Unspeakable Times

8 Serial Killers Who Suffered From Mental Illness 

Ranker Crime
Updated April 22, 2020 611.3k views 8 items

Psychologists have spent decades studying the brains of known serial killers in an attempt to discover what makes them tick. Are serial killers built just like the rest of us, or are their brains wired differently? What makes them become vicious, unrepentant killers?

Many serial killers suffer from antisocial personality disorder (APD), which does not usually have a clinical diagnosis. APD allows a killer to easily manipulate and charm people without the burden of empathy. However, some serial killers suffer from deeper mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, which affects their ability to tell right from wrong.

When a serial killer is diagnosed, it makes it tough to work out whether they are fit to stand trial and face justice. Some people even believe that mentally ill serial killers should not be held responsible for their actions. For this reason, many killers go undiagnosed until after their trial (if at all). Then, the killers claim to be crazy in order to avoid the death penalty. In reality, although these murderers all are disturbed psychopaths, very few actually have a diagnosable mental illness.

This list includes famous murderers with antisocial personality disorders and paranoid schizophrenic killers. So which ones are actually insane? Find out below.

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David Berkowitz (AKA the Son of Sam) was responsible for a crime spree from 1976-1977 that saw him take the lives of six people.

After he was caught, Berkowitz claimed that his neighbor's dog told him to kill. He was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia

Age: 66

Birthplace: New York City, New York

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Ed Gein is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 8 Serial Killers Who Suffered From Mental Illness
Photo: Bryanwake/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Ed Gein was the inspiration for some of the scariest fictional killers, including Norman Bates and Leatherface. After being charged with the murder and mutilation of multiple victims, he was deemed unfit for trial and diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Ten years later, he faced trial and was found guilty, but spent the rest of his days in a mental hospital.

Age: Dec. at 78 (1906-1984)

Birthplace: Wisconsin, United States of America

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Jeffrey Dahmer is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 8 Serial Killers Who Suffered From Mental Illness
Photo: Guantxi/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Jeffrey Dahmer was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. However, he was still found competent to stand trial for his 17 murders.

He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, but ended up being murdered by a fellow inmate.  

Age: Dec. at 34 (1960-1994)

Birthplace: West Allis, Wisconsin, United States of America

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Richard Chase killed six people in Northern California and famously drank their blood, leading to his nickname, "The Vampire of Sacramento."

Before his first murder, Chase was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was institutionalized for a year. After his spree, however, doctors concluded that he had acquired psychosis through his heavy drug use. Regardless, he suffered serious mental health issues.

Age: Dec. at 30 (1950-1980)

Birthplace: California

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