Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder is a personality disorder that is defined in the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychologists to define and categories various conditions) as ‘a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood’.

This is a term then that is used to describe multiple different forms of personality disorder, and in the DSM-IV both sociopathy and psychopathy and in some cases all three terms can be used synonymously though they are not in fact identical. Despite views of psychopathy and sociopathy, most cases of ASPD are not in fact violent or aggressive unless provoked and their antisocial behavior tends to be more subtle and manipulative in nature.


Diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is based on the observation of several specific symptoms. These include:

• Failure to conform to social norms

• Deception and manipulation

• Chronic and compulsive lying

• Conning

• Impulsiveness and lack of planning (particularly in the case of sociopathy)

• Disregard for the safety of others

• Shallow emotion

• Often ability to mimic normal social behavior – often the ability to act charismatic and charming outwardly

• High IQ (in many cases)

• Irresponsibility – usually with no long term work or relationships and with an inability to fulfill financial obligations

• Easily board and requires constant stimulation

• Lack of remorse or empathy

• Narcissism (self-love and admiration)

• Delusions of grandeur

• Paranoia

• Ability to rationalize destructive and hurtful behavior

Some psychologists have argued for the use of further sub categories, such as Millon’s subtypes. These subtypes are: covetous antisocial (acting out as a result of the feeling that they have had a ‘raw’ deal from life), reputation-defending antisocial (often with narcissistic tendencies), risk-taking-antisocial, nomadic antisocial (including schizoid and paranoid features), malevolent antisocial (with sadistic features). As mentioned as well, psychopathy and sociopathy are often seen as subsets of antisocial personality disorder.


Often those with antisocial personality disorder will be manipulative, superficially charming, but ultimately vindictive and self-serving. They think nothing of manipulating and abusing others to get ahead and will not feel any sense of empathy or remorse for those that they hurt. This means they often have very few people that they are close to or that they form relationships with, and those relationships they do form will tend to be abusive (psychologically) in nature.

Those with ASPD will often find themselves on the fringes of society, and with littler interest in holding down a job or relationship. They will often be in debt as a result of risk taking behavior and lack of responsibility. However in some cases people with antisocial personality disorder will find that their high self-view and willingness to get one over on the opposition helps them to get into positions of power or success and become business executives or politicians. In these cases they may be very wealthy, but are still unlikely to conform to convention and will be unlikely to have relationships or commitments outside of their job roles. It is believed that many people who are in positions or power or success, actually suffer from the related condition psychopathy.

The ASPD individual will have had brush with the law, but will not necessarily be criminal – though a high proportion (around 47%) of prisoners show symptoms of ASPD. Signs of ASPD will have usually formulated early in life (children may have shown the MacDonald’s Trinity of bed wetting, torturing animals and fire setting – this is also known as the ‘triad of sociopathy’). Despite all this they are likely to be highly charming and ‘normal seeming’ when spoken to. Roughly 3% of the male population suffer from ASPD, and only 1% of the female population.

There is no cure for ASPD, and the causes are not fully understood. The causes of antisocial behavior are both genetic and environmental. For diagnoses the patient must be 18 years of age or older, but the condition tends to begin in childhood.

1 comment

  1. S stuart Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Fascinating. A couple of spelling mistakes though.

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