In our 1st post in this series, we listed the Personality Disorders that can make it impossible to achieve stable mental health in relationships. In extreme cases, spending too much time with people who are suffering from a Personality Disorder can trigger mental illness in people who have been mentally stable all their lives. Personality disorders are mental health conditions that affect how someone thinks, perceives the world, feels about other people or relates to others.This week we write about Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD).
Both sociopathy and psychopathy are behavioral patterns of ASPD. Sociopathic and Psychopathic individuals can carelessly and continuously display shocking, even atrocious behaviours that are harmful or dangerous for themselves and for others.
A Smooth Criminal
When Atieno was 19yrs old, she was beaten up by a stranger at a bus stop. She was travelling through Nairobi, on her way to Mombasa to join the Coast National Polytechnic. As she waited for the night bus, a tall nice looking bloke with a dazzling smile sat beside her and engaged her in conversation. She was single, so why not? They shared their stories, family backgrounds, future plans for 30minutes before he offered to buy her a soda.
“Fanta” she replied with a smile. Her heart was fluttering.
He went to the bus stop kiosk and got her, not the 350ml fanta, but the 500ml. What’s that if not charm? Almost love. He made her laugh and openly spoke about how he had been looking for a wife. His plans to open a business for his wife so she wouldn’t have to be one of those idle nagging housewives, sounded like the plans of a reasonable man.
At 20:00, the bus to Mombasa opened its doors and Atieno started to prepare herself to get on the bus. The bloke, let’s call him Manga, shall we? Manga said no. Atieno turned on all her charm, some she didn’t evenknow she possessed; to explain to the very nice Manga that she had to get on that bus. Her parents had done everything possible to get her a place at the Coast polytechnic. They had then gone out of their known Kisumu tracks to gather the money for the fees. Her extended family was putting all their eggs in this basket called Atieno. She was their hope for a better future. Which for her meant that she was getting on that bus.
Manga insisted she wasn’t and this point, she saw his eyes flash with something like anger. He had booked a hotel room for them already, he said. When she laughed at that joke, he slapped her. They had never met before this day, and yet, he slapped her as if she was his to slap. She screamed and started to fight him. He hit back with venom.
“You are mine tonight!” he said.
“If you didn’t want me, why accept my soda? That is my money I have worked for!”
Atieno offered to pay him back for his soda. She rummaged in her handbag and found 50 shillings, which she contemptuously at him. That infuriated him even more. A crowd had started to gather. Atieno begged the crowd to call the police.
Known to the police
“She is my wife!” Manga shouted.
“She is my wife who has become a slut and is trying to run away to Mombasa to another man! I have tried to convince her calmly not to leave. She refuses to listen! If it was your wife, what would you do?”
Some of the people in the crowd backed away. A matter between man and wife – why interfere? By now, Atieno was lying on the dusty ground bleeding. Some women had surrounded her for protection and were trying to calm Manga. Her nice braids newly made for this trip looked like an old beloved coat discarded.
Manga was winning.
Someone in the crowd had gone looking for the police anyway. When they arrived, one of the officers surprised everybody by saying:
“Is that you again Manga?” [IN SWAHILI] and he laughed.
Manga laughed too, and started to run. But the police caught up with him and he was taken into custody. Some well wishers wanted to take Atieno to the hospital, but she refused. She had to get on that bus. I was also taking that bus going on vacation so I sat with Atieno and tried to help her clean her up. She told me about the short encounter with Manga on the bus trip. I was astonished at his audacity! Who does that??
Two weeks later, I was back in Nairobi but the Manga and Atieno experience had engraved itself in my mind and heart. So I went back to the bus stop to find out some more about Manga and what had happened to him after Ateno had taken the bus. He was in police custody again. Not for his vicious attack on Atieno, but for stabbing a man with a knife a few days after Atieno took the bus to her future.
I found out that Manga was a regular emotional conman. He told you sob-stories to get money out of you. If sob-stories didn’t get money out of your pockets, he was willing to physically attack and rob. He blackmailed women to spend nights with him. Some business people at this bus stop knew him well, so he targeted oblivious newcomers and his viciousness ensured that no one warned the victim. There were rumours, started by Manga himself, that he had murdered someone and got away with it.
Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)
It feels like all of us have a variation of ASPD so no-one is perfectly free of ASPD. Thankfully. At some point in life, we will surprise ourselves and others by doing something dramatic and out of character. To be noted is that most of us do not knowingly engage in criminal activity where we risk arrest. However, a whole lot of people will for example avoid taxes if possible. Some of us are very good at playing very close to the line between legal and illegal without ever being caught breaking the law.
We also need to be careful with generalizations that stigmatize people. In some social/political-situations, brushes with the law do not necessarily mean that a person is a criminal. In some countries, for example in Kenya, one or two arrests do not translate to ASPD. This is because brushes with the police are regular and an arrest can occur for no apparent reason. For example, young Kenyan men are often arrested for arrested for ‘being’ out at night. The officer will call it ‘loitering like a thief’ [IN SWAHILI] and you will sleep in a cell for it if you cannot buy your freedom in the night.
It is important that we find out the reason for the arrest before we make up our minds to avoid someone, or to commit our emotions to the person.
However, we need to avoid individuals with the level of ASPD that will keep shocking you with disruptions to your life until your mental health is in tatters. Basically because there will be little or no stability in your life. They will at the same time disrupt their own lives so you cannot depend on them for support. ASPD individuals will abuse your loyalty and love by doing something criminal or something socially shocking that may get you into trouble. Because ASPD personalities are not remorseful, and do not really have the capacity to love you deeply, they may even let you be punished for a crime they committed. This personality will disrespect you in public and in private.
Awareness is Everything
What we need is awareness of how people with ASPD behave in order to recognize them in time before they become harmful to our emotional health. Individuals with ASPD are manipulative, deceitful and reckless. They don’t care for other people’s feelings or for how their behaviour affects other people’s well-being. We should also be aware that ASPD is on a spectrum, which means that it’s severity can range from occasional bad behaviour to repeatedly breaking the law and committing serious crimes.
A person with mild ASPD will occasionally go on a dangerous rampage that injures self or others. ASPD is not only about physical violence, it is the emotional/psychological violence too. The spouse that periodically drinks too much and shocks you by lying drunk in a ditch, exposing themselves to dangers that could ruin your lives. Or periodically drinks too much and says shocking hurtful things to you. When that toxic friend of yours jokes that you are a psychopath, and laughs it away – you should wonder what level of ASPD they themselves are at. Saying such a thing to a ‘friend’ is calculated and harmful, so why say it? To deflect? To project?
Sociopathy is the milder form of ASPD and is characterized by volatile, unattached behavioral patterns demonstrated by emotional outbursts and a clear lack of self-control. Psychopathy is a more severe form of ASPD and psychopaths are deemed more dangerous than sociopaths due to their lack of remorse for their actions and a lack of empathy. Additionally, psychopaths are extremely manipulative, easily gaining other people’s trust. However, they rarely form firm attachments to others. Remember, Psychopaths are generally well-educated, can hold steady jobs and can even hold onto dysfunctional long-term relationships. While sociopaths are rarely well-educated making them drifters/floaters in society and often displaying disturbed, agitated and nervous behavioral patterns.
Be careful when forming attachment to individuals with psychopathic traits. They lack empathy and therefore feel no remorse when causing harm to another individual. Their actions are often pre-planned and the crimes they commit are often highly organized and meticulous.
Traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder:
- Lack of empathy, guilt, conscience or remorse
- Shallow experiences of feelings or emotions
- Impulsivity and a weak ability to defer gratification and control behavior
- Superficial charm and glibness
- Manipulative lying for personal gain
- Irresponsibility and a failure to accept responsibility for their actions
- A grandiose sense of their own worth
- Highly impulsive and highly emotional
- High risk of substance abuse and incarceration
- Criminal psychopaths are about three times more likely to commit violence than other offenders and about two-and-a-half times more likely to commit other antisocial acts such as lying and sexual exploitation.”
- Difficult to have relationships with because they lack social kindness and empathy
Causes of ASPD
Researchers believe that ASPD, especially psychopathy has roots in early childhood. Children who show an early lack of fear, or are indifferent towards other children, and/or appear unaffected by other people’s emotions are at the greatest risk. Imagine a child who does not get distressed when their mother is crying or quarrelling. It’s not known why some people develop antisocial personality disorder. But, both genetics and traumatic childhood experiences seem to be involved.
- Difficult family circumstances such as:
- one or both parents misusing alcohol
- rampant and harsh parental conflict
- inconsistent parenting
These types of difficulties in childhood will often lead to child abuse or neglect which in turn leads to behavioural problems during adolescence and adulthood.