What is the mind like of a serial killer? Did you know that 56% of the convicted serial killers since 1980 have resided in the United States of America? Out of 154 serial killers worldwide, 87 of them were from America. This means that over half of them lived and possibly committed their murders in the same states, cities, and counties that we live in. These criminals can be considered insane; some will go as far as calling them demented, sick, or even psycho. Serial killers are a violent product of the environment that they grew up in. This occurs because most serial killers have either suffered from physical, emotional, sexual, or mental abuse during their lifespan, typically their childhood which in turn causes mental illness in adult life. Most often times, due to a mix of genetics and a very poor childhood, serial killers are created by the time they are young adults.
“Over the last thirty years, numerous research studies have documented the link between child abuse and mental illness later in life. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are psychological conditions associated with childhood mental abuse”. Mental illnesses are known to affect the way that our brains work. Normal everyday tasks may be harder for those with mental illnesses to perform. Mental illnesses such as those listed above can physically alter the way that our brains work. In some cases mental illness impairs our judgement, our rationale, and our decision making skills, which ultimately result in doing things that you know is wrong; such as committing a crime, potentially even murder. These mental illnesses typically affect the frontal lobe which is in charge of our motor functions, problem solving, judgment, impulse control, and our social and sexual behaviors. For example, serial killer David Berkowitz claimed to have suffer from schizophrenia. Berkowitz claimed that his neighbor’s dog was actually Satan who was telling him to kill his victims. The killer felt no remorse, or empathy for his victims saying that they deserved it. Serial killers often times have antisocial personality disorders like sociopathy and psychopathy, if their crimes are not linked to a mental illness. Sociopathy and psychopathy are not actually mental illnesses according to the American Psychiatric Association but antisocial personality disorders according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013. Serial killers Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader are example of psychopaths. They all had shown similar traits, the failure to feel remorse, the disregard of laws, and the desire to kill.
Maltreatment of a child has been considered the “tobacco industry” of mental health. Smoking tobacco directly triggers a higher chance of contracting a physical disease while early mental abuse may contribute to almost all types of mental diseases. Studies show out of 200 participants surveyed, ages 18-20, 16% of participants suffered from child abuse. Of that 16%, 53% had or is suffering from depression. The other 47% has or is suffering from PTSD or multiple personality disorder . Although not all murderers have been mentally abused in their adolescent life, studies show that the ones who were have a higher risk of developing antisocial behavior and sometimes even committing violent criminal activites. The mental abuse that these murderers endure is not entirely due to their upbringing. In some cases these criminals have been mentally strained in school, by classmates, or even complete strangers. Everything about serial killers is environmental. Not all of their problems stem from mental abuse though, physical abuse is also a big factor. Out of the 154 known serial killers worldwide, 70% of them experienced extensive head injuries as a child. This can cause a number of different problems depending on which part of the head it was. This can fuel their violence and often times when serial killers are about to kill, the see their target as a surrogate of their guardian who had abused them. Things that happen to them at home, the way their peers treat them, and/or personal experiences are what shape into the brutal murderers they are today.Criminology and psychology majors all over the country provide insight into how not only the human brain works with certain illnesses and disorders, but also help classify serial killers. Various Tv shows and movies spark the interest of young minds in how a human could perform such actions, why they do these actions, and how to stop them. Now it is known that serial killers have brain issues or psychological issues that lead them to do their crimes whether intended or not.
Many people are interested in the how to stop that side of serial killers. The best known people that work to stop them are commonly known as “profilers” but are actually supervisory special agents within the FBI. And to become one that works with serial killers, you have to have been in the FBI for at least three years and worked with homicide, violent crimes, child abduction, and other task forces. These supervisory special agents are assigned to the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Those who are interested in this but without the field part of it just the understanding part can major in what is called forensic psychology. Forensic psychology is applying psychological knowledge to crime and other legal concerns. With a degree in psychology you learn about all the mental illnesses and types of disorders so you understand what goes through a killer’s brain when they kill.
Although serial killers are absolutely disturbing and ridiculous, there are certain myths that make them out to be worse than they actually are. In the U.S there are about 15,000 murders per year but only 1% of that is serial murders, so about 150 per year. There are about 50 serial killers in the United States today so that means they each account for 3 murders per year hypothetically. This is actually a staggering fact considering how media has portrayed it to be. A common myth is that all serial killers are men. This is nowhere close to true. Women account for 10% of all murders in the U.S every year which is 1,500 murders. Of the 150 serial murders, 17% are committed by women. That being said, if a woman is a murderer in the U.S. they are more likely to be a serial killer than a man is. A second myth is that all serial killers are weird, isolated murderers. This is actually almost entirely false. Many serial killers look to be just a normal person and can blend in with society very well, this is part of the reason that they can kill so long without being caught. In some cases, it is even known that some serial killers would talk to police about their own case so that they are suspected. A good myth is that people think serial killers kill across the country and always travel. Actually it is the complete opposite, many killers stay within one demographic zone because it is where they are comfortable. Killers demographic safe zones expand when they build confidence with many successful murders without being caught, this is why people think they move a lot. The last myth is that all serial killers are diabolical geniuses or completely insane. There are actually few cases where serial killers are deemed to be legally insane. And also they aren’t geniuses, the average IQ of a serial killer’s is within the range of the average person. They just are made out to be geniuses because they are psychopaths so they carefully plan out each attempt and are fueled by the want to kill.
Serial killers are the pinnacle of fear in the U.S. due to the media overstating them. Still this being said, serial killers are amongst the most dangerous all over the world. They are mentally sick in a way and they always have a desire to kill and kill more, mainly a result from early abuse and mental illness. The thought that is put into understanding the psychology of serial killers is still being expanded today because you can never know too much when it comes to these type of people. They are evil yet so fascinating in a way that can leave you intrigued on how they did it and why they did it. Overall, serial killers are ill humans that need help when it may be too late to provide it.