There is often a good amount of misrepresentation and misunderstanding surrounding antisocial personality disorder, also known as ASPD. Many times in movies or books, we see those with antisocial personality disorder play the “school shooter” or someone who hates everyone else, this is not a good representation of the disorder at all. There are many individuals with ASPD who lead fulfilling and productive lives. Normal life may look different than other’s lives depending on how they are able to control their impulses and understanding.
Many people with antisocial behavior exhibit negative traits of manipulation, lying and exploitation. Not all is bad, however, they can also be fun to be around, charming and witty. Those with ASPD have a psychiatric condition, the condition being where a person consistently shows little to no regard for right or wrong while ignoring the feelings and rights of others. People with antisocial personality disorder will manipulate, antagonize, and treat others with insignificance and do not show any signs of guilt for their behavior.
Many people who have ASPD break laws and in turn have a criminal record because of the gap in their moral behaviors and being unable to distinguish between right and wrong. There are also those who struggle with drug and alcohol use as well as showing sights of impulsive and violent behaviors. All of these above characteristics make it difficult for those with ASPD to have normal relationships, family relationships and also usually struggle through school or work responsibilities.
As we have previously seen with other personality disorders, most stem from childhood. A personality is developed through emotions, behaviors and thoughts that begin in childhood, these are how people are unique. Personalities are how they can see themselves and also how they see society and the world in whole. All personalities, including ASPD are a combination of inherited traits and environmental factors.
There is no exact cause of antisocial personality disorder known, but there are many things in common through the individuals that have been diagnosed. By having both environmental and physical causes there are many diverse paths and could lead people into becoming diagnosed with ASPD. Genetics is a factor that definitely can make an individual more likely to develop the disorder.
The environment an individual is in can contribute to the development of all behaviors, including antisocial behaviors. These personality traits can be learned in early life and we see many parents who exhibit antisocial behaviors, their children will grow to as well. When seeing these behaviors in teens who are getting in trouble, it usually comes from a home that one of the parents is absent, whether that be through divorce or separation. We also see issues when discipline is inconsistent or inappropriate and/or a lack of supervision. All of these environmental situations have been linked to showing signs of antisocial behavior in adults.
For children in foster care and adopted children, the ability to form intimate and trusting relationships can be damaged because of the deprivation of significant emotional bonds.
We see many children unable to form significant emotional bonds with people due to foster care or adoption. The reasoning because in foster care, many children move constantly from home to home before they are able to have a final adoption- so they were never able to gain an emotional attachment. This can be the background story as to why some foster and adopted children are more likely to develop ASPD.
There are many brain imaging studies that have been used to figure out the physical development associated with ASPD. When the frontal lobe malfunctions it can link to those who are more likely to commit violent acts and aggressive behavior. The frontal lobe controls behavior and mood, in the cases of ASPD patients, their aggression is sudden and impulsive, without consideration of consequences or premeditation.
Another interesting physical development fact is when an individual’s mother used drugs during pregnancy the chances for developing ASPD are much higher. Smoking lowers oxygen levels and this could result in a slight brain injury in the fetus. Also, elevated testosterone and thyroid hormone levels have been associated with sociopathy and the physical causes of ASPD.
The symptoms of ASPD are typically lifelong and are harmful to the individual’s social life when it comes to interpersonal relationships, schooling, and career. With treatment and self realization, there are some behaviors and symptoms that can go away overtime. We see this specifically with destructive or criminal behavior. The decrease in certain behaviors in unclear, we are unsure if age is a factor or simply growing awareness of consequences that come from the behaviors.
In most cases, those who have ASPD are not seeking help for themselves unless they have been urged to do so from a loved one or family member. Below are some symptoms of antisocial personality disorder:
Lack of empathy
Complete Disregard for Others
Drug or alcohol abuse or addiction
Lack of Empathy
Lack of empathy, superficial charm and inflated self-appraisal are all included in distinguishing factors of antisocial personality disorder. There is a lack of remorse when it comes to the mistreatment of others. It is also common for those with ASPD to manipulate/be manipulative in their romantic relationships.
There is a dangerous side to those with ASPD because of their lack of impulse control. The impulsive behavior comes with a disregard for the safety of people around them. Feelings of others are not taken into consideration, only what is best for the individual. This can result in broken promises, missed engagements/plans all because the individual found something better to do.
Complete Disregard for Others
The symptoms associated with antisocial personality disorder include behaviors such as criminal, a sense of superiority, and frequent arrogance. There is a large disregard for right and wrong. Those who have ASPD are commonly deceiving and lying to those close to them. They may also act very disrespectful, cynical and callous. It is also not uncommon for individuals with ASPD to use charm or witt to manipulate those around them for the benefit of his/herself.
Ignoring Social Norms
Individuals who display the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder often struggle with fitting in with social settings. They often have problems with schooling, training, and work. The issue comes when rules are set in place, for those who display ASPD, they have problems following rules or they think the rules will not apply for them.
Drug or Alcohol Abuse or Addiction
There is a high risk for drug and alcohol abuse when it comes to individuals who struggle with ASPD. Many addicts regardless of diagnosis or not display the signs and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. For those in a drug or alcohol treatment program who do suffer with ASPD starting drugging or drinking at a much younger age than those who did not. This could suggest a relation to adolescent drug use and antisocial personality disorder.
Antisocial Personality Disorder generally is not diagnosed until an individual reaches the age of at least 18. Many of the ASPD symptoms and behaviors can be difficult to diagnose because of how individuals self describe their behaviors. Often there is no regard for right or wrong or remorse so a typical personality test won’t show accurate information. The individual in question would have to take a test specifically for antisocial personality disorder. An ASPD test or psychological evaluation that explores thoughts, feelings, relationships, behavior patterns and family history can assist in diagnosis. This test would explore behavior patterns, family history, thoughts, feelings, and relationships in order to evaluate whether or not antisocial disorder is the diagnosis.
An interesting statistic is that antisocial personality disorder is more common in men than women. This fact suggests there is a genetic link and another strong determining factor is predisposed to the disorder if there is a family history of ASPD.
Self medication with drinking and drugs is common for those who suffer from ASPD. Many of those who suffer from substance addiction and abuse see drinking and drugging as a way to ease their mental health issues. The self-medicating on drugs and alcohol often goes unnoticed until the substance use consumes all aspects of their life. If you or someone you know has been having these types of behaviors; professional treatment is needed as soon as possible.
The best way to ensure recovery for those suffering from a co-occurring disorder in an individualized treatment program. At The Beaches Treatment Center all of our therapists are master’s level clinical staff who are experts in specialized treatment for patients who have co-occurring disorders. Our intensive co-occurring disorder treatment programs are created to treat both the mental health disorder and the substance use disorder together in one individualized treatment care plan.
The concurrent disorder treatment therapies we utilize at The Beaches Treatment Center are: 12-Step, EMDR Trauma, Creative Arts Therapy, Yoga, Mindfulness, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- these are provided both one-on-one and in peer group therapy sessions.