Antisocial Personality Disorder: A Complex Life

By CareerSmart Learning Contributor, November 5, 2016, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot


The term “Antisocial Personality Disorder” is misleading in its simplicity. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) conjures images of a person sitting alone in their home, primarily because they don’t want to interact with others. But ASPD is so much more than that and infinitely more complex. ASPD, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders, fifth edition, is “…a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood” (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). It is a mental condition that is characterized by lack of empathy and emotions and disregard for right and wrong. The characteristics of the disorder make it difficult to fulfill the responsibilities of work, family, and other areas of life (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016). While many people refer to ASPD as ‘sociopathy’ or ‘psychopathy,’ these terms are not professionally used for diagnosing purposes (Bressert, 2016). 

Diagnostic criterion for ASPD include 1) being at least 18 years of age, 2) having had evidence of some conduct disorder as a child or pattern of antisocial behavior since the age of 15, 3) antisocial behavior that does not occur in the context of a schizophrenic or bipolar manic episode, and 4) must consist of one of the following seven features (Bressert, 2016):

  • Failure to obey laws and confirm to social norms
  • Deception, lying, and manipulation for self-amusement
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Disregard for the safety of oneself or others
  • A pattern of irresponsibility
  • Lack of remorse for actions

The exact cause of ASPD is not known, but like many mental health issues, genetics and environmental factors contribute to its development (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016). It is 70 percent more common in males than females (Bressert, 2016). Unlike many mental health diagnoses, ASPD has no medication available for treatment. Psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for ASPD; however, people with ASPD are only likely to seek treatment when pressured by family.  Psychotherapy treatment for those with ASPD is often problematic because manipulative behavior is one of the core characteristics of the disorder. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as possible consequences of ASPD: homicidal and suicidal behaviors, gang participation, being sent to prison, and premature death related to violence (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016). 

Seeking early treatment of ASPD can lead to better long-term outcomes for people with the disorder (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016). One person who was diagnosed with ASPD discussed their experience in an article with Business Insider (Anonymous, 2014). The anonymous author stated that the treatment they received taught them the appropriate emotions to display under different circumstances, preparing them to appear more normal in work and social engagements. While the treatment did not cure the author’s ASPD, they did feel capable of living a life filled with work, friends, and freedom (Anonymous, 2014).


National Institute of Mental Health. Antisocial Personality Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/antisocial-personality-disorder.shtml

Bressert, Steve, Ph.D. Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms. July 17, 2016. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/antisocial-personality-disorder-symptoms/

Mayo Clinic Staff.  (2016).  Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Mayo Clinic.  Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/home/ovc-20198975

Anonymous.  (2014).  Here’s What It’s Like to Have the Mental Illness Associated with Psychopaths.  Business Insider.  Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/what-its-like-to-have-antisocial-personality-disorder-2014-4

November 5, 2016

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