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Antisocial personality disorder

Definition

Antisocial personality disorder is a psychiatric condition in which a person manipulates, exploits, or violates the rights of others. This behavior is often criminal.

Alternative Names

Psychopathic personality; Sociopathic personality; Personality disorder - antisocial

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Personality disorders are long-term (chronic) patterns of behaviors and relationships that interfere with a person's life over many years.

The cause of antisocial personality disorder is unknown. Genetic factors and child abuse are believed to contribute to the development of this condition. People with an antisocial or alcoholic parent are at increased risk. Far more men than women are affected. The condition is common in prison populations.

Fire-setting and cruelty to animals during childhood are linked to the development of antisocial personality.

Symptoms

A person with antisocial personality disorder:

  • Breaks the law repeatedly
  • Lies, steals, and fights often
  • Disregards the safety of self and others
  • Does not show any guilt

Signs and tests

To receive a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, a person must have shown behaviors of conduct disorder during childhood.

People with antisocial personality disorder may have the following signs:

  • Anger and arrogance
  • Capable of acting witty and charming
  • Good at flattery and manipulating other people's emotions
  • Substance abuse and legal problems

Treatment

Antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat. People with this condition rarely seek treatment on their own. They may only start therapy when required to by a court.

The effectiveness of treatment for antisocial personality disorder is not known.

Expectations (prognosis)

Symptoms tend to peak during the late teenage years and early 20's. They may improve on their own by a person's 40's.

Complications

Complications can include imprisonment and drug abuse.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with a mental health professional if:

  • You have symptoms of antisocial personality disorder
  • Your child shows behaviors of this disorder

References

Moore Dp, Jefferson JW. Antisocial personality disorder. In: Moore DP, Jefferson JW, eds. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2004: chap 137.


Review Date: 10/17/2008
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Timothy A. Rogge, MD, private practice in Psychiatry, Kirkland, Washington. Also reviewed byDavid Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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