The Different Parts Of Antisocial Psychology And What They Mean

Updated April 9, 2024by MyTherapist Editorial Team

You’ve probably heard someone referred to as “antisocial” before, and you may have associated that with someone who doesn’t like talking to people and who keeps to themselves. However, antisocial psychology is quite different than someone who doesn’t prefer to speak much. In this post, we’ll explain the various aspects of antisocial personality disorder – including the biological, environment, and social factors that can contribute its development – as well as the treatments that can help mitigate symptoms for people living with this disorder.

What is antisocial personality disorder?

While there is no cure for ASPD, symptoms are treatable

ASPD is a mental health condition identified within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V). When someone has ASPD, they generally are not concerned with others’ rights; in fact, they may blatantly violate or disregard them. Someone with ASPD may lack morals and go against social norms, show aggression, or even engage in a life of crime by lying, stealing, or being violent.

Sometimes, the person with ASPD may not partake in delinquency, but instead manipulate others for personal gain. They may have a manufactured personality that is charming to some, but their view of others involves no attachment. Eventually, they cannot sustain their relationships. 

What causes ASPD?

How does one become antisocial? Were they born that way, or were they a product of their environment? The answer entails a little bit of both. 

Genetic factors

If your family member has ASPD, there is a good chance that you or someone close to you may inherit it, as well. While the exact cause is still unknown, one gene that may contribute is a gene that encodes an enzyme known as MAO-A (monoamine oxidase A). This gene helps break down certain feel-good chemicals in the brain; it is associated with aggression, and children who have low levels of MAO-A may develop antisocial causes.

Trauma history

A traumatic event is one significant environmental factor that can contribute to the development of ASPD. Trauma can change the way your brain functions and how hormones are released. Traumatic events, in general, can change a person. Sometimes, depression can result, but other times, it can lead someone to foster a disregard for humanity.

Someone who has experienced head trauma, for example, may develop ASPD. If there is less gray matter in certain parts of the brain, antisocial behavior may develop. There are certain parts of the brain where less activity may lead to an antisocial personality disorder, such as the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex involves planning, consequences, and morality. As you can imagine, damage to this part of the brain could make someone act antisocial.

Family upbringing

Someone who is raised in an environment that is not suitable may develop ASPD. If the parents of the child are antisocial, the child may learn those behaviors from them. Childhood experiences like neglect, instability, or exposure to violence and abuse have also been linked to development of ASPD in adulthood. 

Conduct disorder

Sometimes, it is apparent that a child is more at risk for developing ASPD. Conduct disorders – which can manifest into ASPD – involve child behavioral issues before the age of 15 years old. Aggression, manipulation, stealing, vandalism, and fighting may point to conduct disorder in a child; often, punishment and/or consequences will not seem to have an impact on the child’s behavior. Approximately 40% of those with conduct disorder will develop into ASPD as they grow into adults.

Article Visual

What are the symptoms of ASPD?

The symptoms of ASPD can vary in intensity and lead to significant impairment in social, occupational, or interpersonal functioning. ASPD symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Telling lies
  • Taking advantage of others for personal gain
  • Disrespecting people regardless of status
  • Acting with an unwarranted sense of arrogance
  • Engage in petty or dangerous crime
  • Intimidating others through making threats or violence
  • Lacking empathy or remorse
  • Behaving in a hostile or aggressive manner
  • Lacking impulse control or planning skills
  • Taking unnecessary, often dangerous risks
  • Engaging in brief, often abusive relationships

There are many similarities between the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder and conduct disorder. In diagnosing conduct disorder, clinicians are assessing for four primary symptoms:

  • Hurting animals (i.e., torturing or maiming them)
  • Destroying property (i.e., setting fire, spraying graffiti, or breaking things)
  • Disobeying rules (i.e., at home, at school, or in other social settings)
  • Lying to evade consequences or attain privileges

How do doctors diagnose ASPD?

Diagnosing ASPD can be difficult for a few reasons. First, it is hard for someone who has ASPD to get a diagnosis because of their ego. Many people living with ASPD, and personality disorders in general, believe that there is nothing wrong with them, so they avoid the doctor. As ASPD is an adult disorder, they have the choice to do nothing. Often, they may visit the doctor for an irrelevant reason. They may feel depressed or want to calm down their anxiety and then discover they have ASPD.

