Antisocial personality disorder
Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by an ongoing pattern of disregard for other people. This includes the purposeful violation of boundaries and lack of respect for family, peers and humanity in general. This disorder begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues on into adulthood. Commonly, people with antisocial personality disorder are mistakenly labeled with the terms 'sociopath' and 'psychopath'. Research indicates, however, that each of these conditions have distinctly different characteristics. Often, this disorder interferes heavily with normal day-to-day routine, such as work, social environment, family life and accordance with rules and laws.
Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder
Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder can easily be mistaken for those of other mental illnesses, so a professional opinion should be considered if a person is showing signs of this disorder. Following is a list of possible symptoms of antisocial personality disorder:
- Aggressive behavior, such as fighting
- History of childhood behavioral problems and disorderly conduct
- Violation of the boundaries of others
- Substance abuse
- Lack of respect for rules and laws
- Disregard for the safety of self and others
- Lack of realistic or long-term goals
- Inability to keep a job or stay in school
- Constant and habitual lying
Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder
While the cause of antisocial personality disorder is not known, there is strong evidence that points to both genetic and environmental issues that may play a huge role in its development. Research has determined that there is a strong likelihood for susceptibility to mental disorders to be passed down the family tree. Subtle brain damage during pregnancy, brain chemical imbalance and conditions causing a low rate of arousal may lead a patient to behaviors that indicate this disorder. Alternatively, environmental issues can lead a child to develop symptoms as well. Children from large families, those who have experienced foster care, or those who come from homes riddled with crime, drug abuse, neglect or lack of discipline can develop an antisocial personality. When regard for others is not taught at a young age, or personal boundaries are not encouraged, a child may not possess the skills or knowledge to conduct himself accordingly as an adult.
Diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder
In order for diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder to be made, a patient must be at least 18 years of age and have had a documented history of conduct problems beginning before the age of 15. Likewise, the occurrence of symptoms must not be directly related to other forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia or episodes of mania. A professional should evaluate family history, behavioral records and current lifestyle to determine if this disorder is probable. Generally, at least three of the symptoms listed above should be experienced on an ongoing basis to qualify for antisocial personality disorder.
Treating Antisocial Personality Disorder
Treating antisocial personality disorder is difficult, considering that most people who experience symptoms do not seek help for themselves. Often, family members or courts of law may require professional guidance or intervention if symptoms are suspected. There is no routine medication available to treat symptoms. When medication is prescribed, it may be directed at one or more underlying symptoms, such as aggression or anxiety. There have been some reports of behavioral modification therapy which reflect a decent success rate. This type of therapy presents rewards for good behavior, encouraging the patient to act in ways that are beneficial to everyone. It has been reported that at least half of patients who develop this disorder experience fewer symptoms as they age. Behavioral improvement may begin near the ages of 40 to 50.