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Adam Lanza, killer of 20 children and seven adults, including his mother, is a mass murderer – he murdered a large number of people in a short time in one place. He then committed suicide in a classroom.Ending your life or having the police shoot you dead is often part of the mass murderer’s plan – as opposed to the serial killer who usually tries to escape the police and kills repeatedly, not in a single strike.
Mass murderers are not, according to statistics, mentally ill in the psychiatric sense. That is to say they are not living outside reality.
Serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are the source of disordered behaviours. Whereas a mass shooting requires organisation, preparation, being able to acquire and make proper use of a gun as well as defining a strategy to gain access to the site.
The reason why they are commonly labelled as insane is because they are not perceived as normal people, given their personality and character disorders. Actually, statistically mass murderers possess some common characteristics.
The most common characteristics are social isolation, introversion, withdrawal and a relative deficit in social skills and relationships. At the same time, signs of paranoia can also be observed. These people often believe that people are after them, bullying them or ignoring them.
These features of course do not make someone a murderer. For a person to commit an act as extreme as mass murder, these characteristics have to be very intense. On top of the paranoid behaviour, there is also megalomania and self-centeredness.