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What makes us different from a wild animal is our ability to control our instincts. These instincts may include the urge to kill, express inappropriate rage and even control sexual desires. There is a physical, psychological as well as moral barrier that prevents us from turning into animals. However, there are individuals who have trouble controlling these wild urges. They are driven by their urges to torture, rape and kill innocent victims. These people who kill three or more people at random over a period just to satisfy their wild hunger are called serial killers. Experts have identified certain characteristics of a serial killer. These characteristics have found to be common with the personality of most of the killers. Let's get into the details of serial killer characteristics and learn more about these men/women who kill for the thrill.

Who is a Serial Killer?

A serial killer is a person who murders three or more people over a period of more than just a month. The motives for these murders according to the FBI include anger, thrill, attention or financial gain. These serial killers follow a particular pattern of murder. It is very interesting to note, these serial killers have similar characteristics.

The Common Traits Between Serial Killers

The characteristics shared by serial killers binds them together according to their style of killing and motive behind the killing. Let us have a look at these serial killer traits in detail.

Categories of Serial Killers and their Characteristics
There are three types of serial killers organized, unorganized and mixed serial killers. These serial killers and their characteristics are explained below:

Organized Serial Killers
The organized serial killers plan their acts beforehand. They love to prolong the pain and suffering of their victims. These killers choose their victims at random. They will imagine killing their victims and get pleasure out of it. These serial killers are after a particular group of individuals. These include old people, prostitutes, children, young women, etc. These crimes are not carried out of impulse or passion. But, they are actually premeditated crimes. Organized killers take all precautions before killing their victim. They are so confident that they are ready to be interviewed by the police without fear. This is because they generally leave the crime scene clear of any kind of forensic evidence.

Unorganized Serial Killers
Unorganized serial killers are generally found to have below-average intelligence. They often live alone and have poor or moderate social skills. These people often have problems dating or never date. Unorganized serial killers are generally high school drop-outs and have really poor hygiene. They do not plan in detail before murdering their victim. Unlike the organized serial killers, these serial killers often leave a lot of evidence around their victims.

Mixed Serial Killers
These are serial killers who exhibit characteristics that are similar to the organized and disorganized serial killers. Sometimes, an organized killer may start showing characteristics of a disorganized serial killer. They are able to avoid getting caught and this makes them overconfident. Thus, they start becoming careless with their approach to the killings.

Motives of Serial Killers and their Characteristics
Serial killers and their characteristics can be categorized according to their motives. These motives include the following:

Lust Killers
Lust killers are those who kill due to a drive for sexual satisfaction. The primary motive for the killing is sex and they get sexual gratification by torturing, mutilating and performing unspeakable acts on their victims.

Visionary Killers
Visionary killers often hear voices that tell them to kill. These killers are generally psychotic or suffer from schizophrenia.

Thrill Killers
Some serial killers kill people just for the thrill they get by hunting down and killing their victims.

Power Killers
The power killers kill to gain control over their victims. It helps them exert power over the victim. These killers were most probably abused as children and this powerlessness motivated them to sexually abuse their victims and gain control.

Mission Oriented Killers
Mission oriented killers justify their acts as a special mission or responsibility to get rid of the world from certain group of people.

Comfort Killers
These are serial killers who kill people for money or a comfortable lifestyle. They generally kill close acquaintances or family members.

General Characteristics of a Serial Killer

Experts have found out some common traits of serial killers. These traits help the police identify their possible suspects. These typical serial killer characteristics are as follows:
  • These serial killers are found to be intelligent and have above average intelligence.
  • Most of the serial killers are found to have families and steady jobs. Some have trouble keeping a job and generally carry out menial jobs.
  • These killers are often from divorced families where the father has left the mother. They are bought up by their mothers who have domineering personalities.
  • They often come from families with a criminal, psychiatric or alcoholic background.
  • These children are often abused emotionally, sexually and physically, especially by a close family member or acquaintance.
  • There is a high rate of suicide attempts among the serial killers.
  • These serial killers have found to be interested in voyeurism, sadomasochism, fetishism, etc. since an early age.
  • It has been found that 60% of the serial killers wet their beds even after they reached the age of 12.
  • Many have been fascinated and involved with torturing animals or setting fires.
  • Many were bullied as children and some were involved in cases of petty crimes like theft, vandalism, etc.
As you can see, the psychological characteristics of a serial killer are based on any form of sexual or emotional abuse in childhood. These serial killers try to enact and replay their victimization and behave as the aggressor. Sometimes, the physical characteristic of the serial killer causes him to murder. Any form of disability or physical characteristics like bow legs, stammering, short stature, etc. that causes them to be bullied in childhood. This makes them vengeful and they seek revenge from people, they suppose are better looking or better able than they are. One can never say what makes a serial killer a killer. But, these traits help narrow down possible suspects and get the criminal to book.