- Does your loved one persistently lie to you or steal from you?
- Do you get the feeling that they have no remorse for hurting you?
- Does your loved one have a childhood diagnosis of conduct disorder?
- Are your fearful of your safety? Is your loved one prone to violence and/or aggressive behavior?
- Is your loved one unable to keep and maintain friendships?
- Have you noticed that your loved one has an extreme sense of entitlement, often putting your needs last or not considering them at all?
- Do you believe your loved one when they compliment you, or does it seem superficial and manipulative?
- Is your loved one reckless and impulsive? Does it seem as they have no self control? Do they have recurring difficulties with the law because of this?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may possibly be dealing with somebody who suffers from Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)
Antisocial personality disorder is a serious mental health condition which affects an estimated 1-4% of the population. UK Statistics indicate that over 90% of ASPD diagnoses are given to men. See Statistics.
People with ASPD can appear to others as if they just don’t care about anybody or anything but themselves. They are frequently distrustful of authority figures and often find themselves in trouble with the law.
Because of their destructive behaviors, people with ASPD are sometimes viewed by others with judgment and without empathy. Their families, especially their parents, often come under criticism. It is important to understand that there is a distinct neurological basis for personality disorders and that the behaviors of those who suffer from them, while often destructive, cannot be adequately explained purely on moral or ethical grounds.
A convincing academy award-winning portrayal of a young woman suffering from ASPD was given by Angelina Jolie who played the role of Lisa Rowe in the 1999 movie Girl, Interrupted.
Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) – The DSM Criteria
Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) as a Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic) Personality Disorder:
A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
- Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
- Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
- Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
- Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
- Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
- Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain steady work or honor financial obligations
- Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
The manual lists the following additional necessary criteria:
- The individual is at least 18 years of age.
- There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.
- The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.
ASPD Characteristics & Traits
The following list is a collection of some of the more commonly observed behaviors and traits of those who suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Note that these are not intended to be used for diagnosis. Click on the links on each trait for much more information about a particular trait or behavior and some ideas for coping with each.
Note that these traits are given as a guideline only and are not intended for diagnosis. People who suffer from ASPD are all unique and so each person will display a different subset of traits. Also, note that everyone displays “antisocial” behaviors from time to time. Therefore, if a person exhibits one or some of these traits, that does not necessarily qualify them for a diagnosis of ASPD. See the DSM Criteria on this page for diagnostic criteria.
Acting Out – Acting Out behavior refers to a subset of personality disorder traits that are more outwardly-destructive than self-destructive.
Anger – People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.
Baiting – A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.
Belittling, Condescending and Patronizing – This kind of speech is a passive-aggressive approach to giving someone a verbal put-down while maintaining a facade of reasonableness or friendliness.
Blaming – The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.
Bullying – Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.
Chaos Manufacture – Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.
Cheating – Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.
Chronic Broken Promises – Repeatedly making and then breaking commitments and promises is a common trait among people who suffer from personality disorders.
Cruelty to Animals – Acts of Cruelty to Animals have been statistically discovered to occur more often in people who suffer from personality disorders than in the general population.
Denial – Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.
Depression – People who suffer from personality disorders are often also diagnosed with symptoms of depression.
Domestic Theft – Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.
Emotional Abuse – Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG).
Emotional Blackmail – A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.
False Accusations – Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.
Favoritism and Scapegoating – Systematically giving a dysfunctional amount of preferential positive or negative treatment to one individual among a family group of peers.
Fear of Abandonment – An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.
Feelings of Emptiness – An acute, chronic sense that daily life has little worth or significance, leading to an impulsive appetite for strong physical sensations and dramatic relationship experiences.
Gaslighting – The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.
Grooming – Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.
Harassment – Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards
Impulsiveness – The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.
Intimidation – Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.
Invalidation – The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.
Lack of Boundaries – A lack of boundaries is often at the root of long-term abusive relationships. Lack of boundaries means the absence of rules, limits and guidelines for acceptable behavior. Inconsistent or intermittent reinforcement of consequences for inappropriate behavior is common among both abusers and abuse victims.
Lack of Conscience – Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.
Low Self-Esteem – A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality.
Manipulation – The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.
Mood Swings – Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.
Name-Calling – Use of profane, derogatory or dehumanizing terminology to describe another individual or group.
Narcissism – A set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.
Neglect – A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.
Normalizing – Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.
“Not My Fault” Syndrome – The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one’s own words and actions.
Objectification – The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.
Pathological Lying – Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.
Physical Abuse – Any form of voluntary behavior by one individual which inflicts pain, disease or discomfort on another, or deprives them of necessary health, nutrition and comfort.
Proxy Recruitment – A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”
Push-Pull – A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.
Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression – Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.
Ranking and Comparing – Drawing unnecessary and inappropriate comparisons between individuals or groups.
Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.
Scapegoating – Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.
Self-Aggrandizement – A pattern of pompous behavior, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.
Self-Harm – Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.
Self-Loathing – An extreme hatred of one’s own self, actions or one’s ethnic or demographic background.
Sense of Entitlement – An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.
Sexual Objectification – Viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality interpersonal relationship with them.
Shaming – The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.
Splitting – The practice of regarding people and situations as either completely “good” or completely “bad”.
Stalking – Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.
Targeted Humor, Mocking and Sarcasm – Any sustained pattern of joking, sarcasm or mockery which is designed to reduce another individual’s reputation in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.
Testing – Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.
Threats – Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.
Triangulation – Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.
Verbal Abuse – Any kind of repeated pattern of inappropriate, derogatory or threatening speech directed at one individual by another.
ASPD Causes and Treatment
Unlike the other personality disorders, people with Antisocial Personality Disorder are somewhat easier to spot than those with other personality disorders, because their behaviors often get them in trouble with institutions and individuals outside of the family.
An estimated 80% of the prison population is believed to meet the criteria for ASPD. ASPD is also associated with a high rate of substance abuse.
The precise cause of ASPD is unknown. However, there is believed to be a strong genetic component and some evidence of a relationship between neurological development and the existence of ASPD.
Treatment of ASPD is notoriously difficult and often ineffective. Many ASPD patients are forced into treatment through the legal system or through hospitalization. ASPD patients often treat the therapist as they would another authority figure leading to an often rocky doctor-patient relationship.
See our Treatment Page for lots more information about treatment of personality disorders.
Movies Portraying Antisocial Personality Disorder Traits
Girl, Interrupted – Girl, Interrupted is a 1999 Columbia Pictures movie which chronicles the experiences of a teenage girl with Borderline Personality Disorder, who is admitted to a mental health institution after attempting suicide.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an 1886 book written by Robert Louis Stevenson which has been adapted into numerous movies and stage productions. The story portrays the mild-mannered Doctor Henry Jekyll, who unleashes his monstrous alternate identity, Edward Hyde, by taking a chemical potion.
Rachel Getting Married – Rachel Getting Married is a 2008 Sony Pictures Classics Release starring Anne Hathaway which chronicles the events surrounding the appearance of a young woman who suffers from Antisocial Personality Disorder at her sister’s wedding.
The Silence of the Lambs – The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 thriller starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster which features a psychopathic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter, who advises a young FBI agent as she tries to stop another serial killer.
ASPD Support Groups & Links:
psychopathfree – Support site for victoms of psychopathic abuse.
Psychforums ASPD forum – Psychforums Site.