There are literally tons of books written about serial killers. You can get somewhat of a hideous picture in your mind of these dark, disturbed individuals written about in books (fiction/nonfiction) and in the movies. We shudder to think about a serial killer that is out there right now stalking, hunting for their next victim. Make no mistake, they are out there lurking, just hidden from our view. At this very moment in the U.S., there are dozens of serial killers looking for their next victims.
Since my experience up close and too personal with an individual who was a violent psychopath that threatened my life for more than two years, I’ve spent a fair amount of my time studying the darker side of humanity. Why you ask? Well… the criminal mind is interesting and how the brain functions under these conditions. I’ve always found myself asking questions to a specific subject as my curiosity takes over. There have been many studies that have been trying to answer the basic question of serial killers. Why are they like this?
I came across an interesting study that revealed that many serial killers have evidenced disorders of the hypothalamus, which is the portion of the brain that contains a number of small nuclei with a variety of functions. One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. This can lead to disruptions of distorted sleep patterns to critical hormone imbalances.
The study went on to explain that there is a triad of key factors to the organic dysfunctions and psychopathological behavior. Disorders of the hypothalamus, temporal lobe (key to long term memory, speech, vision), or the limbic brain (emotion, behavior) have been at the crux of the symptoms. This seems to fit with many serial killers suffering some type of brain injury through abuse or an accident. For example, Carton Gary, Bobby Joe Long, and Leonard Lake all suffered extreme head traumas in their lives. Some were repeated abuses growing up and others were head injuries sustained along with heavy alcohol and drug abuse.
Of course, there isn’t a definite psychological analysis of a serial killer that can be compared straight across the board, but important insights into the working brain and disorders can help to lead to a better understanding. Psychological, chemical (such as alcohol and drug abuse), environmental, and social aspects play an important role as well. This is why it’s so difficult to predict serial killer behaviors. This will be a subject that will continue to pique the interests of psychologists, sociologists, forensic personnel, and law enforcement for generations to come.