Tag Archives: Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder – A Psychodynamic Explanation


Antisocial Personality Disorder And The Early Life Of Sufferers :

According to Meroy (1988), those who go on to develop antisocial personality disorder as adults have frequently experienced a dysfunctional relationship with their mothers during infancy, including a failure to form a healthy emotional bond with her – this could be for a variety of reasons that include maternal mental illness, emotional deprivation, rejection, abuse and/or neglect.

Stranger Self-Object :

Meroy also suggests that the person suffering from antisocial personality disorder has a self based upon an ‘aggressive introject’, referred to as a ‘stranger self-object.’

An introject can be defined as : an unconscious defense mechanism in which an individual (especially a child) absorbs , and replicates in himself, the personality traits of another person into his/her own psyche.

The aggressive introject is referred to as the stranger self-object because it reflects the child’s experience of the parent as a kind of ‘stranger’ who cannot be trusted and who harbors nefarious intent towards him/her (i.e. the child).

As a child, the future antisocial personality disorder sufferer perceives his/her primary caregiver (usually the mother) as being unloving, cruel, emotionally distant and cold, unempathic, uncaring and a threat / aggressive / prone to hurting him/her ; s/he then introjects (see above) these characteristics.

Failure To Develop Meaningful Empathy Or Internalize Rules  :

Furthermore, s/he generalizes the negative characteristics s/he perceives to exist in the harmful primary- caregiver onto others so that his/her basic template for relating to other people in general excludes trust, empathy and healthy emotional bonding.

This, in turn, leads him/her to be unable to develop meaningful empathy with others, making it possible for him/her to hurt these others without experiencing feelings of remorse.

Failure to identify with parents due to early life dysfunctional relationships with them can also frequently lead to non-internalization of rule based systems which, in turn, makes it far more likely that the child will grow up without respect for the rules of society in general (which is, of course, a hallmark of the antisocial personality).

‘Sadistic’ Attempts To Bond :

Because of the failure of emotional bonding in early life with his/her mother, the antisocial personality disorder sufferer, as an adult, becomes essentially emotionally detached from his/her relationships and any attempts s/he does make to bond with others are frequently sadistic (based upon control and other destructive behaviors).

‘Superego Lacunae’ :

Because those suffering from antisocial personality disorder do not experience remorse when they hurt others, some psychodynamic theorists speculate that they are also unable to experience true depression (in relation to this idea, you may wish to read my article entitled : Do Only Good’ People Get Depressed?). Kernberg (1984) suggests that such individuals usually have severely underdeveloped superegos and that even high functioning antisocial individuals, who do, in fact, have some nascent and perfunctory development of their conscience, still have very substantial deficits in relation to it which Kernberg referred to as superego lucanae.

Kernberg also put forward the notion that those who suffer from antisocial personality disorder :

  • do not tend to be interested in rationalizing their behavior
  • do not tend to be interested in morally justifying their behavior

You may also wish to read my article :

So-Called ‘Psychopathic Traits’ In Adolescents Often Symptoms Of Intense Emotional Distress


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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma: The Five Main Personality Disorders.

Because childhood trauma has frequently been linked to the later development of borderline personality disorder (BPD), I have devoted a whole category of this blog to the analysis of that particular condition (see CATEGORIES section). However, as childhood trauma can also contribute to other personality disorders, I have decided it might be of help to outline the symptoms of those I have not yet covered.

The five main personality disorders are:


I elaborate on these below; first, however, it is worth pointing out that it is estimated 14% of the population suffer from one of the personality disorders. Let’s look at them now:

1) PARANOID PERSONALITY DISORDER: it is thought that as many as one in twenty people could suffer from this disorder. Individuals who suffer from it find it very hard to trust others and view the world in general with suspicion. Some important features of the condition suffered by individuals include:

– a feeling others relentlessly victimize them
– a feeling of being unacceptable to society
– an expectation others will betray them / being on the look out (perhaps obsessively) for signs of such betrayal
– feelings of intense jealousy (particularly in relation to partner)
– a marked tendency to hold onto resentments against others
– a marked tendency to be excessively critical of others

Often, such individuals will not seek professional help as they will frequently have a deep distrust of therapists and may, too, lack insight into their condition. Whilst environmental factors are at play in the development of this disorder, genes are also believed to have a significant role.

2) SCHIZOTYPAL PERSONALITY DISORDER: about 2% of the population are thought to suffer from this. Those affected suffer social anxiety, lack social skills and avoid close relationships. Also, they frequently have strange ideas and bizarre ways of behaving. Key features of this condition suffered by individuals include:

– bizarre fantasies and superstitions (e.g belief in telepathy)

– ‘ideas of reference’: this is the belief that events relate to the sufferer when, in reality, they do not. For example, a sufferer might believe that a newspaper headline refers to him/her or that a TV news item is about him/her.

‘poverty of speech’: this refers to speech which is vague, confused and difficult to follow or make sense of (over-use of inappropriate and odd metaphors is not unusual).

– paranoia (see above)

– beliefs that parts of their body (e.g an arm) are being controlled by outside or supernatural forces

With this disorder, too, genetics are thought to play a significant role. It is linked to schizophrenia, a more serious condition, but does not necessarily lead to full-blown symptoms of this.

3) ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER: about 2% of the population is thought to suffer from this condition; it is much more common amongst males. It is also believed that up to 80% of the prison population, at any one time, comprises individuals with this condition. Individuals with the disorder lack empathy, feel little or no remorse (ie lack what is commonly referred to as a conscience), care little about the generally accepted rules of society and can frequently be violent. However, not all are violent and many can function, even excel, in society by capitalizing on personality traits such as ruthlessness, manipulativeness, and, not infrequently, a superficial charm, to become, for example, successful politicians or CEOs. Key features of the disorder include:

– frequent lying
– lack of feelings of guilt
– aggression
– irresponsible behaviours
– indifference to the suffering of others/lack of compassion
– irritabilty and hostility
– frequent impulsivity

Individuals with the disorder very frequently crave power and this ‘power lust’ will usually take precedence over forming long-term, meaningful relationships.

4) NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER: some have speculated that this disorder is becoming more common in what is sometimes referred to as the current ‘ME-GENERATION’ or ‘X-FACTOR GENERATION’ (I never watch it. Honestly). At present, however, it is estimated about 1% of the population suffer from it. Individuals who are affected by it tend to be what many might term ‘attention-seekers’. They will also tend to have a grandiose self-image, believing that they are somehow entitled to special treatment. Their enormous self-regard and sense of self-importance can lead to them behaving in a very arrogant and off-hand manner. Key features of the condition include:

– self-absorption/self-obsessiveness
– a sense of great specialness
– a grandiose self-view
– a lack of empathy for others
– frequent feelings of great envy or jealousy
– a predisposition towards the exploitation of others
– intense competitiveness

These individuals may, too, greatly over-estimate their own talents, perhaps expecting to become an enormous success, rich and famous (X -FACTOR comes to mind again here, for some reason). Rather than engaging with others on a ‘normal’ emotional level, they may uniformly see others, essentially, as merely providing them with an audience.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).