Antisocial Personality Disorder
Antisocial personality disorder is a psychiatric condition that causes an ongoing pattern of manipulating others and violating their rights. People with this disorder do not follow society’s norms and often break the law. It is characteristic for people with this diagnosis to be entirely careless about other people's feelings and pain. They also show a pervasive pattern of no regret, together with irresponsible decisions.
Seeking treatment is important not only to help the person with the disorder, but also to protect other people who may be affected by the person’s behavior.
This disorder is caused by a combination of genetic factors and the person’s environment, especially the family environment. Researchers believe that biological factors may contribute, such as abnormal chemistry in the nervous system and impairment in the parts of the brain that affect judgment, decision-making, planning, and impulsive and aggressive behavior.
Antisocial personality disorder is more common in men. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing antisocial personality disorder include:
- History of conduct disorder as a child
- Family history of the disorder
- History of abuse or neglect
- Paternal antisocial behavior
- Family dysfunction
- Parental inconsistency
Antisocial personality disorder may cause:
- Repeated law breaking
- Deceitfulness, repeated lying
- Irritability and aggression
- Disregard for safety of oneself or others
- Irresponsibility regarding work, family, or finances
- Lack of guilt over hurting others
- Inability to feel sympathy or empathy for others
- Lack of concern for consequences of actions/behavior
- Inability to learn from experience or change behavior based on past outcomes or predicted future outcomes
- Bullying or cruelty to animals and/or other humans
- Destruction of property
To be diagnosed with the disorder, a person must be at least 18 years old, but have had symptoms of conduct disorder before age 15.
Diagnosis, usually made by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional, is based on symptoms and medical and mental health history. There are no laboratory tests to help diagnose this disorder. A complete psychiatric assessment is important to determine how severe the disorder is and whether there are any other contributing disorders, such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety disorders, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
People with antisocial personality disorder often do not admit they have a problem that should be treated. They may need encouragement from others or treatment to be mandated by a court.
This disorder can be difficult to treat. Treatment may be complicated by other conditions, especially substance abuse. However, these other disorders may be easier to treat than antisocial personality disorder. Treating them may improve overall health and functioning.
Different kinds of psychotherapy are used with antisocial personality disorder. Group therapy can be useful in helping people learn how to interact better with others. Cognitive behavioral therapy and behavior modification can help change problematic patterns of thinking and encourage positive behaviors.
Medications may be used to help control symptoms such as irritability or control associated psychological conditions. In general, medications that are likely to be abused are usually avoided because people with this disorder also often have substance abuse problems.
With or without treatment, rates of imprisonment and violent death are high among those with antisocial personality disorder. Antisocial personality disorder is a chronic condition. However, some symptoms, especially criminal behavior, may decrease slowly on their own with age.
There are no current guidelines to prevent antisocial personality disorder. However, children with conduct disorder or other behavior problems should receive proper therapy. Treating it earlier in life may help prevent it from becoming worse.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Mental Health Canada
Antisocial personality disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 1, 2013. Accessed November 11, 2014.
Daghestani AN, Dinwiddie MD, et al. Antisocial personality disorder in and out of correctional and forensic settings. Psychiatric Annals. 2001;31(7):441-446.
Markovitz PJ. Recent trends in the pharmacotherapy of personality disorders. J Pers Disord. 2004;18(1):90-101.
Personality disorders. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric_disorders/personality_disorders/personality_disorders.html. Updated May 2012. Accessed November 11, 2014.
Sher KJ, Trull TJ. Substance use disorder and personality disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2002;4:25-29.
Last reviewed November 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.