Jack Levin, PhD, knows a lot about psychopaths and serial killers.
He's the director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston and the author of several books on serial killers, including Extreme Killings. Levin said that serial killer Dennis Rader's cool and dispassionate detailing in a Kansas courthouse last year of his 10 murders was not surprising for a psychopath. Even Rader's gory name he created for himself, BTK ("bind, torture, kill") -- is an example of a psychopath's pride in his work.
Many people view forgiveness as an offshoot of love -- a gift given freely to those who have hurt you.
Forgiveness, however, may bring enormous benefits to the person who gives that gift, according to recent research. If you can bring yourself to forgive and forget, you are likely to enjoy lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and a drop in the stress hormones circulating in your blood, studies suggest. Back pain, stomach problems, and headaches may disappear. And you'll reduce the anger,...
"For a person with a conscience, Rader's crimes seem hideous, but from his point of view, these are his greatest accomplishments and he is anxious to share all of the wonderful things he has done," Levin tells WebMD. "He held this close to his vest for three decades."
Psychopaths May Appear Outwardly Successful
As many as 5% of people display psychopathic or sociopathic personality disorders. That's according to experts and the professional bible of mental illnesses -- the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). These personality disorders are marked by antisocial and impulsive behavior, disregard for societal standards, and no indications of fear or guilt.
"There is a stereotypical view that serial killers are loners, antisocial, and unable to maintain any relations, but that's mythology," Levin says.
Some psychopaths and serial killers may appear outwardly successful and 'normal'. "Rader, like so many of the others, was extraordinarily ordinary," Levin says. He was married with two children. "He looked beyond suspicion, he was active in the church, a Boy Scout leader and a compliance officer, and that is the secret to the success."
Serial killers often "don't look like sociopaths or deranged killers, because if they looked like monsters, they would be apprehended almost immediately," Levin says.
"Psychopaths wear the mask of sanity," agrees Michael Welner, MD, a forensic psychiatrist and an associate professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. Welner is also an adjunct professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh.
"Nobody would have called Dennis Rader a psychopath before he got arrested," he says.