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Antisocial Personality Disorder FAQs

Antisocial personality disorder arrogantDo “bad boys” turn into antisocial adults?

They can. As children, adults with antisocial personality disorder, or ASP, often were diagnosed with conduct disorder. They routinely mocked authority figures, such as parents, teachers, and other adults. They stole from other kids, got into fights and had trouble in and out of school. Many ran away from home.

As the antisocial youth grows up, his problems continue. He can’t keep a job, he’s undependable, and he gets fired. He lies. If he marries, it doesn’t last. And if he joins the military, he may be dishonorably discharged. Because of his recklessness and impulsiveness, he may drive fast, drive drunk, get injured or harm others. His sexual promiscuity might lead to HIV, just as his continuing criminal behavior may well lead to prison.

Can ASP be diagnosed and treated?

ASP is best diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional who can recognize its distinctive features. ASP causes significant impairment in a person’s ability to function in life, at work, at home, and in school. A complete medical, family, and psychological history is essential for diagnosis.

The causes for ASP are generally unknown, but researchers have presented a number of theories, from early brain trauma to a bad environment. No medication is routinely used to treat ASP, but medications are used to treat co-occurring conditions, such as depression and anxiety, and may help control aggression. Half of all people with ASP display fewer antisocial behaviors as they grow older, showing behavioral improvement in their 40s or 50s.

Few individuals seek help for ASP, although often family members and the courts may force them to address their behavior.

Donald Black, MD

Donald Black, MD received his medical degree from the University of Utah College of Medicine. He currently is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Dr. Black is the author of Bad Boys, Bad Men -- Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder and his work has been profiled on television programs such as 20/20, Dateline, and 48 Hours.

APA Reference
Black, D. (2020). Antisocial Personality Disorder FAQs. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 Dec 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
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