Antisocial personality disorder
Antisocial personality disorder
Antisocial personality disorder is a type of chronic mental illness in which a person's ways of thinking, perceiving situations and relating to others are abnormal — and destructive.
People with antisocial personality disorder typically have no regard for right and wrong. They may often violate the law and the rights of others, landing in frequent trouble or conflict. They may lie, behave violently, and have drug and alcohol problems. And people with antisocial personality disorder may not be able to fulfill responsibilities to family, work or school.
Antisocial personality disorder is sometimes known as sociopathic personality disorder. A sociopath is a particularly severe form of antisocial personality disorder.
Antisocial personality disorder symptoms may include:
The intensity of antisocial symptoms tends to peak during the 20s and then may decrease over time. It's not clear whether this is a result of aging or an increased awareness of the consequences of antisocial behavior. But while people with this disorder might be less likely to commit crimes against others later in life, they may still have trouble functioning in relationships, work or school.
If a loved one has antisocial personality disorder
Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes everyone unique. It's the way people view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how they see themselves. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of two factors:
Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Some people may have a genetic vulnerability to developing antisocial personality disorder — and life situations may trigger its actual development.
There may be a link between an early lack of empathy — understanding the perspectives and problems of others, including other children — and later onset of antisocial personality disorder. These personality problems may be inherited and identifying them early may help improve long-term outcomes.
Although the precise cause of antisocial personality disorder isn't known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering antisocial personality disorder, including:
Complications and problems of antisocial personality disorder include:
Tests and diagnosis
When doctors believe someone has antisocial personality disorder, they typically run a series of medical and psychological tests and exams. These can help rule out other problems that could be causing symptoms, pinpoint a diagnosis and also check for any related complications. These exams and tests generally include:
Pinpointing the type of personality disorder
Symptom criteria required for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder include:
A person with antisocial personality disorder is unlikely to provide an accurate account of these signs and symptoms. Instead, a doctor will gather evidence for the diagnosis by asking detailed questions about the affected person's interactions and daily life.
Treatments and drugs
Antisocial personality disorder is notoriously difficult to treat. People with this disorder may not even want treatment or think they need treatment. But because antisocial personality disorder is essentially a way of being, rather than a curable condition, affected people are likely to need close, long-term care and follow-up.
People with antisocial personality disorder may also need treatment for other conditions, such as depression, anxiety or thyroid disorders. Medical and mental health providers with experience treating antisocial personality disorder and commonly associated conditions are most likely to be helpful.
Those involved in treatment may include:
The best treatment or combination of treatments depends on each person's particular situation and severity of symptoms.
Types of psychotherapy used to treat antisocial personality disorder may include:
Psychotherapy may be provided in individual sessions, in group therapy, or in sessions that include family or even friends. The right type of psychotherapy depends on each person's individual situation.
Skills for family members
Hospitalization and residential treatment programs
There's no sure way to prevent antisocial personality disorder from developing in those at risk. Trying to identify those most at risk, such as children living with neglect or abuse, and offering early intervention may help. Getting appropriate treatment early, and sticking with it for the long term, may prevent symptoms from worsening.
Because antisocial behavior is thought to have its roots in childhood, parents, teachers and pediatricians may be able to spot early warning signs. While diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder generally isn't done before age 18, children at risk may have symptoms of conduct disorder, especially behavior that involves violence or aggression toward others, such as:
Early, effective and appropriate discipline, lessons in behavioral skills, and psychotherapy may help reduce the chance that at-risk children go on to become adults with antisocial personality disorder.
Last Updated: 2010-10-08
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