Antisocial personality disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, is a mental health condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to purposely make others angry or upset and manipulate or treat others harshly or with cruel indifference. They lack remorse or do not regret their behavior.
People with antisocial personality disorder often violate the law, becoming criminals. They may lie, behave violently or impulsively, and have problems with drug and alcohol use. They have difficulty consistently meeting responsibilities related to family, work or school.
Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include repeatedly:
- Ignoring right and wrong.
- Telling lies to take advantage of others.
- Not being sensitive to or respectful of others.
- Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or pleasure.
- Having a sense of superiority and being extremely opinionated.
- Having problems with the law, including criminal behavior.
- Being hostile, aggressive, violent or threatening to others.
- Feeling no guilt about harming others.
- Doing dangerous things with no regard for the safety of self or others.
- Being irresponsible and failing to fulfill work or financial responsibilities.
Adults with antisocial personality disorder usually show symptoms of conduct disorder before the age of 15. Symptoms of conduct disorder include serious, ongoing behavior problems, such as:
- Aggression toward people and animals.
- Destruction of property.
- Lying and dishonesty.
- Serious violation of rules.
Antisocial personality disorder is considered a lifelong condition. But in some people, certain symptoms ― particularly destructive and criminal behavior ― may decrease over time. It's not clear whether this decrease is a result of the effect aging has on their mind and body, an increased awareness of the impact that antisocial behavior has had on their life, or other factors.
When to see a doctor
People with antisocial personality disorder are not likely to seek help on their own. If you suspect that a friend or family member may have the condition, you might gently suggest that the person seek help from a mental health provider and offer to help them find one.
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. It's likely shaped by inherited genes as well as life situations and experiences.
The exact cause of antisocial personality disorder isn't known, but:
- Genes may make you vulnerable to developing antisocial personality disorder — and life situations, especially neglect and abuse, may trigger its development.
- Changes in the way the brain functions may have resulted during brain development.
Certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing antisocial personality disorder, such as:
- Diagnosis of childhood conduct disorder.
- Family history of antisocial personality disorder or other personality disorders or mental health conditions.
- Experiencing abuse or neglect during childhood.
- Unstable or violent family life during childhood.
Men are at greater risk of having antisocial personality disorder than women are.
Complications and problems resulting from antisocial personality disorder may include:
- Spouse abuse or child abuse or neglect.
- Problems with alcohol or drugs.
- Being in jail or prison.
- Attempting suicide or trying to kill someone else.
- Having other mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.
- Financial, educational or social problems.
- Dying early, usually because of violence.
There's no sure way to prevent antisocial personality disorder from developing in those at risk. Because antisocial behavior is thought to have its roots in childhood, parents, teachers and pediatricians may be able to see early warning signs. It may help to try to identify those most at risk, such as children who show signs of conduct disorder, and then offer early intervention.