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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2008 Jan;117(1):4-11. Epub 2007 Nov 19.

'Stockholm syndrome': psychiatric diagnosis or urban myth?

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Hampstead Campus, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK.



'Stockholm syndrome' is a term used to describe the positive bond some kidnap victims develop with their captor. High-profile cases are reported by the media although the diagnosis is not described in any international classification system. Here we review the evidence base on 'Stockholm syndrome'.


Databases (PubMED, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL) were systematically searched. We compared features of cases widely reported in the English language media to identify common themes which may form a recognizable syndrome.


We identified 12 papers that met inclusion criteria. The existing literature consists mostly of case reports; furthermore there is ambiguity in the use of the term. No validated diagnostic criteria have been described. Four common features were found between the five cases studied.


There is little published academic research on 'Stockholm syndrome' although study of media reports reveals similarities between well publicized cases. This may be due to reporting and publication bias.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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