Antisocial personality disorder is a particularly challenging type of personality disorder, characterised by impulsive, irresponsible and often criminal behaviour. Someone with antisocial personality disorder will typically be manipulative, reckless and not care for other people’s feelings. However, like other personality disorders, the disorder is on a spectrum – so it can range in severity from occasional bad behaviour, to repeatedly breaking the law and committing serious crimes. Psychopaths are considered to have a severe form of antisocial personality disorder.
What are the signs of antisocial personality disorder?
Someone with antisocial personality disorder may:
- exploit, manipulate or violate the rights of others (they can be good at flattery and turn on the charm)
- lack concern, regret or remorse about other people’s distress
- behave irresponsibly and show disregard for normal social behaviour
- have difficulty sustaining long-term relationships
- not be able to control their anger
- lack guilt, or not learn from their mistakes
- blame others for problems in their lives
- break the law repeatedly
As children they may have displayed ruthless and immoral behaviour, such as cruelty to animals and starting fires. A diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is made after a psychological assessment. It can only be made if the person is aged at least 18 and at least three of the following apply:
- repeatedly breaking the law
- repeatedly being deceitful
- being impulsive or incapable of planning ahead
- being irritable and aggressive
- having a reckless disregard for their safety or the safety of others
- being consistently irresponsible
- lack of remorse
These signs must not be part of a schizophrenic or manic episode – rather they are part of that person’s everyday personality. This behaviour becomes most extreme and challenging during the late teens and early 20s, and may improve by the time the person reaches their 40s.
Who is at risk?
Antisocial personality disorder affects far more men than women. It’s not known why some people develop antisocial personality disorder, but both genetics and traumatic childhood experiences (such as child abuse or neglect) are believed to play a role. Someone with antisocial personality disorder will typically have an antisocial or alcoholic parent, and will have grown up with harsh, inconsistent parenting.
What are the risks associated with the condition?
There’s a high risk that someone with antisocial personality disorder will commit crimes and be imprisoned at some point in their life. Men with antisocial personality disorder have been found to be three to five times more likely to abuse alcohol and misuse drugs than those without the disorder, and are at high risk of accidentally injuring themselves or committing suicide. Many will be unemployed and/or homeless.