The Sunday News
Pastor Barbara Meck Silumbu
Antisocial personality disorder is a personality disorder. A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of personal experience and behaviour that deviates noticeably from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to personal distress or impairment.
Antisocial personality disorder is a particularly challenging type of personality disorder characterised by impulsive, irresponsible and often criminal behaviour, a long-standing pattern of disregard for other people’s rights, often crossing the line and violating those rights. A person with antisocial personality disorder often feels little or no empathy toward other people, and doesn’t see the problem in bending or breaking the law for their own needs or wants. Someone with antisocial personality disorder will typically be manipulative, deceitful and reckless, and won’t care for other people’s feelings.
People with antisocial personality disorder can be witty, charming, and fun to be around but they also lie and exploit others. The disorder makes people uncaring, act rashly, destructively, and unsafely without feeling guilty when their actions hurt other people. The disorder, like other personality disorders, is a longstanding pattern of behaviour and experience that impairs functioning and causes distress.
Antisocial personality disorder is often referred to as psychopathy or sociopathy in popular culture. However, neither psychopathy nor sociopathy are recognised professional labels used for diagnosis. The signs and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder are, failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours like repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest, deceitfulness, that is repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure, impulsivity or failure to plan ahead, irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults, reckless disregard for safety of self or others, consistent irresponsibility, shown by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behaviour or honour financial obligations, lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalising having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
Treatment for antisocial personality disorder can be psychotherapy, medication or hospitalisation. Individuals with this condition don’t feel any remorse for their insensitive actions. They might reject their diagnosis or deny their symptoms. They often lack the motivation to improve and are notoriously poor self-observers. They simply do not see themselves as others do. Most of the time people with this disorder are incarcerated, therapy might focus on creating goals for when they’re released, improving social or family relationships, and learning new coping skills.
Individual and group therapy also might focus on understanding the connections between the person’s feelings and behaviours, effectively dealing with aggression and impulsive behaviour, and understanding the consequences of their actions. Family therapy might increase education and understanding among family members of individuals with antisocial personality disorder. Significant others often misunderstand and are confused about the cause of antisocial behaviour and the idea that it is a disorder. Family therapy also might help individuals with the condition realise the impact of their behaviour, and improve communication.
The writer, Pastor Barbara Meck Silumbu is a Clinical Psychologist.