When people hear that someone they have known for years has committed a murder, they often express great surprise and seem to find it hard to believe that the seemingly “normal” person they knew could do such a thing. Many serial killers have the ability to behave in a manner that arouses no suspicion. There just aren’t any standard indications that a person may be capable of such a gruesome crime. There are, however, a few signs that may help to identify people who have the greatest potential to become serial killers. These traits and serial killing behavior do not have causality, rather there is a correlation between the two. These signs can usually foreshadow the violent activities the killers engage in later in life, but are not linked directly to serial behavior.
Extreme antisocial behavior is one possible indicator that an individual may have a problem, but it is by no means definitive. Antisocial personality disorder is a personality disorder defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM IV) as someone who shows no remorse or guilt. Other signs that one suffers from antisocial disorder include: patterns of lying, aggressiveness, failure to conform to social norms, and irresponsibility.
Young people who develop a serious tendency towards voyeurism may be displaying an early indication of psychopathic tendencies. Serial killers often seek to have complete control over another human being, and watching them in private settings without their knowledge allows some people to feel a sense of dominance. This is a trait many serial killers demonstrate from an early age.
One of the most common warning signs that potential serial killers display is a love of setting fires. While it may be common for young people to enjoy the site of a fire, a psychopath’s interest borders on that of being a potential arsonist. They will set anything they can on fire just to destroy it.
Another common indicator of possible serial killing behavior is killing animals. They may provoke, torture, or even kill cats, dogs, and other animals. Even after seeing the results of their actions, the person will show no form of regret or remorse. Serial killers generally seek control over the life of another, and at a younger age a small animal is the only type of creature they will be able to fully dominate. Any adolescent who displays this activity is at an extreme risk of developing into a serial killer when they reach adulthood.