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Antisocial personality disorder

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Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a type of personality disorder in which a person shows a pattern of not caring about and violating other people's rights. It is also known as sociopathy. This pattern begins in childhood or adolescence, and continues into adulthood.[1] People with ASPD have no conscience or sense of morality, although the large majority know right from wrong. They often commit crimes, have legal problems, and show behavior that is aggressive and in the large majority of cases, impulsive, reckless and destructive.[2] About three percent of men and one percent of women have ASPD.

DSM-IV criteria

According to the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-IV), a person has ASPD if they fit the following requirements:

A. Since age 15, the person has shown a pattern of not caring about and violating others' rights. This pattern must be pervasive, meaning that the person habitually acts this way in different settings. This pattern is shown by at least three of the following things:

  1. The person does not obey the law, and repeatedly does things that he or she could be arrested for
  2. The person often deliberately misleads and deceives others. He or she may do this by lying repeatedly, using aliases (false names), or conning other people (either for money, or just because they enjoy doing this).
  3. The person is impulsive or does not plan ahead
  4. The person is irritable (becoming irritated or angry easily), and is aggressive. He or she repeatedly gets into physical fights or assaults others.
  5. The person shows no concern for other people's safety or his/her own safety.
  6. The person is consistently irresponsible. He or she may do not try to keep a job or honor financial obligations (like bills and debts).
  7. The person shows no remorse for hurting others. This means that he or she hurts, steals from, or treats others badly, without feeling bad about it.

B. To be diagnosed with ASPD, the person must be at least 18 years old.

C. By age 15, he or she seemed to qualify for conduct disorder.

D. The person's antisocial behavior is not caused by schizophrenia or a manic episode.

ASPD vs. psychopathy

ASPD is not the same as psychopathy. They are similar; people with both conditions may show similar behaviors. However, they are diagnosed differently. Using the DSM criteria, a diagnosis of ASPD is based on a person's behaviors. There is not one official, agreed-upon definition or set of diagnostic criteria for psychopathy, but most tools that measure psychopathy focus on personality characteristics as well as behaviors.

Most people who score highly on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R), the most popular measure of psychopathy, also qualify for ASPD. However, most people with ASPD do not score as highly on the PCL-R. This suggests that most psychopaths qualify for ASPD, but most people with ASPD do not qualify as psychopaths.[3] (So the diagnosis of ASPD covers most psychopaths, as well as many more people who are not psychopaths.)

The diagnosis of ASPD covers two to three times as many prisoners as the diagnosis of psychopathy does. (In other words, there are two to three times as many prisoners with ASPD as there are psychopathic prisoners.)[3]


  1. Antisocial personality disorderDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) American Psychiatric Association (2000) pp. 645–650
  2. Schacter, Daniel L., Daniel T. Gilbert, and Daniel M. Wegner. Psychology. Worth Publishers, 2010. Print.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Patrick, Christopher J (Editor). (2005) Handbook of Psychopathy. Guilford Press. Page 61.