Why is there evil? What motivates those that perpetrate it? How do they manage to reconcile their actions with a self-image that does not embrace evil? We call evil by many names; Psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial and dissocial personality disorder, insanity and madness. At this site an MD in psychology from Norway examines these questions with the help of psychological theories and case studies. The problem of how to understand dangerous personality’s centers on the role of the mental health and criminal justice systems and it is from the intersection of these two institutions the categorization of dangerous persons has emerged. In this book we invite you to join our psychologist into the mind of the psychopath in general and the serial killer in particular.


Is it a question of evil or mental disorder when someone intentionally kills, rapes or abuses others? Next question; should they be punished or treated? These are among the fundamental questions we address in this psychological analysis of the psychopath.

As a psychologist I will try to understand the relationship between human thoughts, feelings and actions. In the face of cold-blooded killers and anti-social behavior, this is a difficult task. How can a man abused another without being tormented by pain and guilt? Is it at all possible to understand the psychopath's mind?

It is hard to understand, and we call it by many names: Psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial and dissocial personality disorder, evil, insanity or madness. It´s terrifying because it is so deviant. What is behind the different definitions of that which first and for the most resembles pure evil.

With help of psychological theory we will try to understand the psychopathic mind. We will use the serial killer, David Berkowitz, as a case study. With the case study in mind, we will discuss what the consequences for antisocial behavior and serial killings are, and how the consequences potentially could be viewed differently.

One might say that serial killing differs from other kind of killing, but what are the most common reasons for killing? People can have very different reasons and motivations' for making the drastic action of killing. We will discuss 7 reasons for killing, and we will look at some examples of serial killers. We will also discuss the relation between serial killing and mental disorders.

One can imagine that a psychopath lacks empathy because of biological defects in the brain. It may also be that the psychopath behaves recklessly as a result of childhood trauma and neglect. A third possibility is that the psychopath's behavior is a reaction to pathological structures in society and social problems. Few, if any, biological inspired researchers neglect social or psychological aspects, and the opposite.

Meet David Richard Berkowitz, also known as the “Son of Sam”. He is an American serial killer who shot six victims dead and left seven others wounded. He claimed to be insane and driven by daemons, but the Norwegian forensic psychologist and psychoanalyst, David Abrahamsen, reviled Berkowitz as a liar.

Heinz Kohut was an Austrian-born American psychoanalyst best known for his development of self psychology. He wrote extensively on the subject of narcissism, narcissistic rage and empathy. His theories are well known and appreciated, and may be he can show us the way to the antisocial mind.

What made Berkowitz kill? Can his childhood explain his murderous intentions? Is it because he lacks empathy or because of an unstable personality? He was obsessed with death and with a gun in his hand, he acted out something that we might call narcissistic rage. We try to understand Son of Sam with self-psychological theories.

According to our self psychological analysis, Son of Sam can be seen to have felt ribbed for attention and recognition over a period of time during childhood. The only alternative to nurture his grandiose self and get attention was for him to accomplish something outstanding- MURDER.

We try to understand the mind of David Berkowitz in particular, and serial killing and psychopathy in general. The question is whether our self psychological analysis of Berkowitz can be valuable in also understanding other serial killers.

Has the psychopath a mental disorder that needs treatment? Can a person with strong antisocial traits be treated at all? If so, we need to know more about current treatment methods. Or is it the case that psychopaths are incurable and should be imprisoned at the first opportunity? In other words: Mad or bad? Treatment or prison?

If a person with schizophrenia breaks societies' rules by killing, he is typically deemed; "not responsible by reason of insanity" and probably gets convicted to treatment. When a person diagnosed as a psychopath breaks the same rules and kills, he is judged sane and usually sent to prison. Is it right?

Lying, manipulation, lack of conscience and seductive tendencies are characteristics of the psychopath's personality that makes treatment difficult. In addition, the therapist will often struggle with empathic involvement in the antisocial patient, and that makes psychotherapeutic treatment inadequate. Fact is that psychopaths respond poorly to medication and psychotherapy. When treatment does not succeed, may be prevention is our best choice?

The prognoses in relation to the rehabilitation and treatment of psychopaths are basically very bad. In this area, there is a fairly widespread pessimistic attitude. Can self psychology, with the emphasis on narcissism and development of empathy, pave the way for better therapeutic strategies? Improving empathy is an important aspect within self psychology, and this dimension is what seems to be absent in a serial killer.

The suggestion in this book is that understanding serial killers is essential. If we are not able to understand the behavior, we cannot expect to do anything about it: "We cannot treat, except empirically, what we do not understand and we cannot prevent, except fortuitously, what we do not comprehend."

The questions are straight forward: "Is it possible to understand psychopaths and serial killers?" And: "Can they be treated?" There are a lot of controversies in this field; Are we talking about mental illness or evil? Mental illness should be treated, while evil doings should probably be punished. Imprisonment will surely not rehabilitate a psychopath, quite the contrary, but do they deserve our attention and effort for better treatment strategies?

Society must protect itself from serial killers and psychopaths, and prison is of course a preferred option. The question is then whether these people shall be punished, and that’s it, or whether to attempt to rehabilitate these people using some form of psychotherapy. In this respect, the problem is that therapy requires a form of empathy from the analyst, and it is not always easy to establish empathy face to face with a cold-blooded killer.