minalsA Review of Antisocial Personality Disorder in Criminals
The Antisocial Personality is (APD) is a serious disorder that affects many males
and cause a great threat to families, friends, and even complete strangers. Most
personality disorders may cause an inconvenience to a persons family and friends, but
usually harm themselves more than others. Antisocial Personality Disorder contrasts
from other personality disorders because the defining trait is a predatory attitude toward
other people (Smith, 1999). They have a chronic indifference to and violation of the
rights of ones fellow human beings. (Alterman; Cacciola; McDermott; Mulholland;
Newman; & Rutherford, 2000). A common tendency of those with APD is criminal
actions. These actions can range from stealing of everyday items to rate to murder. It is
obvious that APD is a serious disorder with serious consequences. Criminologists need
to have an understanding of APD as evidenced in the male offender.
Antisocial Personality Disorder affects less than one percent of females and about
three percent of males and usually occurs before age 15 (Smith, 1999). Most of these
men are involved in some sort of criminal behavior. One heartwrenching characteristic
of men with this disorder is that they show no remorse for their victims or anyone
involved. Interpersonally, those with APD are gradoise, arrogant, callous, superficial,
and manipulative (Alterman et al. 2000). Affectively, those with APD are
short-tempered, unable to form strong emotional bonds with others, lacking empathy,
guilt, or remorse (Smith 1999). Behaviorally, those with APD are irresponsive,
impulsive, and prone to violate social and legal norms and expectations (Smith 1999).
DSM III gives a list of criteria for the diagnosis of APD. These five points are as follows:
1. A history of illegal or socially disapproved activity beginning before age 15
2. Failure to show constancy and responsibility in work, sexual relationships,
parenthood, or financial obligations.
3. Irritability and aggressiveness
4. Reckless and impulsive behavior
5. Disregard for the truth (Smith, 1999)
Males with this disorder are also known to lack certain responsibilities and obligations
which lead them to do things such as walk out on jobs, wives, children, and creditors
(Fukuhara; Kato; & Yoshino, 2000). The sad truth about this disorder is that by puberty
these men have already begun a career of antisocial behavior in the form of truancy,
delinquency, theft, vandalism, lying, drug abuse, casual sex, running away from home,
chronic misbehavior in school. As adults they lead to prostitution, pimping, drug selling,
or other crimes. (Alterman et al. 2000). Although many men may show traits of APD,
they have to show specific characteristics in order to be diagnosed with the disorder.
These specific characteristics include, a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation
of the rights of others occurring since age 15, must be at least 18 years old, and evidence
of conduct disorder with onset before age15. (Smith, 1999). Criminologists must be
sure to look at these traits when dealing with men with antisocial personality, and most
certainly before letting them back out in the world because of their tendency to have no
regret and inability to learn from past experiences.
One form of Antisocial Personality Disorder is the common sociopath. The
sociopathic personality is the unsocialized personality. It affects mostly young men, but
some young women. These people are never adequately socialized during childhood and
adolescence (Damasio, 2000). People with this form of disorder have reasonably normal
temperaments but are known to be aggressive or fearless. They also posses impulse
peculiarities or habit patterns that are traceable to deviant learning. (Damasio, 2000).
They are stimulus seekers and pose the greatest problem for parents as children
(Damasio, 2000). This disorder is enhanced somewhat from incompetent or indifferent
parents. Some other common characteristics of the common sociopath, being the largest
genus of antisocial personalities, are a weak and unelaborated conscience, a lack of
shame for normal things, a weak future perspective, a disinterest in long term goals, and
a pride in rule breaking (Smith, 1999).
Along with the category of sociopaths, there are several forms of sociopaths.
These forms consist of the Alienated Sociopath, the Aggressive Sociopath, and the
Dyssocial Sociopath. The Alienated Sociopath has an undeveloped ability to love or to
affiliate with others (Damasio, 2000). The Aggressive Sociopath is usually a muscular
and aggressive male who enjoys hurting, frightening, and tyrannizing others. This type of
sociopath get a feeling of power and importance. Many men with this type of
Sociopathic Personality tend to be the rapists and muggers in the world. They show
strong gratification from dominance and control over victims (Smith, 1999). The
Dyssocial Sociopath tends to be normal both psychologically and in their temperament.
