Self-Deprecation and Depression

Stage four of the Stockholm Syndrome is self-deprecation and depression. The victim has bonded with the abuser and believes the abuser to be good. A betrayal bond with the abuser has been developed, increasing the probability the victim will remain alive and unharmed physically. This is a survival strategy believed to be universal in interpersonal violence and common in all types of hostage situations. The victim assumes the belief the the abuser is a good guy, and those attempting to protect the victim, such as the police, are actually the bad guys. The victim's sense of self becomes the abuser's view of the victim. If the victim has decided that the offender is good, the logical conclusion is that he or she (i.e., the victim) must be bad. The victim blames herself for causing or allowing any harm done.

The victim is suffering because compliance, denial, and other coping strategies (prior stages of Stockholm Syndrome) did not remove all the pain. At this point of awareness, the victim may determine that he or she deserves to suffer. From his/her point of view, something is fundamentally wrong with him or her and that is why this is happening. Victims usually feel guilt, although not a realistic guilt, and feel shame. It is common for victims to perceive themselves as "bad," and negative thoughts and feeling about themselves keep this assessment in place. Anger and criticism turns inward. It is not directed toward the abuser or towards abusive events. Rather, the anger points to the victim. It has turned inward, resulting in depression.   

Psychological processes underlying the Stockholm Syndrome include disbelief and minimization of the event by victims, suppression of anger, dependence on the person committing the violence, taking on the viewpoint of the abuser, and mental health problems (e.g., depression, apathy, PTSD). The intermittent reward provided by the abuser, who is sometimes cruel and violent and sometimes kind and nice, reinforces the bond (i.e., cycle of violence). When discussing domestic violence  or child sexual abuse, the dynamics of the Stockholm Syndrome can be helpful in understanding the behavior of adult and child victims


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