Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by individuals with a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting or violating the rights of others. People with antisocial personality disorder typically act out their conflicts and ignore normal rules of social behavior. They tend to be impulsive, irresponsible, cynical and callous. They may show no respect for other people and feel no remorse when confronted with the effects of their behavior on others.

Frequently lacking empathy, these individuals display contempt for the feelings, rights and sufferings of others. An inflated sense of self may cause them to feel that ordinary work or activities are beneath them. Or, they may be unconcerned about their current problems or their future. Persons with antisocial personality disorder also tend to be excessively opinionated, self-assured or cocky. They may display a glib, superficial charm and can be quite articulate, seeking to impress others. They may also be irresponsible and exploit others in their sexual relationships.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder frequently have a history of legal difficulties, the result of belligerent and irresponsible behavior, as well as aggressive – and even violent – relationships.

Antisocial personality disorder may be commonly referred to as psychopathy or sociopathy, although neither term is recognized professionally for diagnosis.

How Common is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Antisocial personality disorder is 70 percent more prevalent in males than females. During any given 12-month period, between 0.2 and 3.3 percent of the population have the disorder. The condition is quite common among people who are in prison.

Co-occurring Conditions

These people are at high risk for substance abuse, especially alcoholism, since it helps them to relieve tension, irritability and boredom.

Signs and Symptoms

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 

Symptoms tend to peak during the late teenage years and early 20s. As with most personality disorders, the intensity of antisocial personality disorder typically decreases with age. By the time they reach their 40s or 50s, most people will experience fewer of the extreme symptoms.


Personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder are typically diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Family physicians and general practitioners are generally not sufficiently trained or equipped to make this type of psychological diagnosis.

The disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation that assesses the history and severity of symptoms. To be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, the individual must have had a pattern of antisocial behavior since age 15, although only adults 18 years or older can be diagnosed with this disorder.

In addition, the majority of the following symptoms must be present: 

  • Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
  • Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
  • Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  • Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another 


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 treatment when required to by a court.

Treatment typically involves long-term psychotherapy with a therapist who has experience in treating this kind of personality disorder. Support groups tailored specifically for antisocial personality disorder also can be quite helpful. Individuals with this disorder often feel more at ease in discussing their feelings and behaviors with their peers in this type of supportive environment.

Find help for Antisocial Personality Disorder




Mental Health America

Medline Plus (National Institutes of Health)


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