Mental Health

Abusive Relationship: What is STOCKHOLM SYNDROME? Psychology & mental health help with Kati Morton


Stockholm Syndrome is named after a bank robbery that occurred in Stockholm Sweden in 1973. Bank employees were strapped with dynamite, and thrown in a bank vault for 6 days. During this time they became emotionally attached to their captors, refused assistance from the police, and even defended their captors once freed.

Obviously this is not something that happens every day, and I have never had a client who has been held captive in a bank robbery. What I do see is abuse and the abuse cycle. In a clinical practice, we can see symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome in controlling and/or abusive relationships. It can present itself in battered spouses who refuse to press charges or even bailing them out of jail when the police arrest them. Know that Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t occur in ever abusive relationship or hostage situation, and we find that the length of time we are exposed to the abuse or control as well as the next 4 conditions play a huge factor.
There are 4 conditions that are the foundation for Stockholm Syndrome:
1. You feel threatened physically or psychologically and believe that the abuser would carry out the threat.
2. The abuser shows you some small kindness. This could simply be that they didn’t hurt you when they normally would, or in the case of the hostage situation, they were fed.
3. You are isolated from other perspectives (other than the abusers). This makes it really hard for you to see a way out of the abuse and focuses all of your time and energy into not upsetting them or being around anyone who could upset them.
4. You do not feel like you can escape. This is most commonly done through money. Many abusers will get you a car you cannot afford to make payments on by yourself, or get you both in debt so far that you actually cannot afford to leave. They will do anything to keep you trapped and make you feel stuck.
If someone you love is going through this, know that the best thing we can do is just support them, listen to them and encourage them (softly) to get professional help. If we push too hard or say too much we may isolate them further, so just being there and being non judgmental is best. Please share your thoughts on this. Have you been in a situation like this? What helped you get out? Or how have you helped someone you love get out of this? xox

Article on Stockholm Syndrome: http://counsellingresource.com/therapy/self-help/stockholm/
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