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Antisocial Personality Disorder

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People with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) can be witty, charming, and fun to be around -- but they also lie and exploit others. ASPD makes people uncaring. Someone with the disorder may act rashly, destructively, and unsafely without feeling guilty when their actions hurt other people.

Experts don’t agree on whether antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy (i.e. "a psychopath") are the same thing. Either way, ASPD is uncommon, affecting just .6% of the population.

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Symptoms

People with ASPD may often do the following;

  • Lie, con, and exploit others 
  • Act rashly
  • Be angry, vain, and aggressive
  • Fight or assault other people
  • Break the law
  • Not care about the safety of others or themselves
  • Not show signs of remorse after hurting someone else
  • Fail to meet money, work, or social duties
  • Abuse drugs or alcohol

Who’s at Risk?

Antisocial personality disorder affects more men than women. Experts don’t know for sure what causes it, but genetics and a bad environment (such as one with child abuse, or growing up with an alcoholic or antisocial parent) may play roles in whether people develop it. Brain defects and injuries are linked to ASPD too, research shows.

Possibly because people with ASPD often break the law, a lot of prisoners have ASPD. As many as 47% of male inmates and 21% of female inmates have the disorder, research shows. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

To be diagnosed with ASPD, a person would have to have shown symptoms before age 15. A diagnosis can’t be made until age 18, though. Symptoms are usually at their worst during a person’s late teenage years and in their 20s, but may improve on their own over time.

The disorder is hard to treat. People with ASPD rarely seek help on their own, because they think they don’t need it.

When treatment is sought, behavioral therapy or psychotherapy in individual or group settings may help. Doctors sometimes use certain psychiatric medications like mood stabilizers to treat symptoms like aggression. The FDA has not approved any medications specifically for antisocial personality disorder.

If someone close to you has ASPD, consider attending a support group, or seek help from a psychiatrist, social worker, or psychologist. You won’t be able to change your loved one’s behavior, but you can learn coping skills to help you set boundaries and protect yourself from harm.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on March 04, 2014

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