Antisocial personality disorder is often misunderstood by both professionals and laypeople. Confused with the popular terms, "sociopath" or "psychopath," someone who suffers from this disorder can be discriminated against within the mental health system, because of the symptoms of their disorder. Because there is usually a pervasive lack of remorse, and many time any feelings at all, they are assumed not to have any real feelings by many professionals. This can lead to difficulties within treatment. Psychotherapy is nearly always the treatment of choice for this disorder; medications may be used to help stabilize mood swings or specific and acute Axis I concurrent diagnoses. There is no research that supports the use of medications for direct treatment of antisocial personality disorder, though.
As with most personality disorders, individuals with this disorder rarely seek treatment on their own, without being mandated to therapy by a court or significant other. Court referrals for assessment and treatment for this disorder are likely the most common referral source. A careful and thorough assessment will ensure that the person that the person has antisocial personality disorder. This can often be confused with simple criminal activity (all criminals do not have this disorder), adult antisocial behavior, and other activities which do not justify the personality disorder diagnosis. As with a thorough assessment of any suspected personality disorder, formal psychological testing should be considered invaluable. Because many people who suffer from this disorder will be mandated to therapy, sometimes in a forensic or jail setting, motivation on the patient's part may be difficult to find. In a confined setting, it may be nearly impossible and therapy should then focus on alternative life issues, such as goals for when they are released from custody, improvement in social or family relationships, learning new coping skills, etc. In an outpatient setting, the focus of therapy can also be on these types of issues, but a part of the therapy should be devoted to discussing the antisocial behavior and feelings (or lack thereof). Common in the population who suffer from antisocial personality disorder is the lack of connections between feelings and behaviors. Helping the client draw those lines between the two may be beneficial. Threats are never an appropriate motivating factor in any sort of treatment, and least of all with this disorder. If the only way to motivate the patient is to threaten to report their noncompliance with therapy to the courts or warden, it is highly unlikely the clinician will make any type of gains within therapy anyway. It is appropriate, however, to try and help the individual with this disorder find good reasons that they may want to work on this problem further. For instance, ensuring that they not come into contact with the court system again, be incarcerated, have to submit themselves to additional psychological examinations, etc. Effective psychotherapy treatment for this disorder is limited. It is likely, though, that intensive, psychoanalytic approaches are inappropriate for this population. Approaches the reinforce appropriate behaviors and attempting to make connections between the person's actions and their feelings may be more beneficial. Emotions are usually a key aspect of treatment of this disorder. Patients often have had little or no significant emotionally-rewarding relationships in their lives. The therapeutic relationship, therefore, can be one of the first ones. This can be very scary for the client, initially, and it may become intolerable. A close therapeutic relationship can only occur when a good and solid rapport has been established with the client and he or she can trust the therapist implicitly. Trust brings up the issue of confidentiality, since often the patient with antisocial personality disorder is mandated to therapy. This means that the...
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