People say that Asperger’s disorder causes people to do things that are deemed unnormal and immoral in society and they apply this logic to serial killers as well, such as Jeffrey Dahmer’s case where he murdered and dismembered seventeen innocent victims during the 1980’s to the 1990’s. Asperger’s disorder is a common theme that serial killers have, but it’s not a cause as to why they committed the act(s) they did. Most times, people are either uneducated on the disorder or they need something to blame or explain why an individual that seems normal does such heinous acts and then those disorders are further misinterpreted and misrepresented by other people who continue to emphasize that blame. Dahmer suffered from many disorders and without knowing exactly what they all meant, people couldn’t get an accurate representation of him and thus thought that they were the cause of his disturbed mind. Those misinterpretations led to our culture now where people may deem an individual with a disorder, more specifically Asperger’s disorder or another disorder within the Autism Spectrum Disorders, as being very different and thus treating them completely different than they would a normal human being.
When taking a look at the information regarding Dahmer and Asperger’s, people need to keep in mind that it is only a possible diagnosis and not a true diagnosis. Asperger’s wasn’t discussed as a possible diagnosis until postmortem. It’s only a possible diagnosis because psychologists and psychiatrist weren’t able to extensively study Dahmer when he was alive. Several sources discuss the views of people and why they also believe that he had Asperger’s disorder. One forum had several people discuss how Asperger’s was connected with many criminals who have committed heinous acts, such as school shootings, mass murders, psychopaths, and serial killers (Brother Percy 1). Many people share the same thoughts that Dahmer, along with other criminals, share the same traits of Asperger’s disorder. Asperger’s is definitely something worth looking into in the future to help understand why these individuals act in a dangerous and tragic manner.
Asperger’s disorder is a part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders or Pervasive Developmental Disorders (Ozbayrak 1). Asperger’s disorder is similar to the regular autism, where the individuals perform repetitive acts and have set routines for nearly everything that occurs on a day-to-day basis, but individuals who have Asperger’s demonstrate a better sense of speech, have an above normal IQ level, and an extensive vocabulary that individuals with autism don’t otherwise have. We see this in Dahmer’s case with the routine he had when he dismembered his victims and how he was so methodical. Dahmer was also a ritualistic individual who kept many of the skulls of his victims for trophy-like purposes. People with Asperger’s can sometimes be overlooked because they appear normal but when studied, they show through emotions and behavior that they are quite complex and in reality a form of “high-functioning autism” (Asperger’s Syndrome 1). We see in Dahmer’s case that he was a very isolated individual and we can tie that into Asperger’s with the fact that individuals who have Asperger’s, “find it more difficult to communicate and interact with others.” (Nordqvist 1). Asperger’s disorder may seem like it’s a well-managed thing in society today, and for the most part it is, but in the few rare cases of serial killers, Asperger’s is quite a relevant topic.
There exists many signs and symptoms within Asperger’s disorder. Several of those signs and symptoms include obsessive traits (sometimes individuals have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), formal and quite distinct speech, set routines, social isolation, a delay in motor skills, difficulty with social skills, and difficult with sensory motor skills (p. 1). In Jeffrey Dahmer’s case we see several of the symptoms displayed, such as his obsessions with his victims’ skulls, routines of dismembering his victims, and difficulty with social skills early on in life. As of right now, there is no known cure for Asperger’s itself, but there are medications to help with some of the minor symptoms. Some solutions to help with the delay of symptoms include medication, behavior modification, physical or occupational therapy, and communication skills training (p. 1). In Dahmer’s case, he was prescribed antidepressants (Silva, Ferrari, and Leong 3) for his depression and later on during the murder spree time period he abused medication, drugs, and alcohol. In the image below, we see Dahmer in a self-induced drunken sleep. Even though it is a disorder that is incurable, there are many ways to subside the individual side effects that individuals suffer from.
One common symptom within Asperger’s disorder is obsessive qualities. We see this demonstrated when he discussed in an interview how he would take pictures of his victims in posed positions during his process of dismembering them after luring them to his place of residence (Jeffrey Dahmer-The Monster Within). He kept those pictures for future reference and they were used for his personal satisfaction. For many of his victims, he would keep the skull and completely clean it of any material and store it on a shelf for ritualistic purposes. The skulls he decided to keep were from the most attractive victims that he wanted to remember (Martens 501). Early on in Dahmer’s life, traits of obsessions were prevalent as well. It was first noted that he became obsessed with collecting animal bones and he relished the noise they made when they hit a surface after he would drop them (Silva, Ferrari, and Leong 2). His father thought that it was a stage that he would later grow out of, but as we know that never happened (Jeffrey Dahmer-The Monster Within). The most obvious case of obsession would be Dahmer’s constant need to be in control. We see this when he would turn his victims in to “zombie-like” (Silva, Ferrari, and Leong 2, 3, 8) individuals that he would try to keep in that state. He would use methods such as putting small amounts of acid or extremely hot water in a hole, that he drilled, located on the skull (Masters 176-177). When looking at the this particular case, we have to keep in mind that obsessional traits are only part of the picture; there are many things that contributed to who Jeffrey Dahmer was psychologically.
