Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a mental health condition that may occur in people who have had traumatic childhood experiences. However, the exact cause of ASPD is currently unknown.

Specialists think ASPD may develop due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors, such as traumatic life experiences or growing up in difficult circumstances.

This article will explain ASPD, its potential causes, its symptoms, and how doctors diagnose and treat it. It will also explain how individuals may prevent the onset of this health condition and how people can get support.

Person thinking in shadowsShare on Pinterest
Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

Specialists do not currently know the cause of ASPD. It may develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Someone with a parent or a guardian who has antisocial behavior or alcohol use disorder has an increased risk of developing ASPD.

People who experience trauma during childhood, such as sexual and physical abuse or neglect, also have a higher risk for this mental health condition.

Genetics plays a significant role in the onset of ASPD. Researchers estimate that 38–69% of cases of ASPD stem from genetics. Children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have a higher chance of developing ASPD in adulthood.

It is thought that ASPD affects 0.6–3.6% of adults worldwide, and is three times more common in people assigned male at birth. ASPD often co-occurs with other mental health conditions, including the following:

What is ASPD?

ASPD is a type of personality disorder that can display impulsive and irresponsible behavior. The condition can cause a severe and rooted thought process focused on social irresponsibility, which can result in illegal or criminal conduct with no signs of remorse.

People with ASPD may display behavior that is reckless, manipulative, and deceitful. They may seem to have no regard for the feelings of other people and the violation of their rights.

Learn more about ASPD.

People with ASPD can display several symptoms or repeat certain actions, such as:

  • the inability to maintain consistent employment
  • failure to abide by the law
  • the inability to form or maintain stable relationships
  • the manipulation of other people for personal gain
  • repeated displays of angry or arrogant behavior
  • frequently lie, fight, or steal
  • problems with substance misuse
  • a disregard for their own and other’s safety

Learn more about personality disorders.

People with ASPD rarely seek professional help to treat their personality disorder as they do not usually think there is something wrong with the way they behave. If a person notices a loved one displaying signs or symptoms of ASPD, they should contact a healthcare professional.

Specialists can diagnose and help treat people with ASPD. Doctors can recommend the most appropriate steps to help people manage the condition and reduce the risk of putting themselves or others in dangerous situations.

ASPD is only diagnosed in people ages 18 years or older. A person who has suspected ASPD needs an accurate psychological assessment performed by a specialist. The healthcare professional will analyze the person’s pattern of behaviors and any other possible signs or symptoms that may suggest ASPD.

Psychotherapy and medications may help improve symptoms of ASPD. Certain medications, such as carbamazepine and lithium, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, may help manage impulsivity and aggression.

Psychotherapy may help treat certain aspects of ASPD. Treatment may include a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, skills training, and other strategies. The aim is to help people with ASPD improve their behavior, treat potential co-occurring mental health conditions, and modify the way they process thoughts.

ASPD is a chronic condition and does not go away. Symptoms may improve with age. However, this does not always occur. Individuals who have later presentations of ASPD usually have less severe behavioral issues. People who have an early onset of ASPD may be more likely to become involved in illegal or criminal behavior.

Treating or managing impulsivity and other mental health conditions that may increase the risk of developing ASPD, such as ADHD, alcohol abuse, and conduct disorder, may help prevent the onset of ASPD in adulthood.

However, more research is necessary to understand how to treat and prevent this personality disorder.

People with ASPD may act out, affecting themselves and others. If a loved one has ASPD, a person should get help and support for themselves. Mental health care professionals can teach people how to protect themselves and set boundaries when dealing with someone with ASPD.

Doctors can provide referrals to people who have a loved one with ASPD. They can also recommend a specialist in ASPD management and support groups that can help friends and families of people with the condition.

ASPD is a type of personality disorder. People with this condition typically present impulsive and irresponsible behavior and may seem unconcerned about other people’s safety. People with ASPD may have difficulties abiding by the law and may manipulate others.

Doctors do not know the exact cause of ASPD. However, the onset of this condition may link to a combination of genetics and environmental factors, such as experiencing sexual and physical abuse or neglect during childhood.