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Antisocial personality disorder (APD)

Antisocial personality disorder (APD) is a personality disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the handbook used to diagnose mental disorders most frequently. APD is generally considered to be the same as, or similar to, the disorder that was previously known as psychopathic or sociopathic personality disorder.

It is characterized by a number of symptoms:

  • Failure to conform to social norms or lawful behaviors
  • Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  • Irresponsibility, impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggression, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
  • Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Some research has shown that individuals with APD are indifferent to the threat of physical pain, and show no indications of fear when so threatened; this may explain their apparent disregard for the consequences of their actions, and their lack of empathy for the suffering of others.

Although criminal activity is not a necessary requirement for the diagnosis, these individuals often encounter legal difficulties due to their disregard for societal standards and the rights of others. Therefore, many of these individuals can be found in prisons. However, it should be noted that criminal activity does not automatically warrant a diagnosis of APD.

Nor, necessarily, does APD imply that a person is necessarily exhibiting visible criminal behavior. It is hypothesized that many high achievers exhibit APD characteristics.

The recent, controversial science of sociobiology attempts to explain animal and human behavior and social structures, largely in terms of evolutionarily stable strategies. For example, in one well-known 1995 paper by Linda Mealey, chronic antisocial/criminal behavior is explained as a combination of two such strategies.

The DSM-IV estimates that 3% of men and 1% of women have some form of antisocial personality disorder.

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