Seeking Support: A Guide for Parents of Adults With Antisocial Personality Disorder

For parents there are few mental illnesses more challenging in an adult child than antisocial personality disorder. Someone with this condition cannot empathize easily or discern right from wrong. Having a loving parent-child relationship with antisocial personality disorder is difficult. Parents can do several things to seek support in coping with it, including getting their child into residential treatment, participating in treatment, learning more about the condition, and getting their own mental health care as needed.

Having an adult child with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a major challenge. These individuals may lie, cheat, break the law, and even hurt and manipulate others. For parents, this kind of behavior is heartbreaking. But if you get a diagnosis of ASPD for your adult child, there is hope. An intensive, residential treatment program can help your child learn to change problematic behaviors and develop better relationships.

It can also be the beginning for you getting the support you need to cope with this difficult mental illness. As a guide for parents of adults with antisocial personality disorder, we hope this information will help you learn more about the condition, how to help your child, and how to get your own support for coping and for good mental health.

What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?


As the parent of a child with this condition, one of the most important things you can do is learn more about it. Personality disorders cause an individual to have unusual thoughts and behaviors, and especially difficult relationships. They don’t easily recognize that their patterns and ways of relating to others are problematic, so it can be very difficult to understand them. By learning more about what they are experiencing, you can better cope personally and also develop a more productive, positive relationship with your child.

ASPD is a condition that causes your child to be unable to distinguish between right and wrong or to empathize with or understand other people. Someone with this mental illness can be antagonistic, manipulative, and indifferent. They tend to not show remorse or guilt for things they have done that we would consider wrong or bad. Some potential symptoms and complications include:

  • Lying and deceiving others
  • A callous, disrespectful attitude toward others
  • Manipulating others, often seeming to be charming
  • Arrogance and a sense of superiority
  • Impulsive behaviors and risk-taking, including substance abuse
  • Aggression or violence
  • Criminal behaviors
  • Lack of empathy and remorse
  • Difficult relationships, sometimes abusive
  • Chronic irresponsibility, inability to keep a job or fulfill family obligations

ASPD Is Treatable


If you have an adult child with this condition, there is hope because treatment can help. All personality disorders are notoriously difficult to treat simply because individuals with them have a very hard time recognizing that there is anything wrong with how they think, feel, or behave. If possible, get your child into treatment. This will help both of you, as it will change some of your child’s problematic behaviors and help repair your parent-child relationship.

While treatment is challenging, with an intensive focus on the individual patient’s needs and limitations, changes can be made. The center of treatment is therapy, usually types of behavioral therapy. These are therapies that will help your adult child make practical changes, such as setting goals, identifying and altering negative thought patterns, and practicing social skills to relate better to others.

Antisocial Personality Disorder and the Struggle for Parents


This is a particularly hard condition on parents. If your child has been diagnosed with ASPD, first it should come as a relief. You have probably wondered for years why your child was so cruel or manipulative and why they had no regard for other people. You probably felt as if you had done something wrong. The truth is that your child has a mental illness.

In learning to cope and get support as a parent of someone with ASPD, it is essential that you stop blaming yourself. While it feels terrible to have a child who is mean to you or constantly manipulates you, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent or unlovable. Learning to accept this is difficult, but one way to make improvements in your relationship is to be a part of treatment.

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Working With Your Child in Treatment


When choosing a facility to help your adult child with ASPD, it is essential that you select one that allows and encourages family involvement. Mental illnesses are family diseases; family dynamics contribute to and are impacted by ASPD. Being part of treatment will help with your child’s progression but also with your own mental health and your relationship with each other.

Family psychoeducation is a typical way for parents to get involved and is especially useful for families of patients with personality disorders. It focuses on teaching you more about the condition and ways that you can positively support your loved one. You will learn more effective ways of communicating and action-based steps for building a better relationship.

Several studies have found that psychoeducation can help family members of people with severe mental illnesses. For instance, one study found that family had a much better understanding of the illness and had more positive attitudes after going through psychoeducation programs. Family members report feeling less burdened after these programs.

You may also be able to get involved more directly in treatment and your child’s progress by participating with them in family therapy. These sessions will help you work together to change your relationship and how you communicate. They can help you manage expectations and set limits and boundaries to make your relationship more positive and safer for you.

Getting Mental Health Care for You


A lot of psychological damage can be done by living with and trying to have a good relationship with someone with ASPD. Your child has not meant to harm you in this way, but it is inevitable that you have hurt feelings and even deeper psychic wounds. You may even have developed a substance use disorder in trying to cope with the situation.

Make sure that you get the support you personally need, whatever your specific mental health issues are. Seek a thorough screening and diagnosis. If you have a mental illness, such as depression, treatment can help. Even if you are not diagnosed with a specific condition, some degree of therapy can help you learn how to cope in healthy ways with the stress of life and your challenging parent-child relationship.

Seeking Support From Others


Social support is important for overall good mental health, regardless of the specific situation. It is especially essential or anyone struggling with a mental illness or general mental health issues. Rely on your close friends and family to be there for you when facing difficult times with your adult child with ASPD. Just having people you can talk to and trust to help you is a relief and will boost your mood.

Also useful is getting support from people who have similar experiences. Support groups are immensely helpful, because they allow you to interact with people who know what you are going through. Together you support each other, sharing stories as well as practical advice. These groups help you make connections and friendships that last and that can continue providing support in the future.

People who use support groups for all kinds of difficult life experiences report feeling less lonely, less stressed and depressed, and less anxious. They develop more and better coping strategies, stay motivated to make positive changes, feel more empowered, and feel more hopeful.

Don’t try to go through this experience of having an adult child with antisocial personality disorder alone. You need support and guidance. You need other people, from professionals to close friends, to help you manage your feelings, cope, and learn to live well with this difficult situation.

If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with schizoaffective disorders, schizophrenia, and severe bipolar as well as co-occurring substance use disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.