Antisocial personality disorder is a mental condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others without any remorse. This behavior may cause problems in relationships or at work and is often criminal.
Cause of this disorder is unknown. A person's genes and other factors, such as child abuse, may contribute to developing this condition. People with an antisocial or alcoholic parent are at increased risk. Far more men than women are affected. The condition is common among people who are in prison.
Setting fires and animal cruelty during childhood are often seen in the development of antisocial personality.
Some doctors believe that psychopathic personality (psychopathy) is the same disorder. Others believe that psychopathic personality is a similar, but a more severe disorder.
A person with antisocial personality disorder may:
- Be able to act witty and charming
- Be good at flattery and manipulating other people's emotions
- Break the law repeatedly
- Disregard the safety of self and others
- Have problems with substance abuse
- Lie, steal, and fight often
- Not show guilt or remorse
- Often be angry or arrogant
Exams and Tests
Antisocial personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation. The health care provider will consider how long and how severe the person's symptoms are. To be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, a person must have had emotional and behavioral problems (conduct disorder) during childhood.
Antisocial personality disorder is one of the hardest personality disorders to treat. People with this condition usually don't seek treatment on their own. They may only start therapy when required to by a court.
Behavioral treatments, such as those that reward appropriate behavior and have negative consequences for illegal behavior, may work in some people. Talk therapy may also help.
People with an antisocial personality who have other disorders, such as a mood or substance use disorder, are often treated for those problems as well.
Symptoms tend to peak during the late teenage years and early 20s. They sometimes improve on their own by the time a person is in their 40s.
Complications may include imprisonment, drug use, alcohol use, violence, and suicide.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
See a provider or a mental health professional if you or someone you know has symptoms of antisocial personality disorder.
Sociopathic personality; Sociopathy; Personality disorder - antisocial
American Psychiatric Association. Antisocial personality disorder. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013;659-663.
Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA, Hopwood CJ. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 39.
Review Date 9/7/2020
Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.