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Been seeing a flurry of IG posts on the K-drama It’s Okay To Not Be Okay? The show tells the story of Moon Gang Tae (played by Kim Soo Hyun), a caretaker at a psychiatric ward who doesn’t believe in love until he crosses paths with Ko Mun Yeong (played by Seo Ye Ji), a children’s book writer with antisocial personality disorder.

Dr Frank Chow, director and psychiatrist at 2OP Health, an occupational psychiatry and psychology practice in Sydney, Australia, tells more about the condition.

The symptoms of antisocial personality disorder

Like other types of personality disorders, antisocial personality disorder exists on a spectrum. Its symptoms include exploitive and irresponsible behaviour, as well as the inability to show remorse or concern for the feelings of others.

And contrary to popular belief, those with the disorder aren’t necessarily unsociable.

“A common misconception about antisocial people is that they just want to stay home and avoid social interactions. However, antisocial in psychiatry means that the behaviour and thinking that are different from societal norms and rules,” says Dr Chow.

He shares that there are three ways to classify personality complications: behaviour, traits and disorder. 

“Behaviour can be picked up, especially so in competitive work environments where people want to get ahead. These are learned behaviours. As for traits, antisocial ones can manifest in those who had traumatic upbringings, like if there was violence or if they were coddled a lot.”

“Disorder is a pathological state that cannot be changed so when someone suffers from a disorder, they require a lot of psychotherapy, and the whole mark of a personality disorder is significant occupational and relationship dysfunction.”

He adds that antisocial personalities often come with narcissistic personalities, which includes an inflated sense of self-worth and a self-centred personality. They also occur more often in men than in women.

They what they’re doing is wrong — they just don’t care

Just last month, a 20-year-old man was sentenced to 22 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane for various sexual assault and rape charges. The Institute of Mental Healths diagnosed him with antisocial personality disorder and assessed that he has a high risk of sexual reoffending. 

According to Dr Chow, those with the disorder know that what they’re doing is wrong, they just don’t care. So while they might stop when caught, they are likely to continue once they’ve found a new victim. As such, they usually end up in jail.

“People diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder are usually unable to maintain a job or relationship because their manipulative behaviour prevents them from having the patience to sit in an office and earn money. They want to reach their goals as soon as possible and don’t care who they step on to get there,” he adds.

Treatment isn’t impossible but can take years to work

Dr Chow says that antisocial personality disorder is not easily treated and it can take years of long-term psychotherapy and insight-oriented treatments for there to be progress.

“Personality disorders involve abnormal ways of thinking. One might think that in order to survive, they have to kill or steal from someone else,” says Dr Chow. He explains that the abnormal ways in which they relate to the world is usually dependent on the sort of behaviours they were exposed to when they were younger.

If you suspect that someone you’re dating suffers from the disorder, he recommends drawing up boundaries for yourself.

“Most people with antisocial personality disorders can develop abusive traits, whether it’s substance or physical. If you notice red flags, try to call them out on it and don’t let it slide for too long. The best thing to do is to disengage if they’re becoming abusive because you’re not a therapist.”

If someone you work with is exhibiting antisocial behaviours, he suggests reporting them to someone with a higher authority or perhaps escalating the issue to HR.

“Depending on where they are on the spectrum, they might be able to possess insights on their behaviour and might be more willing to change.”

“However, if they’re on a higher end of the spectrum, they might disregard the feedback,” he warns.

Text: Akita Lim/Cleo