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Running Head: MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

Sabrina Arzate
Mental Disorders Linking to Criminal Behavior
University of Texas at El Paso

MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

Abstract
Criminal behavior and violence attracts attention through news media,
entertainment, and countless settings worldwide. There has always been a debate
deliberating if there is a link between criminal behavior and mental disorders. Is there a
real connection between the two aspects or is it just a coincidental theory? This paper will
provide essential information on mental disorders linking to criminal behavior. Many
different studies, observations, and evidence support the theory of there being a
correlation between criminal behavior and mental disorders/illness. The studies and
evidence exhibit how and why there can be a link between the two aspects. Following by
what types of disorders can cause some types of violence or criminal behavior.

Introduction
Crimes and criminal behavior is an extensive issue that takes effect daily
throughout the world. Criminals and murderers frequently have a specific reason to why
they commit the crimes they have done. Different people and researchers question if
mental illnesses and psychological disorders are linked to some or most criminal
behavior. It has become a large debate and considerable question for years now.
Additionally, violence has become an increasing concern in the practice of psychiatry.
There are multiple ways criminal behavior and violence may or may not be linked. If this
is the case, how do these mental disorders cause effects to ensue criminal behavior and
violence? This leads to further questions like What type of violence can individuals
affected by mental disorders cause and why? or What is the percentage of mental
disorders among prisoners? If these questions retrieve crucial information about the

MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

topic, it can lead to this last question. What are some different ways that psychologists,
doctors, and family members could provide help for the mentally ill who display violent
behavior? Through studies and evidence shown, there is a development of understanding
if there is a real linkage between subjects suffering from a mental disorder and criminal
behavior.
Is there a linkage between mental disorders and people affected with mental
disorders?
Most studies claim the correlation between the two aspects being true with
evidence including high percentages. Detective Sgt. Rick Rivera from the homicide unit
Division in El Paso Texas, answers questions through an interview including low
percentages and makes the correlation seem less persuasive. (Rivera, 2015) He has
witnessed countless criminals and murderers during the many years he has worked with
the homicide unit. The first question was if he thinks most criminals suffer from some
type of mental disorder. Rivera responded with No not at all. A lot of murderers are
opportunist or heat of the moment type murderers when they are upset at that moment.
For example, when someone catches their spouse cheating, or getting themselves
involved in a brawl. On a scale from one to 100, I say 10% of criminals are suffering
from some type of mental disorder. The following question was asking out of all the
criminals he has witnessed, what is a good estimated percentage of those criminals facing
a mental disorder? He answered Not too many. Approximately 10% of the offenders
have a mental disorder. The 3rd question in the interview was asking what are some odd
behaviors he has witnessed within criminals? Sgt. Rivera answered, The fact that they
try to forget or do not remember what they have done. They believe they had the right to

MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

commit a crime or murder. No remorse, they are happy or laughing at what they have
done. The following question was what mental disorder does he think can cause criminal
behavior and violence? He responded, Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anti-social
personality disorder are the ones most dealt with. The last question asked the detective
How do you think individuals that have committed violent behavior can receive better
treatment for themselves and society? Rivera replied, Either by reaching for
psychological help, counseling, or religious education. This interview indicates that
offenders that have passed through the justice system were considerably individuals
suffering from a mental disorder. The percentage of criminals with a mental disorder was
that high, but he did explain criminals behaviors being like individuals with a mental
disorder. All the psychological disorders he listed in question 4, were all the same
disorders explained in other studies exhibiting that those disorders can cause criminal
behavior.
Although detective Rivera made the correlation seem less persuasive,
many other sources give great evidence in displaying the link between mental disorder
and criminal behavior. Many researchers have questioned if there is a linkage between
crime and mental disorders. In most research and observations, the answer is yes. There
are several studies and observations that display the connection adequately. The article
Mental Disorders and Crime: The Connection is real, published by Crime Times,
provides essential and persuasive evidence to assure the idea that there is a link between
disorders and crimes. Sheilagh Hodgins and colleagues documented all psychiatric
admissions of a group of 324,401 people up to the age of 43. (Blake, 2015) They then
compared the individuals criminal records with a history of hospitalization for

MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

psychiatric illness to those criminal records with no such history of that sort. The
researchers conducted that individuals with a history of psychiatric hospitalization were
more likely to have been convicted of a criminal offense than persons with no history of
psychiatric hospitalization. (Blake, 2015) The study found that individuals with
psychiatric hospitalization histories were three to 11 times more likely to have criminal
convictions than those without such histories. The psychological disorders that were
displayed the most throughout the individuals studies were schizophrenia and antipersonality disorder. Their data displayed "schizophrenia increases the odds ratio of
homicidal violence by about 8- fold in men and 6.5-fold in women." Additionally, the
studies showed, "Antisocial personality disorder increases the odds ratio over 10-fold in
men and over 50-fold in women." (Blake, 2015) They also included that antisocial
personality disorder is a high risk factor for homicidal behavior especially associated with
alcohol. This data exhibits adequate evidence that individuals affected with devastating
disorders should be provided with humane care for both themselves and society.
What type of violence can individuals affected by mental disorders cause and
why?
Murderers will frequently have a reason, or excuse, to why they have committed
the horrific crime they have done. Some reasons may include past experiences, revenge,
anger issues, or a mental disorder. The video, Antisocial Personality Disorder The LowLevel Psychopath (Impulsive & Less Manipulative), from ABC News posted by
Knowledge Boost Chronicles, analyzes the killings of a man with antisocial personality
disorder. This genre gives an extraordinary interview with the murderer Tommy Lynn

MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

Sells who is guilty of many charges of murder. Sells answers questions of a psychologist
explaining why he commits such horrific actions. While Sells speaks, he speaks with no
sympathy for the ones he has hurt and he displays odd behavior. Throughout the video,
neurocriminologist Dr. Adrian Raine, displays the differences of an average persons
brain and a persons brain associated with antisocial personality disorder. He explains that
the key difference of the brains is that there is a structural impairment in part of the brain
called the Amygdala. This includes that the brain of one suffering from antisocial
personality disorder has a deformed amygdala, part of the brain involved with the
generation of emotion. This is the essential reason why these criminals lack conscious,
remorse, and guilt and terrorize society.
The possible connection between mental disorders and violent behavior has been
a extensive debate for years. In the article by M. Eronen , M.C. Angermeyer, and B.
Schulze, The psychiatric epidemiology of violent behaviour , they exemplify their theory
of finding if the connection is true. They studied the criminal records of First, to study the
currency of violence among subjects who obtain a psychiatric background. Second, study
the currency of mental disorders among people who have committed violent behavior and
have interfered with the criminal justice system. (Eronen, Angermeyer, & Schulze 1998).
Concerning individuals from some sort of psychiatric hospital, the epidemiological
studies displayed violent behavior was conducted before, while in a hospital, and after.
The authors conclude that it is biased to conduct violence behavior during the time in the
psychiatric hospital because that is a key reason for hospitalization. (Eronen,
Angermeyer, & Schulze 1998). Although this is true, there is a consistently higher risk
for violence for patients suffering major mental disorders like schizophrenia and also

MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

individuals suffering substance use disorder. For the second step, the article presents data
from male homicide offenders in Finland. The risk of committing homicide was again 8
times higher for men suffering schizophrenia, and antisocial personality disorder
increased the odds ration over 11-fold. (Eronen, Angermeyer, & Schulze 1998) (S-14).
Schizophrenics suffer from symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, different
movements, confused thoughts and speech, no emotion and withdrawl. Evidence suggests
that violence risk among people with mental disorders is not random but directed by
symptoms. Studies show that individuals who suffer hallucinations and delusions, like
schizophrenics, often act on them. The studies in this article reviewed essentially that
there is a correlation under some circumstances.

MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

MENTAL DISORDERS LINKING TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

The table is from the aticle The psychiatric epidemiology of violent behaviour
by the authors, M. Eronen , M.C. Angermeyer, and B. Schulze. The table shows different
studies of different patients with many different disorders and the violent behavior they
received after experiments. All schizophrenia patients had a definition of violence
showing, life-threatening behavior and criminal records. All disorders had violent records
and mostly all offenses.
The article The relationships between mental disorders and different types of
crime exhibits studies and data that was extracted from 21,424 pretrial forensic
psychiatric reports made between 2000 and 2006 in the Netherlands. (Vinkers, Beurs,
Barendregt, Rinne, & Hoek 2011). Using a large database of many psychiatric pre-trial
examinations, the relationship between mental disorders and different types of crimes
was examined. Some specific crimes linked with different disorders were strongly
identified but they found that all types of mental disorders were related to all types of
criminal charge. The presence of a mental disorder among the forensic patients is
associated not only with battery, arson, and homicide threat, but even sexual crime.
(Vinkers, Beurs, Barendregt, Rinne, & Hoek 2011). Through the studies, the evidence
found displayed the different certain psychotic disorders being more associated with
certain criminal behavior. Development disorders were strongly linked to homicide.
Criminals with an IQ lower than 85 points were linked to sexual crime. Psychological
disorders were linked with both homicide and sexual crimes. (Vinkers, Beurs,
Barendregt, Rinne, & Hoek 2011). This data justifies the question of what type of violent
behavior could be caused by mental disorders.
What is the percentage of mental disorders among prisoners?

