When you think of the word stalker what comes to mind? Do you think violence and vengefulness? Do you think fear on the part of the stalker? Do you think about the stalker’s lack of communication skills or even mental health problem(s)? Many people would agree that the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word stalker is violence and vengefulness. Only a rare number of people would consider a stalker fearful and lacking in social skills. But many “sweet boys next door” can become a stalker for many reasons. Two reasons include mental health problems and lack of social skills.
One of the things we rarely discuss on this site are the characteristics of a stalker. But it’s important to understand that they too struggle with mental health or personality disorders that motivates this problematic behavior. Believe it or not, many stalkers, due to mental health or personality disorders, are impaired and lack the ability to reason and engage appropriately with others. For the most part, individuals who would be labeled a stalker often suffer from a lack of social skills and finds communicating with others challenging. For the most part, men are the stalkers, but women can also become stalkers as well. About 80% of women are victims of stalkers.
According to Marshall University’s Women Center, characteristics of the stalker can fall into 5 categories:
- Relationship: These stalkers tend to stalk previous partners and desire a relationship with the person. In some cases, the stalker in this category may desire a relationship with an acquaintance. Individuals who fit the stalker description and has had negative relationships in the past, often meet criteria for a personality disorder such as narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder or sociopathy (i.e., a sociopath), or dependent personality disorder.
- Obsessed: This type of individual constantly thinks about the person they idolize. They might create a “mental life” involving the person and have a hard time imagining life without the person. You may have heard of the term erotomania which describes a delusion in which the person believes that someone, usually of a higher social status (celebrity, powerful person, etc.) is in love with him or her. It is likely that someone suffering from schizophrenia may fall prey to the erotomanic delusion.
- Rejected: Many stalkers have a history of challenging relationships and difficulty communicating with others. Some stalkers, especially if female, may meet criteria for borderline personality disorder in which rejection is often very difficult to cope with. This does not, however, describe all individuals with borderline personality disorder. However, it is likely that some individuals with this diagnosis could become a stalker due to a history of stormy relationships, roller coaster emotions, and unstable love affairs.
- Intelligent: Marshall University claims that stalkers are intelligent and carefully plan their stalking behavior. Someone who falls into this category could meet criteria for sociopathy. Sociopaths are adept at planning their “attack” and controlling others with charm or acting with glib.
- Motivated: Most stalkers believe that their object of desire is the only person they could ever love and tend to be motivated to pursue based on this type of thinking.
There are also common personality characteristics of the stalker that are important to understand. These include:
- Narcissistic behaviors
- History of domestic violence
- Inability to cope with rejection
- Obsessive, controlling, and compulsive
- Suffering from delusions or a severe mental illness that interferes with perception of reality
- Manipulative behaviors
- Sexually maladaptive behaviors
- Socially awkward, uncomfortable, or isolated
- Has a history of falling in love instantly
- Depends on others for a sense of self-worth
- Low self-esteem
Can you think of any characteristics that might fit a stalker?
It is important to keep in mind that stalkers are not always individuals who are suffering from mental health or personality disorders, but that the possibility is very high. Most stalkers fit the criteria of sociopaths and narcissists. They are charmers, they have a way with words (although their words are often shallow and insincere), and they sometimes have a sex appeal or attractiveness that blinds victims to their true intent. The difficulty lies in trying to determine if someone is a stalker and if so, what type of stalker they are.
As always, stay informed!
Marshall University. (2014). Stalking. Women’s Center. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/stalking/.