Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)

Outlining the signs and symptoms of ASPD and the support that's available.

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There are 10 recognised types of personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) can often be one of the most challenging. Here, we explore the disorder in more detail, outlining the signs and symptoms, and providing information on the support that’s available.

What is ASPD?

People with ASPD will typically be manipulative, deceitful and reckless. They often engage in dangerous and sometimes illegal behaviours, which can result in them receiving criminal records. They repeatedly do things they know to be wrong and which other people find difficult to accept.

This mental health condition can cause sufferers to feel indifferent after mistreating others, as they find it difficult to understand why other people become upset.

As with other types of personality disorder, ASPD can be thought of as being on a spectrum. This means that it can vary in severity, with some sufferers only demonstrating occasionally bad or reckless behaviour, whereas others with this diagnosis repeatedly break the law, hurt other people, and engage in serious crimes on a regular basis.

What are the symptoms of ASPD?

Symptoms of ASPD include:

  • An inability to follow rules or even obey the law
  • Not learning from your mistakes
  • Lying to others and being deceitful
  • Aggression and irritability
  • Impulsivity
  • Repeatedly disregarding, manipulating and violating the rights of other people
  • Being indifferent after you've mistreated, hurt or abused another person, or trying to justify your actions
  • Finding it difficult to maintain close personal relationships
  • Blaming others for any problems in your life
  • Experiencing uncontrollable angry outbursts

What causes ASPD?

It's not currently clear what causes ASPD, but it's thought that a mix of genetic and environmental factors can have a big influence, especially during childhood. Childhood trauma can have a massive impact on the personalities we have today and for some people, as a result of that trauma, they develop a personality disorder.

When a personality disorder is diagnosed, the medical professional performing the assessment will be able to shed more light on possible causes for each individual.

Support and treatment for ASPD

Inpatient and outpatient treatment

Depending on the severity of a person’s ASPD, as well as their needs and circumstances, they'll be treated in either an inpatient or outpatient setting.

At Priory, our inpatients stay in hospital on a residential basis to receive intensive ASPD treatment. When the condition becomes difficult for a person to manage, this structured and intensive treatment programme can be valuable. It also gives a person time away from their usual living situation in order to remove any negative influences that might be making their ASPD worse.

During outpatient treatment, the person attends sessions with a consultant or a therapist, but lives at home. They attend weekly sessions or full days, depending on what's best for them. Outpatient or day care treatment can be particularly useful if ongoing care is needed as opposed to intensive 24-hour support.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

Whether they're receiving inpatient, day care or outpatient treatment, a person will go through what's known as ‘talking therapy’. There are lots of different types, but one of the most widely used techniques used for ASPD is dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).

The aim of DBT is to help a person learn to control distressing and extreme emotions, such as anger and aggression, by challenging them with alternative, healthier and more positive ways of thinking. This method can help to reduce any rigid and self-destructive thought patterns that are causing a person to experience problems in their day-to-day life, and in their relationships with others.

Medication

While there's no medication specifically designed to treat personality disorders such as ASPD, certain mood stabilisers or anti-psychotic medications may be used during treatment, especially if a person has a pre-existing mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

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