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Antisocial Personality Disorder


Personality disorder is a matter of false judgments of value. Listed below are the false value judgments that are at the root of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

False Good

False Bad

Personality Disorder

to live by their own internal code of values being influenced by others or by the norms of society failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
to engage in high risk activities boredom reckless disregard for safety of self and others
to take advantage of the weaknesses of others consideration of others lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
to persuade people to do what they want them to do being deceived, manipulated, or exploited by others deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
for sexual variety being tied down in a monogamous relationship have never sustained a totally monogamous relationship for more than one year
to keep moving and exploring settling down wanderlust
to earn an independent free-lance living by talent, skills, ingenuity and wit the nine-to-five world is unable to sustain consistent work behavior as indicated by...
to spend money repeatedly fails to honor financial obligations, as indicated by defaulting on debts or failure to provide child support or support for...
to raise hell and make mischief (conduct disorder as child or adolescent)
to be physically bold and tough being exploited or taken advantage of irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
to live without concern for consequences concern for consequences impulsivity or failure to plan ahead

Perspectives q.v.

The Disease Perspective

Proposed Revision | APA DSM-5 New!

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, pp. 649-650) describes Antisocial Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

  • deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

  • impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;

  • irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;

  • reckless disregard for safety of self or others; .

  • consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

  • lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

The individual is at least 18 years, there is evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15 years, and the occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode.

The Dimensional Perspective

Here is a hypothetical profile, in terms of the five-factor model of personality, for Antisocial Personality Disorder (speculatively constructed from McCrae, 1994, pg. 306):

High Neuroticism
Chronic negative affects, including anxiety, fearfulness, tension, irritability, anger, dejection, hopelessness, guilt, shame; difficulty in inhibiting impulses: for example, to eat, drink, or spend money; irrational beliefs: for example, unrealistic expectations, perfectionistic demands on self, unwarranted pessimism; unfounded somatic concerns; helplessness and dependence on others for emotional support and decision making.

Low Extraversion
Social isolation, interpersonal detachment, and lack of support networks; flattened affect; lack of joy and zest for life; reluctance to assert self or assume leadership roles, even when qualified; social inhibition and shyness.

Low Openness
Difficulty adapting to social or personal change; low tolerance or understanding of different points of view or lifestyles; emotional blandness and inability to understand and verbalize own feelings; alexythymia; constricted range of interests; insensitivity to art and beauty; excessive conformity to authority.

Low Agreeableness
Cynicism and paranoid thinking; inability to trust even friends or family; quarrelsomeness; too ready to pick fights; exploitive and manipulative; lying; rude and inconsiderate manner alienates friends, limits social support; lack of respect for social conventions can lead to troubles with the law; inflated and grandiose sense of self; arrogance.

Low Conscientiousness
Underachievement: not fulfilling intellectual or artistic potential; poor academic performance relative to ability; disregard of rules and responsibilities can lead to trouble with the law; unable to discipline self (e.g., stick to diet, exercise plan) even when required for medical reasons; personal and occupational aimlessness.

The Behavior Perspective

The Life Story Perspective


Cognitive Effects

Basic Belief: People are there to be taken. [Strategy]: Attack (Beck, Freeman & associates, pg. 26).

The "idealized self is made up of beliefs about how we should feel, think, or act" (Tamney, pg. 32).

In Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders, Aaron T. Beck, Arthur Freeman, and associates (1990) list typical beliefs associated with each specific personality disorder. According to my view, the beliefs and attitudes rationalize and reinforce the idealized image and the compulsive attachments and aversions. They are analogous to Karen Horney's "shoulds" and "neurotic claims." Here are the typical beliefs that they have listed (pg. 361) for Antisocial Personality Disorder:

  • I have to look out for myself.
  • Force or cunning is the best way to get things done.
  • We live in a jungle and the strong person is the one who survives.
  • People will get at me if I don't get them first.
  • It is not important to keep promises or honor debts.
  • Lying and cheating are OK as long as you don't get caught.
  • I have been unfairly treated and am entitled to get my fair share by whatever means I can.
  • Other people are weak and deserve to be taken.
  • If I don't push other people, I will get pushed around.
  • I should do whatever I can get away with.
  • What others think of me doesn't really matter.
  • If I want something, I should do whatever is necessary to get it.
  • I can get away with things so I don't need to worry about bad consequences.
  • If people can't take care of themselves, that's their problem.

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV. 4th ed. Washington: Author.

American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV. 4th ed., text revision. Washington: Author.

Beck, Aaron T. and Freeman, Arthur M. and Associates (1990). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders. New York : Guilford Press.

