What is Antisocial Personality Disorder?
Television shows and movies often refer to characters with antisocial personality disorder as “psychopaths” or “sociopaths.” Such characters are almost always serial killers or other violent criminals. While some people with this condition are violent criminals, not all are.
In fact, about three percent of men and one percent of women live with this disorder. However, there are only between 25 and 50 active serial killers in the United States at any given time. So clearly, not all people with this disorder are as they the media portrays them. It’s important to spread awareness about the disorder, both for the people who live with it and those they may hurt.
Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder
One of the distinctive symptoms of this disorder is the inability to feel empathy for others. In addition to the lack of empathy, people with antisocial personality disorder may have the following symptoms:
- Consistently failing to live up to work and financial responsibilities
- Disregarding the ideas of “right” and “wrong,” even if they understand the difference
- Manipulating and lying to others in order to get their way
- Committing violent acts against others
- No remorse for hurting others
- Frequently violating the rights of others
- Taking unnecessary risks with no regard for themselves or others
- Often finding themselves in trouble with the law
These symptoms not only affect the person with the disorder, but they can also have serious impacts on those around the patient. People with this condition may hurt others physically and emotionally. It’s important for victims to seek mental health help.
Early Signs of Antisocial Personality Disorder
People who develop antisocial personality disorder often show signs of conduct disorder in childhood. Sometimes they receive formal diagnoses of conduct disorder, but they may also show the signs without a formal diagnosis. The symptoms of conduct disorder include:
- Seriously violating the rules often
- Aggressive behavior toward other people and animals
- Destruction or theft or property
- Manipulation and deceitfulness
These symptoms typically show up before the age of 15. Early intervention can help children with conduct disorder.
Treatment Options for Antisocial Personality Disorder
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration does not approve any medications for the treatment of antisocial personality disorder. However, some forms of psychotherapy can help manage symptoms. For example, therapists can use anger management techniques to help patients avoid outbursts.
The difficulty in treating antisocial personality disorder is that people with the disorder rarely believe they need help. While patients with emotional disorders like anxiety and depression often recognize that something is wrong, people with personality disorders believe their behavior is normal. Furthermore, people with antisocial personality disorder do not see the harm they cause others. As such, they often do not receive treatment unless a court orders it.
What To Do If You Know Someone with These Symptoms
As with all mental health disorders, you may want to recommend counseling for someone who exhibits signs of antisocial personality disorder. However, do not do this if you believe doing so would put your safety at risk. If you decide to make this recommendation, do not be surprised if the other person resists.
If the person in your life with these symptoms committed a crime, including violence against others, you should report these actions to authorities. If you are in an abusive relationship with someone who has these signs, you may reach out to local resources, shelters, and legal authorities for help.
Do not forget to take care of your own mental health. The professionals at LifeStance Health can help you cope with the damage the other person has done. They may also help you set up healthy boundaries.