“It’s a syndrome characterized by lifelong misbehavior,” says Donald W. Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. “People with an antisocial personality disorder tend to be deceitful, impulsive. They ignore responsibilities and, in the worst cases, they have no conscience.”
The disorder can be relatively mild, he adds: “Maybe they lie, maybe they get into trouble with their spouses, and that’s about it.” At the other end of the spectrum are thieves and murderers, says Dr. Black, who is the author of Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy). “Most people are in the middle.”
One thing to note: While we tend to use the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” interchangeably, they mean different things. Whereas most sociopaths are prone to impulsive behavior and often seen as disturbed or unhinged, a psychopath is cold and calculating, sometimes even charming. “I view [psychopathy] as the extreme end of the antisocial spectrum,” says Dr. Black, “because virtually all psychopaths are antisocial, but not all antisocials have psychopathy.”
To be diagnosed with ASP, a person must be at least 18 years old and have a history of aggression, rule-breaking, and deceit that dates back to their childhood. Here are some of the other red flags to watch out for, based on criteria listed in the DSM-V.
Continue reading: 9 Ways to Spot a Sociopath
Further reading: Antisocial Personality Disorder DSM-5 301.7 (F60.2)