What is antisocial personality

Antisocial personality disorder - NHS

Personality disorders are mental health conditions that affect how someone thinks, perceives, feels or relates to others.

Antisocial personality disorder is a particularly challenging type of personality disorder characterised by impulsive, irresponsible and often criminal behaviour.

Someone with antisocial personality disorder will typically be manipulative, deceitful and reckless, and will not care for other people's feelings.

Like other types of personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder is on a spectrum, which means it can range in severity from occasional bad behaviour to repeatedly breaking the law and committing serious crimes.

Psychopaths are considered to have a severe form of antisocial personality disorder.

The Mind website has more information about signs of antisocial personality disorder

Find out more about personality disorders

Signs of antisocial personality disorder

A person with antisocial personality disorder may:

  • exploit, manipulate or violate the rights of others
  • lack concern, regret or remorse about other people's distress
  • behave irresponsibly and show disregard for normal social behaviour
  • have difficulty sustaining long-term relationships
  • be unable to control their anger
  • lack guilt, or not learn from their mistakes
  • blame others for problems in their lives
  • repeatedly break the law

A person with antisocial personality disorder will have a history of conduct disorder during childhood, such as truancy (not going to school), delinquency (for example, committing crimes or substance misuse), and other disruptive and aggressive behaviours.

Who develops antisocial personality disorder?

Antisocial personality disorder affects more men than women.

It's not known why some people develop antisocial personality disorder, but both genetics and traumatic childhood experiences, such as child abuse or neglect, are thought to play a role.

A person with antisocial personality disorder will have often grown up in difficult family circumstances. 

One or both parents may misuse alcohol, and parental conflict and harsh, inconsistent parenting are common.

As a result of these problems, social services may become involved with the child's care.

These types of difficulties in childhood will often lead to behavioural problems during adolescence and adulthood.

Effects of antisocial personality disorder

Criminal behaviour is a key feature of antisocial personality disorder, and there's a high risk that someone with the disorder will commit crimes and be imprisoned at some point in their life.

Men with antisocial personality disorder have been found to be 3 to 5 times more likely than women to misuse alcohol and drugs than those without the disorder. They also have an increased risk of dying prematurely as a result of reckless behaviour or attempting suicide.

People with antisocial personality disorder are also more likely to have relationship problems during adulthood and be unemployed and homeless.

Diagnosing antisocial personality disorder

To be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, a person will usually have a history of conduct personality disorder before the age of 15.

Antisocial personality disorder is diagnosed after rigorous detailed psychological assessment.

A diagnosis can only be made if the person is aged 18 years or older and at least 3 of the following criteria behaviours apply:

  • repeatedly breaking the law
  • repeatedly being deceitful
  • being impulsive or incapable of planning ahead
  • being irritable and aggressive
  • having a reckless disregard for their safety or the safety of others
  • being consistently irresponsible
  • lack of remorse

These signs are not part of a schizophrenic or manic episode – they're part of a person's everyday personality and behaviour.

This behaviour usually becomes most extreme and challenging during the late teens and early 20s. It may improve by the time the person reaches their 40s.

Treating antisocial personality disorder

In the past, antisocial personality disorder was thought to be a lifelong disorder, but that's not always the case and it can sometimes be managed and treated.

Evidence suggests behaviour can improve over time with therapy, even if core characteristics such as lack of empathy remain. 

But antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult types of personality disorders to treat.

A person with antisocial personality disorder may also be reluctant to seek treatment and may only start therapy when ordered to do so by a court.

The recommended treatment for someone with antisocial personality disorder will depend on their circumstances, taking into account factors such as age, offending history and whether there are any associated problems, such as alcohol or drug misuse.

The person's family and friends will often play an active role in making decisions about their treatment and care.

Sometimes, substance misuse services and social care may also need to be involved.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): management and prevention of antisocial personality disorder

Talking therapies

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is sometimes used to treat antisocial personality disorder.

It's a talking therapy that aims to help a person manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave.

Mentalisation-based therapy (MBT) is another type of talking therapy that's becoming more popular in the treatment of antisocial personality disorder.

The therapist will encourage the person to consider the way they think and how their mental state affects their behaviour.

Democratic therapeutic communities (DTC)

Evidence suggests community-based programmes can be an effective long-term treatment method for people with antisocial personality disorder, and is becoming increasingly popular in prisons.

DTC is a type of social therapy that aims to address the person's risk of offending, as well as their emotional and psychological needs.

It's based around large and small therapy groups and focuses on community issues, creating an environment where both staff and prisoners contribute to the decisions of the community.

There may also be opportunities for educational and vocational work.

The recommended length of treatment is 18 months, as there needs to be enough time for a person to make changes and put new skills into practice.

Self-motivation is another important factor for acceptance on to this type of scheme. For example, the person must be willing to work as part of a community, participate in groups, and be subject to the democratic process.

Read more about DTC and working with offenders with personality disorder on GOV.UK


There's little evidence to support the use of medicine for treating antisocial personality disorder, but certain antipsychotic and antidepressant medicines may be helpful in some instances.

