Antisocial personality disorder
If a person suspects that he or she or a loved one is suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder, it is important to remember that the condition is treatable and seek the help of a professional as soon as possible.


What is Antisocial Personality Disorder (APV)?

A person with an antisocial personality disorder is more commonly described as a "psychopath" or "sociopath".

This disorder is generally characterized by a lack of sound moral values of guilt. Usually this is accompanied by a history of crime, clashes with justice, impulsiveness and aggressive behavior. An APV is a difficult condition to treat and treatment very rarely has a successful outcome.


What are the symptoms of an antisocial personality disorder?

The following symptoms are indicative, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – 5), which is widely accepted as the most authoritative source worldwide:

Please note Please note that an official diagnosis may only be made by a qualified person.

  1. A sustained pattern of “lack of caring for others” and “disregard for the rights of others”. This pattern is indicated by three or more of the following:
    1. an inability to conform to social norms of behavior; to e.g. repeatedly committing acts that are against the law;
    2. a concealment of the truth by telling lies, using aliases or others to lead the forest for personal gain or pleasure;
    3. impulsivity or lack of planning ahead;
    4. irritation and aggression, as indicated by incidents of physical violence;
    5. reckless disregard for events that threaten their own or other people's safety;
    6. persistent irresponsible actions, as indicated by repeated inability to keep a job or fulfill financial obligations; and / or
    7. a lack of regret or guilt, or rationalization when others are hurt or harmed.
  2. The individual must be at least 18 years of age.
  3. Indications of the characteristic behavior must have appeared before the age of 15 years.
  4. The characteristic behavior is not due to schizophrenia or a manic episode.


Treatment of an antisocial personality disorder

  1. What treatment works successfully in dealing with an antisocial personality disorder?
    Psychotherapy, especially focused on identifying and monitoring one's own behavior, may in some cases help individuals with APV to function more successfully in interpersonal relationships. However, the success of treatment is limited, especially as people with an APV do not feel that they need treatment.
  2. Can medication help?
    There is currently no medication prescribed for people diagnosed with an APV. Medication is only applicable if another type of condition is also present eg. depression.
  3. Who can diagnose me or a loved one?
    Because an APV is so complex, it can only be diagnosed by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. They are trained to distinguish between different disorders.


Advice for loved ones and family members who live or work with someone diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder:

  1. It is extremely difficult to assist or support a person diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder. The reason is that these people usually see other people as objects and show little to no empathy. Just because they don't experience empathy doesn't mean they can't understand it.

    People with a diagnosis of APV can be empathetic, but unfortunately it is usually when it helps them to manipulate others. The bad news is that you can't actually do much to help the person.

    Whatever it may sound like, you have to protect yourself from a person with an APV diagnosis, or set firm boundaries for the person. The ideal would be to remove yourself from the situation or relationship.

  2. But what if you can't remove yourself? Parents with adult children with this diagnosis MUST sometimes live with it. In this case, it is usually best not to respond to manipulation and to set very firm boundaries. We suggest that certain conditions for behavior must be set and that they must be adhered to. For example: "You are welcome to visit and sleep with us at any time, but not for more than three nights, and if you abuse it, you may not stay here again."

    So try to regulate BEHAVIOR rather than trying to change the person.

Did you know?
  1. "Someone with an antisocial personality disorder" is the correct way to refer to a person suffering from this disorder.
  2. The term "psychopath" is still widely used, although it is no longer applicable.
  3. "Antisocial" does NOT refer to a shy, withdrawn or complacent person, but in this case to someone who chronically (accepted) the accepted social norms. It is therefore someone whose behavior constantly gets him or her in trouble with other people and even with justice.
  4. APV is more common in men.


If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 456 789 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. contact Wie is ek?