Beck, Aaron T. and Freeman, Arthur M. and Associates (2003). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders, 2nd ed. New York : Guilford Press.

Cooper, Terry D. (2003). Sin, Pride, and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology and Psychology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Gunderson, John G. and Philips, Katherine A. (1995). Personality Disorders. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry/VI, Vol. 2. Eds. Harold I. Kaplan and Benjamin J. Sadock. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.

McCrae, Robert R. (1994). "A Reformulation of Axis II: Personality and Personality-Related Problems." Costa, Paul T., Jr., Widiger, Thomas A., editors. Personality Disorders and the Five-Factor Model of Personality. Washington, D.C.: The American Psychological Association.

(1989). Personality Disorders: Antisocial Personality Disorder. Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders, Vol. 3. American Psychiatric Association. Task Force on Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. Washington, DC : American Psychiatric Association.

Stone, Michael H. (1993). Abnormalities of personality: within and beyond the realm of treatment. New York: W.W. Norton.

Tamney, Joseph B. (2002). The Resilience of Conservative Religion. New York: Cambridge UP.

Traits and characteristics

sociopath, psychopath, sociopathic, sociopathy, psychopathic personality, sociopathic personality, deviant, amoral, moral insanity, dyssocial, asocial, psychopathic, superficial charm, untruthfulness, pathological liar, insincerity, lack of remorse, lack of shame, egocentricity, impulsivity, psychopathy, sociopathology, psychopathology.

The Sociobiology of Antisocial personality disorder

Robert D. Hare (1993, pp. 166-67) offers sociobiology as one of several theories of the causes of psychopathy:

The relatively new discipline of sociobiology argues that psychopathy is not so much a psychiatric disorder as an expression of a particular genetically based reproductive strategy. Simply, sociobiologists assert that one of our main roles in life is to reproduce, thereby passing on our genes to the next generation. We can do so in a number of ways. One reproductive "strategy" is to have only a few children and to nurture them carefully, thus ensuring that they have a good chance of survival. A different strategy is to have so many children that some are bound to survive, even if they are neglected or abandoned. Psychopaths supposedly adhere to an extreme version of the latter strategy: They reproduce as often as possible and waste little energy in worrying about the welfare of their offspring. In this way, they propagate their genes with little or no personal investment.

For male psychopaths, the most effective way to have lots of children is to mate with--and quickly abandon--a large number of women. Unless a psychopath is so attractive or charming that women actively pursue him, he can best accomplish his goal by deception, manipulation, cheating, and misrepresenting his status. One of our psychopathic subjects, a thirty-year-old fraud artist, has had dozens of common-law marriages, the first when he was age sixteen. He had a peripheral association with several rock stars and often passed himself off as their agent and personal confidant. He had little difficulty in convincing aspiring entertainers that he could give their careers a big boost. In eight cases that I know about, he moved in with such women, and as soon as they became pregnant he left them. Asked about his children, he said, "What's there to tell? They're kids, that's all."

Sociobiologists don't argue that the sexual behavior of people is consciously directed to passing on their gene pool, only that nature has provided us with various strategies for doing so, one of which happens to be the "cheating" strategy used by psychopaths. When asked if he was promiscuous because he wanted to have lots of children and thus attain a sort of "genetic immortality," one of our psychopathic subjects laughed and said, "I just like to fuck."


    My basic premise is that sociopaths are designed for the successful execution of social deception and that they are the product of evolutionary pressures which, through a complex interaction of environmental and genetic factors, lead some individuals to pursue a life history strategy of manipulative and predatory social interactions. On the basis of game theoretic models this strategy is to be expected in the population at relatively low frequencies in a demographic pattern consistent with what we see in contemporary societies. It is also expected to appear preferentially under certain social, environmental, and developmental circumstances which I hope to delineate.

  • 6. Disorders that may not be from Darwin in the Madhouse: Evolutionary Psychology and the Classification of Mental Disorders

    Personality disorders are patterns of experience and behavior which are culturally very deviant, persistent, inflexible, arise in adolescent or early adulthood, and lead to distress or impairment. However, it is not clear that antisocial behavior of this sort is always bad for the individual who commits it, rather than the people who are on the receiving end. McGuire et al. (1994) suggest that two personality disorders in particular may represent adaptive deviant behavioral strategies. The first, antisocial personality disorder, is characterized by a disregard for the wishes, rights or feelings of others.

Hare, Robert D. Without conscience: the disturbing world of the psychopaths among us. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Antisocial Personality Disorder: links

Personality Disorders



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Copyright © 2012 Dave Kelly

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