Antisocial Personality in Teenagers

By Julie Anne Fidler
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A major difference exists between true antisocial behavior and having a bad day or week. Many teens feel the pressure of doing well at school, getting into a good college, fitting in with peers and living under the rules of his household. Sometimes it’s too much at once, but the troubling behavior will pass as quickly as it started. Chronic antisocial behavior, however, can indicate that something more serious is going on.

Antisocial Behavior

Antisocial teens might lack empathy.
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Antisocial behavior does not only mean that someone has stopped being socially active. According to Healthline.com, antisocial behavior "consists of acts that impose physical or psychological harm on other people or their property." Some examples of antisocial behavior include lying, stealing, assaulting others, being cruel and argumentative, and sexually promiscuous. Longstanding antisocial behavior is known as antisocial personality disorder. People with this disorder are prone to alcoholism and drug abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, violence towards oneself or others, and depression. This type of behavior can translate into legal troubles, broken families, and problems at work.

Causes of Antisocial Behavior in Teens

Brain imaging shows that antisocial behavior is not merely learned behavior.
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A study published in the British journal "Archives of General Psychiatry" in 2010 showed that teens with "conduct disorder" have brain abnormalities that cause them to be aggressive. A brain scan showed that these adolescents have an abnormal pattern of brain activity compared to those without the condition. Before the study, most scientists believed that antisocial teens were merely mimicking bad behavior by their peers. Researchers found that the more severe the antisocial behavior and aggression, the higher the level of brain abnormality. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, problem pregnancies might contribute to brain abnormalities. Many teens who exhibit antisocial behavior have learning disabilities and act out because they have trouble verbalizing their emotions.

Living with an Antisocial Teen

Parents must learn how to keep the rest of the children safe if an antisocial teen lives in the house.
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Antisocial teens can be stressful or physically dangerous to others living in their home, especially siblings. Parents must be careful not to neglect their other children's needs while trying to help their antisocial teen and might need to find help with child care and avoid leaving the children home alone together. Residential or hospital treatment might be needed to treat antisocial behavior. It is important for parents to maintain a dialogue with the teen's teachers to ensure his educational needs are being met and that his classmates are safe.

Professional Help for Antisocial Teens

Counseling, support groups, medication and hospitalization can all help antisocial teens recover.
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Teens who display antisocial behavior often benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. According to the Newport Academy Teen Treatment Center, this type of therapy is useful because a lot of antisocial behavior in teens stems from an adolescent trying to alter his environment. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches independence and critical thinking. Support groups and medications, and traditional psychotherapy, also might be beneficial.

About the Author

Julie Anne Fidler is the author of "Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst." She has written dozens of newspaper and magazine articles, as well as nationally syndicated promotional radio spots. She is a legal blogger for a national law firm, and writes a blog about mental illness and the Christian church at PsychCentral.com.