Antisocial Personality Disorder vs Psychopathy: What’s the Difference?

Antisocial personality disorder vs psychopathy: these are two different disorders although both involve criminal behaviour with no remorse. Psychopathy is considered severe form of antisocial personality disorder.

Antisocial Personality Disorder And Psychopathy

Antisocial Personality Disorder vs Psychopathy

Despite certain similarities, antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy are distinct diagnoses that may overlap. A disregard for others’ well-being characterizes both. People with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD or APD) and psychopathy find it difficult to feel guilty and respect the rights of others.

While not every person with ASPD is a psychopath, and not every psychopathic individual meets the diagnostic criteria for ASPD, many symptoms are comparable.

What is an Antisocial Personality Disorder?

One of the personality disorders characterized by impulsive, manipulative, and risky behaviour is an antisocial personality disorder. Personality disorders are mental health conditions defined by inflexible and destructive thought and behaviour patterns.

A vital characteristic of a personality disorder is trouble relating to circumstances and people, which causes difficulties in everyday functioning and relationships. These personality problems often develop in adolescence or early adulthood.

What is Psychopathy?

Psychopathy is a mental illness distinguished by a lack of empathy and a disregard for moral principles. However, psychopathy is not an official clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5 like ASPD is.

Antisocial Personality Disorder vs Psychopathy: Similarities

Because of the similarities between psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder, many people use these terms interchangeably.

So, what are the main similarities between antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy?

Both people with psychopathy and those with antisocial personality disorder are entirely rational. They know that their behaviour is morally wrong. They just don’t care.

Furthermore, people with both disorders are prone to risk-taking behaviours, given their childhood and teen histories of challenging behaviour and the increased risk for crime. They can be charming, charismatic, and engaging. However, these people are incredibly self-centred, manipulative, and cold beneath the surface.

Psychopathy Vs Antisocial Personality Disorder

Difference Between Antisocial Personality Disorder and Psychopathy

Although psychopathy overlaps with the DSM-5 diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, the two conditions differ significantly.

Both conditions involve behaviours that differ from those expected by society. But is antisocial personality disorder the same as psychopathy? The answer is no; it is not. In contrast to ASPD, which is characterized by a history of irresponsible behaviour and illegal actions, the core characteristic of psychopathy is a distinctive set of personality traits.

The distinction between psychopathy vs antisocial personality disorder is significant because the behaviours and treatment options look very different for these two disorders.

ASPD, like other personality disorders, exists on a spectrum, with symptoms ranging from a few antisocial tendencies to a full-blown clinical type of antisocial personality disorder.

On the other hand, many mental health experts agree that a psychopathy is a severe form of antisocial personality disorder. People with psychopathy tend to act in a way that is seen as immoral and harmful to society.

Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial personality disorder has no known cause. However, some genetic factors combined with environmental risks, such as childhood trauma, are believed to contribute to the development of APD.

People who were abused as children or grew up with an antisocial or alcoholic parent, for example, are at a higher risk, according to research.

What Are the Signs of Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Individuals suffering from antisocial personality disorder act in ways that are contrary to socially accepted norms. They frequently breach the law and exhibit no or little remorse when they harm others or do something unlawful.
In addition, ASPD patients typically:

  •       Have a history of childhood conduct disorder
  •       Lack guilt
  •       Appear arrogant and intolerant
  •       Cannot consider negative consequences of behaviour and learn from mistakes
  •       Don’t accept responsibility for own actions
  •       Blame other people for their own mistakes
  •       Have little regard for the feelings of others
  •       Show no remorse for injuring others
  •       Have a hard time controlling anger
  •       Disregard other people’s rights
  •       Manipulate and deceit others
  •       Show impulsive, aggressive, and violent behaviour

Causes of Psychopathy

Even after decades of study, the origin of psychopathy is still unknown. However, research suggests that psychopathy results from a specific combination of genes, environment, and differences in brain physiology.

Additionally, according to studies, psychopaths are relatively fearless. Therefore, it is hypothesized that a lack of fear contributes to various problematic behaviours, including resistance to correction and an unwillingness to learn from past errors. And since they are chronically bored, those with psychopathy are more likely to engage in risky behaviour and run afoul of the law.

What are the Signs of Psychopathy?

Persons diagnosed with psychopathy lack consideration for other people’s feelings and have trouble making healthy, positive relationships.

Psychopaths are usually:

  •       Narcissistic and extremely self-centred
  •       Very aggressive
  •       Cruel, with no empathy
  •       Unable to take responsibility for their actions
  •       Prone to violating other’s rights
  •       With a history of conduct disorder marked by lying and stealing throughout childhood and adolescence
  •       Lacking remorse
  •       Manipulative and hurt other people
  •       Lacking genuine emotional connections
  •       At heightened risk for crime
  •       Habitually violent
Antisocial Personality Disorder Vs Psychopathy

Treatment Options for Antisocial Personality Disorder vs Psychopathy

The person’s unwillingness to receive therapy is the most severe obstacle to APD and psychopathy treatment. Most people with personality disorders, in particular, are unaware of their own condition or are in denial about their behaviour, making it unlikely that they will seek help independently.
However, psychotherapy might help.

Treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Psychotherapy (or talk therapy) can be used to treat antisocial personality disorder. In addition, ASPD treatment may include therapy for substance abuse disorder, behaviour skill training, and anger management, along with treatment for additional mental health issues.

The effectiveness of the treatment typically depends on the severity of the symptoms and the person’s willingness to change.

Treatment for Psychopathy

Similarly to APD, treatment options for psychopathy are very limited, given that psychopaths show no motivation to change.

Nevertheless, one study on youth criminals in Wisconsin showed that positive reinforcement could motivate positive behavioural changes.


Psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder are both characterized by a lack of guilt and remorse upon doing something wrong and a disregard for others’ well-being. Individuals with APD and psychopathy have difficulty forming healthy relationships, planning for the future, and learning from mistakes.

Even though many of their symptoms overlap, antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy are distinct disorders. While ASPD is recognized as an official clinical diagnosis, the DSM-5 does not list psychopathy as one. Still, among mental health professionals, psychopathy is considered a severe form of APD.