, including:
- Perceived threat to survival
- Showing of kindness from a captor
- Isolation from other perspectives
- Perceived inability to escape
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Risk Factors of Stockholm Syndrome
Not every victim will develop Stockholm syndrome as a coping strategy.
Some factors that might influence why it happens in some situations and not others, according to Dr. Goldberg Mintz
- The duration of captivity
- The amount of interaction with the perpetrator
- Coping styles of the victim
In addition, Stockholm syndrome can be a coping strategy or emotional response for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, or human trafficking, among other forms of abuse. It could also be connected to abusive workplace situations or even certain dynamics between coaches and athletes. According to Dr. Hunter, this mentality can occur in any circumstance in which the victim feels enslaved and dependent on their abuser and is “in a position of authority or power over another.”
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Specific Situations where Stockholm syndrome
- Child abuse: According to Dr. Goldberg Mintz, “It can be difficult for a child—especially a young one—to see their parent in a negative light, even if their parent is hurting them.” When it comes to child sexual abuse, a 2005 study suggests that, although not all victims will develop Stockholm syndrome, it can occur frequently, particularly in cases of ongoing abuse. Additionally, the study suggests that an inexplicable bond between the abuser and the victim may endure into adulthood.
- Family relationships: This can happen when a victim is physically abused by someone in their life, but it can also happen with other forms of abuse. According to Dr. Goldberg Mintz, this could take the form of one partner berating the other for their eating habits or even restricting their food intake.
- Workplace relationships: According to Dr. Goldberg Mintz, “our identities and self-worth can be wrapped up in our jobs for many people.” As a result, we may be susceptible to workplace dynamics of this kind. This, for instance, might suggest that your employer or boss does not respect your boundaries.
- Athletes-coaches relationships: According to Dr. Goldberg Mintz, “eager players might reframe emotional abuse as ‘passion’ or belief in the players’ intrinsic abilities, rather than seeing it as something harmful” in the case of an abusive athletic coach. According to Dr. Goldberg Mintz, it can be even easier to justify this kind of abuse when it is linked to successful outcomes (like winning a game).
- Trafficking in sex: When victims need their abuser for basic necessities like food, water, shelter, etc., A victim of sex or human trafficking may meet the main Stockholm syndrome criteria.
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Signs of Stockholm Syndrome
Dr. Hunter states, “It bears repeating that Stockholm syndrome is not a disorder that is defined in the DSM-5 TR with specific “symptoms” and criteria.” She asserts that it is a much looser description of a psychological phenomenon. Still, there are some warning signs to look for, especially in situations of domestic abuse. Dr. Hunter suggests the following:
- A strong feeling like you aren’t yourself or are doing things that don’t feel like yourself
- Feeling depressed and helpless
- Urges of or actual behaviors of self-harm
- Feeling that others don’t “get” your relationship
- Wanting to always defend someone whom others say is hurting you
- Getting angry at friends or loved ones for trying to protect you
- More generally, feelings of anxiety, fear and shame
Dr. Manly says that people who have Stockholm syndrome tend to defend those who oppress them. She says, “They will focus on the (positive) attributes of the victimizer and the situation, despite the untenable nature of their experiences.” The victim may exhibit signs of fear, anxiety, depression, or overt trauma (hyperreactivity, emotional dysregulation) if separated from or asked to align with the oppressor, despite the individual’s positive or flat affect.
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How to Treat Stockholm Syndrome?
According to Dr. Goldberg Mintz, there are no evidence-based treatments for Stockholm syndrome because it is not a real diagnosis. “She says Stockholm syndrome typically requires long-term trauma therapy to work toward acknowledging what has happened, to see that it was abuse, and to build empowerment and awareness around the fact that the individual is no longer trapped,” Dr. Hunter adds. “At the same time, if there is trauma associated with this, treating the trauma with therapy could be helpful.”
She asserts that this work can assist in gradually dissolving the victim’s entanglement with their abuser and in working through the trauma as well as the victim’s own behaviors and perceived shame. More specifically, Dr. Manly says that people with Stockholm syndrome typically need focused trauma treatment with techniques like EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or other trauma-focused practices.
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