Stockholm syndrome: An extraordinary phenomenon in which a hostage begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to their captor. Named for an episode that occurred in Stockholm in August, 1973 when an armed Swedish robber took some bank workers captive, held them for six days and stole their hearts. The Stockholm syndrome is not limited to Swedes. Patty Hearst, heir to the publishing fortune, was kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army. She later joined the SLA and participated in a bank robbery with them. More recently, Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped by a couple for 9 months. Elizabeth repeatedly had the chance to run away or ask for help but did not. It is now generally believed that she had the Stockholm syndrome, in which she formed emotional bonds with her captors.
Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016