Antisocial Personality Disorder
Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) can be described as behavior and attitudes that manifest disregard for and inconsideration of other people's feelings, moral rights, and ethics. The disorder can begin in childhood or early adolescence, and be expressed by shoplifting, difficulty with teachers and other students, defiance of social norms and other nonconformity. The complexities and demands of adulthood may provoke the individual into more serious actions including deception, high-risk and potentially destructive behavior such as drug abuse, binge drinking, and reckless driving. It has been determined that people who suffer from social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder have higher odds of ASPD, but not necessarily major depression. There are levels of ASPD, but each seem linked to, or driven by, anxiety.
The name of the disorder itself conjures in some minds horrifying images of serial killers, but such profound disturbance is rare. A mental health professional who diagnoses antisocial personality disorder is in a quandary, because some see it as a purely ethical dilemma. The patient is incapable of comprehending mortality, but does this excuse irresponsible or injurious behavior? Many in law enforcement think the disorder should not be considered psychiatric at all, especially since recent studies have shown a probable genetic link.
Not all those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder have violent impulses, a fact backed up by FBI expert John Douglas, founder of criminal profiling. What he and his colleagues established was that there exists a boundary between the ASPD-type person who is indifferent, or even nonreactive, to their negative behaviors and effect on others and the "soulless insanity" projected onto serial murderers, who evolved into being capable of killing through devastating, prolonged trauma and abuse during childhood. There are exceptions to this, but not many. Another variation defined by Douglas is Antisocial Personality by Proxy, where the ASPD-type individual is physically or "materially" unsuited to fulfill some antisocial desire, and coerces a vulnerable person to carry it out.
Ruthless politicians and mercenary businesspeople can be often perceived as sharing some aspects of antisocial personality disorder. Three of these are antagonism, disinhibition, and inflated self-worth. Politicians shout, use hostile gestures, and make grandiose claims and promises. So does the occasional businessperson. Equally distressing, reports have surfaced that key administrative staff in finance and law actually value potential hires whose pre-employment screening reveal sociopathic traits. Why? For good or ill, this attitude is found only in the United States, where aggression and power are tacitly associated with "success" and coping abilities, but not part of any open policy.
Well-modulated aggression and even disinhibition are sometimes required to get us through a day's work, or some confrontational events but, unlike the person guided by antisocial personality disorder, we recognize the situational nature and have some regret over the necessity to act out of character.