Dexter, can someone really have a need to kill?

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My favorite show is Dexter, a show about a serial killer who kills other serial killers. 


SPOILER ALERT: In this show, he was a normal kid until he saw his mom killed infront of him when he was three in a shipping container. He had to just sit their in a pool of his mothers blood for 3 days and once he was rescued, his mind blocked out the accident, so he couldn't remember what happened, but he had an urge to kill people and didn't know why, from there his dad (who was a cop) realized he had this urge and taught him to kill only bad people. 

I've always wondered whether this was possible, that someone could be normal and then undergo a traumatic experience and then suddenly be a serial killer for the rest of their life, or is this just classic made up Hollywood story-telling psychology used to make the character more likable. 

The first thing I researched while trying to figure this out is Post Tramatic Stress Disorder, and read about peoples violent reactions to PTSD on a Dr. Phil page. Dr. Phil PTSD, one man after living a traumatic experience ended up setting his wife on fire. But this is really different from what Dexter has because Dexter can control himself, and in the beginning Dexter's trama was repressed, which is different because people with PTSD are always reliving there memories. When Dexter remembers, he starts to feel a little bit, but his urge to kill doesn't change.

The next choice is Psychopath, but Dexter isn't really a psychopath because he has a huge conscious and deeply cares about the people in his life. He gets sad when they are gone, and was in love with his wife before she was killed. He often feels very guilty about his lifestyle and tries to change. 

Maybe he's a Schizoid? But this runs into the same problems that the Psychopath did, he does care about people and he wants to express himself and share his life but can't because he knows no one will accept him and he doesn't want to get arrested.

There are a lot of made up personality disorders from Hollywood including the one from Fight Club, which was a disorder that switched on and off from schizophrenia and Multi-personality disorder and was often both of them at the same time. 

Dexter compares himself to a drug addict, saying that he can't control it in the same way drug dealers can't control their desires.
But really in figuring out what Dexter has you have to consider how many mental disorders their are in the world. Mental disorders

There are constantly new mentally disorders that show up, and the way they classify mental disorders are from finding people multiple people with the disorder and then forming the symptoms. So really, it's really not that farfetched to say he has something that hasn't been classified. I mean, obviously he's not real, but it makes you think how many people out there have mental disorders, infact, maybe in the future every type of personality ever will be able to be explained and categorized into a disorder. But for now, there is still a lot we don't know. The only really unlikely thing in Dexter is that his brother developed the exact same symptoms as Dexter and also became a serial killer. And the Trinity Killer in Season 4 also had the same symptoms. But other then that, it doesn't seem impossible that someone like Dexter could exist.What makes us who we are? You can read more about personalities here: 

1 Comment

This was such a great topic! I feel like often times many viewers of the show question whether a character like Dexter can actually exist in real life. After reading the topic and first thinking of the psychological problems that Dexter could have after reading your synopsis of the show, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder immediately popped into my head because of the scary experience of watching the murder of his Mother. Although you immediately shut down the idea of Dexter experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I feel that that might have more of a cause to his killing "spree" than you believe it does. I feel this way only because something as awful as watching your Mother die could possibly trigger some sort of emotional revenge, as to why he feels the need to kill others. Although Dexter can somehow control himself, I believe that Dexter also does experience some of the common symptoms PTSD such as aggression and irritability or outbursts of anger (obviously shown when he is killing others).
This topic interested me to look into what other psychologists had to say about the character of Dexter. I came across a website where someone actually did analyze the "psyche of Dexter". At first the idea of Antisocial Personality Disorder was proposed but this person also seems to agree that Dexter suffers from Schizoid Personality Disorder, an idea that you also rejected. They list reasons such as "neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family" and shows "emotional coldness and detachment". This sounds like Dexter to me! To further reader about this person's analysis of Dexter, you can: Pysche of Dexter

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