The Different Parts Of Antisocial Psychology And What They Mean

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 22, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Dawn Brown, LPC

You’ve probably heard someone is referred to as “antisocial” before, and you may have associated that with someone who doesn’t like talking to people and keeps to themselves. However, antisocial psychology is quite different than someone who doesn’t speak much. In this post, we’ll talk about antisocial psychology and explain what it is. First, let’s look at antisocial personality disorder or APD

What Is APD?

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APD is when a person does not care about the rights of other people. Someone with APD may have few morals, lack of social norms, aggression, or even live a life of crime. Sometimes, the person with APD may not be a delinquent but instead manipulate others for their gain. They may have a manufactured personality that is charming to some, but their view of others is one of no attachment. Eventually, they cannot sustain their relationships.

The Cause

How does one become antisocial? Were they born that way, or were they a product of their environment? The answer is a little bit of both. First, let’s talk about genetic causes.

Genetic Causes

If your family members have APD, 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. This gene helps break down certain feel-good chemicals in the brain. This is associated with aggression, and children who have low levels may develop antisocial causes.

Trauma

One giant environmental factor that can contribute to the development of APD is a traumatic event. 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 create someone who has a disregard for humanity.

Head Trauma and Neurological

Someone who has experienced head trauma may develop an antisocial personality disorder. 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 could imagine, damage to this part of the brain could make someone antisocial.

Environment

Someone who is raised in an environment that is not suitable may develop APD. If the parents of the child are antisocial, the child may learn those behaviors from them.

The changing social norms of society may cause APD as well. If a society becomes less empathetic and less social, someone may develop APD as a result.

Conduct Disorder

APD is a disorder for adults, but one disorder a child may have can lead to APD. This is known as conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is APD in many regards. It involves a disregard of other people and antisocial behavior to boot. The child with conduct disorder may be aggressive, manipulative, steal, vandalize, and fight other children. Even if the child is punished, it won’t affect the child’s behavior often.

Conduct disorder must involve the child having problems before 15 years old. There are two different types of conduct disorder present. First, there is the childhood type, where the conduct disorder is diagnosed before ten years old. This is more severe than the second type, which is adolescent onset. This is when the child is diagnosed after the age of 10. This form may be a phase, and it’s seen as less problematic than the childhood diagnosis. Childhood diagnoses can lead to more aggressive behavior and can be harder to treat.

Approximately 25-40 percent of those with conduct disorder will develop into APD as they grow into adults.

Symptoms

Here is the complete list of symptoms of APD.

  • Someone with APD may constantly tell lies.
  • They may be deceitful to take advantage of others. Everything they do is for their gain.
  • They disrespect other people, whether that person is above or below them on the ladder.
  • They have a strong, unwarranted sense of arrogance. They think their opinions matter more than anyone else’s.
  • Someone with APD lives a life of crime. They may commit petty crimes or perform a crime that is much more dangerous. Someone with APD may spend their entire lives in prison.
  • Intimidating others. They may use violence or other threats to get what they want.
  • Unable to empathize or feel remorseful for their actions
  • They may be hostile or violent.
  • They are impulsive and don’t know how to make plans.
  • They take unneeded risks. They may take risky behavior.
  • Their relationships may be short, often abusive.
  • They don’t learn from their consequences.

For conduct disorder, symptoms include:

  • Hurting animals
  • Destroying property
  • Disobeying rules
  • Stealing

Diagnosing APD

How does a doctor diagnose APD? It can be difficult for a few reasons. First, it’s hard for someone who has APD to get a diagnosis because of their ego. They believe that they do not need to be treated or diagnosed, so they avoid the doctor. As APD is an adult disorder, they have the choice to avoid doctors usually. 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 APD.

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 APD is to talk to the person’s friends and family. Relationships are an important clue.

A professional needs to have a full psychological evaluation, medical history, personal history, and the patient needs to meet all the criteria in the DSM5 to be diagnosed with APD.

Treating APD

Due to the resistance of the patients with APD, 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.

Therapy

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Some forms of therapy may be able to help those with APD. Talk therapy, where the patient talks about issues they’re dealing with to put them into 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 dealing with addiction, talk therapy can be able to help.

Talk therapy can make the person with APD realize their disorder and make changes to improve it. However, this all depends on the severity. Sometimes, the person with APD may refuse to talk, which means that the treatment will go nowhere.

A therapist who treats APD needs to be experienced in that department. Therapists who haven’t dealt with an antisocial personality disorder may not have the patience to handle someone with it. Treating a patient like this will require the therapist to deal with the patient berating the therapist and refusing to listen. Even the most well-trained therapist may not have the patience to handle the abuse someone with APD may throw at them.

However, a therapist who has the strongest tolerance may reach the patient with APD, which could change that patient’s life.

Medication Treatment

Sadly, there have yet to be FDA-approved medications to help treat APD 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 drug abuse is common among people who have APD.

For severe cases, imprisonment is sometimes the best solution. Keeping them away from society is needed if they cannot function. One day, we may be able to treat people with APD better once it’s more understood.

In Summary

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, but they cannot control it. They are almost relying on instincts, and treatment can be difficult.

If someone you know, or you, have symptoms of antisocial personality disorder, it’s best if you seek counseling today. A therapist can teach you different techniques to empathize with others, learn the consequences of your actions, and use yourself for good instead of for your gain.

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