Humanistic Approaches to Positive Growth and Self-Acceptance

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Sometimes described as “psychopaths” or “sociopaths,” people with antisocial personality disorder persistently disregard and violate others’ rights

Morning word cloud concept

  • Aside from substance-related disorders, this is the disorder most linked to adult criminal behavior
  • The DSM-5 stipulates that a person be at least 18 years of age to receive this diagnosis
  • Most people with an antisocial personality disorder displayed some patterns of misbehavior before they were 15 years old

People with the disorder are likely to lie repeatedly, be reckless, and impulsive

  • They have little regard for other individuals, and can be cruel, sadistic, aggressive, and violent

Surveys indicate that 2% to 3.5% of people in the U.S. meet the criteria for this disorder

  • The disorder is 4 times more common in men than women
  • Because people with this disorder are often arrested, researchers frequently look for people with antisocial patterns in prison populations
  • Studies indicate higher rates of alcoholism and other substance use disorders among this group

Children with a conduct disorder and an accompanying attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may have a heightened risk of developing antisocial personality disorder

How Do Theorists Explain Antisocial Personality Disorder?kid

Psychodynamic theorists propose that this disorder begins with an absence of parental love, leading to a lack of basic trust

  • Many behaviorists have suggested that antisocial symptoms may be learned through modeling or unintentional reinforcement

The cognitive view says that people with the disorder hold attitudes that trivialize the importance of other people’s needs

  • A number of studies suggest that biological factors may play a role, including:
    • Lower levels of serotonin, impacting impulsivity and aggression
    • Deficient functioning in the frontal lobes of the brain
    • Lower levels of anxiety and arousal, leading them to be more likely than others to take risks and seek thrills

Treatments for Antisocial Personality Disorder

  • Treatments are typically ineffective
  • A major obstacle is the individual’s lack of conscience or desire to change
    • Most have been forced to come to treatment
  • Some cognitive therapists try to guide clients to think about moral issues and the needs of other people
    • Hospitals and prisons have attempted to create therapeutic communities
  • Atypical antipsychotic drugs also have been tried but systematic studies are still needed


Bernstein, D.A. & Nash, P.W. (2008). Essentials of psychology (4th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Comer, R.J. (2013). Abnormal Psychology (8th ed).  Worth Publishers
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5) American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013
Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
McGraw-Hill.McGraw Hill Higher Education (2013), The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.
Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Sue,Sue, and Sue (2014).  Understanding Abnormal Behavior (10th Ed), Cengage Learning


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