Anti-Social Personality Disorder

There has been speculation in the news these days about whether or not some politicians have anti-social personality disorders. This disorder is also know as psychopath or sociopath, depending on which edition of the manual you are reading. Anyway, here’s a brief description of ASPD. Anti-social personality disorder, ASPD, (approximately 1% of the general population) is marked by persistent rule breaking (not always criminal), reckless behaviors, being egocentric, deceitful, having an anti-authority attitude, and showing a lack of regard for the feelings of others.  Therefore, the motivations that guide many of us – conscience, concern for others, empathy and compassion, respect for authority or rules, guilt, on and on, don’t apply.  As you can imagine, or perhaps you are unlucky enough to have experienced someone with this disorder, this is a major problem for the individual and for those who love or work with him or her.

ASPD is notably unstudied by researchers and, of course, that deficit contributes to professionals having few good ideas for treatment.  The reason for the lack of scientific study is probably because psychologists are pessimistic about the outcome of treatment so they don’t invest their time studying it. ASPD can emerge from some combination of basic temperament and genetic fragility coupled with environmental interactions such as harsh and inconsistent parenting, being brought up in homes with domestic violence, and rejection.

Treatment is unclear. Few individuals seek treatment directly for this disorder; when people come in, they usually want help with other co-existing problems such as depression, substance abuse, or marital discord.  More often, the people who come in to seek help are co-workers who are being treated badly, bosses who are at their wit’s end, and partners who have terrible trouble living with people with ASPD.

If you are a writer interested in learning more about character or personality traits, take a look at my book, The Writer’s Guide To Character Traits.

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