On the surface, Dugard's behavior seems bizarre, but it's typical of a psychological phenomenon known as Stockholm syndrome. Victims of Stockholm syndrome develop compassion and loyalty toward their captors. The condition follows psychologically traumatizing situations, like hostage situations and kidnappings. In fact, Stockholm syndrome got its name in 1973 when two thieves accosted a bank in Stockholm, Sweden, taking four-bank employees hostage. For six days, the prisoners were held in a bank vault, tied to explosives with nooses around their necks. During a rescue attempt, police were shocked when the captives took offense, siding with the captors! Like the Stockholm victims, people who develop this condition endure situations where they're forced to contemplate the reality of severe injury or death. In order for Stockholm syndrome to develop, a victim must also perceive that her captor's have shown occasional kindnesses. Being permitted to eat, not being punished for a so-called transgression, and even being allowed to live are all considered benevolent to someone with Stockholm syndrome. People with Stockholm experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder patients. They may have flashbacks, nightmares, distrust of others, and the inability to enjoy previously pleasurable activities. No one is sure why this phenomenon occurs, but it has been suggested that a victim believes, perhaps unconsciously, that forming an attachment to her captor maximizes her survival. Oddly, Stockholm syndrome doesn't resolve in tandem with the end of a hostage situation. In the 1973 bank robbing, the freed hostages remained loyal to their captors, even setting up a fund to cover the criminals' legal fees! These symptoms of Stockholm syndrome are actually something of an anomaly. According to FBI reports, 73-percent of abduction victims show no compassion or affection for their captors. And for the other 27-percent, long-term psychotherapy, together with short-term anxiety or sleep medications, offer Stockholm syndrome sufferers an excellent chance to recover and resume a normal, healthy life!
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012