Antisocial personality disorder is best understood within the context of the broader category of personality disorders.
A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of personal experience and behavior that deviates noticeably from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to personal distress or impairment.
Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others. The diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is not given to individuals under the age of 18 and is only given if there is a history of some symptoms of conduct disorder before age 15.
The severity of symptoms of antisocial personality disorder can vary in severity. The more egregious, harmful, or dangerous behavior patterns are referred to as sociopathic or psychopathic. There has been much debate as to the distinction between these descriptions. Sociopathy is chiefly characterized as a something severely wrong with one's conscience; psychopathy is characterized as a complete lack of conscience regarding others. Some professionals describe people with this constellation of symptoms as "stone cold" to the rights of others. Complications of this disorder include imprisonment, drug abuse, and alcoholism.