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Antisocial Personality Disorder


Antisocial personality disorder is a condition where the person violates, exploits the rights of others, often showing disregard for their feelings. The behaviours of the patient are often criminal. Beginning in early childhood, this condition can continue till teenage and adult life. Popularly, a person with antisocial disorder is called a psychopath or sociopath.

The patient may be arrogant, shun ordinary work, self-praising, cynical, lacking empathy or concern for others, very talkative while trying to let others down. They may be irresponsible, exploitative and aggressive in their relationships.

If the condition becomes worse, it can lead to imprisonment and drug abuse.

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The causes of antisocial personality disorder have not been defined. Most theories hold biological and genetic factors as the cause. Social factors like the person’s interactions with family and friends in childhood are also considered; and psychological factors like individual’s personality and nature developed in different kinds of environment and how the person dealt with stressful situations. Thus, no single factor can be considered for causation of this condition. But, research shows that a person suffering from a personality disorder is likely to pass the disorder to his or her children too.

Child abuse is also believed to contribute to the development of this condition. Children with an antisocial or alcoholic parent are more at risk. Activities like fire setting and ill treatment of animals during childhood are seen as early signs of the disorder. The condition is seen more in men than women. Most of these cases are seen in prisons.

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Signs & Symptoms

A pattern of antisocial personality disorder is seen to develop, which sets from the age of fifteen years, though it can only be confirmed when the person is eighteen years, as with other personality disorders. The following symptoms have been seen:


  • Failure to conform to social norms, and breaking the law repeatedly.
  • Deceitfulness, in the form of repeated lying, stealing, using aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness, with repeated physical fights or assaults.
  • Disregard for safety of self or others
  • Consistent irresponsibility, repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or keep up financial obligations.
  • Lack of guilt or repentance, being indifferent to having hurt others, mistreated, or stolen from someone.


The symptoms of this disorder are at its peak during the late teenage years and early twenties. These symptoms decrease in intensity with increasing age, the most extreme symptoms maybe present till person is in the 40s or 50s.

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No known means of prevention, just like other personality disorders, since it is mostly genetic. But, early detection signs of anti social activity can be taken into consideration and avoided through reinforcement. Forming emotionally rewarding relationships with children, and helping them to realize the importance of feelings and how they should affect their behaviour, can be helpful.

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Psychotherapy Psychotherapy

People with anti social disorder rarely seek help, but are referred by others like family, school, and the court. Without a thorough assessment, a condition cannot be diagnosed as anti social, it could criminal activity also. It is very difficult to get the motivation from the client when conducting therapy, as many times they maybe in a jail or some confinement.

People with this condition lack the connection between feelings and behaviours. Thus, therapy tries to build that connection. Though therapies are limited in these cases, therapies that reinforces behaviours and make the connection between action and feelings may help. The therapeutic relationship should be emotionally rewarding, as in many cases, clients have had a history of no significant relationship that was emotionally rewarding. The focus of the therapy should be on patient’s emotions, reinforcing certain emotions. A good rapport with the client, empathic understanding and building trust can help in doing so.

Sometimes, group and family therapy can also be beneficial. Though it is rare to find groups of people with this disorder, but it can help. Family therapy helps to educate the family of the patient about the condition and how they can contribute in the treatment.

Hospitalization Psychotherapy

In most situations, hospitalization is not recommended choice of treatment, like other personality disorders. Since this disorder involves criminal activities, the patient maybe hospitalized. Here, a disciplinary approach is used to teach the client acceptable behaviours and change criminal tendencies, through the use of reinforcement and token economy. The emphasis is also on the connection between feelings and behaviours of the individual. This is comparatively new approach, and is still not very popular.

Medications maybe used for this condition but only temporarily, to rule out the possibility of other disorders.

Self-help Strategies Psychotherapy

Self-help methods like groups can be very helpful for people with this disorder, if the groups have been made specifically for antisocial personality disorder. Patients often feel more comfortable to open up in front of their peers. In this group, the leader plays an important role. Once the client agrees to join such a group, it becomes very beneficial for him, along with other treatment.

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