Personality disorders are described as long-standing and lasting patterns of behavior. It is uncommon for them to be diagnosed during childhood or in adolescence primarily because at this age the individual is in development, is undergoing personality changes and is maturing. That is why Adult Antisocial Behavior (AAB) (DSM-5)* is most often diagnosed in people when they are adults.

The disorder is 70 percent more common in males than females. AAB usually lessens in intensity with age, and many people experience fewer of its symptoms by the time they’re about 40 or 50 years old.
Many individuals with AAB don’t find treatment, as is generally common with people with personality disorders. However, when the disorder begins to interrupt and debilitate the individual’s life, and they are unable to cope with the stress or other events in their lives, they may find therapy.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, Adult Antisocial Personality Disorder cannot be diagnosed in people younger than 18 years old. In addition, antisocial behavior is a prominent feature in some mental disorders like Antisocial Personality Disorder and Conduct Disorder. Antisocial Behavior that is not due to a mental disorder can be a focus of clinical attention as evidenced by the inclusion in the DSM-5 inclusion of V codes for Adult Antisocial Behavior and Child or Adolescent Antisocial Behavior (APA, 2013).

What are the Causes of Adult Antisocial Behavior?

The personality consists of an individual’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors, as well as how they relate to others. In addition, the personality is also determined by how people view themselves. It is formed during childhood and developed by environmental factors and inherited traits.

While the specific cause of AAB is unknown, the following may be factors in its development.

  • Genes may cause an individual to be exposed to developing AAB, and situations in life may be triggers for it.
  • There may have been changes in the brain’s functioning that happened while the brain was in development.
  • Several factors are seen to increase the development of AAB, including:
  • Conduct disorder that was diagnosed in childhood.
  • History of antisocial personality disorder, other personality disorders or mental illness in the family.
  • Abused or neglected in childhood.
  • Unpredictable and violent family life as a child.

What are the Symptoms of Adult Antisocial Behavior

Some of the signs of AAB are:

  • Failure to conform to social norms in regard to lawful behaviors and repeating acts that are grounds for arrest.
  • Lying repeatedly, using aliases or conning other people for personal profit or pleasure.
  • Irritability and aggressiveness as shown by constant physical fights or assaults.
  • Consistently being irresponsible as shown by constantly failing to keep a job.
  • Lack of remorse is evident by showing indifference or rationalizing why he hurt, mistreated or stole from another person.
  • Evidence of Conduct Disorder as a child.
  • Disregard for right and wrong.
  • Continually lying or deceiving others.
  • Disrespect and scorn toward others.
  • Cruelty and insensitivity toward others.
  • Using appeal or humor to manipulate other people in order to get personal pleasure or gain.
  • Being excessively opinionated.
  • Being conceited and feeling better than others.
  • Consistently disregarding the rights of other people by bullying.
  • Being hasty and careless; not planning beforehand.
  • Being agitated and antagonistic.
  • Aggressive and violent.
  • Little guilt in hurting others.
  • Risky or dangerous actions that are unnecessary with no thought about safety for himself or others.
  • Relationships are poor or abusive.
  • Doesn’t think about negative results of his behavior and doesn’t learn from the consequences.
  • Continually irresponsible and not meeting work or financial commitments.

People with AAB usually show signs of conduct disorder prior to the age of 15. These signs encompass severe and continuous behavior problems. They are:

  • Hostile behavior to people and animals.
  • Devastation of property.
  • Deceit.
  • Crime, including burglary.
  • Severely breaking rules.

Because of the behavior and problems surrounding AAB, there are many negative consequences that the person or others may be at risk for, including:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse.
  • May abuse or neglect his child or spouse.
  • Greater chance for other disorders like depression or anxiety.
  • Being arrested and sent to jail.
  • Joining and participating in a gang.
  • Low financial status.
  • Homelessness.
  • Death due to violence.

Treatment of Adult Antisocial Behavior

Considered a lifelong disorder, there are some symptoms of AAB like criminal behavior and destructiveness that may diminish. What is not certain is if the reason these behaviors lessen or go away completely is because of aging or from more knowledge about the consequences.

Individuals with AAB may seek help with the encouragement of their family or people they are close to. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is recommended for people with AAB, with the therapist setting guidelines for the patient’s involvement—regularly attending, actively participating and completing any assignments outside of the therapy visits.

Therapy is aimed at helping the patient understand how he creates his problems and how his distorted perceptions hinder him from viewing himself the way other people do. Individuals with AAB have a tendency to blame other people, usually don’t form trusting relationships, have little patience for frustrations, and have little motivation to improve themselves, making them more difficult to treat.

Famous People Who Have Antisocial Personality Behavior

While it’s not the list people want to be on, there are a few people who were known throughout the world because of the headlines about their crimes. The following people have/had antisocial personality disorder.

Jeffrey Dahmer, known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, raped and killed 15 young boys throughout Milwaukee. By using his charm and being nice, he lured the boys into his home. During his trial, he expressed that he didn’t feel he did wrong, which is a sign of antisocial personality disorder.

Charles Manson was originally a musician, but he made a very wrong turn in his life. He lured young and influential girls into his cult. As he brainwashed the girls, he became more and more egotistical. The result was that the group broke into homes and killed innocent people. He used the girls to indulge his fantasies, displaying antisocial personality disorder traits.

Kenneth Lee Lay was a famous businessman from Missouri. He earned a Ph.D in economics, became big in the oil industry and went on to the title of CEO of Enron. In 1999, he was the highest paid CEO in the country, making more than $40 million in that year alone. As the company began to decline, he encouraged his employees to invest in more stocks and promised that the company would rebound. It was also at this time that he liquidated more than $300 million of his own stock. Following the scandal, he refused to speak about his actions, which is a big indication that he suffered from antisocial personality disorder. Another indicator of the disorder is his disregard for the effects of his actions and the fact that he deceived thousands of people.