Perspectives on Terrorism is an initiative of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. Visit website
VOL. IX, Issue 2

Behavioral Problems and Disorders among Radicals in Police Files

In this article we explore to what extent behavioral problems and disorders can be found in a sample of radical Islamists that are known to the police in the Netherlands as actual or potential ‘jihadists’. Our aims are, first, to assess whether the consensus in terrorism studies that terrorists are ‘surprisingly normal’ is justified when it comes to these subjects; second, we try to establish whether behavioral histories offer clues to the police on how to approach them. Personal details of 140 subjects, who are considered to have traveled from the Netherlands to Syria, or on whom police had information that they might be preparing to do so, were entered in police databases. Preliminary results indicate that individuals with histories of behavioral problems and disorders are overrepresented. The results are at odds with the consensus view on terrorists alleged ‘normality’. A focus on individual psychology could complement existing social-psychological approaches to radicalization. It may also assist in broadening awareness among policy makers and law enforcement officials that disengagement efforts need to be tailored to the individual, and that mental health specialists might have to play a role here.

About ICCT

The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) is a think-and-do tank based in The Hague, Netherlands. We provide research, policy advice, training and other solutions to support better counter-terrorism policies and practices worldwide. We also contribute to the scientific and publi.…