Escaped Austrian Teen May Have Stockholm Syndrome

ByABC News via GMA logo
August 31, 2006, 11:24 AM

Aug. 31, 2006 — -- Natascha Kampusch's escape from her kidnapper after 8½ years of captivity took an unexpected turn earlier this week when her apparent sympathy for her abductor led observers to believe that she may suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.

Kampusch's abduction as a 10-year-old schoolgirl in 1996 was one of Austria's greatest unsolved mysteries until she escaped last week and was reunited with her parents.

Kampusch's kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, 44, killed himself by jumping in front of a train after her escape.

"I mourn for him in a certain way," Kampusch, 18, said of Priklopil in a statement read by a psychologist on Monday.

"In my eyes, his death wasn't necessary," she said, speaking of his suicide following her escape.

Dr. Frank Ochberg, who was credited with defining Stockholm Syndrome in the 1970s, said it developed when "positive feelings form [between] hostage to hostage-taker, reflected back from taker to hostage. And both of them against outsiders. It's automatic. It's unconscious."

Ochberg defined Stockholm Syndrome after studying a botched bank robbery in Sweden.

During a six-day standoff, four hostages got emotionally attached to the robbers.

One hostage threw herself in front of them as a human shield.

Kampusch escaped while she was vacuuming Priklopil's car and he was on the phone.

It wasn't the first time Priklopil had allowed Kampusch out of her windowless, basement room.

During her years of captivity, neighbors remembered seeing the girl in her captor's garden and riding with him into town.

Experts said she might have been bound emotionally and chose to continue living with him out of irrational affection.

Stockholm Syndrome is a coping mechanism, said forensic psychiatrist Keith Ablow on "Good Morning America."

"There is a phenomenon in psychology called identification with the aggressor," Ablow said.

"When you're powerless, your mind allows you to adopt an affiliation with the person who holds the keys."

"It's unbearable to think your life could be threatened at any time," he said. "So what you tell yourself unconsciously is, 'It's not like that. I'm part of the group that's holding me.'"

Newspaper heiress Patty Hearst fell in love with her militant kidnappers and helped them rob a bank in 1974.

In February that year, she was kidnapped from a Berkeley, Calif., apartment by the Symbionese Liberation Army, an urban guerrilla group.

Two months later, Hearst was photographed wielding an assault rifle while robbing the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco.

In 1975, Hearst was arrested and ultimately convicted of bank robbery.

Her sentence was eventually commuted by President Carter, and she was granted a full pardon by President Clinton in January 2001.

Psychologists treating Kampusch say that she has adopted a "reserved attitude" toward her parents since her escape.