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Serial Killer Psychology: Eileen Wuornos Essay

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2019


Psychology has a division that deals with the study of thought, behavior and emotion whose pattern is unusual. Persons with these bizarre patterns often have an impulsive disorder of the mind. This psychology division is referred to as abnormal psychology. It is also known as psychopathology or psychopathy and this implies that the person has a mental disease.

The latter term is mostly used in psychiatry. The person suffering from the condition is referred to as a psychopath. Such a person does not exhibit any empathy and often engages in very unethical behavior. All this is well hidden and the person has an outward appearance of being normal (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

Eileen Wuornos’s background

On the 29th day of February 1956, Eileen Wuornos was born to teenage parents who split up soon after her birth. Her place of birth was Troy, Michigan. Her father, who was never was part of Eileen’s life was convicted for child molestation and it was in jail that he hanged himself to death.

Her mother also abused alcohol and abandoned her at a very tender age. Eileen and her brother were raised by her maternal grandparents. She had a very disturbed childhood and found it hard to make friends or keep up friendships as she was constantly fighting her playmates. She started stealing while still very young and by the age of fourteen years, she had set her home and two other places ablaze (Barlow, 2001).

Eileen got pregnant when she was thirteen years old and put up the baby to be adopted. The paternity of the child however remained a mystery.

Eileen’s grandmother later passed away and she was evicted by her grandfather. She led a life of prostitution, drugs and alcohol. She later got married to an elderly man but the marriage only lasted two months as she had an abusive spouse. Her brother died of cancer while her grandfather killed himself. While she was between fourteen and twenty two years old, Eileen has attempted to kill herself six times.

Eileen was arrested in three different states. Her offences included assault, shoplifting, and forgery, burglary, obstructing a police officer, intoxication and dangerous behavior in public, larceny and illegal license use. Although her relationships were mostly with men, she was involved with a woman, Tyria Moore, for four years. It was Tyria Moore who assisted with her arrest (Broomfield & Churchill, 2004).

Eileen’s serial killer behavior

Eileen admitted that she had killed seven people, all men in a year’s time. The murders took place between December of the year 1989 and November of 1990. She had all the behaviors held by a serial killer. Her style of execution was however different from that of other killers for instance Stacey Castor.

Eileen’s motives for murder were basically lust, material gain and need for thrill and power. This behavior was brought about by psychopathy. Like most serial killers, her disturbed childhood had a major role to play in this. As opposed to classifications like black widow and angel of death, her behavior falls into the revenge and question of sanity categories (Kelleher & Kelleher, 1998).

Eileen Wuornos’s psychopathic behavior

In her records and interviews, Eileen exhibited a charming outward appearance. She felt very superior and often showed off by saying the copious intake of alcohol in addition to the many men that she had taken to bed. In her interviews, she was very arrogant and well poised. In her quest for excitement, she engaged in prostitution, abused drugs and alcohol, had many unstable relationships and hitchhiked. She was a pathological liar.

This is shown by the fact that she had numerous aliases. Eileen was a manipulative woman. This is shown by the fact that she could have numerous relationships going on at the same time. In her work as a prostitute, she made men believe she would charge them less money if they agreed to go with her in the forest as opposed to places of accommodation. This was her way of tricking the men into secluded areas for murder (Hickey, 2002).

Eileen was a woman without remorse as she was not bothered by the death of her victims. In her interview with psychiatrists in the year 2002, she indicated that she had the intention of murdering twelve men. She had low affect. She presented herself as unemotional and cold. In some instances, dramatic changes in affect for instance severe temper reactions were observed.

She was callous and lacking in sympathy. This is evidenced by the crimes she committed. The kind of life she led was parasitic. This is shown by the fact that despite being of good health, she opted to engage in prostitution, spending her earnings on acquisition of alcohol and drugs while Moore supported them by working an acceptable job.

She was a rebellious adolescent with a horrible temper. In her early years, she exhibited numerous behavioral difficulties including stealing, fighting and starting fires. She was unrealistic, impulsive and irresponsible. This is shown by the fact that she left school early and could not retain a job for long. All in all, she exhibited versatility as a criminal (Butcher, Mineka & Hooley, 2010).


