This project will give motives and psychological explanations behind serial killings – focusing on prominently males. The term ‘serial killer’ was coined by Robert Ressler, an FBI agent and profiler1, and is given to people who commit three or more murders. Even after one killing, motives tend to cease to exist and it becomes more of pattern and psychological cause. Outlining the main reasons, I will evaluate which is the most prominent factor that leads to serial killing. There are unique cases and not all serial killings have these reasons behind them.
The study of serial killers has led to many murderers to have been categorised to either being disorganised or organised. Serial killers with a high victim count tend to be organised. By definition, it means that these killers know what to do to minimise their chances of them getting caught and use intelligence and manipulation to carry out their need to kill. Speaking psychologically, these killers know what they are doing is wrong and wicked but still carry out the murders just to fulfil their needs. Elements considered by the killer would be such things as time and location of the attack or where the body is disposed. This would be what separates this type of killer to disorganised killers.
With disorganised being the opposite of organised, the way disorganised killers work is the opposite to organised (if you can even say they have a way of working). In contrast, disorganised serial killers are caught quicker due to there being a lack of planning and concealment (leaving fingerprints and DNA at the scene) .Some organised killers may start off as disorganised due to their first murder not being intentional and so their need to kill may stem from that first killing.
If you were to ask anyone for at least some kind of explanation behind a serial killer, they may suggest psychopathy or some sort of psychological disorder and this is because it is highlighted throughout life how immoral and punishable murdering is but people still manage to ignore this and carry on.
The effect of killing someone can have so much of a toll on someone that it can drive them to even kill themselves due to the deep and regret, planned murder or not. But for those who do not feel after carrying out a murder are dangerous since no amount of guilt can override their decision to murder. Those who feel this way may have have Anti-Social Personality Disorder (informally known as sociopathy/ASPD). There is one side of sociopathy where they can appear charming, intelligent and seem to have good relationships with people in their life and they are usually diagnosed due to how they manipulate everyone around them to think this. However, there are people with antisocial personality disorder who don’t have their life as well put together. Even if the charming sociopaths may not have good mental health, these other sociopaths deal with bad relationships and their own aggressive behaviour. These sociopaths exploit their victims through violence and intimidation. An example of a serial killer diagnosed with APD is John Wayne Gacy who killed 33 young males. In August 1967, he had sexually assaulted a 15 year old boy, Voorhees, who then went on to report Gacy in 1968. Gacy had persuaded an 18 year old boy to physically assault Voorhees to not speak in court. This is an example of a serial killer using intimidation to get their way. In terms of actually killing, many serial killers used intimidation and a strong image to make their victims cower in submission. Sociopaths would for most of their lives would have felt different to others and never felt in norm with society. Despite this, they will still feel superior over others around them, leading to short relationships and always having relationships on the brink of jeopardy and because of always being in this state of stress, they may turn to murder in order to feel calmer but as a whole, murdering for sociopaths is their way of telling themselves that they are the ones in control.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder which involves a dysfunctional emotional regulation system of a person. People with BPD tend to inhabit impulsive and self-destructive behaviour, suicidal thoughts and also intense relationships and due to this, their personal relationships would remain unstable. Since a young age, Todd Kohlhelpp was described to be an explosive and aggressive individual. Kohlhelpp’s father had even stated that “only emotion Kohlhepp is capable of is anger.” Jeffrey Dahmer was also diagnosed with BDP. Similarly with Kohlhepp, Dahmer had also experienced impulsive and violent behaviour, while also inhabiting ASPD traits. BDP affects the serial killer’s relationships while experiencing bouts of anger, leading to them being forced to withdraw from society, and hone their thoughts which would then lead them on to killing multiple people later on in life, which reflect the anger that they have within them.