The Netflix series Dahmer: Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story had 856.2 million hours watched 28 days after its release. All those hours are evidence of the intrigue around Jeffry Dahmer, one of the most infamous serial killers from the United States. People have described his demeanor as calm and non-threatening on social media.
It then begs the question – what would flip his psychological switch and lead him to commit such heinous atrocities?
What is psychological analysis?
Psychological analysis is a science originated by scientist Sigmund Freud. A psychological analysis of behavior studies free association, unconscious impulses, anxieties, and internal conflicts. Its main objective is to study the mind and the unconscious mind to achieve an understanding and effective treatment of mental disorders.
To psychologically analyze Jeffry Dahmer, the best place to start is his background and history.
Who is Jeffry Dahmer?
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was a sex offender and serial killer born in May 1960 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dahmer was the firstborn child of Lionel Dahmer, a research chemist, and Joyce Annette, a teleprinter operator instructor.
Jeffrey Dahmer became famous for serial killings, sexual offenses, cannibalism, and necrophilia crimes he committed from 1978 until his apprehension on 22nd July 1991. His crimes earned him the monikers; The Milwaukee Cannibal and The Milwaukee Monster.
He was born while his father was still a university student, which limited the amount of time Lionel spent with his young family. At the time, his mother was young, craved attention, suffered depression, and was reportedly a hypochondriac. Joyce attempted to overdose on Equanil, a medication used to treat anxiety. In an interview, Dahmer said he recalls doubting the solidity of his family.
Despite those dark spots, he was shown affection by his parents. Sources close to the family claim his parents showed an utmost fondness for young Dahmer. Many people can relate to such a situation where parents are busy building careers and discovering themselves. Some are too busy and occupied to be consistently available for their children.
How did Jeffrey Dahmer become a serial killer?
Like many children, Dahmer maintained a happy aura during his early years. However, he became silent and fearful after he underwent a double hernia surgery when he was three years old. During an interview, his father said as Dahmer grew, he developed an affinity for animal bones.
Dahmer then began collecting insects and skeletons of small animals such as squirrels. He was then interested in bleaching animal bones and preserving remains of dead animals with formaldehyde which his father obliged as he thought his son was developing an interest in science and specifically Chemistry like his dad.
During his high school days, Dahmer was persona non grata or an outcast. He found solace in alcohol and even referred to it as his medicine to classmates at 14. Even as a teenager, he was articulate in speech, polite, and very intelligent despite not reflecting on his grades.
Dahmer said he began fantasizing and obsessing about killing when he was about 15 and 16 years old. He described feeling sexual desires and wanting to possess power and control over other men. These feelings continued to evolve and led to Dahmer luring and sexually abusing, murdering, and dismembering 17 young men.
His first murder happened just after graduating from high school. He killed hitchhiker Steven Hicks who he lured to his house by offering beer. Dahmer had the intention of sleeping with Hicks. Fearing rejection and Hicks intending to leave after they were drunk, Dahmer struck him repeatedly with a dumbbell and then used its bar to choke him to death. Dahmer then describes pleasuring himself while standing over his lifeless body.
Alcoholic Dependency and Personality Change
Drinking at an early age morphed into alcohol dependency as he grew older. This dependency contributed to dropping out of college months after admission. He had recorded low grades in Introduction to Anthropology and Administrative Science.
After dropping out, his father encouraged him to enlist in the army, which he did. During his military service, he would get apprehended often for being drunk. He progressed and served as a medic after being deployed to West Germany. He performed well until his performance dropped due to regular intoxication. He would later get discharged as he could no longer effectively undertake his duties.
Back at home, his sexual fantasies, alcohol dependency, and tendencies advanced and eventually got him arrested for indecent exposure, his first arrest.
Another instance when he was in trouble with the law is when his neighbors called the police after they noticed a young boy naked and bleeding just outside his house. The police returned the boy to his residence. Dahmer is heard on record calmly explaining they were lovers and had just had a quarrel, a claim the police believed. The young boy, Konerak Sinthasomphone, was one of the serial 17 victims.
