Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms Explained
You’ll often hear people describe themselves using their personalities. And this is indeed a good way of describing oneself.
Your personality sheds light on your emotional stability, thinking and reasoning processes, your behaviors and the reasoning behind them.
You can use a personality test to know your personality type. This will help you make better decisions. These decisions include anything from career choices to a life partner.
Unfortunately, some people have what is referred to as personality disorders. Personality disorders are a range of personality types whose characteristics veer from the expected norms.
One such personality disorder is the antisocial personality disorder.
This personality disorder mainly manifests in the form of disregard for right or wrong and the trampling of other people’s rights and feelings.
There will also be manipulation, antagonism and different degrees of harshness when treating others.
People diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) also tend to lie, commit criminal acts, engage in violence and use drugs, including alcohol. As a result of these behaviors, they’ll normally be irresponsible at home, at work, at school and anywhere else they are.
Although the term “antisocial personality disorder” is the official and formal name of this personality disorder, you may have heard of it in a different name.
This disorder is also called sociopathy and the people diagnosed with it are referred to as sociopaths.
What makes you a sociopath?
As with many other personality disorders, research is still ongoing regarding the causes of sociopathy. According to psychiatrists and psychologists, the real cause of sociopathy are unknown.
However, examining the sociopaths themselves and their histories, it has been found that there is a connection with:
- Genetics – from the family history of sociopaths, there have been cases and hard evidence of sociopathic tendencies. In some cases, there are a few signs of the condition among some family members. In others, the signs are many and clearly evident.
- Brain health – the brain is the center of all bodily functions, including the heart. Although your heart provides blood to the brain, the brain has control over the heart’s functioning. When your brain is in bad shape, your life will obviously be affected.
The connection between sociopathy and brain health is that symptoms of sociopathy can manifest due to brain damage.
This can happen if someone got involved in an accident. It can also arise from poor brain development while young.
Still, not all accidents result in brain damage. And even when they do, it may not necessarily end up making the victim suffer from antisocial personality disorder.
As for the genetic connection, the condition may not necessarily affect all children. It may not even affect the current generation of children. It’s possible for one to have the condition, have children being free from it but then a grandchild gets it.
As researches continue working on this, we at least know the symptoms. From these, we’re able to understand the behaviors we may see in someone and respond accordingly.
SYMPTOMS OF ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER
So how do you recognize ASPD?
We’ve mentioned some general characteristics at the start of this article. But in order to be more helpful, here is a more comprehensive list of symptoms.
1. Disregard for Right or Wrong and Other Social Norms
For someone to be diagnosed with ASPD, one of the main symptoms he must exhibit is a disregard for right or wrong.
He will typically have little or no regard at all for socially-acceptable behavior. He simply doesn’t have a moral compass.
The things which society deems wrong, he doesn’t view them as such. Those seen as right, he doesn’t necessarily desire them. In fact, he’s more likely to be inclined towards doing wrong.
If you don’t have ASPD, you’re usually guided in your behavior by your conscience. For the sociopath however, his conscience is very weak. This weak conscience allows them to commit criminal acts with impunity.
The criminal activities are one of the main things they’re known for.
2. Lack of Empathy and Feelings of Remorse
Empathy is the human characteristic which enables you to share the feelings of another person.
People don’t have the same measure of empathy. There are some who have a higher capacity to be empathetic while others have a lower capacity.
Either way, every human being has it – apart from sociopaths.
This is another key trait used to identify a sociopath.
A sociopath may not share the pain of someone going through a hard time. He may even seek to capitalize on the situation and exploit the person. And since their conscience is weak, they won’t have any problem going ahead and taking action.
With a weak conscience, you’ll certainly hear a voice inside you telling you not to do what you’re about to do. But the voice may sound distant, too distant to have any effect.
It therefore becomes so easy, and quite natural to ignore it.
3. Failed and/or Abusive Relationships
Since a conscience and empathy are important for successful human relationships, sociopaths don’t enjoy the benefit of relationships.
These problems are mainly triggered by the self-centeredness sociopaths have. Since they don’t think about others, it can be difficult to relate with them since the relationship will be exploitative.
Sociopaths are also abusive in nature. They don’t just want to have what they want, but they want it at any cost. As such, a relationship with a sociopath can be tricky to maintain.
For example, saying “No” can bring about big problems.
