Antisocial personality disorder is a chronic mental illness characterized by a complete disregard for the rights of others. Antisocial symptoms are sometimes referred to as sociopath symptoms. Although sociopath traits usually begin in childhood and adolescence, the American Pychiatric Assocation’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) restricts diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder to people 18 years of age and older.
Antisocial personality disorder is very rare, only affecting 1 percent of American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (2010). Because sociopathy affects patterns of thought as well as behavior, many people who display the symptoms of a sociopath don’t recognize they have a problem and may only seek treatment after being forced to do so, such as when ordered to enter treatment by a court.
Sociopath Traits and Characteristics
Sociopaths generally lack empathy and are often callous about the feelings and needs of other people. They are, however, master manipulators. Common sociopath traits include charm, wit and good speaking skills, which they use to exploit others for their own gain. People with antisocial personality disorder symptoms are often excessively egotistical, imagining themselves as above ordinary tasks and worries. They can come across as cocky or overly opinionated, and may be sexually manipulative.
Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms
Antisocial personality disorder symptoms and sociopath symptoms include:
- Aggressiveness and irritability
- Child abuse
- Complete disregard for the feelings, needs and safety of others
- Failure to follow rules and laws, often getting into trouble with law enforcement
- Habitual lying or deceitfulness
- Irresponsible behavior at work
- Lack of remorse about hurting other people
- Manipulation, especially through the use of charm and wit
- Poor or abusive relationships.
The symptoms of antisocial personality disorder tend to peak in young adulthood and decrease over time, with people in their 20s being most likely to hurt others or break the law. However, older adults with antisocial personality disorder still struggle with relationships and work, even after the more severe antisocial symptoms dissipate.
Diagnosing Antisocial Personality Disorder
Since most people with antisocial personality disorder don’t realize that they have a problem, it’s often up to friends and family to encourage the individual to seek help. The doctor–usually a mental health professional–examines the person’s symptoms and history and makes a diagnosis.
Official diagnoses of antisocial personality disorder are rare. The person must have shown signs of conduct disorder, which may include delinquent behavior such as truancy or theft, before age 15. Only adults over age 18 can be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
Grohol, J. (2010). Antisocial personality disorder. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx7.htm
Mayo Clinic.(2008). Antisocial personality disorder: Symptoms. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/antisocial-personality-disorder/DS00829/DSECTION=symptoms
National Institute of Mental Health. (2010). The numbers count: Mental disorders in America. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Antisocial
Vorvick, L. (2008). Antisocial personality disorder. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/antisocial-personality-disorder/overview.html