What Makes a Serial Killer?

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For those who share a love for psychology we often might wonder what goes on within the mind of a psychopath. The question I am pursuing after is what makes a serial killer and what could done to prevent a developing psychopath?. By pursuing this question I hope to gain more information on why certain individuals think and act the way they do and what are the causes.

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This question is important to me because it’s something that interests me and I would like to pursue a career in forensic psychology. This question matters because learning information of such topic allows me to connect with other future psychologist. Connecting with others not only allows me to share information but also learn something new. When some individuals think of the question why do serial killers kill, the answer is usually because their crazy.

I think of it as yes their crazy but what makes them that way, was it caused from child abuse, did they grow up to be that way, or is there something wrong in their head. Their might be someone who isn’t as interested in topics of such sort but still might want to learn about such individuals; which makes the question even more important. For future Forensic Psychologist, i believe that learning such information enhances our ability to understand people on a higher level. It doesn’t necessarily have be a psychopath it could just be a regular person, maybe a friend; the more you can relate and the better you can understand that person or friend the stronger the relationship will be. I will be doing one personal interview of a former Forensic Psychologist, and a ted bundy interview from youtube. I will be providing secondary sources which are journals that focuses on the Psychological mind. I will also be providing academic articles which explains what makes a serial killer, then i will have two research documentaries to provide extra information needed. By using these sources I will able to give a thorough answer and explanation to why do serial killers kill.

One of the most common Psychological questions is whether killers are born or made. Many serial killers suffer from childhood trauma whether its physical or emotional abuse, it seems to be the number one reason they turn out the way they are. In some cases not all former killers come from abusive households for example, Ted Bundy a former commander of air force grew up in a two parent loving household. There is no evidence of trauma within his childhood but there is suspicion as to why he started killing at such a late age, his early 40s. The maine trait for a psychopath is usually the lack of conscience caused by trauma within childhood. Developing as early as a infant, that trauma suppresses their ability to have an emotional response. Growing up not knowing how to emotionally connect with others makes it difficult to have empathy. Some grow up learning the art of masking feelings that’s why most serial killers can raise a family then that night can go out and kill, they have second lives. In one to six killers are females different from male serial killers, women are harder to catch. Instead of torturing the victim women tend to manipulate, it’s all about control to them rather than sexual arousement. Being diagnosed with Munchausen Syndrome by proxy Aileen Wuornos was a prostitute that would kill her victims. Female killers are the complete reversal of their former gender, killing the image that women are supposed to uphold nurturing roles.

The most recognizable disorder is Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) which correlates with psychopathy, even though not all psychopaths turn out to be killers. Psychopaths comes with multiple traits such as manipulation, intimidation and charm causing them to be labeled as serial murders. When it comes to examining the brain psychopaths tend to show a significant amount of difference compared to the normal human being. Typically having a lower heart rate, reduced prefrontal gray matter within the brain, and amygdala abnormalities even though these findings does not mean we should always expect them when dealing with psychopaths. Other mental conditions we can consider is Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD) consisting of anxiety, paranoia, suspicion of others, and emotional instability. A psychopath who is diagnosed with BPD can become very paranoid and shows no empathy towards others, if one displays all traits at one that can result in loss of life. Suffering from a sudden traumatic experience can cause the killings to multiply making them psychopathic serial killers meaning the killing was premeditated. Schizophrenia mixes with serial killers who will have confused thoughts and would usually have premeditated murders. Reading these two articles I learned that most serial killers are born from traumatic childhood experiences resulting in lack of empathy and showing impulsive aggression. Diagnosing them with mental disorders can sorta provide us with an explanation as to why they feel the need to kill.

Serial killers, mass murderers, and spree killers all engage in extreme violence but yet they differ based on who perpetrates them. A mass murder is someone who can get fired from their job gets mad then decide to walk outside and kill innocent bystanders. There’s no thought or plan put into action when it comes to defining a mass murderer. A spree killer is sorta like a mass murdered no plan of action, acting off rage, and killing innocent bystanders. To be considered a serial killer there are certain categories you have to fall under. With a minimum of three murders there must be a time period between the murders to determine that its not just a fit of rage. Having a sense of dominance killers tend to select a victim by their vulnerability, they will not choose a victim if they do not feel the mission will be accomplished. The victim will either be someone on the street or a prostitute, which plays a part in developing patterns. Normally the victim would choose based off race and gender, they pick individuals with similar traits closest to their preference. They stalk their victims for a period of time until they feel the time is right to attack. Serial Killing is usually not expressed through rage, with having slight schizophrenia they have a drive to kill sorta like an uncontrollable pleasure. The majority of serial killers are organized,mostly having patterns. There are some that are nonsocial or asocial meaning they are either excluded by society or themselves.

Most serial killers are intelligent caucasian males aging from their 20s to 30s. You will not be able to tell a serial killer from their appearance they appear to look the same as everyone else for example, ted bundy was described as attractive and articulate. John Wayne Gacy was a public figure within his community who would dress up as a clown at local parties. Serial killers display three behaviors within their childhood known as the Macdonald Triad: arson, bed-wetting, and animal cruelty. One of the many question i had was why do serial killers have patterns, i learned that their patterns are based off of how and what they previously experienced within their childhoods. I understand that there are female serial killers but most of the time the killer is going to be male. To know that serial killers are just like other human beings with a wife and kids is strange because before reading this would’ve thought they would be all crazy and unstable.

During my first personal interview I asked question such us can psychopathic traits be inherited through genetics, does one traumatic experience alters their brain negatively, etc. I interviewed Dr Kelsey Maloney who is currently a forensic psychiatric she provided useful information in regards to my question. One of the ten questions I asked was is there any treatment provided to help those who are developing psychotic traits. Typical therapy is provided but there is caution, killers tend to manipulate other people by acting like them or masking their feelings. Instead of discussing about how did they feel or did they regret the crime they commited, therapy is usually the act on thoughts. Discussing their thoughts allows you to place yourself in their shoes developing a compassionate role showing them that you care. Since psychopaths are usually antisocial the main goal of therapy is to break down their emotional detachment making them more vulnerable. The next step is to put them in a position to where they would be comfortable expressing their emotions this is done by using schema. Schema is the aggression and intimidation that tends to take over when their placed in an uncomfortable position. During this interview I had many questions but this one was the most important one. I learned there is treatment provide for those who are developing psychopathic traits, does it always work? No but at least there is something to help.

I have watched many documentaries or just regular videos on the mind and the psychological traits of a serial killer. One of the two videos i’ve come across is called inside the mind of a serial killer. Serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne meet the criteria for psychopathy displaying sadist behavior meaning there’s enjoyment in knowing their victims are suffering. Most serial killers are loners, men with multiple failed relationships they kill, hide the body, and then move to next. The reason for this is they lack knowledge of how to maintain a romantic relationship. Ted Bundy would be described as the most violent serial killer in America confessing to 36 murders. Growing up Ted’s mother told him his grandparents were his parents so he grew believing his mother was his sister. He grew to be handsome and very well educated studying psychology around the time a female disappeared. Ted’s victims were usually attractive young women with dark hair.

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