Violent true believer

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A violent true believer (VTB) is an individual dedicated to an ideology or belief system advocating homicide and suicide as legitimate means of advancing a particular cause. Such persons are strongly committed to their beliefs, completely ignoring any objections and alternative views. Suicide is not necessary to define a VTB. Violent true believers commonly interact with others who share their opinions, but can also be lone wolves.[1]

The term violent true believer was coined by forensic psychiatrist Dr. J. Reid Meloy, who has described several categories of such individuals and their motivation.[2] The traits and possible disorders of VTBs are described in diagnostic systems DSM-IV and ICD-10 F, but VTB is not a medical diagnosis in itself — the term is used in the fields of forensic psychology and criminology.


  • UnwaveringRigid believers of a political, religious or social cause. May, but not necessarily, be intelligent, aggressive, narcissist or paranoid. This is the most ideologically pure type, and may lead a life of devotion and asceticism to the cause. However, this type prefers to have others participate directly in the violence given his commands.
  • Affiliative – Primarily followers of an authority figure or group. They are typically anxious and dependent, and are most focused upon being accepted by the group.
  • Criminal – Action-oriented rather than motivated by beliefs or views. Criminal VTBs are rarely suicidal, as they tend to kill or commit acts of violence for its own sake. In extreme cases this individual type may be severely psychopathic.
  • Psychotic – Suffering of major mental disorders, typically prone to delusions and paranoia. Although their thinking may be zealous and rigid, their behavior can appear irrational and unpredictable. Psychotic individuals cope poorly with stress, and the psychotic VTB may actually break down in front of an impending crime.
  • Opportunistic – typical narcissistic individuals, whose cause is primarily themselves and the ideological or religious cause becomes secondary.
  • Betrayer – the passive-aggressive type who knows whom he wants to betray, but does not want to be involved in any direct confrontation.
  • Fledgling – The adolescent type who may evolve into any of the other six types. His violent true beliefs are usually a product of personal suffering and/or intensive teaching or programming by adults within the belief system.


See also


  • Meloy, JR. (2004). Indirect personality assessment of the violent true believer. J Personality Assessment, 82. 138-146
  1. J. Reid Meloy, Kris Mohandie, Anthony Hempel, Andrew Shiva (2001). "The Violent True Believer: Homicidal and Suicidal States of Mind (HASSOM)" (PDF). Journal of Threat Assessment (Haworth Press) 1 (4): 1–14. Template:Citation error. ISSN 1533-2608. Retrieved 5 August 2011. 
  2. J. Reid Meloy (13 July 2011). "Perspective: Violent True Believers". FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (July 2011). ISSN 0014-5688. Retrieved 5 August 2011.