Personality disorders are stable patterns of experience and behavior that differ noticeably from patterns that are considered normal by a person’s culture. Symptoms of a personality disorder remain the same across different situations and manifest by early adulthood. These symptoms cause distress or make it difficult for a person to function normally in society. There are many types of personality disorders, including the following:

  • Schizoid personality disorder: entails social withdrawal and restricted expression of emotions
  • Borderline personality disorder: characterized by impulsive behavior and unstable relationships, emotions, and self-image
  • Histrionic personality disorder: involves attention-seeking behavior and shallow emotions
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: characterized by an exaggerated sense of importance, a strong desire to be admired, and a lack of empathy
  • Avoidant personality disorder: includes social withdrawal, low self-esteem, and extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation
  • Antisocial personality disorder: characterized by a lack of respect for other people’s rights, feelings, and needs, beginning by age fifteen. People with antisocial personality disorder are deceitful and manipulative and tend to break the law frequently. They often lack empathy and remorse but can be superficially charming. Their behavior is often aggressive, impulsive, reckless, and irresponsible. Antisocial personality disorder has been referred to in the past as sociopathy or psychopathy.

Etiology of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)

Researchers have proposed that the following biological factors might be related to the etiology of antisocial personality disorder:

  • People with this disorder may have central nervous system abnormalities that prevent them from experiencing anxiety in stressful situations. Because they feel no anxiety, they never learn to avoid behavior with negative consequences.
  • Such people may also have a genetically inherited inability to control impulses.
  • Some researchers have suggested that antisocial personality disorder may be caused by brain damage. Injuries to the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning and impulse control, may be particularly involved.

As with other disorders, however, biological factors alone are often not enough to cause APD. Environmental factors, such as family abuse or dysfunction, also play a large role in the development of APD. Generally, it is the combination of these environmental factors with the biological vulnerability that brings on the disorder.

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