Harleen Quinnzel doesn't have Stockholm Syndrome?

So I was watching Assault on Arkham and thinking about Harley Quinn’s behavior, and I noticed something. Most people assume she has Stockholm Syndrome because her first relationship was with the Joker, but that doesn’t made sense because of her sexual relationships with other characters- her actions are way more attention based. So I started doing research, and I have come to the conclusion that Harley doesn’t suffer from psychopathy, insanity, Stockholm Syndrome, and she’s not a masochist either. She most likely suffers from Histrionic personality disorder (HPD). Basically this person craves attention and becomes angry or upset when they don’t get it. Now I don’t know much about harleen other than the movies and shows but this sounds a lot like her. This theory is far from perfect, but I wanted to ask people who know more about Harley then I do, what do you think?

I disagree. There are times where she really doesn’t like the attention, and times when she does. I thought Stockholm syndrome was feelings for a captor. She fell in love with him because he listened and empathized with her. Yeah, I think she craves attention. But in some way she has always been looking for the person that will love, listen to, and adore her. It just so happens, she thought that was the Joker and she became what she thought the Joker wanted. Is there a psychiatric disorder for going insane to please someone?

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I feel when I watched assault on arkham you can tell she is more afraid of him than in love with him. She knew he was in a cell and she knew she was safe but when she saw that he wasn’t anymore she needed to protect herself which is why she went back to him. I think that she frears she can’t get out if the relationship.

Which is kinda like a parent and child relationship when a child does what their not suppose to, they own it in fron of others (like harley and the suicide squad) but when they know that their in trouble they feel bad and they know they are going to get punished for it unless they do right (like harley and joker).

My feelings on the matter are… controversial. However I have never agreed with the internet’s consensus that Harley Quinn was born out of Harleen Quinzel developing Stockholm syndrome. ( It’s not even a real, recognized mental disorder, but that’s not important right now.) The key cause of Stockholm Syndrome is being held captive against ones will in a dangerous or otherwise stressful situation. Harleen was -never- his captive in her origin stories, she was always free to go as his doctor while he was quite literally locked away in one building, and free to go as his henchwench and girlfriend.
FBI researchers have identified three key factors that contribute to the development of Stockholm syndrome: the passage of time, continual contact, and small acts of kindness without direct and persistent abuse. This all must happen during the duration of the victim’s captivity. While it can be argued that those three factors sum up Joker and Harleen’s interactions pre-Harley, again, she was -never- captive. Captivated, maybe, but never a captive.

I personally believe that along with other mental illnesses, Harley Quinn/Harleen Quinzel suffers from Hybristophilia. Hybristophilia being a disorder with which an individual is strongly attracted to, and/or sexually aroused by a partner known to have committed crimes and other devious behaviors. Mix that with Sociopathy and a teeny bit of Dependent Personality Disorder and you’re getting close to the mental chaos that makes Harley who she is. I make this armchair, amateur diagnosis largely based off of her appearances pre-Flashpoint.

Of course, being written by so many different people can easily muddle any symptoms or signs of specific mental disorders.


How interesting! I must say I never quite agreed with the Stockholm Syndrome theory. Harley was not at any point held against her will.
Regardless of what syndrome or other disorder she may have, HPD does sound like it could be somewhere in there, especially since it’s more of a personality type than anything.
You can’t deny the girl wants attention and does crazy things to get it. However, it seems she is more interested in the Joker’s attention than anyone else’s. So there’s something she’s getting from him or looking to get from him that motivates her to do all of the crazy things she does, rather than needing attention in general.

So maybe HPD along with something else? :thinking:


I think maybe brainwashing might be a better way of putting it other than Stockholm syndrome.

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Joker met her. Read her. Played her. Used her. She didn’t have anybody pay attention to her like that before. She didn’t want to lose her pudding. Could it be that she likes crazy and bad guys? In Assault on Arkham she told Deadshot that he’s loco, and she likes his loco-motion. Then wasn’t it Captain Boomerang who asked her to hook up for old times sake. Well she also hooked up with Nightwing too. Maybe she has a fetish for masks and capes now.

Her origin story in the first Harley solo run is the best and it goes hand in hand with Mad Love.
See Mad Love is what Harley wants everyone to believe, she wants to be seen as this weak victim because it makes people under estimate her. So she gave this wonderful tasty story that doctors in Arkham ate up, the truth is she went after him.
In the ’ second half ’ of her origin we find out through videos and transcript of her sessions with The Joker she wanted him from the start. She snapped after pushing her college boyfriend to snap and kill (attempt to kill i forget) a professor after a psychiatric experiment goes wrong using him as her unwittingly test subject. He finds out it’s all b.s and he asks her to kill him and we are left with an uneasy realization that either she did or he killed himself as she told people. She mentally breaks and becomes obsessed with The Joker while in college and goes to Arkham with the only focus of getting to him.
Once she meets him the first session he chokes her but stops when he sees something he’s never seen before in her eyes…
This leading us to see it was never him manipulating her or using her, it was her from the start. I do believe Harley is a sociopath, not a psychopath there is a difference. I think she’s a little masochistic if nothing because she doesn’t think she deserves anything else. I also think she enjoys everything with a mix of obsessive love disorder and Hybristophilia (had to Google how to spell it lol).
Sorry for the novel, I have analyzed Harley and Joker a lot and I have defended their violent relationship. It works for them, overall they’re happy in their own ways. I think Bruce Timm is right that Joker loves Harley in his own way and I think she knows that. I think it’s the sadist in Joker combined with a narcissistic personality that feeds off her admiration along with him being a psychopath and knowing he needs someone he can trust. He has never had anyone shower love and admiration on him so he hangs on to Harley with a death grip. Hence the extreme jealousy in Assault on Arkham. I don’t think Harley was scared of him once he escaped, she purposely shot into the room so he could get out. I think for lack of a better way to say it she was turned on by his gangster once he was out and was pointing a gun at Deadshot. 🤷 People with Hybristophilia would throughly enjoy it. IDK though lmao I’m just a girl obsessed with comics, cartoons and movies :joy::joy:

Early in her Harley career, it was definitely Stockholm. Over time, especially after she met Ivy, she began to break away. Now she is pretty much free of the Joker. But on occasion feels a pull towards him. He’s almost an addiction.

