Adult Antisocial Behavior

What is Adult Antisocial Behavior?

Antisocial behavior is a disruptive act such as harassment, intimidation, persistent impairments or persistent alarm, distress or fear towards others. The behavior results in hostility and intentional aggression towards others. The behavior exists along continuous violations of social rules, theft, deceit, reckless disregard of others and defiance of authority.

The behaviors are widespread and can include disturbance from your neighbors. For instance, if the neighbor continuously plays loud music causing annoyance and interfering with your peace or relaxation. Sometimes the behaviors arise from misdiagnosed long-standing behavior patterns during childhood.

Adult antisocial behaviors are more common in males than females and the symptoms decrease with advancement in age. People in their 40s and 50s experience fewer symptoms of antisocial behaviors.

Symptoms of Adult Antisocial Behavior

AAB develops in the context of coercive social interactions within the educational, community and family environment. The childhood temperament plays a big role in influencing the behavior. Consequently, level of involvement with wayward peers, cognitive abilities, irritability and exposure to violence aggravate the problem.

Adult antisocial behavior (AAB) frequently accompanies other development and behavioral problems such as:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggression and irritability
  • Substance abuse and delinquency
  • Impulsivity
  • Reckless disregard
  • Deceitfulness
  • Defiance of social norms e.g. unlawful behaviors like engaging in acts leading to arrest
  • Lack of remorse
  • Consistent irresponsibility

The diagnosis happens when a majority of the symptoms are predominant. The person may fail to honor work behavior and financial obligations or engage in repeat assaults or fights. Other people resort to conning, lying or using aliases for personal pleasure or profit.

The behavior endures a pattern of inner experience that departs from the norm.

The patterns are visible in areas such as interpersonal functioning, cognition and impulse control. It is pervasive in both social and personal situations leading to significant impairment and distress in both work and social functioning. The pattern endures for a long time and originates back from early adolescent years. The behavior has an element of conduct disorder during childhood years. Diagnosis takes place best in adulthood because of the enduring patterns and long-standing behaviors.

Companions and peers reinforce the behaviors. In most cases, the mutually reinforcing behaviors later turn into substance abuse and delinquency. The problems and behaviors surrounding AAB can lead to negative consequences such as homelessness, death due to violence, low financial status, anxiety or depression, arrest, and imprisonment, engaging in gang activities and neglect of loved ones.

Adult Antisocial Behavior Causes

The behaviors consist of thoughts, emotions and how one relates to other people. Moreover, perceptions determine the extent of the behavior. The behaviors form during childhood or adolescence and develop largely because of inherited traits and environmental factors. The specific causes of antisocial behaviors are determinable and obvious.

Other causes include:

  • Neglect or abuse during childhood e.g. use of corporal and coercive punishment
  • Diagnosis of conduct disorder during childhood
  • Changes in brain functioning during brain development in childhood
  • Genetic inheritance of antisocial behavior i.e psychiatric disorders
  • Violent family life such as heavy exposure to media violence like movies, television, video games and internet sites
  • Drug and substance abuse
  • Parental disruption e.g. separation, death or divorce
  • Economic distress due to unemployment or poverty

Multiple risk factors for antisocial behaviors include environmental stressors, genetic and neurobiological stressors. This starts at the prenatal stage and continues through to adulthood. Genetic factors contribute substantially to antisocial behavior development.

The factors include an abnormality in the prefrontal cortex structure of the brain, which plays a major role in the inheritance of the behaviors. The neurobiological risks include birth complications, prenatal brain damage, chronic illness, traumatic head injury, low birth weight and maternal drug use when pregnant.

Treatments for Adult Antisocial Behavior

AAB is a lifelong disorder that exhibits various symptoms of criminal and destructive behaviors. The behaviors may diminish, but whether or not they lessen depends on the treatment. Aging and an increase of knowledge leading to awareness help with the negative effects.

Persons with AAB need encouragement from their families and close friends.

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps in curbing antisocial behaviors. The therapist sets guidelines for patient involvement. The patients actively attend, participate and complete assignments resulting from the therapy visits. Therapy aims at helping patients fully understand the problems and the perception distortions that prevents them from seeing the good in themselves and how great they can become. Individuals with adult antisocial behaviors tend to blame other people for their problems. Mostly, they never form trusting relationships and have no patience for frustrations. The individuals keep away from from others they view as obstacles to their endeavors and lack motivation to improve. This leaves them in complete separation from the societal norms and difficult to treat.

Most people do not seek treatment until their resources are overstretched, leading to stress and depression. Only a mental health professional can make the diagnosis after comparing the life history and known symptoms of the disorder. The mental health professional makes the determination whether the symptoms meet the necessary criteria for antisocial behavior diagnosis.

Long-term psychotherapy is the best treatment for an antisocial disorder. This involves therapists with invaluable experience in treating the disorder. The therapists prescribe medications to assist with debilitating and specific troubling symptoms. Medications also stabilize mood swings and other concerns.


