In the society we live in today, people find out what’s going on in the world through the touch screen of a smartphone. With society currently facing a pandemic, most people are isolated, working from home, and are unable to engage in one-on-one human interaction. It might be the new norm to notice your screen time to be more than 6-8 hours per day. It is not uncommon to meet people who would rather be a homebody than go spend a night out. Has the pandemic led to the birth of more introverts? Or has society accepted a new level of antisocial behavior?
There have been some misconceptions brewing about introverts and antisocial behavior for quite some time. The mental stigma and judgment behind someone who might be seen as an introvert or considered antisocial are pretty similar. This is considered to be the first misconception, that someone who is introverted is automatically assumed to be antisocial. However, that is not the case. There are many distinct differences between what is considered introverted and antisocial, and especially, antisocial personality disorder. So what is it exactly? Let’s find out.
So, what is an introvert? What does it mean to be antisocial? Can you be introverted and antisocial at the same time? Yes. Can someone be one or the other? Yes. Can you be introverted and extroverted? Yes, and by the way, there is a term for someone who exhibits both, it’s called an ambivert. There are many variations an individual can display and should not be simply judged for what they choose to be.
More importantly, what behaviors underlie antisocial personality disorder? All these questions arise and are necessary to know so that the affiliation between the two personality dimensions of an introvert and antisocial behavior can be severed.
An introvert and extrovert are the two major forms of personality traits society likes to use to describe an individual. Typically, an introvert is someone who likes to spend their time alone rather than be in large groups of people. Introverts tend to see events involving large groups of people as draining and unpleasant. In contrast, an extrovert is basically the complete opposite of an introvert. Extroverts are seen as social butterflies who make conversation with most that come their way and tend to like gatherings or events filled with people.
An individual who does not like to be around others, or initiate a conversation does not meet the criteria for antisocial behavior. The term, antisocial has a much deeper meaning; especially in terms of categorizing a personality disorder. Being antisocial is considered to be a clinical condition, whereas being introverted is truly just a personality trait. Antisocial personality disorder or ASPD is a mental health condition that commonly consists of behaviors where one chooses not to follow society’s norms, total disregard for what is right and wrong, and a cunning lack of remorse for others. ASPD has been linked to forms of sociopathic behavior and patterns of thinking.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition), or DSM-5, categorizes antisocial personality disorder under the second cluster of personality disorders, cluster B. Cluster B generally involves emotional, melodramatic, and unpredictable types of personality disorders. People with ASPD may be portrayed as an individual who does not like to play by the rules and would rather play by the rules they created fit for their world.
An established and defining feature of ASPD would be social irresponsibility. They don’t like to conform or obey any federal laws, display difficulties in sustaining employment, and are often unable to maintain stable relationships (Fisher & Hany, 2020). This brings light to another misconception often seen between introverts and someone who is clinically antisocial. Introverts are completely capable of having healthy relationships, while someone with ASPD juggling through relationships constitutes probable as a symptom. They may act recklessly, impulsively, or hurtful towards others for personal gain. General characteristics of an individual displaying ASPD are deceitful, lacking remorse, and aggressive. What separates ASPD from other personality disorders is that ASPD is not diagnosable during childhood. It is not uncommon for individuals exhibiting ASPD to be involved in criminal activity.
The etiology or cause of antisocial personality disorder is not relatively known. However, research has shown that the possible etiology of ASPD could be three interconnected factors such as environmental influences, inherited genes, and abnormal brain anatomy (Harvard Health Publishing, 2019). An environmental influence could be an example of growing up in a chaotic and unstable household which can kickstart the onset of this personality disorder. Inherited genes are one of the profound factors in ASPD. The frontal lobe also appears to look differently for individuals with ASPD. The frontal lobe of the brain region controls cognitive skills such as judgment and planning.
An antisocial personality disorder is a difficult personality disorder to diagnose since there are no laboratory tests to help in the diagnosis of this condition. The diagnosis of ASPD usually occurs after some type of harm has been done to others or the individual has gotten involved in some form of criminal activity. The onset of symptoms tends to begin after the age of 15, especially more prominent to begin in boys than girls.
Unfortunately, there is no cure or prevention for ASPD like most other personality disorders. However, many individuals who have been diagnosed with ASPD have found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been the most effective in terms of establishing a treatment plan. Other forms of family and psychotherapy are also considered to be useful techniques.
A central focus for patients with ASPD is to alter destructive behavioral patterns and teach them how to build stable relationships with family and friends. The difficulties that tend to occur during therapy, which are typically hard to grasp at first, are being aware and considerate of other people’s sensitivities and feelings. If forms of psychotherapy and strategies taught in CBT do not deem to be effective, medications commonly used for aggression and impulsivity are other treatment options that could be utilized.
From digging deeper inside the world of antisocial personality disorder, one can clearly differentiate what it is to be an introvert and antisocial. In society, we are often careless in how we think certain terminology may not have profound effects on particular individuals. Society has a strong ability to shape and alter the definition of a simple word. It is important not to blindly characterize an individual without properly knowing how words can affect someone, and to realize that not all things are similar.
Fisher, K. A., & Hany, M. (2020, December 8). Antisocial Personality Disorder – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546673/
Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Antisocial Personality Disorder. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/antisocial-personality-disorder-a-to-z