Antisocial Personality Disorder Definition

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Diagnostic Antisocial Personality Disorder Definition

The American Psychiatric Association defines antisocial personality disorder, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), as a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. People with this disorder are deceitful and manipulative with self-centered motives. Corcoran and Walsh (2006) describe the primary identifying characteristics of this disorder to be distrust of others and violations of their rights. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder are not able to function in society in a safe or productive manner. Dr. Linda Bayer (2000), author of The Encyclopedia of Psychological Disorders: Personality Disorders, said people with antisocial personality disorder fail to conform to social norms connected with ethical and lawful behavior which may be labeled as psychopathy, sociopathy, or dissocial personality disorders. Destruction of property, harassing behaviors, and theft are a few ways in which people with antisocial personality disorder may implicate themselves to crime and possible arrest. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder often exhibit attitudes of inflated self-perception, grandiosity, and arrogance (Bayer, 2000). This personality trait, in combination with other defining characteristics of the disorder, may lead to antisocial tendencies that are very destructive for the individuals themselves and others.

Multiple Characteristics of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder is defined by the characteristics that must be present in order to confirm this diagnosis. The pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others must have occurred since 15 years of age and be indicated by at least three or more of the subsequent symptoms: failure to conform to social norms in regards to lawful behaviors, deceitfulness leading to lying which may include the use of aliases or conning for personal profit or pleasure, impulsivity with lack of planning for future, irritability or aggressiveness, reckless disregard for safety of self or others, consistent irresponsibility, and a lack of remorse (DSM-IV-TR). Physical altercations are not uncommon due to the self-centered and self-serving disposition of a person with antisocial personality disorder. Irresponsibility and failure to plan ahead may compromise a person’s ability to maintain employment or be fiscally responsible. The final criterion, lack of remorse, may be evident when an individual is indifferent or rationalizes hurting, mistreating, or stealing from another (DSM-IV-TR). Bayer (2000) said antisocial patients may excuse or attempt to justify their behavior by saying that life is unfair or that the person had it coming. An individual with antisocial personality disorder must be at least 18 years old, with evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15. These characteristics in totality are what demonstrate the pervasive pattern of disregard of others that is necessary in both defining and diagnosing antisocial personality disorder.


American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edition, (DSM-IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Bayer, L. (2000). The encyclopedia of psychological disorders: Personality disorders. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers.

Corcoran, J. & Walsh, J. (2006). Clinical assessment and diagnosis in social work practice. New York: Oxford University Press.