Sexual Murder: Catathymic and Compulsive Homicides

By Louis B. Schlesinger | Go to book overview

Compulsive Homicides in Historical Context

7

The word compulsion is derived from the Latin compellere, which means to compel, force, urge, or drive on. Unfortunately, the term compulsion-or compulsive-has been used to label very different forms of behavior and symptoms: the compulsive offender, the compulsive personality, and the obsessive-compulsive neurotic (see Table 7.1). The compulsive offender lies on the extreme endogenous end of the motivational spectrum (see Chapter 3) and is least influenced by external or sociogenic factors. From a clinical perspective, the compulsive offender has a powerful urge to act out his violent thoughts and fantasies, with a strong potential for repetition. He knows that the urge is dangerous and often plans his actions first in his mind, then perhaps through some behavioral tryouts; finally, often years later, he commits a criminal act. Other times, the compulsive offender acts out his fantasies in an unplanned, spontaneous manner when a victim of opportunity crosses his path.

The individual with a compulsive (or obsessive-compulsive) personality is totally different from the compulsive offender. The compulsive personality is characterized by inflexibility and a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control. Individuals with this personality disorder are rigid and difficult to get close to since they often have detectable anger right at the surface that emerges easily in interpersonal situations. They may be excessively devoted to work and productivity, overly conscientious, stubborn, scrupulous, and unbending regarding matters of morality and ethics.

Both the compulsive person and the compulsive offender are different from individuals who have an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or what is sometimes referred to as an obsessive-compulsive neurosis. Freud (1895) described this neurosis under the name Zwangneurose, which comprises both

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