Asocial Vs. Antisocial Behavior: Understanding the Differences

Many people use the words “asocial” and “antisocial” to mean the same thing, but both terms describe distinct patterns of behavior. 

Antisocial refers to behaviors that are contrary to social norms and are usually connected to personality disorders. 

Asocial can be described as an emotional state or desire for isolation.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen someone who doesn’t enjoy the company of other people referred to as an introvert or someone who lacks empathy described as a psychopath; however, you’re less likely to hear asocial or antisocial in daily conversation when they could be the most appropriate words to use. They both refer to different psychological conditions or behavioral traits.

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding what asocial and antisocial mean. Asocial is the desire to feel or be secluded from other people, which is not considered a personality disorder. Antisocial behavior is often associated with an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) and usually causes harm to other people; it refers to an inability to conform to societal expectations.

What Is Asocial?

Asocial people are those who have a withdrawn attitude toward society or who have no interest in social interactions.

Asocial behavior can be attributed to a person’s general anxiety or insecurity in social settings. Asocial people might avoid social situations due to this, which can indicate anxiety about social situations, but they do not have difficulty interacting with people they already know. Asocial people also prefer to perform activities alone; however, this preference isn’t to be mistaken for introversion; because they fear rejection, they could very much restrict who they invite into their social circle, which could be made worse by a depression episode or an absence of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.

Signs someone is Asocial

Common asocial behaviors are:

  • Removing yourself from society
  • Nervousness in a group setting or social situation
  • Missing social cues
  • Fearing the judgment of others
  • Having no motivation to socialize
  • Preference for purely solo activities
  • Trouble holding conversations
  • Having a diagnosis of depression, social anxiety, or traumatic brain injury

Although asociality isn’t a medical diagnosis on its own, it can be associated with other conditions. For instance, people who have schizophrenia are often afflicted with the symptom of Avolition. Avolition is an absence of motivation that makes it difficult to begin or complete tasks. This can manifest in social interactions and may manifest as asocial behavior. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could be perceived as asocial because the majority of people who suffer from ASD are struggling with social behaviors, cues, and interactions.

What Is Antisocial?

Antisocial behaviors are generally inappropriate for the settings where they are observed and usually result from negative personal experiences and depression. 

Antisocial behavior can be detrimental to others and themselves because of an inability to distinguish between right and wrong or malicious intent.

These behaviors are not only malicious and inappropriate but can also be antagonistic or even. Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a severe disorder characterized by impulsivity, deceitfulness, recklessness, and a lack of guilt. It is often known as psychopathy. The disorder affects about 2 – 4 per cent of males and 0.5 to 1 per cent of women. ASPD can cause a lot of anxiety for the sufferer of the disorder and their family members.

The prognosis of people suffering from ASPD generally is not good. It’s a challenging disease to treat, and the symptoms and behavior of an individual suffering from ASPD typically can result in social, legal, and personal repercussions that are often overwhelming.

Signs Someone Is Antisocials

Common antisocial behavior includes:

  • Deceiving other people
  • Sexual assaults and murder
  • Violating boundaries
  • Remorselessness
  • Criminal behavior and disobeying the laws
  • Impulsive, high-risk, and irresponsible behavior
  • Animal cruelty
  • Relationships are often a means to achieve their own goals

Differences Between Asocial and Antisocial

Though often confused, there are significant differences between antisocial and social actions. The main distinctions are the presence of personality disorders, a person’s motivation, and how they treat others.

Personality Trait Vs. Personality Disorder

The main difference between asocial and antisocial is that just one can be linked to an actual personality disorder. There is a variety of personality traits that could look similar to those of personality disorders, but having these traits does not necessarily mean that someone is suffering from any disorder. An individual with a personality disorder can be identified when patterns of erratic behavior affect one’s ability to perform regular daily tasks.

Traits of asociality are the building blocks that help define an individual’s personality and differ based on the social environment in which individuals are. Humans can control numerous emotions, thoughts, and actions, all of which are part of a person’s personality.

  • Asocial (trait) – someone who doesn’t want to engage with society 
  • Antisocial (disorder) – someone who is contrary to or hostile toward society

Motivation for Actions

The motivation behind asocial behavior includes a general indifference to or personal preference to limit engaging with society. Being asocial is a trait of a person that suggests that these individuals aren’t interested in socializing. However, people who exhibit antisocial behavior are usually associated with antisocial personality disorders. Antisocial individuals act against social norms.

Treatment of Others

Asocial people are more likely to treat others with respect or attempt to stay away from them because of their need to avoid social situations and or their little exposure to social settings; they are less likely to harm others. On the other hand, individuals who have antisocial behavior intentionally cause harm to people without feeling guilty.

