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Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopath Definition)

Abstract: How to diagnose Antisocial Personality Disorder: People with this disorder try to get their way without being considerate of others. They humiliate or harm other people. They do not possess any feeling or understanding for norms, nor have they a feeling of guilt.

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Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopath Definition)

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Written by: Tasja Klausch
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 10 Nov 2008.

What is the definition of "sociopath"?


People with Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopath, psychopath) try to get their way without being considerate of others. They show spontaneous behaviour, which humiliates or harms other people. They lack any feeling for or understanding of norms, nor have they any feeling of guilt. They do not seem to be able to plan actions or to act with foresight. Antisocial PD occurs more often in men than in women.

Psychosocial predictors (which can be confounded by genetic factors) are among other things antisocial behaviours of the father, alcohol abuse of the parents, inconsistent education, separation from one parent, physical abuse.

The DSM-IV emphasises criminality, but it is important to point out that not every criminal has an Antisocial PD.

Diagnostic Criteria of DSM-IV

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, More) describes Antisocial Personality Disorder as follows:

There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  • deceitfulness, as indicated by 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, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honour financial obligations;
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;
  • The individual is at least age 18 years.

There is evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15 years.

DSM-IV does not recommend this diagnosis when the occurrence of the antisocial behaviour is exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia (More) or a Manic Episode (More).

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