What is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder disregard and violate the rights of others and they don’t feel remorseful about it. They lack empathy for the pain and suffering of others. You may have heard these individuals referred to as “psychopaths” or “sociopaths.”

To be officially diagnosed, the person must be at least 18 years old and have a history of symptoms of Conduct Disorder prior to age 15. Conduct Disorder is a separate diagnosis that involves behaviors such as aggression toward people or animals, destruction of property, breaking rules, theft, or dishonesty. In other words, some kids and teens with Conduct Disorder may later be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder as adults.

Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder:

Diagnosis requires at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Repeatedly breaking rules or laws that could constitute grounds for arrest
  • Deceitfulness and manipulation — this includes lying, using aliases, and scamming or conning others.
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness — may frequently be involved in physical fights or verbal altercations
  • Reckless disregard for their own safety and the safety of others
  • Irresponsibility, such as a pattern of failure to keep jobs or pay bills
  • Lack of remorse — they may harm or mistreat others and feel indifferent about the pain or damage they cause

Three Important Things to Know

Before we take a closer look at how Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) can play out in various aspects of an individual’s life, there are three important things to know: First, understand that different individuals with this same diagnosis may actually seem very different on the surface. Some may seem cold and uncaring, while others may come across as quite charming and personable (which helps them manipulate others).

Second, keep in mind that only three of the symptoms above are required for diagnosis, so different individuals may not have the same symptoms. One person might be extremely impulsive and reckless, while someone else might be very calculated and precise. What they both have in common is that they hurt others and do not feel guilty or sorry for their actions.

Third, while it’s true that serial killers and hardened criminals often fall into the category of ASPD, it’s important that we understand that not everyone who has this disorder is a serial killer or hardened criminal.

Aspects of Life with ASPD

Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder tend to disregard rules and laws, and as a result, they are frequently in trouble with employers and law enforcement. They are often arrested for theft, assault, stalking, property damage, child abuse, sexual misconduct, or for running some sort of scam.

Substance use problems are common among individuals with ASPD. They may binge drink, use or sell illegal drugs, and may have a history of DUIs or other drug charges. When angry or impulsive, they may speed excessively and take dangerous risks. They are involved in accidents frequently and tend to be unconcerned about others who may have been killed or injured due to their recklessness.

Occupational problems are common as well since some folks with ASPD believe that ordinary work is beneath them. It is often difficult for them to keep jobs because they disrespect their supervisors and coworkers, break rules that result in termination, or impulsively quit or walk out if they become irritated. Those who enter the military often receive dishonorable discharges.

Individuals with ASPD may move frequently or end up homeless. This may also be related to impulsivity, or it may be due to failure to pay rent or keep up with mortgage payments — they often don’t care for such responsibilities. Or, for those who tend to be destructive, they may be evicted due to property damage.

Interpersonal relationships are often entered into with an ulterior motive. In other words, when an individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder engages in a relationship with someone, it is generally because there is something they hope to gain such as money, sex, a place to live, or power. They usually end up hurting the other person, and if confronted, they may just shrug dismissively or rationalize their behavior. They are unmoved by tears, begging, or guilt trips. They may even blame the victim for being stupid enough to fall for their lies, or say they “had it coming.” They rarely apologize or make amends for what they do.

Individuals with ASPD are sometimes very opinionated, cocky, and arrogant and often enjoy using big words or technical jargon. They may have inflated egos, a cynical attitude, and grandiose plans, and they tend to get bored easily.

Depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, somatic symptom disorders, and gambling disorders are common among individuals with this disorder. They may spend many years in prison, and they are more likely to die prematurely by violent means such as suicides, accidents, or homicides.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is more common in males than females, and research indicates that both genetics and environmental factors contribute to the risk of developing this Cluster B personality disorder.

There is no cure for ASPD, but symptoms may decrease a bit as the individual gets older, especially once they are in their 40s. They are often unwilling to engage in treatment, but for those who do, it is possible to make some degree of progress and reduce problematic behaviors and symptoms.

Diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatry Association. For more information on personality disorders, please visit What is a Personality Disorder? – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org).

Published by Julie Bailey, LCPC

I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois. I hold a master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I'm an author and a clinical manager and my life goal is to help you live your best life possible. I get excited about the daffodils in the spring and the colorful leaves in the fall (I mean like ridiculously excited). I enjoy genealogy, old cemeteries, loud music, and trivia, and I refuse to ever outgrow Harry Potter. I am an empath, which means that I literally feel the pain of others, and from time to time, this requires a visit to a quiet beach so that the wind and waves can soothe my soul.

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