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Antisocial Personality Disorder - Psychiatric Conditions Facts and Information

  • Date: 2010/07/22 (Rev. 2016/10/14)
  • Thomas C. Weiss - Disabled World
  • Synopsis : Antisocial personality disorder involves psychiatric conditions where a person demonstrates a pattern of exploiting manipulating or violating the rights of others.

Main Document

Personality disorders in general involve long-term or chronic patterns of behaviors or relationships which interfere with a person's life over a period of a number of years.

Defining Antisocial Personality Disorder

The person's behavior is many times criminal in nature, and people affected by the disorder do not follow social norms, often breaking laws. Those affected by antisocial personality disorder are commonly entirely careless about other people's feeling or pain, demonstrating a consistent lack of remorse combined with irresponsible decision-making.

Males more commonly experience antisocial personality disorder than females. In order to be diagnosed with the disorder, a person must be at least eighteen years of age, yet have presented symptoms of conduct disorder prior to the age of fifteen. Symptoms of conduct disorder include destruction of property, aggression towards either people or animals, theft, deceitfulness, and serious breaking of rules. It is important for persons affected by the disorder to seek treatment, not only to help the person, but also to protect others in society who might be affected by the person's behavior or actions.

Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Personality disorders in general involve long-term or chronic patterns of behaviors or relationships which interfere with a person's life over a period of a number of years. The cause of antisocial personality disorder itself is unknown at this time. Researchers in the medical field believe there may be genetic factors, or perhaps child abuse might contribute to the development of the condition. People with parents who are alcoholic or antisocial are at an increased risk of the disorder. Men are at a greater risk than women, and the condition is common among people in prison populations.

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is thought to be responsible for behavior, including appropriate social behavior, impulse control, and judgment. Antisocial personality disorder may develop from chemical imbalances in specific areas of a person brain, such as the prefrontal cortex. Factors in the person's environment, particularly the family's environment, may also contribute to the development of antisocial personality disorder. Researchers believe biological factors might contribute as well, such as the presence of abnormal chemistry in the person's nervous system.

A, 'risk factor,' is something that increases a person's potential for developing a disease or condition. Among the risk factors for developing antisocial personality disorder are a family history of the disorder, a family history of substance abuse disorders, fire-setting, or cruelty to animals during childhood. These have been linked to the development of antisocial personality disorder.

Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder

The symptoms associated with antisocial personality disorder are expressed through the person's behavior. People with the disorder break the law repeatedly. They lie, steal, and get in fights. People with antisocial personality disorder oftentimes have no regard for either their own safety or the safety of others, and rarely show remorse or guilt, if ever. Additional symptoms of antisocial personality disorder may include:

  • Fighting
  • Deceitfulness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irresponsibility
  • Repeated lying
  • Destruction of property
  • Breaking the law repeatedly
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Lack of guilt over hurting others
  • Bullying or cruelty to people or animals
  • Disregard for safety of oneself or others
  • Inability to feel sympathy or empathy for others
  • Lack of concern for consequences of actions/behavior
  • Inability to learn from experience or modify behavior based on past outcomes, or predicted future outcomes

People with antisocial personality disorder also many times experience legal troubles and substance abuse disorders. They may also experience anxiety disorders, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Diagnosing Antisocial Personality Disorder

A diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is commonly made by a mental health professional or a psychiatrist and is based upon the symptoms the person is demonstrating, as well as their medical and mental health history. Unfortunately, there are currently no laboratory tests to assist in reaching a diagnosis of the disorder. A complete psychiatric assessment is important in order to determine the severity of the disorder and to determine whether or not the person is experiencing any other contributing disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, or ADHD.

People with antisocial personality disorder may present with signs such as both anger and arrogance. The person may be very capable of acting charming and witty, be good at flattering others and manipulating their emotions. The person may have legal problems, as well as substance abuse issues. For a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder to be made, a person must have demonstrated behaviors of conduct disorder during childhood.

Treatment of Antisocial Personality Disorder

People who experience antisocial personality disorder oftentimes will not admit they have a problem that should be treated. They might require encouragement from others, or mandated treatment from the court system. Antisocial personality disorder can be difficult to treat; it may be complicated by other conditions - particularly substance abuse. Co-existing disorders might be easier to treat than antisocial personality disorder and treating the co-existing disorder may improve the person's overall health and functioning.

Administration of medications can help alleviate specific symptoms such as irritability and aggression, and may target co-existing psychiatric disorder that are common with antisocial personality disorder. Mood stabilizers to include carbamazepine or lithium can also be used to improve impulsiveness on the person's part. Generally, medications which are likely to be abused are avoided because people with antisocial personality disorder many times experience substance abuse problems.

Various forms of psychotherapy are used to help people with antisocial personality disorder. Group therapy may be useful in assisting people to learn how to interact with others. Cognitive behavioral therapy and behavior modification may help to change problematic patterns of thinking while encouraging positive behaviors.

While antisocial personality disorder is a chronic condition, some of the symptoms of the disorder - criminal behavior in particular, can decrease slowly on their own as the person ages, beginning in the person's thirties. Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent antisocial personality disorder. Treating it early in life may help to prevent it from becoming worse.


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