Five Serial Killers Afflicted With Mental Disorders

Serial Killers may often look like the neighbor next door, but they oftentimes are afflicted by medically definable mental disorders. These disorders may lead them to see things about the world that are not normally there, or  they may allow them to commit their heinous acts without remorse.

However, while mental disorders are real illnesses, Judges and juries have not often accepted the "insanity defense" for these individuals who have killed, killed, and killed again. 

In this blog post, we will look into some of the common mental health disorders that we see in serial killers, and then we'll take a look into five of these killers who were carrying these disorders.

Serial Killer Mental Disorders

Some Common Serial Killer Disorders

Today, criminologists define "serial murder" as the homicide of three (or more) people during an extended period of time (at least a month) with breaks of time between the murders. Like "mass murderers", serial killers may kill large numbers. However, they commit homicide repeatedly. 

A few mental health disorders occur with some frequency in serial killers. Yet individuals who commit serial killing do not always display all of these conditions:

Personality Disorders

Sometimes detailed as "anti-social personality disorder" or "borderline personality disorder," this condition occurs in varying degrees. For example, anti-social personality disorder inclines someone towards lying, stealing, hurting others intentionally and generally behaving in unkind, antisocial ways. Ted Bundy illustrated this condition.


Schizophrenia, a serious mental illness, causes changes in the structure of the brain. Several subcategories exist. Schizophrenics may receive sensory impressions without a basis in objective reality. A growing number of experts believe schizophrenia involves a genetic component; inheriting certain genes may make it more likely an individual will display symptoms of schizophrenia. Today, drugs help many schizophrenics control their symptoms. Ed Gein exemplifies a serial killer suffering from schizophrenia.


Sadists treat people and animals with cruelty. Some sadists obtain sexual gratification by inflicting pain. This is perhaps one of the most widely documented serial killer mental disorders. Almost all of these murderers suffered abuse as children and inflicted abuse on other creatures (frequently on animals).


Some serial killers seek to have sexual contact with corpses and/or to eat body parts. Chinese serial killer Wang Qiang illustrates this psychopathy.

Five Notorious Serial Killers With Mental Disorders

1. Ted Bundy (1946-1989)

Ted Bundy, an infamous sociopath, committed crimes ranging from rape and homicide to burglary and sexual acts on corpses. He escaped from custody before police re-captured him after a nationwide search.

Born to an unwed mother, Ted Bundy lacked positive male role models. Intelligent, handsome and superficially charming, he graduated from college and won admission to law school. A breakup with his fiancé coincided with the disappearances of several young women. Ted Bundy would later admit to killing them. He confessed to murdering 30 people between 1974 and 1978. Some investigators believe he committed as many as 100 homicides. 

Bundy often transported or lured victims to isolated locations to kill them. He traveled extensively during killing sprees. A poster boy for anti-social personality disorder, he died in the electric chair.

2. Andrei Chikatilo (1936-1994)

Between 1978 and 1990, Andrei Chikatilo killed at least 52 victims in the Soviet Union. Raised in extreme poverty in Nazi-occupied Ukraine, he witnessed extensive violence during childhood. 

Andrei Chikatilo worked as a teacher and later as a supply clerk. He sexually molested children then expanded his activities into murder. He killed children, as well as vagrants and young women. He sometimes consumed sex organs. Diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and sadism, he died by firing squad.

3. John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994)

John Wayne Gacy sustained frequent beatings as a boy from an alcoholic father. He suffered from antisocial personality disorder. Raised in Chicago, he maintained a double life as an adult: the outwardly respectable self-made contractor and divorced father who entertained hospitalized children with a clown routine picked up young men in private to sexually assault them. 

His first known homicide occurred at age 30 in 1972 when he killed a teenage boy. John Wayne Gacy eventually took 33 innocent lives. He hid many bodies beneath his residence.

Police discovered his crimes after he murdered a teen who had contacted him about a summer job. A court sentenced him to 12 death sentences and 21 life sentences. He died by lethal injection in 1994. 

4. Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994)

A troubled young man from a middle class household in West Allis, Wisconsin, Jeffrey Dahmer committed many horrific murders. At first glance, he seemed an unlikely criminal. He grew up in a quiet Milwaukee suburb and graduated from a local high school. When the extent of his crimes came to light in 1991, the public reacted in shock and disbelief.

As a youngster, shy, reserved Jeffrey Dahmer displayed a fascination with dissecting animals. He developed an alcohol abuse problem as a teen. When his parents separated, 18-year old Jeffrey moved into his own apartment. Soon afterwards he began committing murders

Jeffrey Dahmer kidnapped, molested and murdered 17 boys and young men between 1978 and 1991. He dismembered the bodies and ate some of his victims. The authorities discovered extensive human remains in his refrigerator.

