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People can form immensely powerful relationships with hostage-takers. Is it any wonder that Stockholm Syndrome also develops in relationships with abusive partners? Here are the causes, the symptoms, and the way out.

Symptoms Of Stockholm Syndrome

A person affected by Stockholm Syndrome in an abusive relationship may be fully aware, cognitively, at least at some point, of all the objective wrong-doings their partner routinely engages in or engaged in (after they've left). They may find themselves unable to leave, take actions that would make leaving possible, anyway, or after leaving, may mull the good aspects of their abuser over in their heads, and actively miss them or crave their presence. Rather than hurrying to the side of those who will help them defend themselves against their abuser, they may find themselves indicting those very people. 

At the same time, they can't help but defend their abuser's behaviors and have positive feelings towards them, at times, even, defending them against law enforcement officials and others who would help them break free. 

Do you recognize yourself or someone you love in that description? First and foremost, know that Stockholm Syndrome isn't a sign that the person suffering from it has gone "crazy". Indeed, it is well-recognized that Stockholm Syndrome is a survival mechanism, one that both helps avert dangerous moves from the abuser themselves (hence the advise to tell hostage-takers as much as possible about yourself, allowing them to see you as a human rather than an object), and allows the victim to cope. 

Once the "hostage situation" is over though, victims can begin to heal. 

Healing From Stockholm Syndrome: Is It Possible?

Connections forged during times of trauma don't simply disappear — even, or perhaps especially, when the bond you are talking about is the bond with the very person who created the trauma in the first place. The three ingredients that will encourage healing appear to be:

  • Therapy, offered by a person or people who are experienced in treating people who have acquired Stockholm Syndrome. Do your research and prepare for your first therapy appointment
  • Time and the opportunity to soak in the world anew, as a free person. 
  • The love and support of others, outside of this framework. 

If you're supporting someone who has Stockholm Syndrome, remember that their deep connection with their abuser means that pressuring them to see their abuser in a negative light is likely to backfire, so keep your support simple and sincere, without such attempts. Connect them with the rest of the world, rather than trying to tear the world they know down in front of their eyes. Seeking therapy for yourself will help you help your loved one

If you are personally affected or think you may be, be kind to yourself, give yourself time, and trust yourself. Aim not to obliterate the good points of your abuser but to see the bad ones for what they are or were. Journal, and try to pull your abuser down from their pedestal. Don't pressure yourself, but keep moving forward in the new life you are building for yourself. While there's no magic solution, time and lots of therapy does give you the ability to become free, not just physically, but mentally as well.