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Antisocial Personalities - Are they the same as Psychopaths?

Updated on April 17, 2013

Facts about ASPD - Anti-social Personality Disorder

Anti-Social Personality Disorder has been linked to Oppositional Defiant Disorder in childhood which has developed into Conduct Disorder in adolescence. In fact in order for a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder to be made there must have been symptoms of Conduct Disorder presenting under the age of 15 years. There must have also been at least 3 occurrences of behaviours such as committing arrestable offences, reckless behaviour, aggression leading to fighting and inflicting injury, or irresponsible behaviour since the age of 18. If the sufferer has Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder and the behaviours do not happen outside a manic or schizoid episode, a diagnosis of Anti-Social Personality Disorder cannot be made.

If parents suffer with the disorder it increases the likelihood that at least one of the children will develop ODD which could then progress to Anti-Social Personality Disorder. It is markedly worse in early adulthood but almost always improves in middle age.

More males than females have the disorder and up to 30% of patients in the psychiatric sector are sufferers.

Adults with this disorder exhibit traits of irresponsible, remorseless behaviour. They tend to antagonise people deliberately and have no moral compunction when it comes to deceiving, lying and cheating.


What other behaviours do people with this disorder exhibit?

  • Relationship problems
  • Unemployment
  • Depression
  • Poor parenting
  • Chronic Gambling
  • Anxiety which can lead to physical symptoms (Somatization Disorder)
  • Criminality with frequent prison sentences
  • Homelessness
  • Manipulative Behaviour
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Inability to manage money or honour debts

Treatment of ASPD

Psychotherapy, including group and family therapy

Medication (normally only used for co-existing conditions such as mood swings, depression & anxiety)

Self-help support groups

Is Anti-Social Personality Disorder the same as Psychopathy?

There are similarities between Conduct Disorder, Anti-Social Personality Disorder and Psychopathy and people with ASPD are often described as Psychopaths or Sociopaths. However, Psychopathy is different from ASPD in that psychopaths tend to have complete lack of genuine empathic feelings and conscience and are more likely to have anomalies in frontal cortex and/or amygdala of the brain.

In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) there exists criteria for ASPD but no such list of criteria is present therein for Psychopathy. That said, there is a list of diagnostic criteria - the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), produced by Dr Robert D Hare which has remarkable similarities to the DSM-IV one for ASPD.

DSM-V is due to be published in May of this year (2013) and this will see the removal of having to have a conduct disorder before the age of 15 as a requirement for a diagnosis of Anti-Social Personality Disorder. The criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder will then be virtually identical to that of Psychopathy as proposed by Dr Hare. The criteria can be seen here on Wikipedia

© Susan Bailey 2013 All Rights Reserved


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