Serial Killers Psychology Serial Killers Serial Killers

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Serial killers hold a horrible fascination for many people. The thought that a human being can become so twisted and psychotic, to the point of slaughtering their fellow man, is a fascinating—if admittedly macabre—field of study.

Serial killers are not simple murderers. Their motives for killing often follow a twisted logic that only their minds think is sound. They often see themselves as completing an important—or even essential—task, and many feel they have been mandated to perform their heinous acts by a higher power. Still others torture and kill for the sheer thrill of causing suffering to another human being.

Many serial killers exhibit similar backgrounds and childhood behaviors. They were often abused, physically and/or sexually as children, or were victims of neglect. Many showed sadistic tendencies when they were younger, such as torturing animals, and many committed smaller crimes before moving on to murder. Some showed great intelligence when they were young, but were often diagnosed with mental instabilities such as schizophrenia.

Serial killers are different from simply murderers, or even those that go on a killing spree, in that a serial killer's acts are customarily more deliberate and take place over a long stretch of time. Serial killers will often go weeks, months, even years between killings. This is often because the urge to kill steadily rises in the killer's psyche until the urgings are too strong to control, compelling the killer to act out and find another victim.

Serial killers are often perceived as quiet, unassuming members of society, which makes the crimes committed all the more shocking and surprising. The thought that anyone could live next door to a killer is one that has been ingrained in popular culture and been a frequent target of films and books.

Throughout the years, psychologists have studied the methodology and motives behind some of the most notorious killers and found the various reasons one becomes a deranged and violent individual.

Some serials killers view themselves as completing a task ordained to them by God, or some other sort of higher power. The killers view their acts as a spiritual necessity. Along this line, many serial killers view themselves as completing a self-appointed mission to cleanse the world of a group the killer perceives as evil, a threat to humanity, or simply abhorrent. Serial killers that fall along these lines are particularly dangerous, as they often view what they do as a service to humanity and a necessary task..

Many serial killers who come from abusive backgrounds commit their acts of murder to exert power and control over other individuals. This comes as a result of feelings of helplessness and fear as a child. This can also take the form of serial killers who rape their victims if the killer was sexually abused at a younger age. The sexually violating act can be seen as a supreme act of domination over another human being.

Other serial killers simply kill for the sheer thrill of it. The excitement of the capture and the kill, and the notion of garnering media coverage and police attention are enough reason for some serial killers to continue on in their work. For them it may represent a “high” akin to that felt by individuals that partake in high risk activities such as sky diving or white water rafting.

There is some debate over whether serial killers are biologically inclined to their behavior due to a history of mental illness in the family or if the psychotic urges are brought about by environmental factors when growing up, such as neglect and both physical and mental abuse. Perhaps it is a combination of the two, a mental predisposition towards aberrant behavior spurned on by traumatic events endured in early life.

Whatever the reason one becomes a serial killer, the methodology and motives behind their heinous deeds offer a snapshot into the mind of a deranged individual. The continual study of the minds of these individuals, and what can be done to prevent the development of further killers, is an ongoing study.

More about this author: Jonathan Hamilton

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