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Antisocial Personality Disorder And Addiction

Joseph Sitarik, DO

Medically reviewed by

Joseph Sitarik, DO

March 5, 2019

Individuals with a mental illness, such as antisocial personality disorder, may turn to abusing drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the disorder. This is dangerous as it can lead to addiction and the development of a co-occurring disorder. Individuals who struggle with this type of addiction may benefit from a dual-diagnosis treatment program as they are designed to treat all aspects of addiction.

Often times people with a severe mental illness also struggle with substance abuse and/or addiction. Antisocial personality disorder affects a person’s moods, thoughts, and behaviors, often resulting in risky, impulsive acts. Characteristics of the disorder may cause a person to seek ways to cope. Abusing substances, such as drugs or alcohol, can lead to addiction. Addiction is a disease of the mind which impacts many people. Treating mental illness alongside addiction requires specialized care—the kind offered at private inpatient rehab centers. can connect you with the treatment you need to heal.

No one is inherently “safe” from the risk of developing either mental illness or substance use disorders. The two often go hand in hand. While developing one disorder does not guarantee a person will acquire the other, mental health disorders and substance use disorders tend to affect (even agitate) the symptoms of each.

That is why treatment is such an important part of caring for someone who is struggling with a mental health condition or addiction. Before addiction fosters the development of mental issues or a mental illness causes someone you love to seek alternative ways to cope, help people that person into treatment.

What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Antisocial personality disorder, also called sociopathy, is a condition which affects a person’s mental health. This condition causes the person affected to lash out at others, using antagonization and manipulation as power. As Mayo Clinic explains, a person with this disorder “consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others.”

What Characterizes Antisocial Personality Disorder?

People with antisocial personality disorder have little or no regard for the feelings and rights of others. Those affected by the disorder are unaware of or are unaffected by social restrictions. This often results in behavior which is immoral, and can lead to criminal activity.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), this pattern of behavior tends to begin at a young age, and continues to a person’s adulthood. Some of the glaring characteristics which define antisocial personality disorder are:

  • Astounding lack of remorse
  • Compulsive lying
  • Continually violates rights of others
  • Disregard for social norms and laws
  • Disregard for the feelings or rights of others
  • Exploits or uses others for the betterment of self
  • Immorality: cares not for what is deemed right or wrong
  • Refuses to show or feel guilt
  • Responds to immoral behavior with indifference
  • Risking the safety or rights of others to benefit self
  • Tendency to alienate others
  • Tendency to use manipulation to establish fear, or get what he or she wants
  • Treats others in a harsh manner

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What Causes Antisocial Personality Disorder?

No single cause is yet known for this disorder. However, some environmental factors are believed to affect the development of it, including:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Fascination with starting fires
  • Having an alcoholic or antisocial parent
  • Other traumatic events during childhood

Men are more affected by this disorder than women, and it is also common among people in prison.

How Does Addiction Affect Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Antisocial personality disorder, like many mental health conditions, can cause a person to feel isolated with his or her symptoms. Isolation often results in seeking ways to cope. This disorder is characterized by a number of adverse, often criminal, behaviors. Criminal behavior tends to be linked to different types of addiction.

In a dual diagnosis, people struggle with the hardships of two disorders. Over time, these disorders may begin to agitate each other. For example, people may seek alcohol as a way to cope with hardships experienced as a result of bad behavior or traumatic events. Alcohol may seem like a quick fix, but as NAMI explains, drugs and alcohol tend to worsen the symptoms of mental health conditions.

What Characterizes Addiction?

One of the major signs of drug or alcohol addiction is compulsive substance seeking. Addiction also changes the way a person thinks. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.”

Once a person develops tolerance to the effects of drugs or alcohol, that person has probably fallen victim to addiction. Having tolerance means the person needs more of a substance to get the same intended effects. This is where addiction gets dangerous.

Increasing dosage to achieve the high or rush also enhances the effects of the drugs. Some drugs, such as prescription opioids, slow breathing rates or the way the body works. This can lead to some adverse health effects, such as respiratory problems or slowed heart rate. In extreme cases, prolonged use of substances due to addiction can lead to overdose, which can be fatal.

What Are The Side Effects Of Addiction?

In addition to developing tolerance and experiencing withdrawal when not taking substances, addiction can cause other effects as well. Some symptoms, such as withdrawal and cravings may go away with time. Others can last for years. Some parts of the body and brain which can be affected by addiction are:

  • behavior
  • decision-making
  • judgment
  • learning abilities
  • memory
  • stress level

What Are The Consequences Of Addiction?

The consequences a person may experience vary according to the addicted individual, the severity of the addiction, and duration of abuse. Many people who have struggled with addiction have had troubles with:

  • family
  • finances
  • personal relationships
  • responsibilities or obligations
  • school
  • work

Because addiction changes the way a person thinks, life with addiction revolves around seeking and using substances. It’s for this reason that inpatient treatment is best. Recovering in a rehab center removes a person from the environment of substance abuse, allowing him or her to focus on getting better.

How Common Is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis, also called co-occurring disorders, is quite common. In fact, “people with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Unfortunately, many of these dual diagnoses may go untreated.

In some cases, symptoms of addiction and mental health conditions are very similar. Identifying and diagnosing the separate conditions can be difficult in those cases. But with proper assessments, people can receive the help they need for dual diagnosis treatment. At, we can help you get the treatment and expert care you need.

What Treatments Are Available For Dual Diagnosis?

Treatment for dual diagnosis must be comprehensive. It must target the symptoms of each disorder and work to effectively treat them. Many people with a dual diagnosis receive treatment for one disorder while the other is left untreated. This is exactly what rehab centers work to change.

Methods of treatment vary according to a person’s diagnosis—treatment for depression may be different from treatment for antisocial personality disorder. This is true for addiction, too. Some of the most effective forms of treatment for dual diagnosis include:

  • Alternative therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Counseling: family, group, and individual
  • Gender-specific treatment
  • Holistic therapy
  • Medication-assisted therapy

Antisocial Personality Disorder And Addiction Treatment

People with aan ntisocial personality disorder may have a long road ahead of them in changing their behavior and mindset. This is especially true if they also struggle with addiction. Treatment for dual diagnosis is possible with dedication and a team of professional support. can help you find the rehab center that will offer the level of care needed for recovery success. Contact us today to learn more.

Mayo Clinic - Antisocial Personality Disorder

National Alliance On Mental Illness - Dual Diagnosis

National Alliance On Mental Health - Antisocial Personality Disorder

National Alliance On Drug Abuse - DrugFacts: Understanding Drug Use And Addiction

Psychology Today- - Antisocial Personality Disorder -

Substance Abuse And Mental Health Administration - Co-Occurring Disorders

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Antisocial Personality Disorder

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