Variations of the Antisocial Personality

Subclassifying antisocials, psychopaths, and criminals has been a hobby of social scientists for more than a century. Some schemes are based on the types of crimes committed or the severity of the crime, rather than on clusters of trait characteristics. Other schemes are based on methodology-driven approaches, such as cluster analysis. All such schemes fail to recognize the importance of considering other personality characteristics in addition to those of the major pattern. In contrast, the antisocial variants summarized in Figure 5.1 are described as combinations of constructs descended directly from the evolutionary theory (Millon, 1990). Note that other subtypes are possible, and not all antisocials fall neatly into one of the categories.

The Covetous Antisocial

The covetous antisocial is a variant resembling a "pure" prototypal pattern. Here, aggrandizement, the desire to possess and dominate, is seen in a distilled form. These individuals feel that life has not given them "their due"; they have been deprived of their rightful amount of love, support, or material reward; and others have received more than their share. Jealous of those who have received the bounty of a good life, they are driven by an envious desire for retribution to take what destiny has refused them. Whether through deceit or destruction, their goal is compensation for the emptiness of life, rationalized by the assertion that they alone can restore the imbalance fated to them. Seething with anger and resentment, their greatest pleasure lies in taking control of the property and possessions of others. Some are overtly criminal. Many possess an enormous drive for revenge, manipulating others like pawns in a power game.

Regardless of their success, however, covetous antisocials usually remain insecure about their power and status, never feeling that they've been compensated for life's impoverishments. Ever jealous and envious, pushy and greedy, they may make ostentatious

Antisocial Personality Disorder
FIGURE 5.1 Variants of the Antisocial Personality.

or wasteful displays of materialism and conspicuous consumption such as buying exotic cars, mansions, and elaborate jewelry as a means of exhibiting their power and achievements to others. Most feel a deep sense of emptiness, juxtaposed with vague images of how different life might have been had opportunity blessed them, as it has so many others. Some are simple thieves, while others become manipulative entrepreneurs who exploit people as objects to satisfy their desires. Although they have little compassion for or guilt about the effects of their behavior, they never feel that they have acquired quite enough, never achieve a sense of contentment, and feel unfulfilled regardless of their successes, remaining forever dissatisfied and insatiable.

The Reputation-Defending Antisocial

Not all antisocials covet material possessions or power. Those who share traits with the narcissistic personality are motivated by the desire to defend and extend a reputation of bravery and toughness. Antisocial acts are designed to ensure that others notice them and accord them the respect that they deserve. As such, they are perpetually on guard against the possibility of belittlement. Society should know that the reputation-defending antisocial is someone significant, not to be easily dismissed, treated with indifference, taken lightly, or pushed around. Whenever their status or ability is slighted, they may erupt with ferocious intensity, posturing, and threatening until their rivals back down. Some reputation-defending antisocials are loners, some are involved in adolescent gang activities, and still others simply seek to impress peers with aggressive acts of leadership or violence that secure their status as the alpha male, the dominant member of the pack. Being tough and assertive is essentially a defensive act intended to prove their strength and guarantee a reputation of indomitable courage.

The Risk-Taking Antisocial

Minor risk taking within a controlled environment provides a normal outlet for excitement and sensation seeking; many people love a roller coaster, for example. However, there are individuals for whom risk taking is intended to impress others with a front of courageous indifference to potentially painful consequences. Risk-taking antisocials, who combine antisocial and histrionic traits, wish others to see them as unaffected by what almost anyone else would surely experience as dangerous or frightening. While others shrink in fear, they are unfazed by the possibility of gambling with death or serious injury. Risk is proactively sought as its own reward, a means of feeling stimulated and alive, not a means of material gain. Although their pretense is being dauntless, intrepid, and bold, their hyperactive search for hazardous challenges is seen by normals as foolhardy, if not stupid. In effect, they are thrill seekers infatuated by the opportunity to test their mettle by performing for the attention, applause, and amazement of an audience. Otherwise, they would simply feel trapped by the responsibility and boredom of everyday life. The most important factors making them antisocial is the irresponsibility of their actions and their failure to consider the consequences for their own life, or the lives of others, as they pursue ever more daring challenges.

The Nomadic Antisocial

Although the most widely held impression is that antisocials are incorrigible criminals who undermine the values of the surrounding culture, some seek simply to run away from a society in which they feel unwanted, cast aside, or abandoned. Although most antisocials react antagonistically to social rejection, these individuals drift along at the margins of society, scavenging whatever slim resources they come across. The nomadic variant combines antisocial with schizoid and/or avoidant characteristics. Most see themselves as jinxed or doomed and desire only to exist at the edge of a world that would almost certainly reject them. Mired in self-pity, they drop out of society to become gypsy-like roamers, vagabonds, or wanderers. With little regard for their personal safety or comfort, they may drift from one setting to another as homeless persons involved in prostitution and substance abuse.

Adopted children who feel uneasy about their place in the world sometimes follow the path of the nomadic antisocial, wandering from place to place in an apparently symbolic search for their true home or natural parents. Their sense of "being no place" signifies alienation from self and others. For this reason, nomadics often appear vaguely disconnected from reality and lack any clear sense of self-identity. Compared to other variants, nomadic antisocials often seem relatively harmless because of their attitude of indifference and disengagement. Some are indeed vacant and fearful, but others are deeply angry and resentful. As a consequence of alcohol or substance abuse, they may act out impulsively, discharging their frustrations in brutal assaults or sexual attacks on those weaker than themselves.

The Malevolent Antisocial

As a blend of the antisocial and paranoid or sadistic personalities, malevolent antisocials are often seen as the least attractive antisocials. Belligerent, rancorous, vicious, malignant, brutal, callous, vengeful, and vindictive, they perform actions charged with a hateful and destructive defiance of conventional social life. Like the paranoid, they anticipate betrayal and punishment. Rather than merely issue verbal threats, however, they seek to secure their boundaries with a cold-blooded ruthlessness that avenges every mistreatment they believe others have inflicted on them in the past. For them, tender emotions are a sign of weakness. They interpret the goodwill and kindness of others as hiding a deceptive ploy for which they must always be on their guard. Where sadistic traits are prominent, they may display a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude and a willingness to confirm their strong self-image by victimizing those too weak to retaliate or those whose terror might prove particularly entertaining. When confronted with displays of strength, malevolents are experts at the art of posturing and enjoy pressuring their opponents until they cower and withdraw. Most make few concessions and instead escalate confrontations as far as necessary, backing down only when clearly outgunned.

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  • stephen gardner
    Are antisocials avoidant?
    11 months ago

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