Even if they visit a doctor, they may not paint an accurate picture of themselves, glossing over any negative behaviors they exhibit. One way to know if someone has ASPD is to talk to the person’s friends and family. Relationships are an important indicator. 

A professional needs to have a full psychological evaluation, medical history, personal history, and the patient needs to meet the majority of criteria in the DSM-V to be diagnosed with ASPD. The doctor will look for behavioral patterns that convey a disregard for human rights through interviews and questionnaires completed by the individual, their family, and their friends. Exposure to risk factors like childhood trauma will also be taken into consideration. A doctor will also want to rule out other mental health conditions with similar symptoms, such as borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder

Can you treat ASPD?

There is no cure for antisocial personality disorder. Due to the resistance of the patients with ASPD, treating the disorder is difficult; however, long-term treatment may be effective, and the results may depend on the severity of the disorder, the patient’s ability to listen, and other situations. With therapy and/or medication, a person with ASPD can manage their condition and adjust their behavior in order to reduce causing harm to themselves and those around them.

Therapy for ASPD

While there is no cure for ASPD, symptoms are treatable

Some forms of therapy may be able to help those with ASPD. Talk therapy, where the patient talks about issues they are living with in order to develop a new perspective, can be effective. If the person has anger issues, talk therapy may be able to help them resolve their anger. If they are struggling with addiction, talk therapy can also be useful in that domain. 

Talk therapy can help a person with ASPD accept the reality of their disorder and make changes to improve it. However, this all depends on the severity. Sometimes, the person with ASPD may refuse to talk, which means that the treatment will likely not progress.

A therapist who treats ASPD needs to be experienced in the relationship-building department. Therapists who have not worked with someone who has ASPD may not have the patience to carry out treatment. People with ASPD may be more likely to berate their therapist and refuse to listen to them. Even the most well-trained therapist may not have the patience to handle the verbal darts someone with ASPD may throw at them. However, a therapist who has the strongest emotional control skills and patience may reach the person with APD, which could in turn pave the way to managing symptoms.

Medication for ASPD

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications to help treat ASPD as a whole. Sometimes, the patient may receive medications that can treat the symptoms, such as depression or aggression. Those who are prescribed may need to have their symptoms monitored, as substance use disorders are common among people who have ASPD.

For severe cases of ASPD, imprisonment is the only solution. One systematic cross-national review found that ASPD is present in about 47% of people who are currently incarcerated. Keeping people with ASPD away from society is needed if they are continuously breaking the law or unable to function. Other options include community-based programs or rehabilitation settings. 

Support for living with someone who has ASPD

It can be very difficult to care for someone who has antisocial personality disorder. They may repetitively lash out, harm, or withdraw from friends, co-workers, and family members. Understandably, these kinds of hurtful and unpredictable behaviors can lead someone to develop anxiety or depression. If you or someone you love is being physically harmed in any way because of ASPD, it is imperative to get help immediately. You can reach out discreetly to the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 800-799-7233.

Online therapy can provide a safe, convenient, and affordable space for someone to process their feelings regarding a relationship with someone who has ASPD. Online counselors can use strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help people develop positive coping mechanisms and thought patterns. Internet-based CBT (iCBT) has been shown to be effective in treating depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and chronic pain, among other mental health conditions.

If discretion is important to you in seeking counseling services, the online platform MyTherapist enables users to schedule appointments at convenient times and from any location with a stable internet connection. This means that you can meet virtually with your therapist while on lunch break at work, on vacation, or even while you’re sitting in the carpool line waiting to pick your kids up from school. If you have a quick question, you can text your therapist directly in the moment for advice.


There has been confusion when it comes to antisocial personality disorder. When many think of this disorder, they may imagine someone who isn’t talkative and keeps to themselves. They may mistake being antisocial with being shy or socially awkward, which can be symptoms of other mental disorders. This can create some stigma around those who are shy.

Instead, an antisocial personality disorder is an even more terrifying disorder to have, the more you think about it. Those who have it can have no regard for others, which they usually cannot control. They are almost relying on instincts, and treatment can be difficult.

If you or someone you know is displaying symptoms of ASPD, it’s best if you seek counseling today. A therapist can teach you different techniques to empathize with others, build patience, and communicate assertively with someone who is attempting to take advantage of you. There is never any shame in asking for help. Reach out to MyTherapist today to start cultivating a safe and comfortable environment.

For Additional Help & Support With Your ConcernsThis website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.