They're charming ... and manipulative. Witty ... and deceitful. Irresistible ... and dangerous. They have no conscience and they can read you like a book.

Scared yet? You should be, because people with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), aka sociopaths and psychopaths, live to get their way, and they don't care who they undermine or destroy along their self-aggrandizing, self-gratifying journey.

You May Already be a Victim

There's a good chance you've already been the victim of such a person. And if you, yourself, are such a person, you'll deny it, because your brain doesn't register that you have ASPD—or any personality disorder. Indeed, you think you're special, entitled, just grand! And you're such a natural at mimicking the behaviors of a humble, everyday human being that you don't just deceive your neighbors—you can sometimes deceive experienced therapists into believing you're just the sweet boy or girl next door.

According to Psychiatric Disorders.com, approximately 7.6 million Americans have ASPD. Most of those diagnosed with it are men. And people with ASPD represent a disproportionately large number of prison inmates—an estimated 80 percent of imprisoned males and 65 percent of imprisoned females.

T. Strentz and C. V. Hassel's article, "Sociopath—A Criminal Enigma", points out that many mass murderers, rapists and habitual criminals are sociopaths—but so are many high-pressure salespeople and people who commit business fraud. And the list doesn't end there: people with ASPD include social climbers, career climbers, and those politicians and corporate executives who have no qualms about lying continuously to the public in order to achieve and protect their personal needs and gains.

Sociopaths or Psychopaths?

The Aftermath Surviving Psychopathy Foundation notes that both sociopath and psychopath are accurate descriptions of someone with ASPD. Generally speaking, there's no consensus amongst experts on how to define sociopath versus psychopath, and some use the terms interchangeably.

So for the sake of simplicity, this article uses the term "antisocial personality disorder" to encompass traits associated with sociopaths and psychopaths, as well as people diagnosed with ASPD.

Symptoms of an Antisocial Personality

People who have antisocial personalities will exhibit some or all of the following behaviors to varying degrees:

  • Disregarding and violating others' rights or feelings without guilt or remorse.

  • Getting what they want by manipulating others through insincere flattery and charm.

  • Having no concern for their own or another's safety.

  • Having no empathy.

  • Consistently lying or deceiving for personal profit or pleasure.

  • "Valuing" others only if the other person offers something they need and only for as long as they need that something from the other person.

  • Engaging in violent and aggressive acts; angering easily.

  • Regularly breaking the law.

  • Stealing.

  • Being impulsive; failing to plan ahead; unable to recognize of the negative consequences of their actions.
Additional psychiatric conditions and associated behaviors also may be present. According to Psychiatric Disorders.com, these conditions include narcissistic, histrionic, borderline and paranoid personality disorders. And people with ASPD are more prone to commit suicide than the general population: five percent as opposed to one percent.

Getting the Picture?

The doting lovers who bankrupt their girlfriends or boyfriends. Outwardly charming husbands who abuse or murder their wives. Ingratiating "financial advisors" who scam their clients—people with antisocial personalities are the con artists and social predators of the world. They're the Bernard Madoffs, Kenneth Lays, Ted Bundys, Scott Petersons, Charles Mansons and Jeffrey Dahmers, to name a few.

They may also be your lover, your boss, your colleague, your friend.

Know One? Run

People with antisocial personalities may have set fires and/or been cruel to animals during childhood. As adults they exhibit anger, arrogance and intimidation; they can be abusive and violent; and have no regard for following what's right and wrong. They break rules because they think they're entitled to. They're habitual liars. They'll manipulate you to do their bidding through phony flattery, flamboyant charm and wit, and by toying with your emotions. And they may have problems with substance abuse, maintaining relationships, getting along at work and/or with the law. According to Psychiatric Disorders.com, many sociopaths experience panic attacks, and tension- and anxiety-related problems.

Even if you could convince someone with ASPD to get help, treating this disorder with therapy or drugs has limited success, according to Psychiatric Disorders.com. So learning to recognize the signs and ridding your life of someone with an antisocial personality can save you from heartache, financial loss, even premature death.

For more information visit Aftermath Surviving Psychopathy Foundation, Psychiatric Disorders.com, Medline Plus and Psychiatric News.