Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of a disregard for other people's rights, often crossing the line and violating those rights. It usually begins in childhood or as a teen and continues into their adult lives.
Antisocial personality disorder is often referred to as psychopathy or sociopathy in popular culture.
Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder frequently lack empathy and tend to be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others. They may have an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal (e.g., feel that ordinary work is beneath them or lack a realistic concern about their current problems or their future) and may be excessively opinionated, self-assured, or cocky. They may display a glib, superficial charm and can be quite voluble and verbally facile (e.g., using technical terms or jargon that might impress someone who is unfamiliar with the topic). Lack of empathy, inflated self-appraisal, and superficial charm are features that have been commonly included in traditional conceptions of psychopathy and may be particularly distinguishing of Antisocial Personality Disorder in prison or forensic settings where criminal, delinquent, or aggressive acts are likely to be nonspecific. These individuals may also be irresponsible and exploitative in their sexual relationships.
Antisocial personality disorder is diagnosed when a person's pattern of antisocial behavior has occurred since age 15 (although only adults 18 years or older can be diagnosed with this disorder) and consists of the majority of these symptoms:
As with all personality disorders, the person must be at least 18 years old before they can be diagnosed with it. There should also be evidence of Conduct Disorder in the individual as a child, whether or not it was ever formally diagnosed by a professional.
Antisocial personality disorder is more prevalent in males (3 percent) versus females (1 percent) in the general population.
Like most personality disorders, antisocial personality disorder typically will decrease in intensity with age, with many people experiencing few of the most extreme symptoms by the time they are in the 40s or 50s.
Personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder are typically diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Family physicians and general practitioners are generally not trained or well-equipped to make this type of psychological diagnosis. So while you can initially consult a family physician about this problem, they should refer you to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. There are no laboratory, blood or genetic tests that are used to diagnose antisocial personality disorder.
Many people with antisocial personality disorder don't seek out treatment. People with personality disorders, in general, do not often seek out treatment until the disorder starts to significantly interfere or otherwise impact a person's life. This most often happens when a person's coping resources are stretched too thin to deal with stress or other life events.
A diagnosis for antisocial personality disorder is made by a mental health professional comparing your symptoms and life history with those listed here. They will make a determination whether your symptoms meet the criteria necessary for a personality disorder diagnosis.
Researchers today don't know what causes antisocial personality disorder. There are many theories, however, about the possible causes of antisocial personality disorder. Most professionals subscribe to a biopsychosocial model of causation -- that is, the causes of are likely due to biological and genetic factors, social factors (such as how a person interacts in their early development with their family and friends and other children), and psychological factors (the individual's personality and temperament, shaped by their environment and learned coping skills to deal with stress). This suggests that no single factor is responsible -- rather, it is the complex and likely intertwined nature of all three factors that are important. If a person has this personality disorder, research suggests that there is a slightly increased risk for this disorder to be "passed down" to their children.
Treatment of antisocial personality disorder typically involves long-term psychotherapy with a therapist that has experience in treating this kind of personality disorder. Medications may also be prescribed to help with specific troubling and debilitating symptoms. For more information about treatment, please see antisocial personality disorder treatment.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Jun 2010
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.