Bateman comes from a wealthy family. His parents have a home on Long Island, and he mentions a summer home in Newport. His parents divorced sometime earlier, while his mother became sick and now resides at a sanatorium. His father, who first appeared in the preceding novel The Rules of Attraction, grew up on an estate in Connecticut, and now owns an apartment in the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, although he was apparently dying in the previous novel and, unlike his ex-wife, is mentioned only in past tense during the novel. His younger brother Sean attends Camden College (and is the protagonist of The Rules of Attraction) where he loses his toe on many an occasion. Bateman attended Phillips Exeter Academy for prep school. He graduated from Harvard University in 1984, and Harvard Business School two years later and moved to New York City.
While on the surface, Bateman seems to be the embodiment of the suave, attractive and successful businessman, he appears to loathe himself as much as he does everyone else; he kills many of his victims because they make him feel inadequate, usually by having better taste than he does. His friends mock him as the "boy next door", his own lawyer refers to him as a "bloody ass-kisser... a brown-nosing goody-goody", and he is often dismissed as "yuppie trash" by people outside of his social circle.
Bateman often expresses doubts regarding his own sanity, and he has periodic attacks of psychosis, during which he hallucinates. He often experiences feelings of depersonalization. In his own words, "...though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel my flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I am simply not there." Although Bateman often claims that he is devoid of emotion, he also describes experiencing moments or periods of extreme rage, panic or grief, often over trivial inconveniences such as not being able to get a good table at a restaurant. In the middle of dismembering a victim, he breaks down, sobbing that he "just wants to be loved." To get these attacks under control he takes psychotropics, like Xanax.
Bateman compensates for these inabilities and insecurities through obsessive vanity and personal grooming, with unwavering attention to detail. He dresses in and uses the most fashionable, expensive clothing and accessories possible (e.g. Valentino suits, Oliver Peoples glasses and Jean Paul Gaultier overnight bags) as a means of affecting some "control" over his otherwise chaotic life. Likewise, he categorizes people by what they wear and how they look because they are more easily "understood" in terms of labels and stereotypes. Bateman's apartment also is firmly controlled in terms of look and taste, with the latest music, food, and paintings.
Bateman does not fit the "typical" profile of a serial killer, as he kills more or less indiscriminately, with no preferred type of victim and no consistent or preferred method of killing. Throughout the novel, he kills men, women, a child, and animals. He kills women mostly for sadistic sexual pleasure, often during or just after sex, and is also a prolific rapist. He kills men because they anger or annoy him, and the child just to see if he would enjoy it (which he doesn't).
Periodically, he matter-of-factly confesses his crimes to his friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers ("I like to dissect girls; do you know I'm utterly insane?") just to see if they are actually listening to him. They either are not, or think he is joking. In the climactic scene, he calls his lawyer and leaves a lengthy, detailed message confessing all of his crimes. He later runs into his lawyer, who mistakes him for someone else and dismisses the confession as a hilarious joke. Bateman is never arrested or even suspected for the enormous number of murders he commits.
Bateman also appeared in the American Psycho 2000 e-mails (transcribed here), which were written as an advertisement campaign for the movie. Although they are often mistakenly credited to Ellis, they were actually written by one or more unnamed author(s) and approved by Ellis before being sent out. American Psycho 2000 served as a sort of "e-quel" to the original novel. The e-mails take place in 2000, a little over a decade since the novel. Bateman is in therapy with a Dr. M. He is also married to Jean, his former secretary. They have a son, Patrick Bateman Jr. (P.B.), who is eight years old. In the story, Bateman talks about therapy, trying to get a divorce from Jean, his renewed feelings about murder, and idolizing his son. In the end it is revealed that the 'real' Bateman who 'writes' the e-mails, is the owner of the company that produces the movie.
Bateman appeared in Ellis' 2005 novel Lunar Park, in which Ellis confesses that writing American Psycho felt like channeling the words of a violent spirit rather than writing anything himself. This ghost — Bateman — haunts Ellis' McMansion. A character also comes to Ellis' Halloween party dressed as Patrick Bateman. Toward the novel's end, Ellis writes the 'last' Bateman story as a way of confronting and controlling the character, as well as the issues Ellis created Bateman as a means of countering. Bateman, for all intents and purposes, dies in a fire on a boat dock.
Patrick Bateman briefly appears in the Anno Dracula story "Andy Warhol's Dracula: Anno Dracula 1978-1979".
Most recently, "Patrick Bateman M.D." was used as an alias by Dexter Morgan, the protagonist of Showtime's Dexter, whenever he had to order the strong animal tranquilizer he uses in his murders. According to Dexter, the reason for choosing the name was because it sounded, "So wholesome, so inconspicuous".
Patrick Bateman was credited as a character in the 2006 film Broken directed by Simon Boyes and Adam Mason, but the character never actually appeared in the movie. During the directors' audio commentary, Boyes and Mason state that they had simply made up many of the ending credits for their own amusement, and the Bateman credit was one of them.
Scenes with the character were shot for the 2002 film adaptation of The Rules of Attraction. Ellis revealed in an interview that director Roger Avary asked Bale to reprise the role, but Bale turned down the offer, and Avary asked Ellis himself to portray Bateman. Ellis refused, stating that he "thought it was such a terrible and gimmicky idea", and Avary eventually shot the scenes with Casper Van Dien. The scenes, however, were ultimately cut from the final version of the film.