Antisocial Personality Disorder


Antisocial Personality Disorder is the name of a Personality Disorder that is characterised by a long term pattern of disregard of others, a history of crime, impulsive and aggressive behaviour. The disorder is part of the ‘Dramatic, Emotional and Erratic’ cluster of personality disorders. Antisocial personality disorder is often associated with psychopathy and sociopathy – with an overlap exhibited. This article provides a general look at this disorder.


People with this disorder typically have several run-ins with law enforcement



A person with Antisocial Personality Disorder will typically:

  • Have a complete disregard for morals and social norms.
  • Not respect the rights and feelings of others.
  • Happily exploit others for their own gain.
  • Be arrogant.
  • Lack remorse for harmful actions.
  • Be irresponsible.
  • Exhibit impulsive and reckless behaviour.
  • They will often suffer from substance abuse or addiction.
  • Have a criminal record.
  • Have problems in making friends.
  • Behave in a manner which offends or is unpleasant for others.
  • Get bored easily.
  • Behave aggressively.
  • Have been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder as a youth.



It is not entirely known what causes Antisocial personality disorder. It is believed a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to its onset. Individuals who have a parent who has the disorder or is an addict are more at risk of developing the disorder. Children can easily act in the same way an adult does – and therefore witnessing antisocial behaviour can be damaging. Certain genes have been shown to be involved with the disorder. Neglect or other maltreatment during childhood can also lead to its onset. Traumatic events can also contribute to the disorder. Some chemicals in the brain can become unbalanced by such events, which again can cause the disorder. Cruelty to animals during childhood is often a sign of the development of the disorder. More males are diagnosed than females.



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If you suspect you have a personality disorder, it is generally advisable to see your GP. It is likely that they will refer you to a specialist. This specialist will perform a diagnosis – which will involve asking you several questions about your condition and the impact it has had on your life. Generally, the clinician will use guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association to confirm a diagnosis. There has been some controversy over its suitability for making a diagnosis. The guidelines state a diagnosis can be made if:


  • The individual has a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others – occurring since the age of 15 years, is at least 18, had conduct disorder as a teenager and has not got Schizophrenia. AND at least three of the following:


  1. The individual fails to conform to social norms in terms of abiding by the law as opposed to acting in a way that are grounds for arrest.
  2. They frequently deceive others. This is often achieved by lying, using aliases or conning others.
  3. Exhibit impulsivity – and not planning ahead.
  4. Are irritable and very aggressive – indicated by involvement in physical fights or assaults.
  5. Have a reckless disregard for the safety of others or their self.
  6. Are irresponsible consistently – such as failing to maintain a job or honour financial obligations.
  7. Has a lack of remorse, including being indifferent to hurting or mistreating someone.


Source: American Psychiatric Association (2000). “Diagnostic criteria for 301.7 Antisocial Personality Disorder”. BehaveNet. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Retrieved 8 July 2013.



Antisocial Personality Disorder is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat. As individuals with this disorder don’t tend to have remorse, it can make it difficult for the individual to see the consequences to others of their antisocial actions. Even in cases where the individual appears to be committed to therapy, they can sometimes be manipulating clinicians and family into believing this. Many people with this disorder are imprisoned. Therefore, the justice system is responsible for treatment for many people – as part of an individual’s imprisonment. However, success rates are low – especially due to the aggressive and antisocial attitude of an individual with the disorder. There is no medication licensed to treat this disorder. However, traits such as aggressiveness and impulsiveness can be managed – usually by an antipsychoticantidepressant or mood stabiliser.



Other Personality Disorders: