Everyone is familiar with Stockholm Syndrome, when the hostages develop an attachment to their captors. But who knows its two opposites? Lima syndrome is when the hostage takers begin to sympathize with the hostages. And London Syndrome is when hostages become argumentative about their captors, often with deadly results.
In all, ten cities around the world carry a unique burden: they carry a psychological disorder that bears their name. In an old number Names, the journal of the American Name Society, Ernest Lawrence Abel listed and described them. He classified them into three categories: four related to tourism, three related to hostage-taking and three “others”.
First reported in the 1930s, Jerusalem Syndrome affects around 100 visitors each year. Of these, about 40 need to be hospitalized. Symptoms usually disappear a few weeks after the visit. Uniquely religious, this syndrome manifests itself in the illusion that the subject is an important biblical figure. Previous examples include people who believed they were Mary, Moses, John the Baptist, and even Jesus himself.
The victims end up preaching and shouting in the street, warning passers-by of the approaching end times and the need for redemption. Often obsessed with physical purity, some shave all body hair, repetitively bathe, or compulsively cut their fingernails and toenails.
Jerusalem Syndrome mainly affects Christians, but also Jews, with some obvious differences. For example: Christians mostly imagine themselves to be New Testament characters, while Jews tend to pass themselves off as Old Testament characters.
First reported in 2004, this syndrome primarily affects first-time Japanese visitors. On average, 12 cases are reported each year, mostly people in their thirties. Sufferers experience symptoms such as anxiety, delusions (including the belief that their hotel room has been bugged or that they are Louis XIV, the “Sun King” of France) and hallucinations.
Why does Paris Syndrome mainly affect Japanese tourists? Maybe it’s the jet lag. Or it could be the shocking confrontation of the a priori ideal of an exotic and convivial Paris with the slightly more abrasive character of the inhabitants of the city. Or the high degree of linguistic misunderstanding between Japanese visitors and their Parisian hosts. Maybe a little (or rather a lot) of all of these things together.
The problem is significant enough that the Japanese Embassy in Paris maintains a 24-hour hotline, helping affected compatriots find appropriate care. Most patients improve after a few days of rest. Some are so affected that the only known treatment is an immediate return to Japan.
First reported in the 1980s and observed for more than 100 times, this syndrome mainly affects Western European tourists between the ages of 20 and 40. American visitors seem less affected. The syndrome is an acute reaction provoked by the anticipation and then the experience of the city’s cultural riches. The sick are often transported to the hospital directly from the museums of Florence.
Mild symptoms include palpitations, dizziness, fainting, and hallucinations. However, about two-thirds of those affected develop paranoid psychosis. Most patients can go home after a few days in bed.
This condition is also known asStendhal syndrome“, according to the French author who describes the phenomenon during his visit to Florence in 1817. Visiting the Basilica of the Holy Cross, where Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo are buried, he “was in a kind of ecstasy… I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations… I walked with the fear of falling”.
Rather more morbid than the previous conditions, Venice syndrome describes the behavior of people traveling to Venice with the express intention of committing suicide in the city.
Between 1988 and 1995 alone, 51 foreign visitors were diagnosed in this way. The subjects were both male and female, but the largest group came from Germany. Perhaps it is due to the cultural impact of Death in Venice, the novel by German writer Thomas Mann, which was later adapted into a film. However, other members of the cohort came from the United States, Great Britain and France, as well as other countries. In all, 16 succeeded in their suicide mission.
According to research carried out on the phenomenon – mainly by interviewing the 35 survivors – it seems that “in the collective imagination of the Romantics, the association of Venice with decline and decadence was a recurring symbol”.
Three related city syndromes are linked to hostage-taking, the most notorious in the Swedish capital. According to the article by Names, about a quarter of those who are abused, kidnapped or held hostage develop an emotional attachment or a sense of loyalty to their captors or attackers. Some even begin to actively cooperate, crossing the line from victim to aggressor.
This syndrome was first named following a bank robbery held hostage in Stockholm in the summer of 1973. The robbers held four bank employees hostage for six days. The hostages were bound with dynamite and locked in a safe. After the thieves’ negotiated surrender, the hostages said they were more afraid of the police, raised funds for the kidnappers’ defense and refused to testify against them. One of the hostages even got engaged to one of his captors.
In 1974, the new term was used in connection with Patty Hearst. Abducted and abused by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the teenage heiress nonetheless “switched sides” and eventually helped them rob a bank.
Lesser known, Lima syndrome describes the exact opposite of Stockholm syndrome, that is, the kidnappers develop positive attachments to their hostages. The name refers to a crisis in the Peruvian capital in December 1996, when members of the Tupac Amaru revolutionary movement took 600 guests hostage at the residence of the Japanese ambassador.
The kidnappers became so empathetic to the guests that they let most of them go within days, including high-value people such as the mother of the then president of Peru. After four months of lengthy negotiations, all but one of the hostages were released. The crisis was resolved following a special forces raid, during which two hostage takers and a commando died.
London syndrome is described as the opposite of Stockholm and Lima syndromes, in that it involves hostage takers developing negative feelings towards their hostages. In fact, London Syndrome most accurately describes a situation in which hostages bring about their own deaths at the hands of their captors by annoying, debating or challenging them, or by trying to escape.
The name comes from the siege of the Iranian embassy in London in 1981, during which one of the 26 hostages repeatedly argued with his captors, despite pleas from others. When the hostage takers decided to kill one of their hostages to further their claims, they shot the arguing one, throwing his body in the street.
The execution provoked an armed intervention by the police forces, during which other hostages were killed.
The three syndromes in the “other” category are only metaphorically linked to the city whose name they bear.
Amsterdam syndrome refers to the behavior of men who share photos of their naked wives or of themselves having sex with their wives, without their consent. The term is thought to refer to Amsterdam’s red-light district, where sex workers are displayed behind windows.
This name was coined by a sexologist from the University of La Sapienza in Italy and first made public at a 2008 conference of the European Federation of Sexology in Rome. At the time of writing, the syndrome had not been properly investigated. It was mainly used to describe Italian men, who posted these images on the Internet.
This term was coined during World War II by naval psychiatrists, who noticed certain characteristics and behavioral patterns in a segment of men recruited for military service. At first, these traits were considered psychopathology. Eventually, because they occurred with such frequency, they were recognized as linked to the places of origin of the men involved: cities where, due to specific cultural circumstances, the male personality naturally gravitates towards excessive argumentation or personal combativeness.
Detroit syndrome is a form of age discrimination in which workers of a certain age are replaced by those who are younger, faster and stronger, not to mention being equipped with new skills better suited to the modern world of work. The syndrome, reported in 2011, takes its name from Detroit, and more specifically from its reputation as a hub of automobile manufacturing, in which new models are said to regularly replace old ones.