Does My Daughter Have a Personality Disorder?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker


My daughter has some symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. She took a psychology class last year in 10th grade and revealed to me yesterday that she has many of the characteristics from this list:
Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.
Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.

The only thing from this list she doesn’t have is aggression or violence. She does very well in school, A’s and B’s and some honors classes, and has never been in any trouble. But she doesn’t have many friends, only two that she is close with, and one that she is having a conflict with right now. I never really worried about her very much, we get along reasonably well for a mother and teen. She has spent most of the summer in her room playing online military games, which sometimes concerns me but I find it better than the alternative of her hanging around with who knows who doing who knows what. Last year she made a new friend that I did not approve of but didn’t want to keep her from being social so against my better judgement I allowed them to spend time together, which turned out exactly as I had feared, getting involved in risky behaviors, smoking, drinking, marijuana, and sex. I took her to a therapist wanting her to get help in learning to make better choices but I think she played the lady who told me she was just fine. She has plans for college but refuses to add any extracurriculars to help her application, she just doesn’t like people, she says. The only thing she does beside school is rec league softball which she has played since she was 4, but won’t try out for the school team. Should I be worried? Is this just a phase? I have read some scary things about this disorder and I do not want to go there.

A: The danger with self-diagnosis is that it is being done by an amateur. Your teen stumbled on a list of characteristics but she doesn’t have the professional experience and judgment to make sense of it. In fact, although completely normal, many teens have characteristics of personality disorders: borderline, narcissistic, histrioinic, antisocial. While they are figuring out who they are, they go through periods of time where they challenge authority, do things that worry the grownups, and have emotional ups and downs. Risky behaviors are part of the package. Teens are excitement seekers and rule-breakers. They test the limits of authority and challenge their parents’ values. They try on friendships and relationships like they try on jeans – discarding some perfectly good ones because they don’t quite fit some idea they have of the ideal, insisting on keeping some that we think are too loose or too tight. It’s a wonder that any of us get through the teen years. It’s a wonder that we parents somehow usually cope.

All that being said, I can’t make any determination for you on the basis of a letter. You took your daughter to one therapist who thinks she’s okay. You could certainly go to another for a second opinion. Or you could seek out a therapist for yourself so that you have an objective person to help you decide if there is a problem and to learn ways to manage the teen years.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Sep 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Does My Daughter Have a Personality Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/09/25/does-my-daughter-have-a-personality-disorder/