Antisocial personality disorder, also called sociopathy, is a mental illness characterized by having no regard for other people’s well-being. They will ignore the rights and feelings of other people and are typically unable to truly empathize. They also will not show any sort of guilt or remorse for their behavior.
People suffering from antisocial personality disorder do not have a very strong moral compass, nor do they have much of a conscience either. They may find themselves entrapped in legal issues, engaging in crimes, as well as behaving aggressively toward others. This disorder is classified as a cluster B (dramatic) personality disorder and sits alongside borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.
People who suffer from antisocial personality disorder are often referred to as being sociopaths who are unable to harmoniously function in society. Their lack of empathy toward others makes it extremely difficult to virtually impossible for them to handle the many stresses in life with an equanimous mindset, while respecting their fellow humans.
Antisocial personality disorder is very different than social anxiety disorder as these two mental illnesses tend to be used synonymously. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by feelings of intense anxiety when around other people or large groups of people. They are typically extremely judgmental of themselves and are very fearful when in the presence of strangers (e.g. cashiers, coworkers, etc.). Someone with antisocial personality disorder is not overly concerned with other people’s opinions of themselves and is unable to feel empathy.
Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder
Someone with this disorder will likely have no problem exploiting or manipulating someone else for their own gain. They are also typically very witty and charming. They will often use these characteristics to their advantage to successfully deceive and manipulate people. They may also be very arrogant, think lowly of others, and have no remorse for their actions, regardless of how much pain they cause someone.
People with antisocial personality disorder may be very impulsive and reckless. They may find themselves being in trouble with the law quite often. Another very pertinent symptom of this disorder is irresponsibility. For example, they may find it extremely difficult to keep a job or to pay rent on time. They are also more likely to abuse drugs and may be more prone to addiction.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of antisocial personality disorder:
- Lack of empathy for others
- No conscience
- Disregard for right or wrong
- arrogance and very opinionated
- Using charm to manipulate others
- Abusive relationships
- Impulsive behavior
- Recurring problems with the law
- Hostility and aggressiveness
- Financially irresponsible
- Unnecessary risk taker
Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder
The exact cause of antisocial personality disorder is not entirely understood. However, genetics and one’s environment may play a very significant role. So, someone with a family history of mental illness, especially personality disorders, may have an increased chance of developing this condition. This is especially the case if they were to also endure some sort of traumatic event. So, it is important to look closely at these two different variables to see why someone may have developed antisocial personality disorder.
Diagnostic Criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder
According to the DSM-5:
The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits. To diagnose antisocial personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:
A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Ego-centrism; self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure.
b. Self-direction: Goal-setting based on personal gratification; absence of prosocial internal standards associated with failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behavior.
2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Lack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others; lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another.
b. Intimacy: Incapacity for mutually intimate relationships, as exploitation is a primary means of relating to others, including by deceit and coercion; use of dominance or intimidation to control others.
B. Pathological personality traits in the following domains:
1. Antagonism, characterized by:
a. Manipulativeness: Frequent use of subterfuge to influence or control others; use of seduction, charm, glibness, or ingratiation to achieve one’s ends.
b. Deceitfulness: Dishonesty and fraudulence; misrepresentation of self; embellishment or fabrication when relating events.
c. Callousness: Lack of concern for feelings or problems of others; lack of guilt or remorse about the negative or harmful effects of one’s actions on others; aggression; sadism.
d. Hostility: Persistent or frequent angry feelings; anger or irritability in response to minor slights and insults; mean, nasty, or vengeful behavior.
2. Disinhibition, characterized by:
a. Irresponsibility: Disregard for – and failure to honor – financial and other obligations or commitments; lack of respect for – and lack of follow through on agreements and promises.
b. Impulsivity: Acting on the spur of the moment in response to immediate stimuli; acting on a momentary basis without a plan or consideration of outcomes; difficulty establishing and following plans.
c. Risk taking: Engagement in dangerous, risky, and potentially self-damaging activities, unnecessarily and without regard for consequences; boredom proneness and thoughtless initiation of activities to counter boredom; lack of concern for one’s limitations and denial of the reality of personal danger.
C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.
D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or sociocultural environment.
E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).
F. The individual is at least age 18 years.
Antisocial Personality Disorder Treatment
People suffering from antisocial personality disorder may not seek out help as they will often believe there is nothing wrong with them. This illness is often considered to be one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat. Medications are typically not very effective at treating this condition. However, psychotherapy (aka talk therapy) may be able to help someone suffering with this condition. If you think you may have antisocial personality disorder, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated.