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Antisocial personality disorder

Antisocial personality disorder is a personality disorder listed in the DSM-IV. It is generally considered to be the same as, or similar to, the disorder that was previously known as psychopathic or sociopathic personality disorder.

It is characterised by a number of symptoms:

Some research has shown that individuals with APD are indifferent to the threat of physical pain, and show no indications of fear when so threatened; this may explain their apparent disregard for the consequences of their actions, and their lack of empathy for the suffering of others.

Although criminal activity is not a necessary requirement for the diagnosis, these individuals often encounter legal difficulties due to their disregard for societal standards and the rights of others. Therefore, many of these individuals can be found in prisons. However, it should be noted that criminal activity does not automatically warrant a diagnosis of APD.

Fictional Psychopaths

Psychopaths in popular fiction and movies generally possess a number of standard characteristics which are not necessarily as common amongst real-life psychopaths. The traditional "Hollywood psychopath" is likely to exhibit some or all of the following traits.

It is this last feature which is probably most at odds with the typical real-life psychopath: an individual with APD is much more likely to be impulsive, disorganised and short-tempered rather than the smooth-talking self-disciplined character portrayed by Anthony Hopkins or Kiefer Sutherland.

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