Neurological correlates of aggressive, hostile-type stalking: the cognitive inflexibility and source memory impairment of OCD topped off with a lack of self awareness.
I didn’t realize January is National Stalking Awareness Month assuming HR Resolution 46 (January 2009) is passed:
Whereas an estimated 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the United States and, in the majority of such cases, the person is stalked by someone who is not a stranger;
Whereas 81 percent of women, who are stalked by an intimate partner, are also physically assaulted by that partner, and 76 percent of women, who are killed by an intimate partner, were also stalked by that intimate partner;
Whereas 74.2 percent of stalking victims reported that the stalking partner interfered with their employment, 26 percent of stalking victims lose time from work as a result of their victimization, and 7 percent never return to work;
Whereas stalking victims are forced to take drastic measures to protect themselves, such as relocating, changing their addresses, changing their identities, changing jobs, and obtaining protection orders;
Whereas stalking is a crime that cuts across race, culture, gender, age, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, and economic status;
Whereas stalking is a crime under Federal law and under the laws of all 50 States and the District of Columbia;
Whereas rapid advancements in technology have made cyber-surveillance the new frontier in stalking;
Whereas there are national organizations, local victim service organizations, prosecutors’ offices, and police departments that stand ready to assist stalking victims and who are working diligently to craft competent, thorough, and innovative responses to stalking;
Whereas there is a need to enhance the criminal justice system’s response to stalking and stalking victims, including aggressive investigation and prosecution; and Whereas the House of Representatives urges the establishment of January 2009 as National Stalking Awareness Month. . .
So, why do stalkers stalk? In the national Stalking Victimization Study, victims were asked about a presumed motivation for their stalkers (Table 6). Out of 3,416,460 victims:
- 36.6% said stalker’s motivation was “Retaliation/anger/spite”
- 32.9% said “Control”
- 23.4% said “mentally ill/emotionally unstable”.
So. . . again, why do stalkers stalk — what is this psychopathology?
First, here’s the law enforcement guidelines for “stalking”
Stalking can be defined as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
It is a course of conduct that can include:
- Repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications from the perpetrator by phone, mail, and/or email
- Repeatedly leaving or sending victim unwanted items, presents, or flowers
- Following or laying in wait for the victim at places such as home, school, work, or recreation place
- Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim’s children, relatives, friends, or pets.
- Damaging or threatening to damage the victim’s property
- Harassing victim through the internet
- Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth
- Obtaining personal information about the victim by accessing public records, using internet search services, hiring private investigators, going through the victim’s garbage, following the victim, contacting victim’s friends, family work, or neighbors, etc.
Source: Stalking Resource Center, National Center for Victims of Crime
Fear and intimidation as a means of unleashing vindictive aggressive hostility is probably pretty common. Here’s an instructive article about a Harvard educated lawyer stalked and murdered by an ex. Tragically, this is only one of thousands and thousands and thousands of stories ending in murder of the victim. This woman even worked for a time in a public defender’s office defending domestic violence defendants – she knew the system. She had gotten a protective order against her stalker at the time of her murder. Apparently she had moved across the country, to Seattle, left the law, and got a gig at Microsoft working on gaming to avoid this guy. No matter; he followed her, shot her to death in a parking lot, and then killed himself. (If you go to the link, read the comments. Very scary.)
Putting all of this together, aggressive, hostility-based stalking seems like a deficit in the parietal region, associated with a sense of self as well as self-referential memories. This, combined with a particularly malignant form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (“OCD”). This is just a preliminary connect-the-dots. Finding research is tough — there are no brain scans of stalkers, and the shrinks with behavioral profiles don’t seem to be talking to the imaging departments:
1. Cognitive inflexibility: similar to those with OCD, the fronto-striatal loop seems to be stuck: stalkers so objectify the targets that beyond mere “obsession”, there is a compulsive need to “complete” the stalking.
2. Impairment of “source memory” (memory of where or from whom you learned something): People with OCD have impaired source memory functioning. If you can’t remember who told you something, then no one has credibility, I suppose, and you sort of re-write history to suit your current state of funk. Source memory is pulled out of the right inferior parietal region – an area associated with a sense of “self”.
3. Lack of perspective taking: Stalkers don’t see things from the victim’s point of view. This much is apparent from behavior: they plainly screw things up. If you want a romantic interest to return, you don’t harass them. Why would someone want to be around the person who harasses and intimidates them? I asked a rage-a-holic this once — “What do you think other people think of you when you rage at them?” and this person went stone silent. Stumped. I don’t think this had occurred to them. I dunno, but seems like a theory of mind deficit, found in the fronto-parietal loop. (That link is an interesting study — putting a transcranial magnet by the brain regions involved in theory-of-mind results in subjects have a tough time figuring out stories about what other people are thinking).
Is anyone out there a stalker? Why do/did you stalk? Why did you stop or is there anything your victim can do to convince you to stop? Was the fear you instilled in your victim satisfactory to you, and in what way? Are you diagnosed with a clinical condition or on psych meds?
I’m serious. What is your thought process?
I don’t expect anyone will answer.
Here’s John Lennon, “Jealous Guy”: