Antisocial Personality Disorder (A guide)

In this brief guide, the antisocial personality disorder will be discussed in detail along with its symptoms, diagnostic criteria, other types of personality disorder, causes and treatment options for personality disorders.

An antisocial personality disorder is one type of personality disorders.

The person experiencing antisocial personality disorder is also referred to as sociopath.

Society has conspired with Hollywood to bring into our collective consciousness, Sociopath and Psychopath two apparently attractive words in psychology.

For what science calls antisocial personality disorder, psychopaths and sociopaths are words from pop psychology.

In the literature on psychology research, these two concepts are not well defined, hence the ambiguity about them.

Nonetheless, there are some common similarities and differences between these two forms of personality.

Both sociopaths and psychopaths have a common history of disrespect for other people’s safety and rights.

Characteristics of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Researchers generally believe that Antisocial Personality Disorder is the consequence of environmental factors such as the upbringing of a child or teen in a very negative household resulting in emotional abuse, physical abuse, or any trauma in childhood.

That is why these people have neurotic behaviors, such as:

●   Antisocial Personality Disorder tend to be more impulsive and erratic in their behaviour in general than their counterparts in the psychopath

●   While some Antisocial Personality Disorder may also have trouble forming attachments to others, they may be capable of forming an attachment to a specific group or person having the same interests and mind-set as them

●   In contrast to psychopaths, most Antisocial Personality Disorder are not holding down long-term jobs or presenting the outside world with much of a normal family life

●   When a sociopath engages in criminal behaviour, unlike psychopaths they do so in a reckless and compulsive and often unplanned manner, with little regard for the threats or consequences of their actions

●   They may get frustrated and furious easily and quickly, leading to violent outbursts at times

These kinds of rash behaviours and activities increase the chances of being apprehended for a sociopath.

Pop Culture Examples of Antisocial Personality Disorder, following are the characters from different movies and TV shows that are either sociopath or have traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder:

●   JD in Heathers

●   Alex Delarge in A Clockwork Orange

●   The Joker in The Dark Knight

What are Personality Disorders

Person with a personality disorder thinks, feels, and behaves differently.

There are several different types of personality disorders clustered into different categories on the basis of their characteristics.

Personality disorder is a persistent pattern of behaving and feeling, which is altered. Initially in DSM IV, personality disorder used to be diagnosed on Axis-II, but in DSM 5 (2013), the axial system has been changed and now single diagnosis with co-occurring symptoms use to be given.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (A guide)

Symptoms of Personality Disorder

There are a number of different personality disorders, such as the cluster A is categorized as suspicious, delusional, not interested in social interactions or not having social skills to maintain the social relationships, as well as inability to consider the consequences of their actions and lead towards illegal, and risky behaviour.

Similarly, Cluster B is categorized on the basis of dramatic symptoms.

The person experiencing cluster B personality condition will report feelings of emptiness, self-harm incidents or multiple failed suicide attempts, overly impressionistic, having fragile self-esteem, and excessively praising oneself in situations.

Whereas, Cluster C, is categorized on the basis of anxious symptoms.

They are sometimes overly clingy to other person, are overly concerned with order, or tries to avoid social situations because of fear of criticism.

Diagnostic Criteria of Personality Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 5 (2013), has given the criteria for the personality disorder diagnosis, the overview of that criteria are given below:

A.     It is the enduring pattern and persistent pattern of behaviour which is not according to the particular culture the person is living.

This disturbing pattern is manifested in either, cognition, affectivity, interpersonal relationships or spontaneity.

B.     This pattern of behaviour is constant over time and prevail in a number of personal or social situations.

C.      The condition is affecting other areas of a person’s functioning such as work, academics, personal life etc.

D.     The pattern of behaviour became more consistent and spans over the course of years, as well as it appeared in teenage or young adulthood.

E.      The condition is not the symptom of any other mental disorder

F.      The condition and symptoms are not because of the impact of drug or substance and medical condition.

Signs and Symptoms in Childhood of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder signs are generally visible in childhood and adolescence.

Before the age of 18 years, these behaviours are diagnosed as Conduct Disorder.

Many individuals who can be identified with antisocial personality disorder have behaviour patterns in which they violate other people’s fundamental rights or security.

As a child, they often break the rules or even laws and societal norms.

DSM-5 has a diagnosis for people with such traits in childhood known as Conduct Disorder.

Conduct disorder involves four problem behaviour categories:

●   Aggression against humans and animals

●   Property destruction

●   Deception or theft

●   Serious violations of rules or laws

If you recognize these symptoms in a child or young adolescent, they are at greater risk of developing Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Types of Personality Disorder

The personality disorders are clustered into three:

Cluster A: Odd, Eccentric

In this cluster there are three disorders named:

1.      Paranoid Personality Disorder

2.      Schizoid Personality Disorder

3.      Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Cluster B: Dramatic, or Unpredictable

1.      Antisocial Personality Disorder

2.      Borderline Personality Disorder

3.      Histrionic Personality Disorder

4.      Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C: Anxious, or Fearful

1.      Avoidant Personality Disorder

2.      Dependent Personality Disorder

3.      Obsessive Personality Disorder

Now we will go into detail of all the nine disorders in each cluster:

Cluster A

1.     Paranoid Personality Disorder:

In the paranoid personality disorder, it will be difficult for the person to put trust into others, they are always suspicious, and thinks that others are taking advantage of them.

They keep an eye on the actions of others and keenly monitor the signs of mistrust and cheating.

They are quick in reading the danger signs and reacts immediately which are hard for others to notice.

2.     Schizoid Personality Disorder

In the schizoid personality disorder, person losses interest in forming and maintaining relationships with other people, including their own family.

They consider relationships as intervening and prefer freedom. They want to be immersed in their own thoughts and unable to enjoy life.

They are not interested in romantic relationships and feels emotionally aloof of others feelings and emotions.

3.     Schizotypal Personality Disorder

In schizotypal personality disorder, the person experiencing the symptoms will go through a hard time in developing relationships, they are unable to form close relationships.

It is difficult for them to express themselves.

They behave in an odd manner which makes others fearful of themselves, they also feel anxiousness about others who are not able to understand them.

They consider themselves to have extraordinary sense and claim to understand what anyone else is thinking.

Cluster B

1.     Antisocial Personality Disorder

Person with antisocial personality disorder use to be reckless, dangerous and unable to think about the consequences of their actions.

They are dangerous, aggressive and gets easily bored. They have no feeling of guilt or remorse.

They consider whatever they value is an opportunity and they have to avail it, no matter if they are hurting the feelings of others.

For the diagnosis of antisocial disorder, the age must be 18 years or older, as before the age of 18 years these symptoms are diagnosed as conduct disorder if happening before 15 years of age.

Diagnostic Criteria of Antisocial Personality Disorder

According to DSM-5, to label someone with antisocial personality disorder, three or more of the following symptoms must be present:

●       Regularly breaks or disregards the law

●   Constantly lies and deceives others

●   Is impulsive

●   does not plan ahead

●   violent and aggressive

●   Has little regard for the safety of others

●   Irresponsible

●   Cannot fulfil financial obligations

●   Lacks empathy, feelings of guilt or remorse

Most signs or symptoms are almost always seen before age 15 in both cases.

They’re well on their way to becoming a psychopath or sociopath by the time a person is an adult.

2.     Borderline Personality Disorder

They are dramatic and think as other people are leaving them, they have an extreme feeling of emptiness, having intense emotions that last for a few days and then vanish.

They have weak self-esteem, as well as it is difficult for them to maintain stable relationships, they are driven by impulses and exercise self-harm or attempt suicide mostly for the purpose to seek attention.

They feel lonely at times and experience extreme anger.

Sometimes they also report experiencing the psychotic features.

3.     Histrionic Personality Disorder

People with histrionic personality disorder are overly impressionistic, attention-seeking by their exaggerated dramatized body language, accent, or appearance.

They are selfish and consider themselves before anyone else. They require a lot of admiration and approval from others.

They try to keep everyone entertained and try to remain in the centre.

4.     Narcissistic Personality Disorder

They consider themselves to be superior than others. They consider as they are special and more deserving than the others.

They have fragile self-esteem, as well as depend on others to acknowledge their importance and value.

They are selfish and think about themselves, tries to take benefit from others, and feels sad about the achievements of others.

Cluster C

1.     Avoidant Personality Disorder

In this condition, the person tries to escape social situations and avoid activities where others are involved.

They avoid work, social activities, ad sensitive to criticism. They remain in the fear of being pointed out and shamed.

They feel embarrassed about the slightest events, as well as they try to avoid making relationships and friendships, they feel lonely and dissatisfied with life.

2.     Dependent Personality Disorder

In the dependent personality disorder, a person is overly clingy to any attachment figure.

They feel compelled and requires someone to be attached to. They feel as weak and unable to do anything if deserted.

They have low self-esteem, as well as they believe that others are good at things then they are, they are submissive and passive.

3.     Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

They set unrealistic goals, demand order and control.

They consider their plan of action as perfect and things are required to follow that order, they are reluctant to spend money, and are worried for others if they will make the mistakes.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is different from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, which can be found here.

Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder

There are a number of causes of personality disorder, but there is no one clear cause of personality disorder.

The factors contribute to personality disorders are biological, psychological, physical and socio-cultural.

The biological causes include the genes, heredity, family history, functioning of neurotransmitters and chemical substances.

The psychological causes of personality disorders are childhood trauma, stress, adverse family environment, low self-esteem, child neglect and parental rejection.

Physical causes include brain dysfunction and psychiatric pathology.

The sociocultural causes include divorce, being deserted, deprivation of relationships, assault, abuse death and separation.

Treatment of Antisocial Personality Disorder

There are different forms of treatment for personality disorders.

1.      Psychotherapy

2.      Medication


It is one form of treatment, in this a mental health professional especially a psychologist deal with the client experiencing the personality disorder symptoms.

This is also called ‘talk-therapy’, this usually takes up to three months and sometimes more.

There are different therapies which can be used for personality disorder.

Dialectic Behaviour Therapy

This is the evidence-based therapy for personality disorders, especially for the treatment of borderline disorder.

In this treatment approach, the skills to manage one’s emotions, as well as mindfulness is discussed in detail.

Arts Therapy

This type of therapy is useful to uncover the unconscious pattern and understand the person’s emotions, and feelings in a non-threatening environment.

It includes the use of dance, art, drama and music.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

In CBT, the clinician looks for the discrepancy in the thoughts, emotions and behaviour of the person along with the automatic thought patterns.

Schema Therapy

It is a long term talking therapy, which is based on the model of CBT, and goes further deep into the core beliefs and schemas of the person, which influence their thoughts, behaviours and actions.


There are no specific drugs made for personality disorders, but the combination of drugs for the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychosis are used for particular symptoms.

The person with Antisocial Personality Disorder experience the symptoms of lack of empathy, rebellious behaviour and inability to understand another person.

There are different types of personality disorders, as well as the causes and treatment approaches.

Frequently Asked Questions for Antisocial Personality Disorders

What are two primary symptoms of the antisocial personality?

The two primary symptoms of antisocial personality disorder are disregard, persistent lying, deceit, cynical and manipulative behaviour.

Is psychopathy the same as antisocial personality disorder?

Psychopathy has been termed as antisocial personality disorder, but in actual they have differences in characteristics.

Can antisocial personality be cured?

There is no cure of antisocial personality disorder, and treatment can only control the severity of symptoms.

How does antisocial personality disorder develop?

The antisocial personality disorder has unknown causes.

The genetic and environmental factors play their role.

Please make sure to let us know what you think about the article as well as your comments and suggestions regarding the condition, below in the comments section.


Medline plus

Mayo Clinic

The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living with BPD

Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder

Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder: How to Keep Out-of-Control Emotions from Destroying Your Relationship

Personality Disorders & Mental Illnesses: The Truth About Psychopaths, Sociopaths, and Narcissists (Personality Disorders, Mental Illnesses, Psychopaths, Sociopaths, Narcissists)

Mental Health: Personalities: Personality Disorders, Mental Disorders & Psychotic Disorders (Bipolar, Mood Disorders, Mental Illness, Mental Disorders, Narcissist, Histrionic, Borderline Personality)

Enjoyed this article? Then Repin to your own inspiration board so others can too!