Jan. 17, 2008 -- It's a well-documented phenomena that abducted hostages sometimes grow emotionally attached to their captors, despite the danger of the situation.
The condition is called Stockholm syndrome, and it was most famously used to explain the transformation of heiress Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by a guerrilla warfare group and later took part in a bank robbery with the gang in 1974.
Now some believe that Britney Spears may be experiencing a mild version of the disorder in her relationship with British paparazzo Adnan Ghalib.
"When you see her seeming like she's friends with the paparazzi, she's got, like Stockholm syndrome," actress Patricia Arquette told Contactmusic.com. "I mean she's becoming friends with her captors. She's being torn apart by this business."
Ghalib, 35, who works for the FinalPixx photo agency and has been inseparable from Spears since New Year's Eve, has photographed the 26-year-old singer for years as part of the horde of shutterbugs who follow her every move. In the last two weeks, they've checked in to hotel rooms together and he's accompanied Spears all over Los Angeles, according to published reports.
The singer's relationship with the paparazzi has certainly fluctuated over the years, from her posing sexily outside nightclubs to last February's temper tantrum in which she attacked a photographer's SUV with an umbrella.
But her new relationship with one of her tormentors strikes some clinical psychologists as a sign of co-dependency or a variation of Stockholm syndrome, named after a 1973 bank robbery hostage standoff in Sweden. In that case, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, even defending their actions.
"When people are struggling with psychological problems and substance abuse, their experience of the world is altered and they will often gravitate to the people who create the most intense stimuli," says Patricia Saunders, a New York psychologist.
"Some of the characteristics of persistent paparazzi are similar to stalkers. And for Britney, she's looking for any port in a storm. The elements of Stockholm syndrome come from that sense of "If you can't beat them, join them."
Saunders said the relationship also reminded her of some of her own clients who enact a savior/victim fantasy. "It might be that he has some pathological attachment to her, to rescue her and to save her," she explains. "To someone who's drowning, like her, they're drawn to that."
Dr. Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist who often testifies as an expert witness in high-profile trials, believes the relationship is more akin to co-dependency than Stockholm syndrome.
"She's looking for that feeling of security, and she's obviously familiar with him," explains Lieberman. "And from years of following her, he knows the buttons to push with her. He knows how to play her like a violin, and he wants her pictures. And she doesn't even know that she's being held hostage."
The case of a star falling for one of their paparazzi is apparently unprecedented in the annals of celebrity, according to entertainment journalists and Hollywood veterans.
Some stars have always had friendly relationships with the photographers that hound them, but not to this extent, says Us Weekly senior editor Ian Drew.
"If you go on YouTube, you'll see Amy Winehouse getting paparazzi to carry her groceries for her," he says. "But Britney is obviously deranged right now."
Drew says that the relationship is not that hard to imagine considering how Spears and Ghalib have been in close contact for so long. "You do get a sense of somebody by hanging outside their house all the time," Drew explains. "They talk to each other. He's always on the Britney beat. It's just like anyone hooking up with one of their makeup artists."
Although romantic pairings can be complex and sometimes inexplicable, he thinks that commerce may be at the root of the relationship.
"It also makes you question if there is a business motive behind it. Is she getting a cut of that money he's making by selling pictures? There has long been speculation that she's made deals with paparazzi. She's sold pictures of herself, of every baby, of every wedding. I wouldn't say she's a victim of captors. I would say she's been in on the game all along," Drew said.
Ghalib and his agency didn't return calls for comment.
Some celebrity photographers were equally cynical about the relationship, noting that Ghalib's agency recently posted pictures of the two of them looking at pregnancy test kits in a Rite Aid pharmacy.
"He, out of anyone, knows all their tricks," says one shutterbug who asked not to be named. "And could make it so she was not photographed all the time. It only leads me to believe that is what she wants."
An agent for Spears did not return e-mails seeking comment.