Why Mass Killers Arenít Necessarily Psychopaths
2012-08-27 0:00

By Linda Thrasybule | MyHealthNewsDaily

The term "psychopath" is often a misunderstood one; although people frequently refer to alleged mass killers like Colorado shooter James Holmes or the Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner as psychopaths, that doesnít mean these men fit the description of this mental health disorder.

In the last week, a psychiatric evaluation report was released stating that after months of receiving treatment for schizophrenia, 23-year-old Loughner seemed to understand that he was agreeing to a guilty plea for the 2011 shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Holmes announced they believe the 24-year-old suffers from mental illness, though they havenít yet determined the exact nature of his illness. Weeks before the shooting, Holmesí psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, University of Colorado professor who specializes in schizophrenia, had alerted university police about Holmesí behavior.

But such evidence does not suggest that these men are psychopaths. Psychopaths are people who generally lack empathy, donít feel remorse or guilt for their actions and may use violence or intimidation to get what they want. They can be irresponsible, egocentric, charming and manipulative.

In contrast, a person who suffers from the mental illness of schizophrenia usually lives in their own reality, often experiencing hallucinations and delusions.

"People who commit mass murders are obviously not doing well," said Louis Schlesinger, a forensic psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "Just looking at Holmesí demeanor or behavior clearly suggests that, but that doesnít make him a psychopath."

And although psychopaths can be violent, that doesnít mean they commonly kill.

"Most psychopaths donít kill anybody," Schlesinger said, "and not everybody that kills is a psychopath."

According to Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist at the NYU School of Medicine, while psychopaths do commit homicides, their motives tend to be specific Ė they are usually driven by money, sex or a desire to escape from the scene of another crime.

But for mass killers, a motive can be that they see themselves as failures, Welner said.

Mass killers can be men who "are painfully aware of themselves as social and sexual rejects in a society that values social desirability," Welner said. "And in a society that values achievement, they are aware of how they have fallen short, and in ways that will not reverse."

What drives someone to commit mass murder

There are different types of mass killings, all driven by a different motivation, said Dr. Douglas Mossman, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Killers might be motivated by grief, anger, resentment, or feeling used or mistreated, he said.

"There have been school massacres, hate crimes, workplace killings, even entire family killings," Mossman said. "In most cases, these followed fairly recent events that happened to individuals who responded in ways that led them to do what they did."

Mossman pointed to the case of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho, who had a history of anxiety and depressive disorders. Cho was involuntarily hospitalized due to his disturbing behavior about 16 months before the 2007 shooting, in which he killed 32 people and then himself.

But that doesnít mean that all mass killers suffer from mental illness, and "mass killers who do have serious mental illnesses only represent a small fraction of people with mental illnesses," Mossman said.

That small fraction generally includes people who suffer from severe mood disorders such as depression, psychoses like a particular type of schizophrenia, or some form of delusional disorder.


Read the full article at: myhealthnewsdaily.com

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Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Thomas Sheridan - The Labyrinth of the Psychopath & The Intraspecies Predators

Mike Cross - Hour 1 - Philosophy of a Psychopathic Society

Mike Cross - Hour 2 - Template of Conformity & The Psychopathís Utopia

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