Eileen was found to have borderline personality disorder and anti social personality disorder. These two are DSM-1V-TR (11) disorders. Her behavior towards other, people, remorselessness, irritability and uncontrollable mood swings evidence the presence of the antisocial personality disorder.

She thought of herself as a mightier being than everyone else around her. She could idealize some things and completely devalue others. This evidenced the presence of borderline personality disorder. There are set criteria normally used in the diagnosis of these two disorders. Eileen was found to meet all of them (Raine, 1993).

Studies have been done and there are some findings which insinuate that psychopathy may have an element of a genetic nature. These studies show that the children whose behavior is anti social can be grouped into two classes.

The callous children may have obtained their conduct from genetic elements, while the non callous ones obtained their conduct from environmental influences. The brain has a major role to play in this, specifically the amygdala which is important for the reinforcement of stimulus. It is crucial for the formation of stimulus reward and punishment linkages.

People suffering from psychopathy exhibit impairments in the formation of these linkages. People who have had continuous violent behavior exhibit a reduced integrity in the microstructure of their white matter of the brain. It is this white matter that connects the orbitofrontal cortex and amyglada. The severity of psychopathy is directly proportional to the degree of abnormality. Given that Eileen had a troubled childhood, this could have been one of the causes of her psychopathic behavior (Myers, Gooch & Meloy, 2005).

Abuse of substances like alcohol and drugs is said to be linked to psychopathy. This is especially the case with the anti social personality disorder. Eileen was diagnosed to have both. Her use of cocaine was rampant and so was her abuse of alcohol. It was these drugs that led her to carry out some of the things she did, for instance obstructing the officer.

It may also have been the drugs that made her believe that she could be a lawyer or even a police officer even though she had never received any kind of training for either career. A person would normally not attempt some of the things Eileen indulged in unless they had consumed drugs. A good example of this is when she tried to rob a store while dressed in a bikini. It is said that her intention was to capture the attention of the man she was dating (Raine, 1993).

It is possible that the tough and disturbed childhood that Eileen went through may be linked to her psychopathy. A child who is deprived of parental love and attention normally behaves in a defiant and aggressive manner in order to try and get the attention from other people. Eileen was abandoned by her father when she was just a child. Maybe she blamed herself for what was happening to her family.

Her mother also abandoned her and this must have made her feel very unappreciated and unloved. Eileen’s abuse from her grandfather negatively affected her emotional wellbeing. All her problems must have created a need in her to feel loved and also worthy of people’s attention. It was such emotions that drove her to involve herself in numerous romantic relationships.

Most of these relationships were however abusive for her. In all the murder’s, she claimed that her attacks on the victims were done to defend herself. This however was very questionable. Bodies of some victims were nude when they were found. This meant that the victims were in a vulnerable position and could therefore not have attacked her (Barlow, 2001).


One can say that Eileen underwent plenty of traumatic experiences in her youth. In her bid to escape from the reality of what was happening to her, she started living a dangerous life with overly unrealistic expectations. To hide from her vulnerability, she was a bully when she was young and a robber in her maturity. Her use of firearms made her feel powerful and in control of the situation. It is however sad that she felt no regrets for any of her actions as she had indicated that she would continue killing if ever she was set free (Raine, 1993).


American Psychiatric Association, (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorder: Washington DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

Barlow, D. H., (2001). Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders, a step by step Treatment Manual. New York: Gilford Press.

Broomfield, N., & Churchill J., (2004). Aileen: Life and death of a serial killer. Los Angeles, CA: DEJ Productions.

Butcher, J.N., Mineka, S., & Hooley, J.M. (2010). Abnormal Psychology, (14th Ed) Buckingham: Allyn and Bacon.

Hickey, E.W. (2002). Serial murderers and their victims. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth

Kelleher, M.D., & Kelleher, C.L. (1998). Murder most rare: The female serial Killer. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Myers, W.C., Gooch, E., & Meloy, J.R. The role of psychopathy and sexuality in a Female serial killer. Journal of Forensic Science, May 2005, Vol.50, No.3.

Raine, A. (1993). The psychopathology of crime. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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