This therapy focuses on alternative life issues like goals, family, coping skills and building meaningful relationships. A large part of the therapy discusses antisocial behaviors and the feelings. Most individuals suffering from AAB have no connections between behaviors and feelings. The therapist assists the client in narrowing the gap between the two in a beneficial way. The therapists guard against threatening the patients as it is never a motivating factor. Besides, it makes the whole treatment backfire.

The medical professionals help the patients find something good that gives them a reason to get better and uses it to motivate the patient to recover. For example, the therapist can guarantee the patient that they will never go before a court system, face incarceration or face additional psychological examinations etc. Effective treatment is intensive and uses psychoanalytic approaches that reinforce appropriate behaviors. These approaches help the patient attempt to make connections between their feelings and actions in a beneficial way. Emotions play a major role in the treatment as few patients know the importance of emotionally rewarding relationships.

Patients build therapeutic relationships after establishing a solid and good rapport with the therapist. Trust requires confidentiality. The patient must get an assurance that whatever they admit or say during therapy sessions cannot become common knowledge. Therefore, the therapist must discuss the limitations of the therapy up-front with the patient to avoid any future misunderstandings.

The content of the therapy focuses on emotions or lack of emotions and helps the patient learn how to experience different emotional states. Most patients are unfamiliar with the feelings resulting from depression. Therefore, the therapist provides support and empathy during this emotional time. With therapy, the patient learns how to reinforce emotions such as frustrations and anger in a beneficial manner. The professionals gauge progress by looking at signs of intense effect. They reinforce discussing more real-life concerns and safety issues to influence long-term behavioral change.

Individuals with AAB often have trouble with authority figures. Therefore, the therapists assume a neutral stance and avoid arguments. The professionals assist the patients with taking responsibility for their behaviors to help them adhere to social norms.

Family and group therapy

Attending group meetings devoted to handling AAB is helpful. Patients give various reasons for their behaviors and everyone in the group shares. Group therapy increases understanding and education of members. Families sometimes misunderstand the causes of antisocial behaviors. Individuals are more comfortable discussing their problems in front of their peers in a supportive modality.


Individuals exhibiting extreme aggression can benefit from hospitalization. In hospitals, loss of freedom becomes a motivating factor in correcting behavioral problems. Some hospitals have specialized facilities that offer good treatment for antisocial behaviors. The hospital uses a strict behavioral approach where patients get rewards depending on their treatment progress. The treatment focuses on feelings and connects the feelings to various anti-social behaviors. Inpatient AAB is expensive and intensive and involves community support and follow-ups by professionals or hospitals. Self-support groups are imperative in maintaining the gains of the treatment.

Prevention of Adult Antisocial Behavior

When the antisocial behavior persists it becomes intractable. Therefore, early onset problems can result in chronic antisocial behavior. Intervene in time to help prevent the disruptive behavior at its infancy through coercion and counseling during early childhood to meet social goals. Children are susceptible to conformity when you use correction properly.


Healthy nutrition during prenatal care is important. Ensure the family lives in a secure, safe and social environment to enhance early bonding with emotionally mature role models and healthy parents to promote pro-social behaviors. In parenting, use non-coercive methods and encourage productive peer relationships. Intervene early when symptoms of antisocial behavior emerge and use corrective methods to enforce good social norms without instilling fear.

Parental concerns

Patents should seek help early when symptoms show without fearing for the child. Many children engage in various forms of antisocial behaviors during early development stages. A good parent will lovingly confront the child and correct their behaviors. The parent should help the child recognize their actions are unacceptable.

Engaging in sports, arts and community outreach activities

Young people can utilize their excess energy in various activities. When working they interact in a meaningful way and gain useful societal norms expectations. During the activities, the organizers educate the youth on their roles in society. The aim is to ensure they grow up knowing they have a responsibility to undertake. Environmental improvement ventures can become career opportunities and goals for some youths. Publicity of the danger of drug and substance abuse gives useful advice to the youths and serves as a behavior correction mechanism. Strict enforcement of school rules and regulations in any organization helps tackle deviant behavior.

Guidance and counseling in institutions

Offering guidance and counseling services in institutions helps in correcting deviant behaviors. It clarifies the reasons why certain behaviors are unacceptable and the repercussions for engagement in the disorders.

The signing of tenancy agreements

The agreement spells out individual responsibilities in regards to the behavior of visitors and the household. Tenants breaching the agreement face actions in line with the antisocial behavior policy.


Mediators provide support in disputes by listening to both parties while remaining impartial during the process. The aim is to resolve disputes early before it escalates and becomes a serious AAB.

All adult antisocial behaviors are solvable early when parties address the symptoms by taking appropriate actions. For instance, some of the behaviors emanate from childhood troubles which degenerate into big disorder problems because of misdiagnosis. Parents should observe their children carefully and correct any unacceptable behaviors as soon as possible.

Last Reviewed:
September 26, 2017
Last Updated:
September 26, 2017
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