Currently the DSM-IV refers to both these as antisocial personality disorder with the following criteria:
A. Pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15 as indicated by at least three of the following: 1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior. 2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure. 3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead. 4. Irritability and aggressiveness. 5. Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others. 6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain work behavior or honor financial obligations. 7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by indifference to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
B. Individual is at least 18 years of age
C. The occurrence of the behavior is not exclusively during the course of a schizophrenic or manic episode
D. Evidence of conduct disorder onset before age 15 (Giannangelo 8)
There is also a similarity in the childhoods of serial killers. Many demonstrate early aggression toward animals and people. The literature is full of animal torture and killing in this stage, as well as forced sexual activity and incident of arson. These are all symptomatic of conduct disorder. Lack of remorse is also a prevalent element of this cadre and while few serial killers do admit some empathy for their victims, it is not enough to prevent them from killing again, hence also the similarity with addiction (Jenkins).
Causal factors for an antisocial personality include a possible biological predisposition (Andreasen, 1984, p. 252), childhood trauma (shared by the vast majority of serial killers), possible neurological factors in the control of impulsivity regarding serotonin levels in the brain, and heredity. Those diagnosed with antisocial personalities also share deep-seated doubts regarding their own adequacy (Havens, 1992). Most antisocials are men, again reflecting serial killer demographics. (Giannangelo 8)
While rare, this gender bias in serial killers is occasionally bypassed. Often falling into their own separate category, female serial killers are more often than not associated with therapeutic settings in hospitals or nursing homes. These are nurturing settings that also allow them to be in complete control over a patient, usually an elderly or terminally ill patient, but not necessarily so. Although not officially categorized as such, they are referred to as the lethal caretakers, or more sensationally as the Angels of Death. "This contemporary Angel of Death embodies an especially pernicious darkness in our humanity by systemically attacking the weak and defenseless who have been involuntarily placed into her care or must rely on her for comfort and support" (Kelleher, and Kelleher 60). Aileen Wuornos is perhaps one of the most famous and atypical examples of a female serial killer. Although debatable, she actually falls under the genre of Hedonistic Gain Killer; killing truck drivers and other motorists for their money and their cars (Jenkins).
The term serial killer was coined in the 1970's and attributed to FBI Special Agent Robert Ressler who went on to develop the psychological profiling technique that has become the standard tool in the process of discovering serial killers. Originally called "crimes in series" by the British police, the term serial killer has an additional relation to those movies called "serials" that would always end with "cliff hangers" incomplete endings with the audience wanting more. That is, at least according to author Mark Seltzer in his article "Serial Killers:"
In dramatic terms, this wasn't a satisfactory ending, because it increased, not lessened the tension. The same dissatisfaction occurs in the mind of serial killers. Thus, for Ressler, "the real meaning behind the term serial killer" is the internal competition between repetition and representation. "Obsessed with a fantasy" unfulfilled in its enactments, the act is repeated in line with what Ressler calls "an improvement continuum." But as in the cliff-hanger, the repetition "leaves the murderer hanging (Seltzer 93).
Again, this improvement continuum is the same fallacy that the addict lives under. Hoping that the next fix will completely satisfy them, but in reality the tolerance builds so that more and more of the addictive substance needs to be used, or taken more frequently. An increase in frequency is often a trademark of un-apprehended serial killers.
Britain is probably most famous for their serial killer Jack the Ripper. Falsely credited as being the first serial killer, Jack the Ripper has spawned several copycat Anglophiles. In an article in the England Standard regarding the recent Suffolk Serial Killer, the author gives us some current and past history regarding this:
Britain has a history of killers targeting prostitutes. The most notorious was the 19th century murderer dubbed Jack the Ripper, blamed for the deaths of five prostitutes in east London in 1888 but never caught. The most prolific was Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper, who murdered 13 women, mainly prostitutes, in northern England from 1975 to 1980 before he was caught ("Ripper Strangled Third Victim;" 5).
These serial killers would fall under the category of Missionary Murderers. They seem to be trying to wipe out a specific group and those that followed the original Ripper are certainly using a leader to guide them in their mission.
Choosing to regard the serial killer as an addict, are there interventions possible to help him or her with this malady? Perhaps not, most researchers and therapists condemn those with antisocial personality disorder as doomed, if intervention was not applied in childhood than there is no hope for the victim of the disorder. It is even questionable whether or not early intervention would have been of help at all. However, if criminologist view the serial killer as an addict perhaps this can enhance the profiler's assessment and fine tune the mental and psychological profile to include this indicator as well.
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Giannangelo, Stephen J. The Psychopathology of Serial Murder a Theory of Violence.
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Holmes R. And De Burger J. Serial Murder, CA: Newbury Park, Sage. 1988
Jenkins, Philip. Using Murder the Social Construction of Serial Homicide. New York: Aldine de
Kelleher, Michael D., and C.L. Kelleher. Murder Most Rare the Female Serial Killer. Westport,
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Maddux, James E., and Barbara a. Winstead, eds. Psychopathology: Foundations for a Contemporary Understanding. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005.
Ripper Strangled Third Victim; Met's Top Man on Trail of Suffolk Serial Killer." The Evening
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