Carbamazepine and lithium may help control symptoms such as aggression and impulsive behaviour, and a class of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may improve anger and general personality disorder symptoms.

Further information

  • Personality disorders

Antisocial personality disorder: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

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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.

The 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

Antisocial personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation. The health care provider will consider how long-lived 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.

See a provider or a mental health professional if you or someone you know has symptoms of antisocial personality disorder.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7, anytime day or night.

You can also call 911 or the local emergency number or go to the hospital emergency room. DO NOT delay.

If someone you know has attempted suicide, call 911 or the local emergency number right away. DO NOT leave the person alone, even after you have called for help.

Always take suicide attempts and threats seriously.

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.

Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

Asocial personality

Asocial personality - A person with a poorly developed (or perverted) sense of responsibility, low moral values, and a lack of interest in others. Another name for an antisocial personality is a sociopath.

Characteristics of an antisocial personality

Behavior is almost entirely determined by a person's own needs.

Painful reactions, frustrations to the state of one's own displeasure.

Desire for immediate relief (and relief at any cost) from unpleasant sensations.

Impulsivity, a tendency to live in the moment.

The extraordinary ease of lying.

Often play roles very skillfully.

Unstable self-esteem.

The need to excite oneself (to excite oneself).

Inability to change one's behavior as a result of punishment.

Surrounding people are often often perceived as attractive, intelligent, charming people.

Easily get in touch, especially easy to converge on the basis of entertainment.

Lack of sincere sympathy for others.

No sense of shame or guilt for one's actions.

Three groups of factors contributing to the development of an antisocial personality are presented below: biological determinants, features of the relationship between parents and the child, style of thinking.

Biological factors

Research suggests genetic correlates of antisocial behavior. Identical twins have twice the concordance for criminal behavior than related twins, making it clear that this behavior is partly heritable.

Adoption studies show that the crimes of adopted boys are similar to those of their biological fathers.

It is also noted that antisocial personalities have low excitability, which is why they seek to receive stimulation that causes appropriate sensations with the help of impulsive and dangerous actions.

Family factors

Research also shows that the quality of parental care received by a child with a history of hyperactivity and behavioral problems determines to a large extent whether or not the child develops an antisocial personality.

Children who are often left unsupervised or who are poorly cared for for a long time are much more likely to engage in criminal behavior patterns.

Also, children whose parents do not participate in their daily lives are more likely to become asocial.

Biological and family factors often coincide, which enhances their effect. Children with behavioral problems often have neuropsychological problems resulting from maternal drug use, poor intrauterine nutrition, pre- and post-natal toxicity, abuse, birth complications, and low birth weight. Such children are more likely to be irritable, impulsive, awkward, hyperactive, inattentive. They slowly learn the material at school, which over time leaves a strong imprint on the child's self-esteem.

Thinking style

In children with behavioral disorders, an inadequate picture of the world, the processing of information about social interactions occurs in such a way that they develop aggressive reactions to these interactions. They expect aggression from other children and adults, interpret their actions based on the assumption of malevolence.

Children with behavioral disorders tend to consider any negative action of their peers directed at them not as accidental, but as deliberate. A low level of intellectual development encourages such a child to reduce everything to someone's "evil initiative."

Not knowing how to behave assertively, the child eventually comes to the conclusion that aggression is the most reliable and effective tool.

The responses of others to the child's aggression usually only lead to the strengthening of the idea of ​​the need for aggression.

In this way a vicious circle of interactions develops, supporting and inspiring the aggressive and antisocial behavior of the child.


Maklakov AG General psychology. St. Petersburg: Peter, 2001.

An asocial person - who is he, signs, characteristics of behavior

An asocial person is a person who chooses the basis of his behavior for actions that do not fit into the rules of social behavior of people, as well as moral prescriptions. At the same time, people leading an asocial lifestyle are not violators or criminals, rather they look like indifferent elements isolated from society with their own systems of values ​​and priorities that do not support common rules and principles. An asocial person does not have a pronounced desire to interact, all social contacts occur only out of necessity or in the presence of rare emotional ties.

Antisocial behavior of a person can be alarming by the constant choice of individual activities, the lack of full-fledged communication, the avoidance of joint activities. To extroverted people, such behavior may seem rude, dissatisfied, or even a direct insult, but in fact there is no open hostility or hatred behind this, it’s just that a person is better off alone and doing independent activities.

What does an antisocial person mean

To understand what an antisocial person is and not to confuse this concept with antisocial, misanthropic and others, it is necessary to analyze the psychological root causes of this type of character, which does not relate to pathological disorders, but to the sociopathic spectrum. Initially, this is due to violations of the emotional spectrum, it is not only difficult for such people to actively and violently demonstrate their emotions, but even to express them verbally, some states remain closed for description, and only psychotechnics help to understand what is happening inside. Since others demonstrate their feelings more vividly, talk about them more often, the antisocial type becomes uncomfortable and incomprehensible in their company.

Values ​​and importance are dominated by one's own views and priorities, so social rules and norms will be ignored. For example, if an antisocial person becomes bored, then he will not withstand a cultural pause, wait for goodbye, but simply leave (the performance, the guests - it doesn’t matter). He will also not smile at someone in order to make a good impression, a smile will appear only in a good mood, and polite communication only if there is respect for the interlocutor.

Due to desensitization in the emotional realm, a common reaction to any intrusion or attempt to impose social norms is aggression. It is the only way to respond to any irritants, while in order to achieve what he wants from other people, an antisocial personality easily uses manipulation, lies, puts on any roles. It turns out that a person's antisocial behavior does not exclude adaptation, but uses it only in those situations when it is necessary for him, otherwise a cruel confrontation simply turns on.

A high level of impulsivity makes it impossible for an asocial person to find adequate ways to satisfy his desires, but the need for their realization becomes extremely acute and requires fulfillment in the second of occurrence. This leads to the fact that people do not very good deeds just to get what they want faster, and it is difficult to explain to them the unworthiness of such a choice, because they are not able to understand the feelings of others and their suffering or pain, there is no shame and guilt, as the main regulators of social behavior.

Antisocial people are also in no hurry to correct unworthy deeds, because even at the sight of tears, pain and grief of others, they are completely sure that they are right, and they consider the undesirable behavior of others as manipulation and attempts to exert pressure. They do not analyze their negative actions and do not use them as an experience, i.e. once they apologize to someone, they can keep doing the same things.

Many patterns of behavior can develop from such personality traits, so it is impossible to describe sociopathic or asocial as a manifestation of one thing in a limited set. There will be no instructions with quotes, but only an understanding of the internal motivation of a person and his social isolation. Even to their partners, who can be the center of the universe and really loved, an antisocial person will not show feelings, especially sensitivity. It is difficult to believe this for those who are not in close contact with them, because on the surface, asocial personalities are very charismatic and arouse the interest of almost everyone.

Causes of antisocial behavior

People become antisocial, not born, despite the fact that biological factors also slightly predispose, but do not have a key influence on the formation of sociopathic qualities. Hereditary factors form a tendency to criminal behavior, but only due to high rates of impulsiveness and infantilism, which can be compensated for with proper education. The negative impact of smoking, alcohol and drugs during pregnancy does not allow the nervous system to form normally, as a result of which not only emotional disruptions occur, but also self-control and the ability to understand others.

Even with a healthy formation of the nervous system and the development of the fetus without genetic abnormalities, asociality develops in the negative conditions of family life. When violence is applied to a child as a guiding factor in behavior, the general atmosphere is negative and aggressive, then the emotional sphere collapses and social distancing occurs.

Excessive coldness, indifference on the part of adults (especially characteristic when parents are not ready for the birth) forms a closed personality, with the understanding that indifference and the pursuit of only one's own interests is the only way of existence.

Children with hyperactivity owe much of their future to their parents and their attitude, since such an indirect feature of the nervous system can easily develop into asociality if left to chance or excessive cruelty.

Leaving such children often unsupervised increases the risk of permissive criminal behavior patterns. And while this is happening within the walls of a house without adults, an imprint remains in the psyche that in the big world you can behave as you like, despite the knowledge of official prohibitions. The younger the child, the easier he obeys the rules of adults (parents or passers-by), so reducing the likelihood of contact with unstable elements is a prevention of asociality.

The environment also influences, for example, in countries where there is a high population density, and all possible work is connected with contacts, people rarely become asocial, only under serious biological factors. If a person has a choice regarding his activity and he is not satisfied with the situation around him, then asociality is a conscious choice. This happens in a situation of inconsistency between the individual and her level of culture to others - when a modest, intelligent girl lives in a village where they talk obscenities and drink regularly, then distancing themselves from such a society, going into Internet earnings and completely ignoring their norm and requirements can be the only salvation.

So it turns out that the causes of asociality can appear before birth and after the middle of life, depending on the mental structure and environment, but in any case, this quality cannot be attributed exclusively to negative or positive. In some situations, this leads to the development of deviant behavior, crimes and disruption of social ties, in others it helps to save one's own internal structure and psyche.

How to get rid of asociality

Prevention of asocial behavior of a person is the most effective method of total elimination of this phenomenon. To do this, on the part of the educational institution, those children who have detachment and other signs of an asocial person must be maximally involved in creative activities and sports, as ways of directing their activity and socialization. Any extra-curricular activities, additional circles and preparations are good - everything that will provide a surge of energy and systematization of free time, where the influence of negative elements will decrease.

Prevention also includes psychological conversations with both children and parents. This is important, because asociality begins to develop from an early age, and is most susceptible to family influence. No matter how social services and schools work, if there is no appropriate treatment and support in the family, then the development of social skills will go the wrong way, towards closing the personality or distorting emotional and behavioral patterns. Parents need to start monitoring their behavior, and not just scolding children, creating an atmosphere of trust instead of an authoritarian dictatorship.

If the question of changing antisocial behavior arises in adults, and the distancing itself does not have negative consequences (imprisonment, reduced academic performance, salary, etc.

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