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The Psychopath And The Serial Killer Personality

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When it comes to Serial Killers almost all of them admit that they started out by acting out their fantasies on small animals. They then moved to humans and later admitted that animal torture brought them a great source of pleasure. Because of this, both elementary and high school teachers are required to report the abuse of animals either in the classroom or when it is directly talked about. The American Psychiatric Association lists animal cruelty as one of the behaviors signaling conduct disorder. Clinical evidence indicates that often by the age of eight, animal cruelty is one of the symptoms usually seen at the earliest stages of conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is a range of antisocial behaviors displayed in childhood or adolescence. Most of the time the profiles of children who evolve in adult psychopaths have components from or had developed conduct disorder at a young age. There are many studies on the underlying risk factors for Psychopathy. These factors contain and focus on developmental, genetic, neurobiological, social, and environmental factors. It is very important to report these behaviors when they are detected because there is no effective treatment for Psychopathic Personalities in adulthood, however, children with a specific neurobiological profile or specific behavioral disturbances can be treated to an extent. Those who have an increased risk of developing a Psychopathic Personality in adult life, have better chances to respond in individualized interventions, depending on the character and willingness of the child. The parents can also play a huge role in the future shaping of their child by being educated in how to supervise their children, and overlook annoying behaviors, and encourage positive ones. They are influenced to avoid punishment due to the fact that it won’t help their child, but it strengthens undesirable behaviors. Instead, they say that the use of reward appears to have better behavioral results. Programs that aim to help and reform children from this disorder highly focus on therapeutic individual interventions. These programs help to reduce psychopaths in the adult population.

Given that most serial killers are from dysfunctional families, such pathological and abnormal behavior may be ignored. So with that being said, what is a serial killer? A serial killer has no true definition because it is such a broad spectrum. The closest definition to the term would be someone who commits at least three murders over more than a month period. Said person typically has a predictable behavioral pattern. Within this period there should be a “cooling off” time in between, allowing them to gather themselves. Most of the time they will have a sexual or psychological motive. There is something called the “prototype” serial killer. Within the prototype, there are multiple versions of serial killers. The prototype concept allows for a killer to be more or less of a so-called serial killer depending on how closely they resemble the prototypes. There are four types of serial killers. Hedonistic, power and control, visionary, and mission. Hedonistic serial killers, also known as the “lust” or “thrill” killers, have a strong connection between personal violence and sexual gratification. They receive pleasure from the experience by taking the time to torture the victim in many ways. These killers are the ones often portrayed in movies and are classified as psychopaths. Power and Control Serial killers complete sexual gratification from domination and humiliation from the victim. They live by their own rules and guidelines and are classified as sociopaths. Many famous killers fall under this category. Visionary killers are compelled by voices and visions that tell them to kill certain people, these killers are psychotic. And lastly, mission killers feel a need and duty to kill certain types of people or a “class” or people whether that be religious, racial, or prostitute.

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Psychopathy is a mental disorder that is often seen in serial killers, and it is a disorder that will most of the time go undetected. It is where the patient lacks empathy and conscience. They have no regard for the feelings or needs of other individuals. They lack emotions such as guilt, fear, pain, and embarrassment. This allows them to act recklessly or aggressively, even when they are completely aware that their behavior is wrong. There was a study done in 2012 where they took classified psychopaths and “normal” people, who were used as controls, and put them through a series of tests that would provoke a signal of fear, pain, or nervousness. All of these traits can be shown through the rate of heartbeat, sweat gland activity, corrugator activity, and body language. Within this test, the subjects were given a painful electric stimulus. The results for the psychopathic subjects, compared to healthy controls, were immensely different, as they failed to give off any type of reaction. There was an absence of all conditioned responses. This test proved that their minds and bodies work chillingly differently. They don’t feel the same pain and emotions, and even their bodies don't give off signs that they are in pain or uncomfortable. With this being said, this makes them highly unpredictable and very manipulative. Most of the time when a person has this mental disorder, it often goes undetected due to their abilities to manipulate, and superficially charm. Another strongly associated feature of psychopathy is something called blame externalization. This trait goes hand in hand with manipulation due to the extreme measures that it will go. They will often make people feel as though they are in the wrong, when in fact, it is the other way around. They are masters at the manipulation of other peoples’ feelings and emotions but they are unable to experience these emotions and feelings for themselves. They will spend a lot of time observing their surroundings and will take in information as to what society sees as acceptable and a model human being. They will then portray this act in their everyday life. Said person tends to be very likable and will most times come off as charming because of this.

Sociopathy, not to be confused with Psychopathy, is another mental disorder seen regularly in serial killers. Although often used interchangeably, the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” have fairly different meanings. Someone who is characterized as a psychopath has no sense of right and wrong and is generally more manipulative, outgoing, and self-centered than someone who is characterized as a sociopath. Sociopathy is a disorder that correlates directly with antisocial behavioral patterns and attitudes, it is most closely related to Antisocial Personality Disorder. People with this disorder don’t understand others' feelings and emotions. They'll often break rules or make impulsive decisions without realizing the harm they had caused. Sociopaths can often lie, lack empathy, and have a weak conscience, which can lead them to be manipulative. They are also extremely volatile and are prone to having fits of rage and emotional outbursts. Unlike Psychopathy, classified sociopaths don’t really understand that what they are doing is wrong. With all of this being said, most cases of sociopathic individuals seem to be disturbed but they can actually show slight indications of trustworthiness, caring, as well as sincerity at times. All in all, the main way Sociopathy differs from Psychopathy is the slight ability to feel and the arrogance of how their actions affect them and how they have consequences. It is often easier to tell apart a sociopath from society rather than a psychopath who tends to fit in and be likable. Within the United States history, there have been approximately Serial killers to date. This number has been continuously growing as the years have passed.

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The Psychopath And The Serial Killer Personality. (2021, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from
“The Psychopath And The Serial Killer Personality.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2021,
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