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Overview of Antisocial Personality Disorder and Psychopathy

There are people in all societies who seem to have little regard for the law or social norms, and who lead a life of violence, crime, and violating the rights of others, often with little remorse or regret. Because these ways of behaving deviate from how most people in society conduct their lives, they can be said to constitute psychiatric disorders.

The two main diagnostic labels used to describe these patterns of behavior are Antisocial Personality Disorder and Psychopathy. While these two constructs share many similarities, they are not identical, and they each capture slightly different aspects of the phenomenon.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is the diagnosis used by the DSM-IVTR. It focuses on a set of socially deviant and unjust behaviors, without specifying much in the way of the kinds of thoughts, attitudes, emotions or motivations that underlie these behaviors.

Psychopathy, also known as Psychopathic Personality Disorder, also makes reference to a pattern of socially deviant behaviors, but at the same time emphasizes a mind-set that is callous, remorseless, unemotional and highly egocentric.

The construct of Antisocial Personality Disorder has been criticized for being too broad and non-specific, as most people involved in criminal activities can fit the profile [ref, ref]. Psychopathy, on the other hand, seems to capture a criminal and predatory mind-set that identifies the most dangerous and ruthless members of society.

These conditions are considered Personality Disorders. They seem to start in childhood and then run a long-term course into adulthood, and are likely caused by a variety of biological, psychological and social factors. Unfortunately, few effective treatments are known to exist for these conditions, and these individuals are usually handled by the justice system rather than the medical system.



Antisocial Personality Disorder