Psychopaths and serial killers: crazy, bad, evil or diabolical?

Dr. Franco Lotito C. – Academic, writer and researcher (PUC-UACh) – www.aurigaservicios.cl

It is always very striking to analyze those subjects who present a “psychopathic type personality”, a classification that is generally associated –although not exclusively– with the famous serial killers. It is necessary, however, to differentiate these individuals from the subjects affected by a “psychosis”, a diagnosis that many confuse, precisely, with psychopathic disorders. To further clarify the subject under analysis, later I will give some clear examples of well-known “serial killers”.


In order to fully understand these two mental disorders, it is necessary, first of all, to establish the main differences. The “psychosis” They are essentially characterized by the following aspects:

  • (a) the affected persons present a serious alteration of the judgment of reality, with loss of the ability to discriminate between internal reality and external reality, and the subject may experience visual and/or auditory hallucinations,
  • (b) they present a qualitative alteration of the communication capacity and, consequently, loss of the capacity for an adequate encoding of messages with the people around them,
  • (c) there is an absence of awareness of illness, that is, these subjects do not know –nor do they realize– that they are sick,
  • (d) presence of behavioral disorders: behaviors are deviated in the social plane and turn out to be disabling for the individual. This is the case, for example, of those people who are affected by paranoid schizophrenia, suffer from catatonia, have a shared psychotic disorder, etc.

On the other hand, individuals with “psychopathic personalities” (or sociopathic) have the following characteristics:

  • (a) retain the ability to distinguish between external and internal reality,
  • (b) they present serious behavioral disorders, especially in the social plane, (c) they are not aware of personal discomfort due to the serious damage they cause to their victims nor do they see the need to make any kind of changes in their lives, (d) there is full conservation of the ability to communicate, (e) they feel very satisfied with themselves and legitimated to do what they do, whether it involves torturing, raping or murdering another person, (f) they do not feel remorse for the acts carried out in the past nor do they feel any type of concern for the future. Who, then, are these psychopaths? Are there only psychopathic men? Well, psychopathy represents a severe mental disorder and in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) it is indicated that it is a “antisocial personality disorder” where abusive, violent and socially deviant behaviors prevail.
Let’s review some characteristics of these individuals:

  • 1. They are intelligent subjects and they show others a charm that is only superficial.

  • 2. They do not have delusions of any kind.

  • 3. There is a total absence of feelings of guilt, remorse or shame for their actions, no matter how aberrant they may be.

  • 4. They present a high level of self-centeredness and an inability to feel affection, love or empathy for other people.

  • 5. They present behavioral problems since childhood, since psychopathy begins to reveal itself at 4 or 5 years of age, regardless of the environment or family environment in which they are born, some of the premature signs in these subjects being their inclination to torture and kill animals, the practice of pyromania, show violent behavior and have no respect for social norms. It goes without saying that nobody becomes a psychopath or a serial killer at 40 years old.

  • 6. They are manipulative, superficial and lying subjects.

  • 7. They are very impulsive and lack self-control of their deviant behaviors

  • 8. They show great ability to conceal and hide their true intentions, based on which they feign behavior of normal people: they can have a stable job and a family as a “front” to commit their misdeeds.

  • 9. There is a total absence of any kind of personal responsibility for the acts they commit, pointing out, for example, that “the victims were asking for it.”

Researchers of the psyche of serial killers point out that the acts of these subjects “exhibit wickedness, callousness, and cruelty beyond any human capacity for comprehension”. Let’s review, then, some cases of serial killers.

  • Jeffrey Lionel Dahmerknown as the “Milwaukee cannibal” was an American serial killer and sex offender who committed the murder and dismemberment of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. Many of his murders involved the practice of necrophilia, that is, having sex with dead people, as well as cannibalism and the preservation of body parts of their victims as “regards” of the murders.

  • Ted Bundy, the “handsome serial killer”: was a serial killer who kidnapped, raped, and murdered numerous women and girls during the 1970s and, possibly long before, when he was a teenager. After more than a decade of denials before his execution in 1989, Bundy confessed to the murder of 30 women in seven states between 1974 and 1978. The true number of victims is unknown and is surely much higher: close to 100 victims. . Bundy was considered a very handsome and charismatic subject, traits that he exploited to gain the trust of the victims. He approached young women in public places feigning injury, disability, or impersonating authority figures before knocking them unconscious and taking them to secluded locations to rape, torture, and kill them.

  • Preacher Jim Jones: he was an attractive and charismatic leader of a sect, whose behavior perfectly reflected the self-centered, manipulative, unscrupulous subject and lack of all empathy, whose goal was to use people as objects for their own purposes. He was the founder and leader of the People’s Temple sect and led his followers to Jonestown, Guyana, where, in addition to murdering five people, he urged 917 members of his sect to commit collective suicide, which meant death and murder. of more than 200 children through the ingestion of cyanide.

Previously, the question was raised if only men were serial killers. The answer is a simple No! There are also women, adolescents and children who enjoy torturing and murdering people. Thus, for example, we have the case of Aileen Carol “Read” Wuornos, a woman who murdered seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. In her defense, Wuornos claimed that her victims had either raped her, or attempted to rape her while she was serving them as a prostitute, and that all the murders “they had been committed in self-defense”. We also have the case of two 12-year-old girls –Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier– who presented a continuous pattern of hostile, disobedient and defiant behavior towards authority figures. The two tried to kill a common friend and classmate with 19 stab wounds. Morgan Geyser tended to post on her social media lines like “I love killing people” with the respective drawings of murdered girls and herself next to her as a quasi-demonic figure and with a kind of sharp sickle in her hands.

As can be seen from these examples, this type of subject can be members of any family “normal” and being very close to us, without us realizing it.

Let’s say, finally, that they are not crazy people, but that they are just bad, perverse and diabolical subjects.

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Psychopaths and serial killers: crazy, bad, evil or diabolical?