Individuals who suffer from Asperger’s disorder also demonstrate the need to follow a routine or multiple routines. Yes, we all have daily routines, such as the route you take to work or school or even how you get ready in the morning. No, that does not mean everyone who has a routine suffers from Asperger’s disorder. Individuals who have a routine(s) that suffer from Asperger’s take hold that routine to a level that isn’t existent with normal humans. In Dahmer’s situation, his excessive routine was, as mentioned above, how he methodically dismembered his victims so that he could document them for later viewing and satisfaction (Martens 501). It was noted that other “repetitive behaviors such as listening to internal body sounds and performing ritualistic processing and arrangement of bones…” (Silva, Ferrari, and Leong 3) was something that Dahmer adored because it was like he was a part of the victim and they were one. Another routine that he had was how he lured his victims to his place of residence. Early on, he would slip the individuals a drug, disguised in a drink, at bars and nightclubs and later graduated to dripping acid or hot water into a hole that was drilled into the skull exposing the brain (Masters 176-177). Dahmer was an extreme case though and people shouldn’t think that every individual who has autism or Asperger’s disorder suffers from these symptoms at the level that Dahmer did.
Jeffrey Dahmer had fantasies that were viewed as extreme and far-out for a human being. The most distinct fantasy that we see demonstrated in this case is how he wanted to be one with his victims and how he wanted to be in complete control of his victims once he brought them home. This trait fits under the umbrella of Asperger’s because, as I’ve said before, it’s taken to an extreme level that normal human beings fail to demonstrate. Everyone has fantasies, whether they openly admit to them or not, but normally they don’t carry them out to the extent that Dahmer did. He caused harm for his own benefit for his fantasies that he was trying to fulfill. Normal human beings may have fantasies of dating or being married to super models or living in an extravagant house or mansion or even owning expensive cars, but Dahmer had fantasies of being one with his victim(s). We see this in other cases, such as Edward Gein; he would skin his victims and then wear the skin as a suit (Schlesinger 24). They want to be the individual. I personally think that Dahmer ate different pieces of his victims for that very reason of being one with his victims.
When psychologists and psychiatrists studied Dahmer’s behavior and gave him the possible diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder, they included the fact of how he demonstrated “unusual body kinetics that… [were] described as… general bodily awkwardness or… mechanical-like type of body posture” (Silva, Ferrari, and Leong 3). In the images below, we see that Dahmer holds a very awkward body position and expresses no emotion during the times he was in court. Many individuals who are diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s demonstrate that type of bodily behavior and will sometimes rock back and forth or move their hands in a repetitive motion that seems unnormal. In Dahmer’s case it was noted all the way back to his childhood era (p. 3). This behavior never affected Dahmer in his day-to-day routines, but it was something people noticed and kept in mind. I keep stressing the point of keeping an open mind with looking at Dahmer’s case, because he was truly a rare individual.
While I have just listed a few traits about why Dahmer was diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder, some people may argue that all individuals who suffer from autism have similar traits as to what Asperger’s is. Where that would be very true, but we all have to keep in mind that individuals who are diagnosed with autism or any disorder associated with the Autism Spectrum Disorders is not at the same level that individuals with Asperger’s are at, or for that matter any disorder within the Autism Spectrum Disorders. Symptoms are specific to each disorder and thus setting them apart from each other. One individual who has a repetitive routine similar to an individual that suffers from Asperger’s is different due to the level that they perform or hold that routine at. Not all individuals that are diagnosed have the same symptoms, but they must have certain symptoms that are demonstrated more often than a regular human would perform them. An example would be how Jeffrey Dahmer was isolated from social interactions (Silva, Ferrari, and Leong 3). Everyone may have certain times in life where they may show more isolation from social interactions than others, but Dahmer’s situation was different because he isolated himself more times than not and he “lack[ed] reciprocal social behavior” (p. 3). This can be seen as eccentric and bizarre in the eyes of other individuals and was noted when he seemed to be in his “own bizarre isolated world” (p. 3) and would turn his victims into “zombies” (p. 3). This was ultimately an extreme case of Asperger’s though. Not all cases will be like what Jeffrey Dahmer’s situation was like.