Stockholm means she was kept captive and she was never held against her will.

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She is a unique case in that she was very smart, she was a doctor with multiple degrees (if I remember correctly). But she was also very gullible, thus easy manipulated by Joker - here’s the thing, Joker wasn’t her first patient and she is and was a very beautiful young woman so it’s likely that other men/women tried some lines but never worked.

I think of Joker as a Charles Manson type character in this particular case. He says all the right things in order to use the person or people he needs. In this case, he saw Harley as an easy target. Harley was fascinated, became obsessed with pleasing Joker at any cost. This isn’t unlike Manson’s cult.

Sometimes certain people come along at just the right moment in life, they say exactly what you need to hear and that sparks an attraction. You just have to watch and see if that turns to good or bad, in this case it was used for evil in every sense. Yes, they were a couple but Harley was never 100% happy, Joker was abusive but… She did choose to stay, she always had a way out but let Joker have a stronghold over her. She somewhat embraced the pain, some might even say she enjoyed it.

Hence why she says stuff like “You’d think after living with mista J for so long, I’d be used to a little pain!” smiling as blood pours out of her mouth and she spits.


Funny enough, recently I was going through the special features on the Batman and Harley Quinn Blu-ray (surprisingly better than I remember) and there was a featurette on the psychology of Harley Quinn, and they had a psychologist specifically mention HPD as a likely diagnosis, so OP, you got someone with some cred on your side!


In regards to your theory about what happened in Assault On Arkham, I don’t think Harley meant to break him out with that bullet but I don’t think she meant to kill him either. I think Harley is genuinely sweet girl and there isn’t an ounce of true evil within her, she may be mischievous but never devious like the Joker… However, I do think she shot to try to make the Joker feel something that she always did - fear. It worked, you can clearly see his expression. Even the Joker, as diabolical as he is, fears death. This has been proven time and time again.

That said, I do think that Harley was afraid of the Joker. One thing we know for certain us that the Joker is unpredictable. He will hurt Harley without caring, without batting an eye and who’s to say he wouldn’t break out and kill her for not coming to see him sooner? You just never know. Joker has a soft spot for Harley but he also has many switches, he would kill her wothout remorse. He doesn’t see her as a girlfriend or an equal. He sees her as a toy, a tool and a last resort.

In the film called Batman And Harley, we see how she is finally 100% happy because she is completely free of Joker. There isn’t a void, there is no hole in her heart buy while Joker made her change, it wasn’t without trauma. She lost everything. Her career, her family, her past, it all went. Abusive relationships are NEVER good for either member whether fictional or real. I mean, yes, we can defend it if you like the characters but poor Harley, she endured so much and this didn’t help Joker but enabled him to go darker - despite some people believing that Harley gave him some stability/compassion which is silly.

I’m sure if you saw Harley on the street and defended her relationship with Joker, she’d be like “What’re ya, CrAzY?!” Fortunately, we do know that Harley does recover later and lives to see her grandchildren grow up, they are not the Joker’s grandchildren either but they do wear the colors :wink:

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You base that all on animation, not comics as well which makes it more complicated. Old Lady Harley has her being back with him again at some point.

I forgot to add and according to Injustice she had his daughter and Old Lady Harley she had his son.

She doesn’t have Stockholm Syndrome; she most likely has battered person/woman syndrome. This is a mental illness in which a person is abused to a point where they cannot leave their abuser because of how passive, “battered,” and depressed they become. Harley relates to this more than Stockholm Syndrome, for she has forced herself to believe she loves the Joker even though he abuses her. She never thinks much of it, and never tells anyone. In BTAS she even says to Ivy, “My puddin’s a little rough sometimes, but he loves me, really.” She doesn’t ever admit the Joker abuses her and she always defends him, like a person with battered person/woman syndrome would.


But also note I am going off Batman: The Animated Series Harley Quinn. Idk how she acts towards Joker in the comics.

Harley seems to have some sort of need to kind of latch on to someone. The main difference between the Joker and Poison Ivy is whether (or rather, the extent to which) they exploit that vulnerability in an abusive manner. It’s pretty clearly not Stockholm Syndrome because that’s not what Stockholme Syndrome is. Girl_Wonder’s suggestion of Battered Woman Syndrome seems to be at least one of Harley’s many, many issues. On the other side of the relationship, I’ll note that I don’t believe for a moment that the Joker sincerely returns her affections. He’s too self-absorbed and cruel to be doing anything more or less than toying with her for his own sick amusement.

I’d also just like to note that while Harley certainly is the victim of the Joker’s abuse and manipulation, that does not make her a good person. She’s a completely unrepentant serial killer for whom “healthy behavior” means spending time with a misanthropic mass murdering eco-terrorist instead of a megalomaniacal mass murdering torturer.



Which one is canon?

I remember when she is a prostitute working for the Riddler, she dies which pushes the Joker to become… the Joker. I thought that was by far the most interesting and memorable version of Harley though not canon (this version in the picture). She even nailed the original Arleen Harley voice, something Margot Robbie could never do.

I also like Lego Harley who is even crazier than comic/cinema Harley’s.

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