Ending the Stigma of Anti-Social Personality Disorder
The dangerous stigma surrounding mental health prevents millions of people from getting the help they need. Read on to learn how to be part of the solution to overcoming this stigma.
What Is Anti-Social Personality Disorder?
Anti-social personality disorder, or APD, is a mental dysfunction that causes severe nonconformity, brings on manipulative tendencies, stunts emotional development, and can lead to criminal activity and distinct neglect of others. It is not synonymous with being an introvert. People with an anti-social personality disorder may show symptoms as a child but it cannot be diagnosed until a person comes of age.
What Causes Anti-Social Personality Disorder?
An anti-social personality disorder is caused by several different factors. These are the most common.
Anxiety may not be the direct cause of APD, but it goes contribute to many of the symptoms. For example, an individual with anxiety may overreact to negative stimulation and use it as an excuse to lash out at those around them.2 A person with violent APD tendencies may look for a reason to have an altercation and upon finding a reason they begin to behave in an overly aggressive manner for a comparatively low offense.
Much like anxiety, depression amplifies the effects of APD as opposed to creating them. Individuals with co-occurring depression and anti-social personality disorder have higher anger levels and are more prone to outbursts. Over time, depression lowers cognitive reasoning which can it increasingly difficult to control impulses.3
Genetics plays a major factor in the development of most mental health disorders. Genetics can predispose an individual to have an anti-social personality disorder. A person with a family history of mental illness is more likely to develop it themselves and pass it on to their children.4
Neurological imbalances can cause symptoms indistinguishable from APD. For example, extremely low levels of dopamine and other positive chemicals can cause lowered levels of empathy combined with higher levels of aggression. It can also lead to paranoia which results in self-imposed exile from social gatherings.
Other causes include physical trauma to specific brain regions or the underdevelopment of the same regions, including the frontal lobe. The specific structure of the brain combined with chemical imbalances often caused by comorbidities is the leading cause for APD that has a neurological root.
During our developmental years, we build our personalities based on our emotions, experiences, and environments. Should a person be encouraged to break the law, disregard social norms, and exhibit other APD behavior then the chances of them growing into a person with APD is increased. While the root cause of their disorder may at first seem more superficial, they will still act and think like other people with APD. As such, the same dangers and treatment methods apply.
Additionally, introverts have a higher chance of developing anti-social behavior. However, this fact is more to do with how they absorb and use mental energies than it is a lack of empathy or impulse control. While many individuals with APD may be introverted, not all introverts exhibit signs of APD. The same can be said about individuals with a borderline personality disorder. They may exhibit signs of anti-social behavior but are not necessarily anti-social. People affected by borderline personality disorder also experience more severe mood swings than any of the conditions.
Signs of Sociopath Behavior
Sociopathic behavior begins at a young age and can persist throughout an individual’s life. The most common signs include:
- Lack of healthy relationships : Sociopathy makes maintaining any relationship difficult. A person with the disorder will find it hard to relate to others and may seem undesirable as a friend due to their disregard of social cues and constructs. In times of need, a sociopathic friend may not offer any support or help unless it directly benefits them. Additionally, chronic manipulation and lies often give them a poor reputation in their community.
- Inability to maintain long-term work : Sociopathic minds often make high-risk, low-reward decisions that have long-term consequences for all involved. This behavior can manifest as drug use, cutting corners, or simply quitting a job when it becomes difficult or unenjoyable.
- Lack of personal growth : Sociopaths will have a hard time understanding or caring about what they’ve done wrong in a situation. As a result, they perceive their shortcomings as someone else’s fault which lets them off the hook for any true growth or personal reflection.
Comorbid disorders are conditions that occur simultaneously with others. Most mental disorders have specific comorbidities that appear in a majority of cases. For anti-social behavior, these are the most common.
Like anxiety, depression intensifies the symptoms of APD and can lead to suicidal ideations.
Not all individuals with APD come from bad environments or unloving homes. However, experiencing trauma, especially at a young age, can increase the likelihood of developing APD down the line. Trauma recovery, due to the scarring on the brain, is a life-long journey that can impact the quality of life if left untreated.
Drugs and alcohol make all mental illnesses worse. They also create a negative circle of habits in which a person depends on substances to feel normal.
Many individuals with APD have short attention spans and low ambition for long-term goals. Additionally, they may show signs of learning disability at a young age and as such be ridiculed for it by peers. It can cause them to become even more ostracized and develop more intense social phobia.
Borderline Personality Disorder
A borderline personality disorder is a condition characterized by severe mood swings and paranoia. Individuals with the condition may develop anti-social behavior as a way of dealing with their general distrust of those around them.6
Treatment for Anti-social Personality Disorder
There are options to treat anti-social personality disorder, including:
- Psychotherapy, also considered cognitive-behavioral therapy, works to reshape a person’s worldviews and make them more aware of their negative mental states. Psychotherapy helps forge bonds of trust while also providing healthy coping mechanisms that are specific to an individual.
- Medication can be used to treat neurochemical imbalances such as low levels of dopamine and serotonin. Many people find relief from long-term, responsible use of medication.