Jeffrey Dahmer: Life and Abnormal Personal Characteristics of a Serial Killer Free Essay Example (2024)

The Personality of Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the most notorious American serial killers. During the late eighties and early nineties, Dahmer murdered over a dozen men in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most of his victims were African-American and hom*osexual. The strange behavior this murderer exhibited, and his enduring abnormal personal characteristics, make Jeffrey Dahmer an extremely interesting case study. After doing a lot of research, psychologists have come to the conclusion that Dahmer was mentally insane. He suffered from a borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

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Jeff Dahmer has a borderline personality disorder. Some symptoms he may have experienced were impulsive or risky behavior, unstable or fragile self-image, unstable and intense relationships, up and down moods, intense fear of being alone or abandoned, and frequent intense displays of anger (Mayoclinic). Personality is the combination of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that makes one unique. One's personality is the way one view, relates, and understand the world and themselves. Borderline Personality Disorder is caused by your genes, meaning that certain personality traits are passed on to one by their parents through these inherited genes.

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Another cause of this disorder is the environment. This deals with one's surroundings as they were growing up, such as the events and relationships that occurred. Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Your genes may make you vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation may trigger the actual development. According to one psychologist Dahmer was struggling with a great deal of underlying anger, impulse control difficulties, and resentment of authority (Youngstrom, 1991).

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He also struggled with low self-esteem and difficulty managing daily routines. One treatment method for this disorder is dialectic behavior therapy or DBT. DBT is a cognitive-behavioral treatment that is geared toward increasing the patient's ability to moderate their intense emotions and actions. It is normally done by weekly individual sessions or group sessions.

This wide known psychopath also exhibited several characteristics of antisocial personality disorder. Symptoms of this type of personality disorder are a disregard for others' needs or feelings, persistent lying, recurring problems with the law, impulsive behavior, lack of remorse for behavior, and aggressive, violent behavior (Mayoclinic). Dahmer was always a loner, he was alienated and nonconforming, with enduring antisocial and sometimes bizarre behavioral patterns. Although he was cooperative during his arrest, he was known to have been hostile and aggressive in the past. Dahmer rarely took responsibility for his actions and tended to blame others for his problems (Davis, 1998). The causes of this type are the same as Borderline toconcludedDisorder, the environment, and inherited genes. As far as treating this, psychologists use schema therapy. The goal of this treatment is to challenge the maladaptive beliefs or feelings that the patient learned in childhood. Schema therapy involves the therapist essentially re-parenting the patient, which can take longer but takes place at a deeper level for the patient and is highly effective,

Dahmer was born in Milwaukee on May 21, 1960. His psychopathic personality began to develop at a young age. He was a loner, who felt neglected by his family and did not fit in well with his peers (Davis, 1998). Dahmer was also fascinated by dead animals. Neighbors would later recall that Dahmer began experimenting on insects, keeping their preserved bodies in jars of chemicals, but later moved on to larger road kill and prey. Dahmer was intensely curious about the insides of these animals and would skin them and dissect them before disposing of them.

Burying them in an animal graveyard or mounting their heads on pikes. Most forensic mental health professionals agree that animal cruelty is one of the childhood activities that correlate most strongly with psychopaths (Youngstrom,1991). Dahmer is known to have tortured animals and to have had violent fantasies. This is a huge symptom of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Sadly, no one noticed Dahmer's habits or interests, and no one tried to help him develop healthier behavior and emotionality (Davis, 1998). Various news accounts indicated that Jeffrey Dahmer was molested as a young boy (Editor). Unfortunately, this may be the result of early sexual experiences and traumatic family violence and is a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder.

In a 1988 study of 36 serial killers conducted by the behavioral science unit of the FBI, it was found that 42% of serial killers were neglected in childhood, 74% had been psychologically abused, and 35% witnessed sexual violence as children (Youngstrom, 1991). These experiences may also explain the difficulty many serial killers have with bonding and attachment and the cause of many disorders including personality disorders. Despite Dahmer's peer rejection, he was able to lead a kind of normal high school life. He played clarinet in the school band, tennis on an intramural team, and even worked on the school newspaper his senior year. Still, he had few friends, and consistently showed up to school drunk or high (White, 2007). During his senior year his parents began a bitter divorce battle. Fighting for the custody of Dahmer's twelve-year-old brother David, each parent claimed the other was cruel and neglectful. His father even claimed his wife was suffering from severe mental illness (Davis, 1998). This supports the theory that Dahmer may have been abused as a child, possibly by both parents. As his parents' marriage crumbled, Dahmer's feelings of neglect and loneliness intensified. Dahmer slowly fell apart, becoming distant and emotionally unstable and beginning to drink excessively (Davis, 1998). This hectic time in Dahmer's life can be traced to the true beginning of his psychopathic ways. Dahmer would later say that during his parent's divorce he began having fantasies about killing people, which helped him to overcome the feelings of frustration and emptiness he was struggling to defeat (Davis, 1998). According to research, Dahmer never received any help or treatment for his disorders due to being killed while in prison. If he would have been able to be treated, he would've undergone schema therapy and DBT.

The borderline and antisocial personality disorders that Dahmer had based on his symptoms affected his life tremendously. The way he was raised, caused him to feel empty and broken which caused him to kill. This is not justification but rather facts. I believe that his disorders were present from the environment and how he grew up. If he had grown up in a loving family that gave him the attention and care he needed, maybe he would not have grown up to be one of the world's famous serial killers. I do not think Dahmer would be famous to this day if he was not presented with his disorder because his disorders defined him and what he did. Based on the symptoms of these disorders, his crimes and murders were an effect of his disorder.

Works Cited

  1. Youngstrom, N. (1991). Spotting serial killers is difficult, experts note Aberrant thoughts and behaviors are often unrecognized by therapists. APA Monitor, 30-32.
  2. White, J. H. (2007). Evidence of primary, secondary, and collateral paraphilias left at serial murder and sex offender crime scenes. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 1194-1201.
  3. Nichols, D. S. (2006). Tell me a story: MMPI responses and personal biography in the case of a serial killer. Journal of Personality Assessment, 242-262.
  4. Davis, J.A. (1998). “Profile of a Sexual Predator: A Psychological Autopsy of an American Serial Killer”. The Forensic Examiner, 28-33.
  5. Jeffrey Dahmer Editors. The website. November 15, 2017. A&E Television Networks.
  6. Awareness network, PDAN. “Are Personality Disorders Treatable?' Personality Disorder Awareness Network, 16 Nov. 2017,
  7. Editor, Maria. “Jeffrey Dahmer's Childhood, Twisted Minds- a Website about Serial Killers.” Serial Killers News, WordPress, 17 Nov. 2017.
Jeffrey Dahmer: Life and Abnormal Personal Characteristics of a Serial Killer Free Essay Example (2024)


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