You’ve probably heard of the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the crimes he committed from the 1970s to the 1990s. As is the case with most serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer struggled with mental health problems from a very early age. Let’s take a closer look at Jeffrey Dahmer’s mental disorders and how they potentially played a role in his crimes.
Unraveling the Mind of a Serial Killer: An Overview of Jeffrey Dahmer and His Crimes
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was a serial killer and sex offender who murdered, dismembered and sexually assaulted 17 male victims from 1978 to 1991. During his killing spree, the media gave Dahmer nicknames such as the Milwaukee Monster and the Milwaukee Cannibal.
As his murder count grew, Dahmer’s violence against his victims intensified. By the end, he was committing necrophilia and cannibalism and preserving the body parts of his victims.
On July 22, 1991, Dahmer brought a new victim to his home: a man named Tracy Edwards. Dahmer told Edwards he was going to kill him and eat his heart. Edwards escaped and found nearby police officers to report what he had just been through. The police came and arrested Dahmer after finding four severed heads in his kitchen, seven skulls in his bedroom and many other human remains.
Dahmer confessed to four murders quickly and was eventually charged with 15 murders. He pled guilty by reason of insanity. However, on February 15, 1992, the court ruled him sane, and he was later sentenced to life imprisonment.
Dahmer was only in prison for a few short years before another inmate murdered him in November 1994.
Inside the Darkness: Understanding Jeffrey Dahmer’s Mental Disorders and Motivations
Dahmer detailed some of his motivations during his police interviews and gave some media interviews later on. As a result, we know quite a bit about what conditions he suffered from and what motivated him to commit these crimes.
What Did Jeffrey Dahmer Suffer From?
So, what disorder did Jeffrey Dahmer have?
Dahmer had an alcohol abuse problem and started drinking heavily in high school. His drinking led him to become withdrawn and socially awkward. Eventually, his alcohol use disorder would force him to drop out of college.
Additionally, Dahmer struggled with his sexual identity. He knew he was gay, but his family was highly conservative, and his father said he would try to “change him” if he came out as gay. So, Dahmer never got to embrace his sexuality and openly look for a healthy, loving relationship.
During his trial, two different psychologists diagnosed Dahmer with the following conditions:
- Borderline personality disorder
- Schizotypal personality disorder
- Alcohol dependence
- Psychotic disorder
It’s important to note that having these diagnoses doesn’t make a person a killer or “insane.” Dahmer tried to use an insanity defense and claimed he couldn’t be held responsible for his crimes due to his mental state. However, psychiatrist Dr. Frederick Fosdal testified that he believed Dahmer was entirely sane and understood the difference between right and wrong when he chose to violently attack and murder his victims. The court agreed and declared Dahmer sane. This was a further confirmation that having a mental health condition doesn’t turn someone into a monster.
Perhaps what was most detrimental for Dahmer and led him down his dark path was that he never received help. He struggled with many conditions and faced challenges in his home life. No one can know for sure, but it begs the question of what Dahmer’s life might have looked like if he had been able to see a professional counselor early on in life.
A Twisted Journey: Exploring the Early Life and Psychological Factors of Jeffrey Dahmer
Dahmer didn’t have a fairy-tale upbringing. Several reports cite that he didn’t receive enough attention as a young child. His father was often absent from the home, and his mother was depressed and even attempted suicide. Dahmer was interested in examining and collecting animal bones from a very early age, eventually moving on to animal decapitation. This is a common trait in serial killers.
When he entered high school, Dahmer started drinking heavily and developed a drinking problem. His drinking made him less communicative, and his grades began to fall.
Dahmer would go on to commit his first murder at the young age of 18.
Red Flags and Missed Opportunities: Analyzing the Investigation and Capture of Jeffrey Dahmer
When Dahmer was actively killing from the 1970s to the 1990s, serial killers were still an elusive, unexplored topic. Looking back at Dahmer’s history today, it’s easy to spot all the warning signs that indicated he could be one, such as:
- He began hurting animals at a young age.
- When he was 16, Dahmer became obsessed with a male jogger and planned to attack and sexually assault him.
- By 1985, Dahmer started going to gay bathhouses often so he could drug and rape unconscious men. He was arrested twice for indecent exposure but not for sexual assault.
- In 1988, Dahmer was arrested for drugging and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy. He was found guilty but released early and returned to murdering men almost immediately.
- Dahmer lived in the Oxford Apartments in Milwaukee, and his fellow neighbors often complained to the building manager of the horrible odors coming from his unit, as well as the occasional loud sounds of a chainsaw.
- Police interacted with Dahmer when he was with one of his victims, Konerak Sinthasomphone. Unfortunately, Sinthasomphone was drugged and couldn’t speak up for himself. Dahmer assured the officers that the two were lovers and that Sinthasomphone simply had too much to drink. After the officers left the scene (noting the incident as a “domestic dispute”), Dahmer killed Sinthasomphone.
These are just some of the many red flags and missed opportunities where Dahmer could have been spotted for the monster he really was. Instead, his reign of torture would span over a decade.
Learning From Tragedy: How Can We Prevent Similar Cases in the Future?
The takeaway from this awful tragedy is to watch out for the warning signs that something is wrong. If someone you know is showing strange behaviors, realize it can be a cry for help. Speaking to a professional therapist and getting a diagnosis can be the difference that saves the individual from a horrible life.
Dahmer was a horrible monster who committed awful acts. But we can all wonder if his path would have been different if he had received help and guidance at an early age.
Restore Mental Health
If you know someone who could benefit from a professional program, Restore Mental Health is here to help. Our dedicated staff helps patients cope with mental health and substance abuse problems so they can live happy, full lives. Don’t suffer any longer. Contact us today and take back your life.