Studies of adopted children indicate that both genetic and environmental factors influence the development of APD. Both biological and adopted children of people diagnosed with the disorder have an increased risk of developing it. Children born to parents diagnosed with APD but adopted into other families resemble their biological more than their adoptive parents. The environment of the adoptive home, however, may lower the child's risk of developing APD.
Researchers have linked antisocial personality disorder to childhood physical or sexual abuse; neurological disorders (which are often undiagnosed); and low IQ. But, as with other personality disorders, no one has identified any specific cause or causes of antisocial personality disorder. Persons diagnosed with APD also have an increased incidence of somatization and substance-related disorders.
DSM-IV-TR adds that persons who show signs of conduct disorder with accompanying attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder before the age of ten have a greater chance of being diagnosed with APD as adults than do other children. The manual notes that abuse or neglect combined with erratic parenting or inconsistent discipline appears to increase the risk that a child diagnosed with conduct disorder will develop APD as an adult.
The central characteristic of antisocial personality disorder is an extreme disregard for the rights of other people. Individuals with APD lie and cheat to gain money or power. Their disregard for authority often leads to arrest and imprisonment. Because they have little regard for others and may act impulsively, they are frequently involved in fights. They show loyalty to few if any other people and are likely to seek power over others in order to satisfy sexual desires or economic needs.
People with APD often become effective "con artists." Those with well-developed verbal abilities can often charm and fool their victims, including unsuspecting or inexperienced therapists. People with APD have no respect for what others regard as societal norms or legal constraints. They may quit jobs on short notice, move to another city, or end relationships without warning and without what others would consider good reason. Criminal activities typically include theft, selling illegal drugs and check fraud. Because persons with antisocial personality disorder make "looking out for number one" their highest priority, they are quick to exploit others. They commonly rationalize these actions by dismissing their victims as weak, stupid or unwary.
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