Psychopathic personality

Alternative names 
Antisocial personality disorder; Sociopathic personality; Personality disorder - antisocial

Antisocial personality disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by chronic behavior that manipulates, exploits, or violates the rights of others. This behavior is often criminal.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Personality disorders are chronic behavioral and relationship patterns that intefere with a person’s life over many years. To receive a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, a person must have first had behavior that qualifies for a diagnosis of conduct disorder during childhood.

The cause of antisocial personality disorder is unknown, but genetic factors and child abuse are believed to contribute to the development of this condition. People with an antisocial or alcoholic parent are increased risk. Far more men than women are affected, and unsurprisingly, the condition is common in prison populations.

A person with antisocial personality disorder:

  • Breaks the law repeatedly  
  • Lies, steals, and fights often  
  • Disregards the safety of self and others  
  • Demonstrates a lack of guilt  
  • Had a childhood diagnosis (or symptoms consistent with) conduct disorder

Signs and tests

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder are often angry and arrogant but may be capable of superficial wit and charm. They may be adept at flattery and at manipulating the emotions of others. People with antisocial personality disorder often have extensive substance abuse and legal problems.


Antisocial personality disorder is considered one of the most difficult of all personality disorders to treat. Individuals rarely seek treatment on their own and may only initiate therapy when mandated by a court. The efficacy of treatment for antisocial personality disorder is largely unknown.

Expectations (prognosis)
Symptoms tend to peak during the late teenage years and early 20’s and may improve on their own by a person’s 40’s.


Complications can include incarceration and drug abuse.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with a mental health professional if you have symptoms suggestive of antisocial personality disorder, or if your child exhibits behaviors that indicate a risk for developing this disorder.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Levon Ter-Markosyan, D.M.D.

Medical Encyclopedia

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 0-9

All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.