In an interview aired in February 1993 by Inside Edition, Dahmer said when his family moved to Milwaukee in 1981, he discovered and started reading pornography. He would then frequent gay bars and use his allure and manipulation to convince men to go home with him. He describes only wanting to drug and sleep with them while unconscious but sometimes would wake up having hurt his victims without any recollection of doing it.
On one occasion, Dahmer remembers waking up next to a man he had beaten while in a stupor. He then killed him and carried the body out of the motel they were in using a suitcase. Dahmer then dismembered the body and dumped it using plastic garbage bags.
During media interviews after his capture, he described watching The Exorcist III movie as a ritual before committing his egregious crimes. He also says he desired to build and dedicate to himself an altar where he could keep parts of his victims as memorabilia. At times Dahmer took photos of his dead victims. Other times he kept body parts like skulls and other bones.
Psychoanalysis of Jeffery Dahmer the Serial Killer
A serial killer is a murderer who seeks psychological gratification by killing more than three people over a month or more. Murders committed by serial killers are usually premeditated and are associated with sexual offenses.
During his trial, Jeffery Dahmer had a psyche examination done by a forensic psychiatrist. He was diagnosed with psychotic disorder, borderline personality disorder, and alcohol dependency. The psychiatrist also determined that Dahmer was legally sane. The examinations were vital as they were a factor in his sentencing. Dahmer was handed a sentence of 941 years without the possibility of parole for 16 murders of the 17 murders he committed.
People diagnosed with borderline personality disorder may exhibit the following symptoms; mood swings, anxiety, delusion, suicidal thoughts, a distorted self-image, comfortable in isolation, and lack of interest in routine activities. During media interviews, he describes having these symptoms from an early age.
Symptoms of the psychotic disorder include; hallucinations, emotional detachment from family and friends, paranoia, timid behavior, diversion from topics during conversations, and irregular sleeping patterns.
Causes of the above disorders vary depending on an individual and their environment. However, drug and alcohol abuse, a history of domestic violence, emotional abuse, and neglect are risk factors for the conditions.
The Milwaukee Cannibal experienced some of the above risk factors. His constant intoxication and self-isolation during his upbringing could have been a factor as to why he became a serial killer.
What dumbfounds people is how he killed 17 people in gruesome ways for all those years without getting caught.
His ability to evade capture from authorities and conceal his nature from his family and the public can be due to various factors. Dahmer was a white male, had a calm demeanor, was articulate in his speech, and it was accepted and known he kept to himself. Dahmer also targeted victims who would be hard to notice were missing.
Evading the Law his Murderous Behavior
His killing spree was between 1978 and 1991, a dark period for men from the gay community. Many were outcasts, were rebuked by their families, and hence would lose contact after running away. There was also no social media which made contact between his victims and people they knew difficult. Such victims were easy targets for Dahmer as no one would report them missing.
In the 1993 interview, Dahmer does admit being aware of his actions. He also claimed he felt remorse and guilt for his actions. His ability to manipulate and convince victims could be a trait due to borderline personality disorder. His psychotic disorder explains his inability to stop himself from going through with his heinous actions. He stated that although he knew his actions were wrong, he couldn’t inhibit his compulsive urges.
Upon his apprehension in 1991, Dahmer waived his right to a lawyer. He wanted to confess to all his murders and stated that it was a relief that he finally got caught. According to him, if he wasn’t apprehended, he might have continued with the murders.
During all his interviews and court hearings, he stayed calm and collected. He described in detail his sexual crimes, cannibalism, murders, and necrophilia. His physical appearance and demeanor amazed many people as he told of his actions as it seemed like he was explaining a recipe.
Dahmer’s story demonstrates the importance of treating mental conditions early. People deemed normal by society can be serial killers and offenders and commit these crimes for a long time without people noticing.