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Sociopathic and delusional - what made this killer?

IT may be difficult to put yourself inside the mind of a killer, but a look at the childhood of Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik offers clues as to why he has grown into the mass murderer he did.

Unsurprisingly, Breivik has come from a broken home. His parents divorced when he was one-year-old. His father then remarried and divorced again by the time he was 12 and his mother also remarried.

Parental separation does not mean someone will turn into a cold-blooded killer. Breivik's parents are not responsible for his actions but a history of parental separation is a common trait of killers and psychopaths.

The absence of a traditional parental relationship may have left him isolated with little opportunity for emotional expression.

This may have contributed to his stone-eyed stares in court this week during his ongoing trial.

A lack of ability to understand emotions can cause conflict in the mind of an individual, decreasing empathy and the inhibition to cause harm. The lack of a traditional father figure may have led to an inability for Breivik to form meaningful relationships with others.

For this reason, I would speculate that Breivik grew to resent his parents and their support of the Norwegian Labour Party.


Breivik clearly has an obsessive personality and, according to the court's psychiatric assessments, has been susceptible to severe schizophrenic thought processes -- a breakdown of ordered thinking and emotion, with a poor ability to process emotions in a logical way.

These characteristics may have led to his hatred for Islamic beliefs and multi-culturalism.

What had begun as a disdain for such beliefs may have rapidly developed in his mind as his obsessions and neuroticisms took hold.

Other examples of such neuroticism can be seen in the many photos of himself posing with firearms and allegations of cosmetic surgery and use of anabolic steroids to enhance his appearance.

Sociopathic characteristics are reflected in the belief that 'nobody can understand me', that 'I can be better than everyone' and that 'I can rise above the intellectual ability of others'.

Delusions of grandeur take hold, causing subtle shifts to rule-breaking and reckless consideration of others' lives.

As can be seen in the court hearings and his presentation to the court, Breivik shows a lack of empathy and has no real concept of the effects of his actions on others.

His delusional thoughts have developed so much that he has lost touch with the real world. It seems that he has created a fantasy world where he will become a future king of Norway pending a takeover by a Templar-like organisation.

Breivik has shown emotional expression only once, in a moment driven by self-pity, and broke down in tears.

Yet he displayed no feelings for those affected by the massacre.

Breivik feels he is in total control, as we can see from his demeanour in court and his casualness when arrested in Utoya.

What makes most people different is their respect for others' beliefs and ability to live as part of a community.

This suggests he has an incredibly strong belief about power or weakness of other individuals except himself. He does not feel the effects his actions have on others.

Breivik is an example of how a skewed childhood can lead to a lack of respect for human life. While disgusting to many, his actions seem righteous and justified to him.

His representation is typical of a personality which believes nothing is more powerful than himself.

Dr Ian Gargan is a forensic psychologist and medical doctor