Antisocial Personality Disorder

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms

Impulsivity

Impulsivity is the tendency to act on impulse -- that is, without forethought about the appropriateness or consequences of the action. A certain degree of impulsivity is common in children and even some young adults often display impulsivity of behavior. Only when present to excess and accompanied by problems with normal function is impulsivity considered abnormal in young children.

Antisocial personality disorder (APD or ASPD) facts

  • A personality disorder (PD) is a persistent pattern of internal experience and behavior that markedly differs from what is considered normal within the person's own culture.
  • Personality disorders are grouped into clusters A, B, and C based on the dominating symptoms.
  • Antisocial personality disorder is a diagnosis that is characterized by an enduring pattern of disregarding and violating the rights of others with symptoms having been present since 15 years of age and may include symptoms like breaking laws, repeated deceitfulness, starting fights, a lack of regard for their own safety or the safety of others, a lack of guilt and taking personal responsibility, a tendency to act impulsively, and irritability.
  • Although not a formal diagnosis, psychopathy is thought to be a more severe form of antisocial personality disorder. Specifically, in order to be considered a psychopath, a person must have a lack of remorse or guilt about their actions in addition to demonstrating antisocial behaviors.
  • Psychopaths tend to be highly suspicious or paranoid, even in comparison to individuals with antisocial personality disorder, which tends to lead the psychopathic person to interpret all aggression toward them as being arbitrary and unfair.
  • Antisocial personality disorder is likely the result of a combination of biologic/genetic and environmental factors.
  • Some theories about the biological risk factors for antisocial personality disorder include the malfunction of certain genes, hormones, or parts of the brain.
  • Diagnoses often associated with antisocial personality disorder include substance-related disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and reading disorders.
  • Theories regarding the life circumstances that increase the risk for developing antisocial personality disorder include a history of childhood physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; neglect, deprivation, or abandonment; associating with peers who engage in antisocial behavior; or having a parent who is either antisocial or alcoholic.
  • Since there is no specific definitive test that can accurately diagnose antisocial personality disorder, health-care professionals perform a mental-health interview that assesses for the presence of antisocial symptoms. If the cultural context of the symptoms is not considered, antisocial personality disorder is often falsely diagnosed as being present.
  • Research indicates that members of ethnic minorities tend to be wrongly diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, thereby inappropriately resulting in less treatment and more punishment for those individuals.
  • While antisocial personality disorder can be quite resistant to treatment, the most effective interventions tend to be a combination of firm but fair behavior therapy and programming that emphasizes teaching the antisocial personality disorder individuals skills that can be used to live independently and productively within the rules and limits of society.
  • While medications do not directly treat the behaviors that are associated with antisocial personality disorder, they can be useful in addressing conditions like depression, anxiety, and mood swings that often co-occur with this condition.
  • If untreated, people with antisocial personality disorder are at risk for developing or worsening many other mental disorders, as well as for self-mutilation or dying from homicide or suicide.
  • Many people with antisocial personality disorder experience a remission of symptoms by the time they are 50 years old.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/16/2016

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