What is Lima syndrome? What distinguishes it from the well-known Stockholm syndrome?

Let’s talk about Lima syndrome: You may have heard the term “Stockholm syndrome” before. It’s when an individual develops a positive connection with their captor or abuser

Did you know that there’s an opposite of Stockholm syndrome? It’s called Lima syndrome. In Lima syndrome, a captor or abuser forms a positive connection with their victim.

Keep reading as we explore what exactly Lima syndrome is, its history, and more.

What’s the definition of Lima syndrome?

Lima syndrome is a psychological response in which a captor or abuser develops a positive bond with a victim. When this happens, they may become empathetic to the individual’s circumstances or condition.

Overall, there’s not much information available on Lima syndrome. While there are some potential examples of it in the news and in popular culture, scientific research and case studies remain scarce.

What’s the history behind Lima syndrome?

Lima syndrome gets its name from a hostage crisis that began in late 1996 in Lima, Peru.

During this crisis, several hundred guests at a party held by the Japanese ambassador were captured and held hostage.

Many of the captives were high-level diplomats and government officials.

Their captors were members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MTRA), whose key demand was the release of MTRA members from prison.

In the first month of the crisis, a large number of hostages were released.

Many of these hostages were of high importance, making their release seem counterintuitive in the context of the situation.

What happened here?

Rather than the hostages forming a positive bond with their captors, as happens in Stockholm syndrome, it appears that the reverse occurred —many of the captors began to feel sympathetic to their captives.

This response was termed Lima syndrome.

The effects of Lima syndrome lessened the likelihood of the captives coming to harm while increasing the chances that they would be freed or allowed to escape.

The hostage crisis eventually ended in the spring of 1997 when the remaining hostages were freed during a special forces operation.

What are the symptoms of Lima syndrome?

Generally speaking, an individual may have Lima syndrome when they:

  • are in the position of captor or abuser
  • form a positive connection with their victim

It’s important to note that the term “positive connection” is very broad and could include many types of feelings.

Some examples could potentially include one, or a combination, of the following:

  • feeling empathy for a captive’s situation
  • becoming more attentive to a captive’s needs or wants
  • beginning to identify with a captive
  • developing feelings of attachment, fondness, or even affection for a captive

What are the causes of Lima syndrome?

Lima syndrome is still poorly understood, and there’s been very little research done into what causes it.

Much of what we do know comes from the hostage crisis that gave Lima syndrome its name.

After the crisis, those involved were evaluated by a medical team, who found that many MTRA members developed attachments to their captives.

Some even said that they wished to attend school in Japan in the future.

The following characteristics were also observed:

  • Youth: Many of the MTRA members involved in the hostage crisis were teenagers or young adults.
  • Ideology: Many of the captors had little knowledge of the actual political issues behind the operation and appeared to be involved more for monetary gain.

From this information, it appears that individuals who develop Lima syndrome may be younger, more inexperienced, or lack strong convictions.

In addition to these qualities, other factors could play a role:

  • Rapport: Establishing a friendly rapport with a captor could contribute to a positive bond. Remember that many of the captives in the Lima crisis were diplomats who would have had experience with communication and negotiation.
  • Time: Spending a prolonged period with a person could promote the growth of a connection. However, this is unlikely to have played a major role in the Lima crisis, as many hostages were released early on.

What are some examples of Lima syndrome?

An example of Lima syndrome in real life is documented in a Vice article about the positive connection that formed between a man in Uttar Pradesh, India and his kidnappers.

It’s actually a good example of both Lima syndrome and Stockholm syndrome at work, as the kidnapped man began to relate to his captors’ values, and the kidnappers began to treat him kindly and ultimately release him back to his village.

How can you cope with Lima syndrome?

Currently, we don’t have much information or first-hand reports on Lima syndrome and how it can impact those that develop it.

The bonding between captors and their captives as well as what influences it is a topic that requires more researchTrusted Source.

At first glance, it’s tempting to view Lima syndrome in a positive light.

This is because it’s associated with a captor or abuser developing a positive connection or empathy with their victim.

But it’s important to keep in mind that this connection occurs within an unequal power dynamic and often under traumatic circumstances.

Because of this, it’s possible that people with Lima syndrome may experience conflicting or confusing thoughts and feelings.

If you’ve been involved in a situation in which you believe that you’ve developed Lima syndrome, seek out psychological counseling to help you to better understand and cope with the feelings that you’re experiencing.

How does Lima syndrome compare with Stockholm syndrome?

In Stockholm syndrome, an individual develops positive feelings toward their captor or abuser.

It’s the opposite of Lima syndrome.

It’s believed that Stockholm syndrome may be a coping mechanism to help someone process and accept their situation during a period of trauma.

While Lima syndrome is poorly defined, there are four characteristics that are often associated with the development of Stockholm syndrome.

These are when an individual:

  • believes that there’s a threat to their life that will be carried out
  • perceives value in small acts of kindness from their captor or abuser
  • is isolated from views or perspectives other than those of their captor or abuser
  • doesn’t believe that they can escape from their situation

There’s more research into Stockholm syndrome than Lima syndrome, although it’s often limited to small studies

In addition to kidnapping and hostage situations, research indicates that Stockholm syndrome may arise in the following situations:

  • Abusive relationships: This can include any form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. A 2007 paper notes that it’s possible for those experiencing abuse to form an attachment to or cooperate with their abuser.
  • Sex trafficking: A 2018 study analyzing interviews with female sex workers found that many of their personal accounts of their experience were consistent with aspects of Stockholm syndrome.
  • Child abuse: A 2005 article notes that the emotional bond that can develop between a child and their abuser may enable the abuser but also protect them long after the abuse has stopped.
  • Sports: A 2018 paper explored the relationship dynamics between athletes and coaches that utilize abusive coaching methods and how it can be an example of Stockholm syndrome.

It’s also important to remember that every individual reacts differently to stress and trauma.

As such, not all people will develop Stockholm syndrome when placed in one of the situations above.

While Lima syndrome has been observed in kidnapping and hostage-taking scenarios, it’s currently unknown if it can develop within the four additional scenarios discussed above.


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