Aside from Asperger’s disorder psychologists and psychiatrists believe that Dahmer suffered from schizophrenia, but the symptoms of schizophrenia “only appeared subsequent to the Asperger’s disorder” (Silva, Ferrari, and Leong 3). This can simply be interpreted as that Dahmer only showed symptoms of schizophrenia when he demonstrated the symptoms of Asperger’s disorder at the same time. Symptoms of schizophrenia include confusing reality with fantasy, hallucinations, delusions, and breakdown in logical thinking. Dahmer showed many of those symptoms, such as when he was involved with his fantasy of being one with his victim. In my opinion, I believe an argument could be made that Dahmer was classified into disorganized schizophrenia. I say that because he demonstrated symptoms such as behavior that was misleading or confusing to other individuals, specifically law enforcement officers who investigated, and he lacked the aspect of relating to others. He was isolated from people and therefore wasn’t able to relate to normal people.
With the above-mentioned symptoms, people should realize that Asperger’s disorder was not a cause for why Jeffrey Dahmer committed seventeen horrific murders. Asperger’s is simply a possible diagnosis for why Dahmer was the way he was, more or less the symptoms he demonstrated. His disorder may have contributed to why he did certain things the way he did, such as how he dismembered his victims’ bodies or why he kept several of his victims’ skulls for ritualistic purposes, but no one individual can argue that Asperger’s was a cause for why he murdered those seventeen innocent individuals from 1980 to 1990. Saying Asperger’s was a cause for why he did what he did would be similar to claiming that an individual is guilty for speeding simply for the reason that they own a vehicle; that would be untrue. Dahmer committed those murders because he had a nagging need to be in control of people and that clouded the line, for him, of what was right and wrong. He realized afterwards what he did was wrong, but all he was concerned about during the time of bringing the individual home and killing them was that he was in an authoritative position and he wanted complete control of that individual and the situation.
In conclusion, Jeffrey Dahmer can only be compared to individuals who are as rare and unique as he was. In a way though, he is in his own group alone. Dahmer was someone who was nothing but evil and he wanted what he wanted and didn’t let common sense or sensibility get in his way when he was deciding what to do. Asperger’s is only a possible diagnosis in his case and can be used to explain and inform people and the public accurately of why he was so dysfunctional compared to everyone else, but to him, he seemed completely normal and everyone else was different. As I said before in previous paragraphs, disorders are simply assigned to individuals who demonstrate the particular signs or symptoms that are included within that disorder, more specifically with Asperger’s disorder – lack of social interactions, repetitive routines, and particular obsessions. It is misrepresentations of material or topics, such as Asperger’s disorder in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, that ultimately give the public a skewed idea and picture of what that disorder truly is, what it’s about, and why it’s ultimately a disorder. A disorder is a diagnosis for someone because they demonstrate symptoms that are unique and have been studied extensively by scientists and doctors alike to explain why an individual is the way they are, but we also have to keep in mind that Asperger’s was only a possible diagnosis in Dahmer’s case. Now when I say the way they are, I simply mean the way that they behave in public or symptoms they have, not a cause for why they ultimately can’t determine right from wrong.
“Asperger’s Syndrome.” Autism Society –. Autism Society. N.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.autism-society.org/about-autism/aspergers-syndrome/>.
Brother Percy. “Re: Asperger’s Syndrome – Another Word for ‘Evil’” Weblog comment. Landover Baptist Church. Landover Baptist Church, 21 Sept. 2011. Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <http://www.landoverbaptist.net/showthread.php?t=69903>.
“Jeffrey Dahmer | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers.” Jeffrey Dahmer | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers. N.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <http://murderpedia.org/male.D/d/dahmer-jeffrey.htm>.
Jeffrey Dahmer-The Monster Within. Towers Production. A&E Television Networks, 2004. DVD.
Masters, Brian. The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1993. 176-77. Print.
Nordqvist, Christian. “What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/7601.php>.
Ozbayrak, Kaan, M.D. “ASPERGER’S DISORDER HOMEPAGE.” Information. N.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. <http://www.aspergers.com/aspclin.html>.
Schlesinger, Louis B. Serial Offenders: Current Thought, Recent Findings. Boca Raton: CRC, 2000. 24. Print.
Silva, J.; Ferrari, Michelle; Leong, Gregory. “The Case of Jeffrey Dahmer: Sexual Serial Homicide from a Neuropsychiatric Developmental Perspective.” Journal of Forensic Science 46.6 (2002). Murderpedia.com. Web. 29 Nov. 2013
Willem H. J. Martens. “Sadism Linked to Loneliness: Psychodynamic Dimensions of the Sadistic Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer.” The Psychoanalytic Review: 98.4 (2011), pp. 493-514. 29 Nov. 2013