Mental health experts concluded he displayed borderline personality disorder and "sadistic" traits. After his conviction in 1992, he began serving a sentence of life imprisonment "plus 70 years". He died two years later from wounds received during an altercation with another inmate. 

5. Wang Qiang (1975-2005)

Born in Liaoning, China, Wang Qiang committed at least 45 murders. His alcoholic, abusive father mistreated him as a child. Wang Qiang reportedly began killing young girls in 1995 after his father denied him an opportunity to further his education.

Chinese authorities eventually convicted and executed him. At the time, he had been found to have raped at least 10 victims, some of them after death. He clearly showed necrophiliac tendencies.


Although they cause a disproportionate amount of pain and misery in the world, fortunately statistically only very,very few people afflicted with widespread mental disorders such as personality disorder or schizophrenia ever become killers, let alone repeat killers that become infamous for their atrocities. Medical experts and law enforcement specialists have established that fact. Remember not to rush to judgement when you hear of someone who is mentally afflicted. Read more about serial killers on the True Crime Blog so you may better understand, with nuance, the things that lead an otherwise normal person to repeatedly kill.

Serial Killers with Mental Disorders 

More True Crime:

John Wayne Gacy: The Real Killer Clown

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No name

To anyone reading this article, especially regarding Netflix specials on serial killers, mental health does not mean it’s an indicator of being abusive or even having traits to hurt or kill people. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. It’s sad that there’s a big trend on personality disorders and whether or not if they will abuse other people but then praise other mental health disorders outside of personality disorders as pure. Mental health isn’t black and white, there’s no good or evil mental disorders. Not everyone who was abused will go on to abuse other people. The author of this article even stated that not all serial killers will have all features of mental disorders. I hope in the future, people will have more empathy and humanity to those who were abused because even the most horrible kind of people whom everyone wants to separate from were human, were abused, and were scared at one point in their lives. That’s how you can prevent the abused into becoming the abuser; tough love, boundaries, and therapy and/or medication. Study to learn, do not study to assume the worst in everyone who’s your perceived enemy.



Im doing my dissertation based on the lines of mental health illnesses and killers. I will be discussing both how mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar can increase the chances of being killers and also how there is such a negative stigma attached, as people with mental health conditions are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

Does anyone have any info or opinions they would be happy to share that would help with it, please? I’m looking for both points of view.

Thanks :)

Ahlisa Bryanne

You asked if anyone knew any other serial killers from Wisconsin. Ed Gein was housed at Mendota Mental Health Institute. I worked there as well. He died in 1984 and I did my internship there in 1990 on a unit called TRU. It was a Forensic unit for sexual perpetrators but also had a few murderers and one serial killer. The serial killer’s name is Alvin Taylor. He is an African American man in his mid 70’s now. He killed at least 4 men in the mid to late 80’s early 90’s I believe. All four men were friends of his. He was from the Eau Claire area. He shot 3 of them and stabbed another. He was diagnosed with a delusional disorder and schizophrenia. He had a lot of religious ideation that were very bizarre. Because he was committed he was forced to take medication. There were times he obviously cheeked his meds and spit them out because he would become very delusional again. But when he was medicated he was a very nice man and you would never know he had an evil side to him. He is still housed at Mendota according to the papers. He can condition for release every 6 months but he is always denied. I worked at MMHI for 10 yrs. He was quite the lady’s man and a real charmer. I also worked in Stoval Hall where Ed Gein died. They still have his hat in the office that he always used to wear. Very creepy. I normally wouldn’t talk this way and give out info on patients I worked with but all this info can be found on the web. None of it is a secret.

Brad Goins

Do you ever say what Qiang’s mental illness was? Are we to assume it was necrophilia?


This is silly, as if any serial killer does not have a mental disorder of some kind.
More importantly, this feels more like a creepypasta to try and make people afraid of those with mental disorders. It’s important to note that many disorders, such as schizophrenia, increase your chances of being a victim rather than a perpetrator. This is mostly due to people like you making society afraid of us, so thanks for that. My primary symptom is catatonia, which means under stress I often stop moving, basically going into a sleep paralysis state at random during the day. I can’t even safely carry around a glass of water, much less drive to go kill someone.
Even people with APD are rarely serial killers. Being sociopathic is far more likely to make you a successful sales agent, business pro, or politician. I sort of envy them.

Alexandria Hassett

BPD and ASPD are not the same cobdition the latter is a sociopath while BPD is impulsive and has emotions

Annalise Norris

The line about antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder (in the paragraph right before schizophrenia is described), makes it sound like bpd and antisocial are the same thing

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