Similarities Between Antisocial and Asocial

Although there are apparent differences between antisocial and asocial behaviors, there are also a few similarities.

People who are asocial prefer being in solitude because it makes them more relaxed, whereas those who are antisocial may prefer being in solitude since they don’t care about the opinions of other people or because they believe it helps them achieve their personal goals.

The connection between asocial and antisocial people lies in their common tendency towards limited social interaction or detachment. The difference lies in their motives and the way they treat other people. As was mentioned previously, an asocial person prefers to be in a space where they feel more secure, while people who are antisocial might prefer to be in solitude since they don’t care about the opinions of others or simply because it can help them achieve their personal goals.

So those who are antisocial and asocial can both be content in their own space and be perceived as insecure or unable to communicate with other people or be social; however, this need to be alone comes from various intentions.

Examples of Asocial

  • Being invited to an outing: If an antisocial person is invited to drink with colleagues outside work, they might not accept the invite because they are uninterested in socializing and do not care if they offend or upset anybody at work by turning down the invitation. Someone who is asocial might oppose having a social gathering away from work because of a lack of desire to make friends with workmates or see them away from the workplace. 
  • Being in an intimate relationship: If an asocial person’s spouse invites them to a gathering, they might decide to decline the invitation due to the fact that they don’t like socializing with large groups and prefer spending only one-on-one time at home with their partner; this could be due to social anxiety. An antisocial person may cause their spouse to feel guilt about going to the event or go to the event but be hostile towards other guests at the party.

Real-life examples of asocial and antisocial behavior:

Emily is a 34-year-old graphic designer who loves spending most of her spare time alone. She has a handful of close acquaintances, but she prefers working on her own and does not attend social gatherings. Emily finds peace and inspiration when she is alone and is overwhelmed by the crowd. Although she appreciates her friends and connections, she feels more rejuvenated and focused when she can focus on her work alone.

Antisocial behavior could be a person repeatedly vandalizing public property, such as spray-painting on buildings or destroying park benches. This behavior goes against social norms and rules, as it disregards the property rights of others and negatively impacts the community.

Coping and Management for Asocial and Antisocial

The social world can be complicated regardless of whether you have an asocial or antisocial personality, but there are things that you can do to help you manage them. 

Find an equilibrium between socializing and time alone while establishing boundaries as you gradually expose yourself to social situations where you experience anxiety.

You may decide to alter your life to help deal with social situations more effectively over time.

Self-care is an integral part also. It could be anything from:

Writing down your thoughts and using tools for mental health can also help in gaining awareness about the causes which are behind the behavior. This can assist you in deciding if you should seek out external help. Surround oneself with supportive and positive friends and influencers. Find people who will provide support, guidance, and a sense of accountability through your process of transformation.

Asocial vs. Antisocial Personality: Treatment

The asocial and antisocial personality can be difficult to treat, and there isn’t a specific treatment plan for either one that works for everyone.

If you believe that you are either an antisocial or an asocial personality, you should consult your doctor if you feel that your symptoms are troubling you. They’ll ask concerns about your emotions and your daily routine and might try to determine if you suffer from an individual mental disorder. Antisocial and asocial symptoms are then treated with a treatment plan that is designed for the specific mental disorder you suffer from that may comprise of different medications and treatments.

In addition, both personality types can be treated by therapies:

  • Social skill training can help people be aware of social signals and appropriate actions and behaviors to be used in different social situations.
  • Different kinds of cognitive therapies can assist people in recognizing harmful patterns of thought and modifying their behavior to be more compatible with others. Both types of personalities can benefit from self-reflection and recognizing the other person’s and their emotions.

A significant distinction between the two types of personalities means that treatment could prove more effective for the asocial personality type. People who are antisocial will be unable to identify that they require help without intervention and are less likely to seek counseling or take medications.

Asocial individuals are, however, likely to be more successful in treatment because they are more aware of the need for assistance, and they may require a little encouragement from their loved ones and family members to seek help and overcome anxiety about social situations since they are not likely to place themselves in a stressful situation at first.

Read More: What Is Self-Sabotage? Signs and Behavior: What Causes It and How to Stop It

Read More: Self-Centered: Meaning, Causes, Signs, How to Change Yourself or Deal with One

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There are some similarities between the two types of behavior; both groups are challenged by social norms and act in ways that may be difficult to understand for the general public. Plus, these two groups are more likely to have co-occurring mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

It is important to understand the difference between asocial and antisocial behavior. Asocial behavior is a character trait that could be related to anxiety in general or a low confidence level in social situations. Antisocial behavior can develop into ASPD and can be an extremely serious disorder. If you or someone you care about struggles with this behavior and needs help, a therapist can assist.

People who are affected by either behavior can attain a better quality of life by engaging with mental health specialists.


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