This group usually has an allegiance and identification with a subculture. Some
examples would be an offspring of the Mafia, gypsies, ghetto guerrilla, or members of a
political underground movement or revolutionary terrorist (Damasio, 2000).
One other form of Antisocial Personality is the Psychopathic Personality. These
personalities show traits of guiltlessness, superficial charm, egocentricity, incapacity for
love, an absence of shame or remorse, a lack of psychological insight, bouts of insecurity,
emotional shallowness, and an inability to learn from past experience. (Alterman et al.
2000). A psychopath can be passive or aggressive. The passive types tend to be parasitic
or exploitative of others. They have frequent problems with the law but usually manage
to get out of serious trouble and punishment. The aggressive type tend to be the more
dangerous type that commit major crimes. They are the sexually sadistic, who have a
need for constant stimulation. It appears that sexual arousal is the motivating factor in
All of these personalities within the Antisocial Disorder tend to show criminal
characteristics. Although not all criminals are Antisocial, a majority of Antisocial
Personalities are criminals. Unlike most normal criminals, antisocial personalities
rarely engage in planning. Instead, they tend to operate in an aimless, thrill-seeking
fashion, traveling from town to town with no goal in mind (Alterman et al. 2000). Also,
unlike most other criminals, psychopaths show no loyalty to groups, codes, or principles
(Fukuhara et al. 2000). Psychopaths seem to naturally slip into the role of criminals.
Their readiness to take advantage of any situation that arises, combined with their lack of
the conscience, creates a good formula for crime (Smith, 1999). About 20 percent of
male and female inmates are psychopaths. Psychopaths are also responsible for more
than 50 percent of the serious crimes committed. Forty-four percent of the offenders who
killed law enforcement officers on duty were psychopaths (Smith, 1999). Both male and
female psychopaths are much more likely to be violent and aggressive then are other
individuals. In fact, Psychopaths commit more than twice as many violent and
aggressive acts, both in and out of prison, as do other criminals (Smith, 1999).
Sex violence is also a main focus for many antisocial personalities. Rape is the
most prominent example of the callous, selfish use of violence by psychopaths. Possibly
one-half of the repeat or serial rapists are psychopaths (Damasio, 2000). These rapists
are manipulative, egocentric, untruthful, lack a conscience, and lack a capacity for love
(Smith, 1999). They also get sexual excitement by inflicting psychological pressure on
his victims. Sexual violence is a very serious and very common in the antisocial
personalities because of the gratification that results.
Treatment of an individual with APD could be very difficult because one cannot
promise how often an antisocial person might lie, con, cheat, steal, or harass because he
sees more advantage in doing so. Cognitive therapy can have a positive impact on the
life course of an antisocial person. Improvements in prosocial behavior have obvious
benefits for the stability of the patient and the well-being of his significant other, and
society (Alterman et al. 2000). However, most antisocial personalities do not actively
seek therapy. For those patients who do seek therapy a sign of progress would be seen in
the development of the dysphoric effect, or depression (Smith, 1999). This is
uncomfortable for the patient so the therapist should become supportive and empathetic,
helping the patient to understand that the discomfort is a sign of progress. Although there
are some medications that can be helpful for specific symptoms, medications have not
been proven to be helpful in the treatment of APD. (Smith,1999). There are very few
programs that meet the requirements needed for successful treatment of APD. Those that
do exist are expensive, take years to complete, and tend to have fairly good results.
The Antisocial Personality Disorder is a disorder with several variations and
types, but with the same harmful effects. People, mostly men, with this disorder almost
always tend to act in criminal ways, beginning early in life (age 15) all the way through
adulthood and even sometimes into the senior years. Criminologists need to be well
aware of what they are dealing with when a criminal with APD enters the scene. Since
Antisocial personalities are good liars, con artists, charmers, and tricksters, they could
easily con their way out of court and be turned loose on the streets yet again. They have
no sympathy for their victims and show no remorse for their actions, so there is no
stopping them from committing crimes time and time again. To keep this world safe
from rapists, murderers, robbers, and other crimes consistently occurring, criminologists
must be aware of the capabilities of those with APD and keep them
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Fukuhara, T., Kato, M., & Yoshino, A. (2000) Premorbid risk factors for alcohol
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Smith, R.J. (1999). Psychopathic behavior and issues of treatment. New Ideas in
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