The three woman captives in Cleveland finally have a taste of freedom, but their adjustment back to any sort of normal life is going to be an extensive, difficult transition, psychologists say.
"It's going to be a long-term struggle," says Rona Fields, a psychologist who has researched violence against women and has treated torture victims.
Amanda Berry, 27; Gina DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32, were held in a Cleveland home for as long as a decade. They escaped late Monday after Berry's screams alerted a neighbor, who helped her out through a small opening in a door. A 6-year-old girl was also freed.
Police did not describe conditions inside the house and declined to say whether the women were restrained or if any of them had been sexually assaulted.
They arrested three suspects, brothers Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the house where the women were found, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.
Much is not known about the victims' captivity, but Fields says they will experience post-traumatic stress, self-esteem problems and difficulty making decisions. They also may have trouble reconnecting with family members they haven't seen in years.
"I would like be able to say, 'Oh, they are going to be fine. Give them some warmth and love and chicken soup,' " she says. "But in reality, that isn't the case."
She and Peter Suedfeld, a psychologist who specializes in adaptation to stressful environments, say the women are likely to need intensive therapy.
"It's highly likely they'll have post-traumatic stress syndrome, but that depends on how they were treated when there were there," Suedfeld says. "My advice would be to let them get used to things gradually."
Suedfeld advises the woman not to take trips to crowded areas or have news conferences until after they've had time to settle in.
"If they've been for a long time in a situation with low stimulation and low novelty, having too much of that at once can be overwhelming and stressful," he says.
And if they had thoughts like those of Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped in Salt Lake City when she was 14 and held for nine months before being discovered in 2003, the women probably had fears that they wouldn't be found alive.
During her captivity, Smart worried at times that her family had given up hope of finding her alive, she told The Des Moines Registerlast year.
"It's not uncommon for every average person to think after the first 24 hours, if you don't find them that they're dead," she said. "So yes, absolutely, there did come a point where I was like, 'You know, chances are they probably think I'm dead.' "
Because so much emotion comes with a situation like this, Fields suggests that family members of the captors also get psychological help.
For friends, neighbors, even strangers who want to show their support, psychologist Suedfeld urges not phoning or trying to visit. Instead, he advises, drop off a letter or do something else unobtrusive to show happiness that they've been released.
"I don't think people should be besieging the house or phoning the house," he says.
Smart, speaking on ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday, also emphasized the importance of respecting the privacy of the women as they recover.
Another well-known kidnapping victim, Jaycee Dugard, who was held captive for 18 years and had two children before she was found in 2009, issued a statement saying: "These individuals need the opportunity to heal and connect back into the world. This isn't who they are. It is only what happened to them. The human spirit is incredibly resilient. More than ever this reaffirms we should never give up hope."