What Are the Core Traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder

angry man with fuming ears

Antisocial personality disorder, sometimes known as sociopathy, is a ”cluster b” personality disorder in which an individual consistently exhibits antisocial behaviour.

Such behaviours include showing no regard for right and wrong and ignoring the needs, rights, and feelings of others.

Other cluster b disorders include borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders.

What is an antisocial personality disorder?

Typically, cluster b disorders involve emotions and behaviours that differ from normal responses and include dramatic, unpredictable, or intensely emotional reactions to things.

Personality disorders are mental disorders caused by unhealthy patterns of behaviour and thought.

Antisocial personality

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) often manipulate, antagonise, or treat others poorly or with cold indifference.

Moreover, people with ASPD show no regret or remorse for their bad behaviour.

Personality disorder complications

Suppose you or someone you know has a cluster b disorder. In that case, you may struggle to understand relationships and social situations because people with personality disorders tend to find interacting with the world complex and confusing.

Antisocial behaviour


It is common for people with an antisocial personality disorder to violate the law, behave impulsively or violently, and lie to others to get what they want.

Individuals with ASPD are likely to have co-occurring mental health disorders such as problems with drug and alcohol use, anxiety, depression, and conflicted relationships.

Signs and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder

The research literature states that people with ASPD often antagonise others.

They also behave insensitively or in an unfeeling manner (What is Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)?, Verywell mind, Kendra Cherry, July 24, 2020).

Individuals with this disorder may lie, participate in criminal activity, and engage in violent or aggressive behaviour (What is Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)?, Verywell mind, Kendra Cherry, July 24, 2020).


Research shows that the signs of ASPD often begin in early life when young children engage in specific behaviours, such as:

  • Having difficulty with authority
  • Setting fire to things
  • Cruelty to animals

Additional signs

In adulthood, antisocial personality disorder symptoms evolve, when this happens, a person demonstrates the following behaviours:

  • A lack of empathy for others
  • Not considering the consequences of their actions and behaving impulsively
  • Strained or poor relationships with others
  • No concern for others – the person may also have various legal issues due to failures to conform to social norms
  • Extreme irritability and aggression, which often leads to physical altercations
  • Lack of remorse or regret for damaging behaviour
  • Callous, cynical, or disrespectful of others
  • A sense of superiority, arrogance, and being extremely opinionated
  • A disregard for what’s right and wrong
  • Failure to plan ahead
  • Impulsiveness
  • Dangerous behaviours with no regard for the safety of self and others
  • Manipulating others for personal gain

Conduct disorder

young man stealing item in a bag

According to the Mayo Clinic, antisocial personality disorder symptoms and traits typically present in childhood, usually before age fifteen.

Children who exhibit the following symptoms are diagnosed with conduct disorder.

The researchers note that persistent, severe behavioural problems mark this condition; signs of conduct disorder include:

  • Extreme violation of rules and regulations
  • Stealing and theft
  • Deceitfulness
  • Aggression toward people and animals
  • Destruction of property
  • Bullying other children

Studies show that conduct disorder affects around 3% of school-aged children and is more common in boys than girls.


As mentioned, the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder often begin in childhood.

However, most people are not diagnosed with ASPD until much later on.

Children display different symptoms of ASPD to adults; for instance, children with this condition often exhibit cruelty to animals, have violent bursts of anger, and are often described as bullies or intimidating by their peers.

According to mental health professionals, although children may display symptoms of antisocial personality disorder, they cannot officially get diagnosed with the condition before age eighteen.

Therefore, children with symptoms of ASPD are often diagnosed with conduct disorder.

Diagnostic criteria

There are specific criteria that a person must demonstrate to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, including:

  • Failure to obey rules and laws
  • Lack of empathy and remorse for behaviour and actions
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • A consistent pattern of irresponsibility
  • Disregard for the safety of self and others
  • Aggression and irritability
  • Violation of other people’s rights

Other factors

The above criteria are dependent on a person’s age and other factors.

For instance, the individual must be over eighteen and not exhibit ASPD symptoms due to another mental health disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (What is Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)?, Verywell mind, Kendra Cherry, July 24, 2020).

Risk factors

Risk factors for antisocial personality disorder can vary but are usually due to environmental and genetic factors.

Inherently, our personalities are shaped by what we learn in our environment during childhood.

Personality development

child sitting by the bed

Our personalities make us all unique, and we all have different ways of relating to ourselves, others, and the world.

However, when a child experiences trauma or a stunt in brain development, they may experience brain changes and adopt specific coping mechanisms to survive.

Sometimes these coping skills become destructive where they no longer serve the practical purpose they once did.

Thus, the individual experiences maladjusted thoughts, behaviour, and perceptions that do not fit social norms and expectations.


The cause of antisocial personality disorder is not known. However, researchers say that the development of this condition is likely due to:

  • Changes in brain functioning that may have occurred during development
  • A combination of genes and life situations can make a person vulnerable to developing an antisocial personality disorder
  • Experiencing abuse or neglect during childhood
  • A violent, unstable, or chaotic family life during childhood
  • Having a family history of ASPD or other personality disorders or mental illness

Treatment options

Antisocial personality disorder can be a complex condition to treat. This is because people with the illness generally do not seek treatment on their own.

Studies show that those with ASPD usually only seek treatment due to legal reasons.

For example, a person may have had an altercation with the legal system and have been advised to seek help.


Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), is often recommended for those with ASPD.

CBT helps people to gain insight into their thoughts and behaviour, allowing them to change maladaptive thought patterns.

Family and group therapy

Other effective treatment options for ASPD include group and family therapy and mentalisation-based therapy.

Studies show these treatment options can help a person to recognise and understand the mental state of the self and others and can be valuable therapies for those with ASPD.


Due to its origins in early childhood, there may be various ways to prevent antisocial personality disorder, provided the signs get picked up early enough.

Teachers, parents, and doctors are more likely to recognise the early warning signs of ASPD, allowing them to offer early intervention to children at higher risk of developing the condition, such as those diagnosed with conduct disorder.

Managing the condition


Like any personality disorder, an antisocial personality disorder can cause significant disruption to a person’s life and ability to function.

The condition can make it challenging for a person to cope with daily living and other aspects of life.

Antisocial personality disorder can cause many complications for those with the condition, including:

  • Impaired or dysfunctional relationships
  • Incarceration or being jailed for criminal behaviour
  • Substance use disorders, such as drugs, alcohol, or other addiction
  • The development of a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety, depression, or other illness
  • Premature death, usually due to injury or violence
  • Problems at work, home, and family life

Studies show those with ASPD have more favourable treatment outcomes when they have a robust family and friendship support network.

Contact us

If you or a loved one are struggling with an antisocial personality disorder or other mental health conditions, contact the Centres for Health and Healing team, who can help.

Additional resources

  1. What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)?: Verywell mind, Kendra Cherry, July 24, 2020
  2. Antisocial personality disorder: Mayo Clinic
Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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