He can become emotionally abusive and either manipulate or intimidate you into submission. They can also become physically abusive in an attempt to get their way.
When someone has ASPD, planning ahead is impossible. They find it boring and somewhat working against their freedom.
It’s normal for them to be impulsive in their spending habits. They can walk into a store and buy something without thinking much about their budget or financial status.
This means that generally, they will likely be financially unstable. And since this is not their preferred situation, they could then venture into criminal activity.
But making impulsive decisions doesn’t have to be just about shopping. It can also manifest in choosing careers, courses in campus and other activities.
As soon as they lose interest in those activities, they just quit.
If it’s a team activity, they may quit even without communicating or apologizing to the rest of the team. They won’t tell the leader of their plans because they don’t have any.
The moment boredom strikes and something more interesting comes, that’s it. They’re done with the activity.
5. Superiority Complex
This is brought about by a sense of superiority within their personality.
In having a superiority complex, someone with ASPD will feel like they’re more important than others. Everyone else should consider and accept their opinions but not the other way round.
They are extremely opinionated and believe their ideas and suggestions are the best.
Arrogance is part of ASPD behavior. Sociopaths feel like they’re above everyone else and don’t see why they should come under the rules made to control people’s behavior.
Watch the below video to understand more about superiority complex and what is usually going on behind the scenes.
6. Risky and Dangerous Behavior
To some extent, the same way sociopaths don’t have any regard for the good of others, they also disregard their own well-being at times.
In their quest to enjoy their freedom, they can often engage in dangerous and risky behavior. This is regardless of their own safety.
Such behavior could be criminal activity, engaging in dangerous sports without proper prior training, going on adventures without all the necessary equipment etc. It could, and often includes, drug abuse.
As is the case even with those not sociopathic, drug use brings with it many other challenges.
Apart from the health of the person taking drugs, his family and friends will obviously be affected. If the person for example drives after taking the drugs, other road users are at risk too.
7. Exploiting Through Deceit
Lies and every other form of deceitfulness are a part of the sociopath’s DNA. And they don’t just lie, they lie convincingly. This lying is necessitated by the result they expect to get from it.
Whereas many people lie to excuse themselves or to explain small mistakes, sociopaths lie for a big reason. They usually have seen something and they want it therefore they lie to get it.
And considering that they don’t care how others feel, they know that they may not get what they want because someone may not agree with them.
With little regard for anyone else, they will look for ways of dealing with the situation and spin a convincing lie.
The intention is to bypass or somehow break the barriers which keep them from attaining their goal.
8. Manipulating Through Wit or Charm
It’s difficult to manipulate someone if you’re not intelligent in some way.
Sociopaths have considerable intelligence and they use it to achieve their selfish goals.
They may present themselves to you as someone kind, helpful etc. They will put on a mask and deceive you into doing what they want or facilitating their getting it.
Part of the manipulation is where charm comes in. This is especially where the manipulation is set to work in a relationship setting.
Remember they don’t have a strong conscience to guide them and they can’t really form strong bonds for relationships. They will therefore pursue their goal with little care what happens when they’re found out.
They won’t care about hurting the other person’s feelings or anything else. Their focus is on their goal.
9. Disrespectful of Others
Another characteristic of ASPD is that the person becomes disrespectful of others. Along the lines of disregarding their rights and feelings, they generally don’t think highly of others.
This can be seen in conversations and expression of opinions.
They can easily put others down, look down upon them, dismiss their opinions etc.
If the event that they offer an explanation of their behavior, it may be something like, “His opinion is not well thought out,” or “They haven’t considered the whole situation in its entirety.”
Of course that might be true, but the communication is what betrays the condition.
This may be said with arrogance and sheer disrespect.
10. Hostility and Antagonism
It’s also a hallmark characteristic of ASPD to be hostile and antagonistic. These are connected with their lack of friendliness and their disrespect of other people’s feelings.
For example, you may do something to a sociopath and he becomes angry. Whereas it would be expected that an apology would be enough, a sociopath can decide to revenge.
The wrong you mistakenly did towards them can cause them to become hostile towards you. This may take different forms and doing something extreme is not difficult.
He may decide not to take physically-harmful action but lash out and say harsh words. He will not see how the issue at hand was a mistake and could take it as a big offense against them.