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Different criminal behavior caused by mental disorders may lead to a percentage


of mental illnesses among prisoners. Bob Bramblet discusses in the article Jails and the
Mentally Ill, that there are several roots to why the population of mental illness in jails
are increasing daily. One including that state-run psychiatric hospitals closed caused by
overcrowding. (Bramblet, 2015) This leads to individuals suffering mental disorders
without health care, occasionally leading to them being homeless and eventually caught
up in the legal system through time causing the jail system to pick up this population. The
article displays that at least 20 percent of all incarcerated people have severe mental
illness, and up to 65 percent are diagnosed with some sort of mental or personality
disorder. (Bramblet, 2015) The Jail system is troubled due to staff not handling the
problem effectively and no one seriously seeing a great issue. Unfortunately, people
suffering from mental disorders or mental illness are stuck with no care, usually resulting
to more violent behavior. Regardless of our opinions on the situation, correctional
faculties have become the care providers of these individuals. These individuals deserve
beneficial health care and safe housing.
In another article Violence and Mental Illness by Marie E. Reuve MD and
Randon S. Welton, they provide their outtake in a study of the mentally ill in the criminal
population. The article displayed that in 1989, 283,000 mentally ill persons were listed
in the US penal system. Through surveys conducted they concluded 16 percent of state
prison inmates, 16 percent of local jail inmates, and seven percent of federal prisoners
self-reported a previous mental health diagnosis or overnight stay in a psychiatric
facility. (Reuve & Welton 2008). They then analyzed a sample of 627 arrestees and
found the prevalence of mental disorders to be three times more than the general

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population. Among that sample, the most common disorders were personality disorders
and substance use disorders. They also found that mental health patients were three times
as likely to be arrested as the general population. They discuss that even though these
individuals are more prone to criminal behavior, not all cases can be violent. Often,
charges are an indication of untreated symptoms. (Reuve & Welton 2008). For example,
paranoia can end up leading to trespassing leading to breaking and entering. This
suggests that mentally ill individuals that are victims of crime may or may not commit
violence. These individuals also may or may not violate strangers.
If the correlation between disorders and criminal behavior is apparent through
most studies and observations, society should provide potential help for the mentally ill.
Better treatment and health care would not only be essential to those individuals suffering
disorders but also society because they have higher risks of criminal behavior. In a
recorded presentation, Dr. Amador Cambridge explains that we can help the mentally ill
by providing support, better psychological education, medications, and all sorts of
services. He discusses also how law enforcement, health care providers, and family
members are the ones inferring with these individuals being affected by a mental disorder
and should work on recovery. (Cambridge, 2013) Recovery from relationships, work, and
just overall life. Family members should guide loved ones to the right path of support and
treatment so individuals with mental illnesses can become and feel better. Medication and
help can restrict horrific symptoms and can reduce the risk of odd behavior and violence.
Conclusion

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Even though some individuals with mental disorders are capable of criminal
behavior and violence, this does not imply that people with mental illness are generally
more likely to commit violent acts than members of the general population. Studies and
evidence exhibit that people with mental illnesses are at a higher risk of causing violence
and criminal behavior due to psychiatric diagnoses and symptom constellations. The
correlation between the two aspects does not imply that individuals affected with mental
illnesses are going to be violent or cause criminal behavior. However, through all the
sources and evidence shown here, the criminal studies and observations taken have
definitely displayed a possible linkage between criminal behavior and mental disorders.

References:

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Blake, A. (Ed.). (n.d.). Crime Times- linking brain dysfunction to disordered/ criminal/
psychopathic behavior. Retrieved September 17, 2015.

Rivera, R. (2015, October 9). Criminal Behavior [Personal interview].

ABC News. (2010, August 25). Antisocial Personality Disorder The Low- Level
Psychopath (Impulsive & Less Manipulative). Retrieved from
https://youtu.be/0qyCR9tPDgM

Vinkers, D. J., Beurs, E., Barendregt, M., Rinne, T., & Hoek, H. W. (2011). The
relationship between mental disorders and different types of crime. Criminal Behaviour
& Mental Health, 21(5), 307-320. doi:10.1002/cbm.819

Bramblet, B. (2015). Jails and the Mentally Ill. American Jails, 29(2), 31-33.

Eronen, M., Angermeyer, M. C., & Schulze, B. (1998). The psychiatric epidemiology of
violent behaviour. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 33S13.

Reuve, M., & Welton, R. (2008). Violence and Mental illness. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 34
48.
Dr. Amador, Xavier. (2013, March 23). Dr. Amador Cambridge Talk on Helping People
W/ Mental Illness. The Leap Institute. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/bnbOizw_zS0

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