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What is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

People with antisocial personality disorder can be dangerous. Find out why. Read definition, causes and get insight into antisocial personality disorder.

People with antisocial personality disorder show a long-term, pervasive behavioral pattern of exploiting, manipulating, and violating the rights of others. The behavior often crosses the line from disturbing into criminal.

Mental health experts define antisocial personality disorder as part of the Cluster B group (types of personality disorders), meaning it’s one of the dramatic, emotional, and erratic disorders. The condition shares these broad characteristics with narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder.

What Does Antisocial Personality Disorder Look Like?

What is antisocial personality disorder, exactly? People with antisocial personality disorder exhibit hostile and deceitful behaviors that first appear in childhood. As children, they may torment and torture animals as well as engage in bullying and intimidating of others. In addition to stealing, they may vandalize the property of others by setting fires or destroying the property in other ways. When a child behaves in this way, flagrantly violating standards of conduct, a mental health expert would likely diagnose him with conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is a form of antisocial personality disorder that occurs in children.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder have a complete lack of remorse for their (often criminal) behaviors; although, they may convincingly feign remorse, when it benefits them. Unfortunately, for most, even if they seek treatment for antisocial personality disorder, the prognosis is poor.

Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Experts don't know the exact causes of antisocial personality disorder. Most research suggests both biological (genetic) and environmental (upbringing, social) components contribute to its development. Risk factors include things like:

  • Physical child abuse
  • Sexual child abuse
  • Gross neglect
  • Alcoholic parent
  • Mother smoked during pregnancy
  • Family history of the disorder
  • Cruelty to animals in childhood

Other research suggests that the antisocial personality requires greater sensory input to jumpstart normal brain function. Some studies show that antisocial personalities have a lower resting heart rate, low skin conductivity, and a decreased amplitude when it comes to certain brainwave measures. These findings may support this theory, but there's no solid evidence to debunk or validate it with certainty.

More men than women have the condition. Antisocial personality disorder statistics indicate that three percent of males and one percent of women suffer from this serious disorder. A much higher percentage of people in prison have antisocial personality disorder. You can read about famous people with antisocial personality disorder here.

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next: Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis
~ all articles on Antisocial Personality Disorder
~ all Personality Disorder articles

Last Updated: 20 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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