8 Signs Someone Has Antisocial Personality Disorder
Most people are familiar with the words sociopath and psychopath, but not so comfortable with their more clinical term: antisocial personality disorder. Antisocial personality disorder has a confusing name, but is a very serious and lifelong diagnosis — and you may know someone who has it.
According to Psychology Today, about three percent of men and one percent of women have antisocial personality disorder (APD). But people with this disorder aren't antisocial in the sense of being shy. "There is a lot of confusion with this term 'antisocial personality disorder' with some people taking it face value," licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, tells Bustle. Really, it means the person with the disorder behaves against ("anti") social codes of conduct.
"Antisocial personality disorder is a clinical term for a very serious mental illness that is characterized by a persistent pattern of antisocial and even dangerous behavior towards other living things — animals as well as people," licensed psychotherapist and mental health author Judith Belmont, MS, LPC, tells Bustle. "Sociopathy describes the persistent pattern of unhealthy, negative and even destructive behavior that someone exhibits when they have an antisocial personality disorder." APD can only be diagnosed by a professional.
Here are eight signs someone has antisocial personality disorder, according to experts.
1. They Are Good At Convincing People To "Go Along" With Them
One of the major signs someone has antisocial personality disorder is how good they are at manipulating others.
"A hallmark sign of this disorder is evident when someone is able to entice or convince one to do something out of character, more risky or illegal than usual, causing one to question why they are 'going along,'" Gerald A. Shiener, M.D., director of consultation and liaison for psychiatric services and integrated care at Detroit Medical Center, tells Bustle. If someone you know has this skill, they might have APD, and they may want to seek help from a mental health professional.
2. They Respond To Confrontation With More Lies
People with antisocial personality disorder respond differently to confrontation than others. Often, they layer lies on top of each other, instead of giving up if they've been caught.
"Another clue to this disorder is the response to confrontation — when the lies come out, the explanation is another lie that can also be quite convincing," Dr. Shiener says. People with antisocial personality disorder are less inclined to tell the truth.
3. They Can Charm Their Way Into Anything
People with antisocial personality disorder tend to be very charming. And a subset of those with the disorder, according to Dr. Shiener, take this to an extreme.
"A variant of this condition is the imposter — a charming person who represents [themself] as wealthy, needing small loans to tide them over until their funds are available," Dr. Shiener says. "They may be able to 'talk their way' into club membership, hospital or legal privileges and other valued social positions purely by their ability to be charming and convincing." While this sort of behavior may seem like something out of a true crime documentary (think My Friend Rockefeller), it can show up in anyone with the disorder.
4. They Lack Empathy
It may be hard to pinpoint who exactly lacks empathy, but people with antisocial personality disorder tend to. Sometimes, you can pinpoint this in how they behave. "[A] hallmark of antisocial personality disorder is a disregard for the feelings or suffering of others," Dr. Shiener says. Things ranging from sad stories on the news to the consequences of their own actions don't affect them much.
There's more to lacking empathy than simply being callous, too. "This leads people to be more likely to commit crimes, which can be on the gamut of violent crimes to white collar crimes," Belmont says. "The consistent thread is that personal gain, pleasure, and indulgence supersedes any sense of responsibility to others." Research has shown the APD is present in up to 35 percent of people in prison.
5. They Struggle Taking Responsibility For Their Actions
Unfortunately, people with antisocial personality disorder struggle deeply with learning from their mistakes, because they may not take responsibility for their own actions.
"A hallmark of this personality disorder is that there is little or no remorse for any wrongdoing," Belmont says. "With the lack of ability to empathize and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, [a person with APD may] blame others rather than take responsibility for hurtful and even abusive actions. Tables are constantly turned by the defense mechanism of projection." This thought process makes coming to a point of understanding difficult for someone with APD.
6. They Don't See Things From Other People's Points Of View
Narcissism is a word thrown around about as much as sociopath. Turns out, narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder are often compared. And those with antisocial personality disorder experience narcissism.
"Narcissism is characterized by being unable to see things from the point of view of others, and people are manipulated for one's own gain rather than respected and nurtured," Belmont says. "Those who are so narcissistic see themselves as better than others and are grandiose." This trait goes beyond their lack of empathy, and expands to a general world view that is shaped solely by their own perspective.
7. They Get Angrier Than Others About Smaller Things
Although people with antisocial personality disorder tend to be quite charming, they can also fall into major moments of rage.
"Rage as manifested by a disproportionate anger typically in the face of frustration or barriers [is seen in APD]," Dr. Durvasula says. "This can include violent or aggressive rage when they are frustrated in the pursuit of what they want or need." The anger someone with APD displays might seem way out of proportion.
8. Their Antisocial Traits May Not Change
One trait of antisocial personality disorder that other personality disorders share is that their traits may not change over time. If someone you know has antisocial personality disorder, they've probably had it for a while.
"Personality disorders are pervasive and inflexible, stable and usually begin during childhood," Bethany D. Merillat, MS, MEd, tells Bustle. "Personality disorders can put a person at risk for developing other clinical symptoms such as anxiety, compulsivity and neuroticism. These are symptoms of the disorder rather than the disorder itself." According to the Mayo Clinic, psychotherapy is known to help treat the symptoms of APD.
Removing the stigma from antisocial personality disorder is important, even if the symptoms seem scary. "There is a very negative view of psychopathology in our society, and I believe that education is the key to helping people become more accepting of people who suffer from these disorders," Merillat says. "The stigma associated with mental health often prevents many from seeking treatment." Antisocial personality disorder is a serious mental health condition, and people with it deserve to be able to access any help they need.