Asocial vs Antisocial Personality: What’s the difference?

Ethan Cullen
Author: Ethan Cullen Medical Reviewer: Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD Last updated:

Antisocial behavior is a constant lack of care for others or the consequences of one’s actions. Asocial behavior is lack of social confidence and anxiety in new social situations. Antisocial behavior is linked to antisocial personality disorder, whilst asocial behavior is more of a personality trait that can be a symptom of other mental disorders.

Asocial vs Antisocial Personality: What's the difference?

What is asocial personality?

Someone with an asocial personality will choose to avoid new social situations due to a lack of social confidence and anxiety. They will often choose to do tasks alone and have difficulty holding conversations with people they don’t know.

Asocial personality may be a symptom of a related mood or behavioral disorder such as social anxiety, avoidant personality disorder, autism, and depression. People with asocial personalities may also fall into depressive episodes caused by their social isolation [1]

What is antisocial personality?

Antisocial personality disorder is a mental health condition in which someone shows complete lack of regard for social rules, the law, and the wellbeing of themselves or others. [1]

Antisocial behavior includes:

  • Lack of regard for the law and the consequences of breaking the law
  • Reckless behavior that can put themselves and others at risk. This can include drug and alcohol abuse and addiction [2], unprotected sex with multiple partners, and high risk activities.
  • Deliberately antagonising others
  • Emotional manipulation of others to get their own way.
  • Impulsivity with little to no self-control.

If antisocial behavioral symptoms go unchecked and become more serious then you may be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

Asocial vs. Antisocial Personality: Traits

Similarities:

  • Socialising: Both asocial and antisocial people will struggle with socialising and tend to have a small friendship circle. They will both also struggle with initiating intimate relationships.
  • Social norms: Lack of regard for social norms is common with both personalities, however antisocial personalities will usually be more extreme and will go as far as committing crimes and hurting others. 

Differences:

  • Empathy: The motivation behind the traits of both personality types differs massively. Whilst they will both tend to ignore social norms, asocial people may not realise they are doing it and do not intend to upset others. Antisocial people deliberately violate social norms and have no care for the consequences or the impact on other people.
  • Long-term relationships: Asocial people can maintain friendships and relationships relatively easily but may just struggle to initiate them. Antisocial people on the other hand rarely maintain long-term relationships due to their lack of regard for others and reckless behavior.
  • Self-image: Antisocial people will often think very highly of themselves and have an inflated self-image, this is usually shown through arrogance and being very opinionated [4]. However, asocial people will often think negatively of themselves and have low self-esteem.

Asocial vs. Antisocial Personality: Causes

Asocial and antisocial personalities are usually symptoms of personality or mood disorders, however asocial personality traits can be present in people without any diagnosis. Additionally, both types of personalities can be caused by traumatic events such as childhood neglect or physical abuse, or they can be passed on genetically. [4]

Causes of social personality:

Causes of antisocial personality:

Children who are diagnosed with a conduct disorder or ADHD before the age of 10 are more likely to develop antisocial personalities in adulthood. [4]

Asocial vs. Antisocial Personality: Treatment

Both asocial and antisocial personalities are very difficult to treat and there is no clear treatment path for either that will work for everyone.

If you think that you have either an asocial or antisocial personality, then speak to your doctor if your symptoms are concerning you. They will ask you some questions about your feelings and daily life and will likely look to diagnose you with a specific mental disorder. Asocial and antisocial symptoms can then be treated through the treatment plan for your specific mental disorder, which may include a mix of medication and therapies.

Alternatively, both personality types can be helped through therapeutic methods:

  • Social skills training helps people to better understand social cues and the appropriate responses and behavior in different social scenarios. [5]
  • Different types of cognitive therapies can help people to recognise destructive thought patterns and change behavior to better fit in with others. Both personality types can benefit from internal reflection and recognising their own and other people’s emotions.

However, a key difference between the two personality types means treatment may be more effective for asocial personalities. People with antisocial personalities will be unlikely to recognise when they need help without intervention and will be less likely to attend therapy or take medication.

Asocial personalities on the other hand may have more success in treatment as they are more able to recognise when they need help. However, they may also need some encouragement from family and friends to seek treatment and overcome their social anxiety as they are unlikely to put themselves in an uncomfortable situation initially.

Resources
  1. Kiryakova, A. V., Tikhomirova, E. I., Glukhikh, S. I., Saltseva, S. V., Kolga, V. V., Bezborodova, M. A., Afanaseva, I. V. (2018). Personal determinant features of contemporary students asocial behavior. Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods. 2018:9. Pg.120
  2. NHS UK “Antisocial personality disorder” [Internet] (12 February 2021) Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/
  3. Van Dongen, Josanne D. M.; Buck, Nicole M. L.; Barendregt, Marko; Van Beveren, Nico M.; De Beurs, Edwin; Van Marle, Hjalmar J. C. (2015). “Anti-social personality characteristics and psychotic symptoms: Two pathways associated with offending in schizophrenia”. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health. 25(3): 181–191
  4. MSD Manual. ‘Antisocial Personality Disorder’ [Internet]. (May 2021) Available from: https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-gb/home/mental-health-disorders/personality-disorders/antisocial-personality-disorder
  5. Wixted, J., Morrison, R. (1989). Social Skills Training. Bellack A. (Ed.) In A Clinical Guide for the Treatment of Schizophrenia,(237-258) New York: Plenum.
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Ethan Cullen
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Ethan Cullen serves as our talented writer, committed to raising awareness about mental health and supporting those in need.

Published: Mar 29th 2023, Last edited: Sep 22nd 2023

Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD
Medical Reviewer Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD LSW, MSW

Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is our expert medical reviewer, holding roles as a licensed social worker, behavioral health consultant, and PhD in clinical psychology.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Mar 29th 2023
Medical Reviewer Medical Reviewer:
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD
Last reviewed: Mar 29th 2023 Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD

LSW, MSW