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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Ted Bundy: A perspective from the mental health field

Having gained global fame, once again, 30 years or so after his execution, Ted Bundy might be a name you’re already familiar with. Even if you are not, there is plenty of material out there (named in this article, do not worry) to make you aware of his existence. This particular piece is aimed at examining him from a psychological point of view. Let us dive in.

Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy

Who was Theodore Robert Bundy?

Born in 1946 to an unwed mother, Bundy was a normal child. Little is known about his childhood but it was not without its own turbulence and chaos. He went on to be a graduate with a degree in Psychology, quite ironically. He was also building a political career for himself while pursuing Law when his first arrest came in 1975. Everything went into the dark then. Since then, all throughout his trial and subsequent death sentence, he was a mystery to psychologists and psychiatrists alike. Some were able to examine him at a close degree, like Dr. Al Carlisle and Dr. Dorothy Lewis. Here are some of their conclusions and takes on what disorder Bundy might have had and my own analysis of the same.

What did Bundy suffer from?

I would like to start off by saying that while posthumously diagnosing anyone is generally frowned upon, these are diagnoses made by those who actually observed this man. Furthermore, my own analysis is to give a modern-day view to the given condition. Let us start it off by the most common condition associated with Ted Bundy-

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)- Sent for a 90-day diagnostic period to check for his affinity for violence, Bundy was said to be the textbook example of this condition, checking all the factors listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for ASPD. Breaking down this condition, it is defined by –

  1. Repeatedly performing unlawful acts and not conforming to social norms.
  2. Repeatedly lying or deceiving others for personal gain.
  3. Impulsivity
  4. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
  5. Constantly being irresponsible, like being unable to hold down a job.
  6. Major lack of remorse.

Bundy showed all of these symptoms as well as those of other Cluster B type personality disorders. We will discuss them further.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – Another condition heavily associated with Bundy seems to be the much talked about, Narcissistic PD. Bundy was heavily self-entitled and even sabotaged his trial due to the same. This interesting condition is characterized by –

  1. High sense of entitlement.
  2. Taking advantage of others.
  3. Excessive arrogance
  4. Requiring excessive admiration
  5. Lacking basic empathy
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Personal accounts of those around him suggested these traits in him. Furthermore, his behavior and attitude during his trial were perhaps the greatest exhibitions of these in him. Advancing further and discussing the last personality disorder associated with him now.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – This condition is the most contested and debated about when it comes to Bundy but some symptoms can surely be observed in him like an unstable, shifting sense of self-identity. The symptoms he displayed, that are congruent with this disorder are –

  1. Fears and tries to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  2. Identity disturbance.
  3. Impulsivity that is intense.
  4. Marked hyper-reactivity of mood
  5. Inappropriate or intense anger outbursts

For a diagnosis of BPD, 5 out of 9 symptoms should be present in the person and Bundy clearly displayed these five traits. This finishes the list of Personality Disorders he could have had, though some others like Histrionic PD were also considered. Now we move on to the later diagnosis of Bundy, which lastly consisted of Bipolar Disorder.

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Bipolar Affective Disorder (BAPD) – This is a mood disorder classified by periods of elevated mood (mania) and then intense periods of sadness and low mood (depression). During his time on death row, Bundy was observed to show some traits of this condition and was even medicated and put on suicide watch. Let us see the symptoms in a little more detail –

  1. Cycling between days of high productivity and then no activity.
  2. During mania all manic symptoms are present like grandiosity and unrealistically elevated mood
  3. During depression a marked low mood is present for days or weeks

It is to be noted that BAPD is distinguished into two types, Type I and Type II, based on the severity of the symptoms. Whether Bundy had Type I or II, needs to be further researched. But it is certain that his moods fluctuated a lot. You’ll find that these disturbances in mood are also present in Borderline Personality Disorder but the duration in both these conditions of the mood cycles varies considerably.

In conclusion, it can be said that Ted Bundy might remain a mystery to most of us, for a long time. The man, his actions, and his words, all spark a sense of curiosity. Would you like to learn more about this infamous killer? Let us know in the comments!

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