Antisocial Personality Disorder: Definition, Symptoms, and Treatments

Ever heard about people who like manipulating, deceiving, and hurting others without feeling remorse? They may show classic cases of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Each person can show variations in his or her antisocial behaviors, but we often lump them together under the name “sociopaths.”

This chronic personality disorder often becomes a convenient background for pop cultures, such as in movies about serial killers. However, movies don’t give complete explanations about how this disorder affects real-life sufferers. Here is everything you need to know about ASPD.

Definition of Antisocial Personality Disorder

The newest version of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) describes antisocial personality disorder as habitual disregards of other people’s rights and considerations, without regrets. They tend to act in violent, aggressive, or nonmoral behaviors, without thinking about how they will affect others.

You cannot confuse the words “antisocial personality disorder” with “antisocial behavior,” because they have different characteristics. People with antisocial behavior tends to be against societal rules and norms and often isolate themselves. Meanwhile, people with ASPD may follow society’s expectations. They can be friendly, cordial, and highly-functioning, but the goal is to manipulate others and gain personal benefits.

The popular term for people with ASPD is “sociopath,” but it usually refers to the most extreme form of dangerous and aggressive behaviors. According to DSM-V, people with ASPD can only get an official diagnosis at the age of 18. The onset may appear years before that, but if the person breaks the law, his or her behaviors will be grouped under the term “Conduct Disorder” in the report.

Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial personality disorder symptoms can appear during adolescent years, usually around 13 to 15 years old. Psychiatrists and psychologists can suspect ASPD when a person displays seven behaviors, which are:

  • Manipulating, deceiving, and lying for amusements or personal profits
  • Repeatedly engaging in destructive behaviors and/or lead to arrests
  • Constant aggression and irritability
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Absence of responsibility
  • Lack of remorse and empathy
  • Engaging in acts that are dangerous for self and others

The person diagnosed with ASPD must have had Conduct Disorder reports since the age of 15. If the behaviors are the results of other disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, they cannot be diagnosed as ASPD.

Causes and Risk Factors

Unfortunately, researchers still cannot pinpoint the exact causes of antisocial personality disorder. However, there are possibilities of internal and external risk factors.

Internal factors may include:

  • Genetic

Studies have shown that people with genetic defects in their brain (the parietal and frontal lobes) often show impulsive and reckless behaviors. They also tend to be more callous and impassive.

  • Birth orders

According to reports by MSD Manuals, antisocial personality disorder often happens to the first-degree relatives of people with sociopathy. For example, if a person developed this disorder, his or her first child may develop the same thing.

  • Sex

In the US, about three percent of the male population developed ASPD, compared to only one percent of the female population.

External factors may include:

  • Bad education

Children who received poor education in things such as manner, empathy, and discipline tend to develop ASDP easier.

  • Negative role models

Children are known as strong imitators. Negative role models can affect how they behave during their formative years.

  • Trauma

Traumatic situations, such as abuses or crimes, can develop twisted views toward normal social relationships. If not treated, it can lead to people developing ASPD.

Even without a diagnosis, parents or guardians should notice the early signs of ASPD. They may only receive a formal diagnosis at 18, but kids with ASDP tendency may show the symptoms since the age of 11.

Treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Many people who develop ASPD tend to receive a late diagnosis. Consequently, they may seek help at a later age, such as during their early 20s, which makes the treatment more difficult. Otherwise, younger individuals depend on parents or guardians to notice the symptoms and take them to psychiatrists.

DSM-V does not describe specific treatment methods for ASPD, because each person requires unique, personalized treatment. Depending on the client’s history, therapists or psychiatrists may combine several treatments for antisocial personality disorder.

For example, if a person commits behaviors that land him or her prison terms, he or she will get a psychiatric evaluation and special monitoring. Teenagers who show these traits may be included in special youth educational programs. Parents, guardians, therapists, and public officials must partner to keep people with ASDP from harming others.

Depending on the symptoms, medications may be necessary. Antipsychotic medication, such as clozapine, is a popular, prescribed drug for controlling extreme ASPD behaviors.


While antisocial personality disorder can only be diagnosed when someone is 18, the signs may appear earlier in life. An antisocial personality disorder is a difficult condition to treat because people who have it think of themselves as “above” everyone else. Parents, guardians, teachers, or loved ones must be aware of these signs. Awareness is the key to find the best solutions for possible risky behaviors.

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