Stalkers can be young or old, male or female, professional or unemployed. But most are men who are isolated, socially inept, and often mentally ill. The crime can be motivated by different types of psychopathology, including psychosis and severe personality disorders, and stalkers pursue their victims for a variety of reasons, but all tend to have a narcissistic sense of entitlement to the victim.
Australian stalking expert, Dr. Paul Mullen, found from his study of 145 stalkers, reported in the August 1999 American Journal of Psychiatry, that half the stalkers never had a long-term relationship, and a third were separated or divorced. To facilitate diagnosis and treatment, he classified stalkers into the following five categories.
Types of Stalkers
The Rejected Suitor
Sometimes a partner rejected by their spouse or lover may vacillate between overtures of reconciliation and revenge. They have a narcissistic sense of entitlement and belief this is the only relationship they are going to have. More than 80% of rejected stalkers in Mullen’s study had personality disorders. Therapeutic treatment of the rejected stalker involves helping him or her come to terms with the end of the relationship.
The Intimacy Seeker
The intimacy-seeking stalker intends to establish a relationship with his “true love” regardless of her wishes. More than half of the intimacy seekers Mullen evaluated were delusional, believing that their love was reciprocated, and nearly a third had a personality disorder and a delusion that their quest would be ultimately successful. Legal actions do not work well with intimacy seekers, who may justify their behavior with the belief they must pay a price for true love. The court may order treatment, which should focus on treating their delusions or other mental disorders.
The Incompetent Suitor
This type is typically a man who had been rebuffed after asking a woman for a date. He’s often socially inept, and when rejected, begins to stalk with the hope that his persistent behavior will change the woman’s mind. The incompetent suitors can be responsive to judicial sanctions but are also likely to relapse.
The Resentful Stalker
These offenders express anger in response to a perception that they have been humiliated or treated unfairly by the object of their obsession. They thrive on having a sense of power and control over the victim, and are hard to treat because they often see themselves as the victim.
The Predatory Stalker
The six predatory stalkers in Mullen’s study admitted to preparing to sexually attack a random victim. This type derives pleasure from gathering information about the target and fantasizing about the assault. They often have prior convictions as sexual deviants.
Why Classify Stalkers?
These five categories are, by no means, agreed on by all experts on obsession and stalking. Those engaging in stalking behaviors can have a variety on backgrounds, motivations and mental illnesses. Still, attempts at some type of classification can be useful. A better understanding of different types of stalking behavior may help victims better protect themselves, assist law enforcement in profiling and capturing stalkers and also aid mental health and legal systems in assessing the risk of recidivism and likelihood of rehabilitation.
Too often victims do not fully appreciate the true danger of being stalked, and this can be a fatal mistake. If you feel uncomfortable with the repeated advances, gifts or communications of an “admirer,” trust your instincts, and err on the side of caution.
This article is a summary of merely a fraction of the information available on stalking. Become familiar with federal and state stalking laws, stalking statistics, and the many resources available to assist and protect stalking victims, such as the National Center for Victims of Crime (800) 394-2255 and the Stalking Resource Center.
Additional Stalking Resources
Douglas, J, and Olshaker, M. Obsession. Published by Scribner (1998)