Stockholm Syndrome; Falling in Love with Your Executioner

Stockholm Syndrome is defined as a kidnapping victim feeling a positive emotional bond towards the kidnapper.

Sep 26, 2023 - 00:44
Sep 26, 2023 - 13:51
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Stockholm Syndrome; Falling in Love with Your Executioner
Stockholm Syndrome; Falling in Love with Your Executioner

What is Stockholm Syndrome?

Stockholm Syndrome is defined as a kidnapping victim feeling a positive emotional bond towards the kidnapper. It is assumed that this bond forms a defense mechanism for the victim, enabling him to empathize with his captor, leading him to accept the situation, limiting defiance and aggression towards his captor, and otherwise surviving a potentially dangerous situation. Hence the term Stockholm syndrome, as it creates a bond with the criminal traumatic attachment It is used in the same sense as the term.


When Did Stockholm Syndrome Appear?

Stockholm syndrome takes its name from a failed bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973. Jan-Erik Olsson, who was responsible for the bank robbery attempt, entered the bank with a gun and took four bank employees hostage (McKenzie, 2004:7). Olsson made some requests from the police who came to the scene (Bringing his prison friend Clark Oderth Olofsson, money and a car) (Namnyak et al., 2008: 5). Olsson, who used hostages to fulfill his demands, also allowed the hostages to search for their families in the safe area of ​​the bank (Jameson, 2010: 342). This bank robbery attempt lasted about six days (Adorjan et al., 2010: 457). Finally, as a result of the operation carried out by the police, Olsson agreed to surrender (Ase, 2015: 3-4). Four bank employees who were released as a result of the failed bank attempt made interesting statements. In their statements, they stated that they were afraid of the police, not the hostage person (Smith, 2009:1). They also defended the person who took them hostage and did not agree to testify against him (Adorjan et al., 2010: 457). Stockholm Syndrome emerged to explain the positive feelings hostages feel towards the person who took them hostage and why they formed such a bond with this person who restricted their freedom (Smith, 2009: 1). The person who claimed Stockholm syndrome was Psychiatrist Bejerot, who was with the police during the bank robbery (Ase, 2015: 4). Psychiatrist Bejerot explains the reactions of the hostages'classic brainwashing response'' and named it Stockholm syndrome (Adorjan et al., 2012: 457).

What Causes Stockholm Syndrome and How Does It Develop?

There are theories about why Stockholm syndrome develops, and Graham's theory is the most frequently cited. Graham argued that Stockholm syndrome occurs when certain conditions exist: Graham created this theory as a result of his study of nine different groups of victims. Graham expressed his theory as follows (Graham,1994: 3)

  • Feeling a threat to the person's survival and thinking that the kidnapper will most likely carry out this threat,

  • Perception of even a small good by the captive from the captor's actions,

  • Permanent alienation from perspectives other than that of the captor,

  • The victim's feeling of inability to escape.

In an event where these conditions occur, the victim falls under the influence of the person who victimized him (Garip, 2017: 4). People's instinct to survive such terrible experiences is a stronger impulse than their desire to be angry at the person who made them experience this (Strentz, 1980: 148). It is therefore claimed that victims' identification with their captors is a protective mechanism brought on by stress (Adorjan et al., 2012: 458).

Stockholm Syndrome: Case Example; The Captivity of Natascha Kampusch

Natascha Kampusch (NK), the victim of the incident that took place in Vienna in 1998, was kidnapped by Wolfgang Priklopil on her way to school when she was only 10 years old. Kampusch, who was tortured for 8 years, escaped in 2006 by taking advantage of Priklopil's distraction. After Kampusch escaped, Priklopil committed suicide (Namnyak et al., 2008: 7). Natascha Kampusch stated in an interview that she exchanged information with the man who held her captive for a long time, that he became an important part of her life and that she was saddened by his death.

Finally, Stockholm Syndrome emerges as a striking phenomenon that demonstrates the complexity of human psychology and how people can form emotional bonds under challenging conditions. Stockholm Syndrome is not a phenomenon limited to hostage situations, but provides an example that helps us understand how complex and deep the bonds between people can be. Stockholm Syndrome remains important as a subject of ongoing study and learning in psychology and social sciences, highlighting the complexity of human nature and the strength of people's instinct for solidarity.


  • Namnyak, M., Tufton, N., Szekely, R., Toal, M., Worboys, S., & Sampson, E. L. (2008). ‘Stockholm syndrome’: psychiatric diagnosis or urban myth?. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 117(1), 4-11.

  • ÖZDOĞAN, D., & DUSHUKCAN, M. (2023). STOCKHOLM SYNDROME.Management and Organization Syndromes 2, 7.

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Melike Yavuz Merhaba ben Melike Yavuz. Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt Üniversitesi Psikoloji bölümünde 3.sınıf öğrencisiyim. Bir süredir okuduğum, öğrendiğim ve ilgi duyduğum alanlardan oluşan makalelerimi Sayedra Psikoloji Blog'ta paylaşıyorum.