Antisocial Personality Disorder in Teens


One of the hardest mental health problems to diagnose and treat, antisocial personality disorder is marked by constant manipulation, and is often tied to substance abuse and criminal behavior. If you suspect your teen may be suffering from this disorder, now is the time to seek help.

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What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Approximately 40–70% of children with conduct disorder (i.e. disruptive behavior disorder) will go on to develop antisocial personality disorder, or ASPD. It begins with disruptive and sometimes violent behavior in the early years, combined with an unwillingness to follow rules. Eventually, it can devolve into a pattern of manipulation, criminal activity and a complete lack of guilt or remorse. Doctors only diagnose adults with antisocial personality disorder if they displayed symptoms of conduct disorder before age 15.

Around 1 in 25 people in the U.S. have ASPD, or can be considered sociopaths or psychopaths. These three classifications are all marked by a lack of conscience.

The lines are often blurry between these extreme mental illnesses. Most psychopaths meet the criteria for ASPD, but most individuals living with ASPD (around 90%) are not psychopaths. Psychopaths are known for remorseless and repeated violent offenses, and are 3–4 times more likely than others to commit violent crimes after being released from custody. People with antisocial personality disorder, while sharing many of the same general characteristics as psychopaths, are not as outwardly violent or unstable.

Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder

There is no known direct cause of antisocial personality disorder. Rather, like many mental illnesses, it’s a combination of factors unique to each individual. These include genetics, environment — both at home and outside — brain abnormalities and life experiences. Children growing up in fractured or abusive homes are more likely to develop a personality disorder such as ASPD. Unfortunately, these are the kids least likely to have parents notice early warning signs of conduct disorder and get the problem assessed by a doctor.

Symptoms of ASPD

People with antisocial personality disorder can easily be seen as “cruel” and “heartless.” They often create a world of lies that makes it difficult to ever really know or trust them. In many cases, they will also take on their frustrations by destroying property, getting in fights or even abusing animals. All the while, they may be able to fool friends, family or coworkers into a false sense of security, with expert-level flattery and the appearance of good intentions.

Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder can include the following:

  • Impulsivity
  • Deceitfulness
  • Desire to control others
  • Low conscientiousness
  • Anger and arrogance
  • Low educational attainment
  • Reckless behavior
  • Unstable relationships
  • Disregard for consequences of behavior
  • Lack of concern for the feelings of others
  • Constant rule-breaking
  • A failure to learn from experience

People with ASPD are often skilled at appearing friendly or charming, but have a severe underlying emotional detachment. They will use these disarming social skills to exploit others and benefit their own agendas — they usually don’t care what happens to others. At a certain point, adults with this disorder are bound to destroy their relationships and have extreme difficulty in landing a good job or building a healthy life or themselves. Drug or alcohol abuse is more common than not, along with other destructive habits including criminal behavior.

Dangers of ASPD

Approximately 47% of adults with ASPD have significant arrest records. A history of unemployment, aggression, and promiscuity are even more prevalent in these individuals. People living with this disorder are also 3–5 times more likely to abuse alcohol or illicit drugs.

While males develop ASPD far more regularly, females with the disorder are even more likely to abuse substances than their male counterparts. According to a study released by the National Library of Medicine, young men with ASPD have an alarmingly high rate of premature death, due to reckless behavior, drug misuse, and suicide.

Antisocial Personality Disorder and Substance Use

Teens with conduct disorder that goes untreated are extremely likely to develop a destructive substance habit as their mental health deteriorates. Around 90% of people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder also have a substance use disorder. When an individual has a co-occurring substance addiction and mental health disorder such as ASPD, it’s referred to as a dual diagnosis.

These people may manipulate others to get drugs, or experiment with substances as a way to cope with their antisocial lifestyle. No matter how they get into their substance use, one time is rarely enough — and before long their addiction can destroy whatever good things are still present in their life.

Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

Approximately 60% of individuals struggling with a personality disorder develop at least one other personality disorder. For individuals with ASPD, this could come in the form of borderline personality disorder (BPD), narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), dependent personality disorder (DPD) or several other debilitating illnesses.

The more these complicated health problems stack up, the greater an individual’s risk for serious hurdles in their life — such as financial trouble, drug addiction, or jail time due to criminal activity. Any hope of a full recovery also becomes less likely, and this further complicates the tangled mess for therapists and doctors to solve.

Besides personality disorders, people with ASPD have a high risk of other co-occurring mental health problems as well.

Approximately 90.4% of ASPD sufferers have at least one additional psychiatric disorder:

Individuals with ASPD are also at risk for self-harm, suicidal thinking or suicidal behavior. Additional psychological and emotional problems are increasingly likely as ASPD persists — especially if and when substances get involved or the person spends time in jail.

Does My Child Need Treatment?

If you notice signs your child is using drugs or are aware of any conduct issues, reach out for help from a professional. Set up an appointment with a local addiction counselor, who can assess your teen’s situation and determine whether they could benefit from therapy or treatment for a co-occurring disorder. At TheRecoveryVillage.com, we are also available to speak with you — confidentially and free of cost — about your situation, and recommend next steps.

Whether you need help finding local substance abuse treatment or you’d like clarification about paying for therapy through insurance, we are here for you. Our help is free and without obligation. Don’t leave your child’s future to chance — take the first step by calling today.

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Antisocial Personality
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Antisocial Personality was last modified: June 15th, 2017 by The Recovery Village