11. Failure to Fulfill Obligations
The issue of drug use, criminal activity and general risky and dangerous behavior result in an inability to be responsible. Alcoholism is a common addiction among sociopaths.
If a sociopath has a family, he will neglect it. It may not necessarily be knowingly, but by virtue of his actions, this will be the end result.
If he’s employed, he may not give the required input expected of him at work. If he’s the business owner, the business may be on it’s way down unless those managing it are strong.
As the owner however, he may make wrong decisions which could affect the company and cause it to shut down.
Alongside drugs and other dangerous behaviors taking over their lives, the exploiting and manipulating behavior of sociopaths can also cause irresponsibility.
For example, they may lie and manipulate their partners at home in an attempt to cover up criminal activity. They can also exploit their access to the family account and drain it for risky behavior like gambling.
12. Inability to Consider Consequences
With all the things which happen in a sociopath’s life, you would expect that they will come to drop the bad habits.
Although there have been documented cases where sociopathic tendencies reduced with age, this is not the case for all of them.
Many of them continue with their behavior. Many more get out of the public’s eye though they still keep their behavior while in prison once convicted of crime.
In prison, sociopaths and other violent criminals are usually separated from the rest. Sociopaths are however more likely to be labeled mentally-ill and not violent criminals. All the same, they can easily turn violent.
ASPD makes it difficult to make changes in one’s behavior. The culprit here is the weak conscience.
Even when the sociopath is able to recognize a pattern of consequences, learning from it is difficult. Anything to do with good and bad is simply an interpretation which they don’t share.
WARNING SIGNS OF ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER
Since the causes of ASPD are unknown, then it means preventing the condition is virtually impossible.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s a helpless case.
There are warning signs which show up early. If you have a child who has some of these behavioral characteristics, then you can see the direction he might be heading. It would then be wise to start engaging a mental health expert early.
Sociopaths are liars. But even during childhood, the seeds of lying are already growing.
Just like adults, children can lie to avoid punishment. But the same way you can differentiate an adult’s white lie from a sociopath’s seemingly professional lie, so can you with children.
When a child tells lies which leave you confused, you have reason to be alarmed. When the child is accused of using lies at school against teachers and fellow kids, know that you have a situation in your hands.
2. Serious Violation of Rules
Disobedience is part of a child’s growth. In their quest to discover the world around them, they will go where you told them not to. They will do the opposite of what you instructed them to do.
Some other children will also break rules just to see how far they can go. They are testing your limits. These are behaviors you should take seriously.
But when a child breaks rules and seems not troubled by it, does it again and again, that’s serious.
If you remember that sociopaths lack remorse, then you’ll understand why the child doesn’t seem bothered about the wrong he did. Also remember that sociopaths typically disregard rules and social norms.
Aggression in sociopaths starts early.
When a child is aggressive in his behavior, you can be sure that it will not go away just because it’s ignored. It’s actually going to worsen.
Generally, children, especially young ones, are friendly and trusting.
In the event that they disagree, they will often refuse to play with one another but not necessarily fight. And when one gets violent, most likely the other one will retreat crying.
But for a child who is on the path towards sociopathy, he won’t retreat after being wronged. He might beat the other child until probably stopped by an older person.
Another way you could observe aggressive behavior is if the child acts violently towards animals.
Does your pet dog run away from your child? Does the cat run away from him? Find out why.
4. Destruction of Property
Aggression can also be seen through destruction of property. It’s as though the child has stored up anger which needs to be let out.
Destruction of property might take the form of breakages or even setting things on fire.
The criminal activities in adult sociopaths start early too. Whereas children might occasionally steal money to buy sweets, one headed towards ASPD will go further than that.
He might steal money from your wallet and not just the few coins you put on the table.
He might also have ideas of what to buy and not the usual sweets. He might go for something bigger or more expensive like a toy.
So when you notice him with something new and probably noticed some money missing, that’s a sign.
It’s also possible that the stealing won’t be focused on your home. He might be stealing from other children. He might have a new toy stolen from another child when playing at their home. Maybe he borrowed it but never returned it.
Sociopathy can’t be medically diagnosed on someone below 18 years of age. This is because for the child or teen, the brain and personality are still developing.
All the same, recognizing early warning signs can help. You can start working with a therapist to see how to prevent the full blown personality disorder from occurring.
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