Asocial Vs Antisocial: Apathetic or Antagonist?

Aditi Rastogi

9th September, 2020

“Antisocial”- a word that is thrown around a lot lately. Whenever we see a person too engrossed in a book and they seem unapproachable, we classify them as an introvert which sometimes automatically gets translated to being antisocial. Can you relate to the times when your friend canceled an exciting day out that you have been eagerly waiting for? Were they antisocial? Well, you would be glad to know, apparently, they weren’t! So, what is that one word to describe a person who has an irrational fear of, and even experiences anxiety in a social situation? Well, the word you have been looking for all along is asocial. Now, how could one understand if an individual is antisocial or asocial? What are the specific characteristics which distinguish one from another? This write-up attempts to highlight how being antisocial is totally different from an asocial individual. 

Generally, whenever we label an individual as being antisocial or having an antisocial personality, what we mean to imply is that the individual prefers to maintain a distance from people, is not comfortable in engaging with specific, or most individuals- basically, not people-loving in nature. But, this word is a little heavier than that, with its meaning going way beyond that, and what we actually end up implying takes a completely different turn stating that the individual in question has complete disregard of the social norms, and is against society. In fact, in clinical mental health terms, having an antisocial personality is actually a disorder, classified under personality disorders in DSM-5.

To assess if an individual has a disorder, 4 Ds are taken into account- deviant, dysfunction, distress, and dangerous (Davis, 2009).

Individuals having antisocial personality are diagnosed, usually by a mental health professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist, and these people normally display a pattern of behavior characterized by hostility, deviant from the social norms, deceitfulness, intimidating, unable to form close relationships, lack of remorse, violent behavior and may also engage themselves in criminal activities.

They can also come off as witty, charming, and flattering, trying to manipulate people using lies and distortion of reality only to take advantage of them (The Swaddle, Rakshit 2020). It is not that they are incapable of forming emotional bonds, but they remain indifferent, with no feelings of shame or guilt if they cause harm to others. Normally, a strict schedule of psychotherapy is required to lessen the destructive pattern of such behavior. So, we see that antisocialism is very different in meaning to what we have been using it as. Contrasting asocial with antisocialism, we find that being asocial is like a personality trait, unlike being antisocial which is a disorder

Personality traits are the individual’s characteristics, their habitual pattern of behavior, such as being kind and optimistic, meaning that in most situations they would behave in this manner.

Similarly, a person in whom asocial dominates as a personality trait, they would simply not be interested in forming social networks or groups. Asocial individuals have a very low need for affiliation or almost find no need to involve themselves in a social aspect.

They do not need approval from others as motivation they show marked indifference to the society, in general. An asocial individual tends to ignore texts and does not pick up calls all in order to escape a socially interactive situation. Sometimes they can come off as being extremely shy, so much so that they experience social anxiety because of their continuous urge to avoid and isolate themselves from social circumstances (Psych2Go, 2017). Further, they also need physical and emotional distance from people, not because they hate people, or are against the society like the antisocial individuals, but merely because they just don’t require people or social groups, and networks to make them happy or keep them going.

Moreover, for them being in a relationship, intimate, close, or of any kind, is unnecessary, as from their perspective this would only bring unwanted interactions that they absolutely don’t want to indulge in. Speaking informally, they can be compared or regarded as a lone-wolf; separated from their pack, preferring to stay alone, acting independently, and keeping to themselves, thus remaining socially isolated. Other than being referred to as asocial, individuals exhibiting these characteristics are also discussed as being unsocial and socially uninterested by developmental psychologists. 

Concisely, we can say that individuals exhibiting antisocial personality, are against society, and the norms of society, exhibiting violent and dangerous traits. Whereas, the asocial individuals are indifferent and withdrawn from society. Moreover, antisocialism is classified as a disorder requiring psychotherapy, whereas, being asocial is more of a personality trait. 

To sum it up and make the distinction clear, one can remember that antisocial is against social norms; introvert is selectively social and asocial is unsocial.

About the Author

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Aditi Rastogi, is currently majoring in the field of psychology, exploring and trying to keep up with the newer ventures of psychology. Apart from this she likes to unwind through reading books with a cup of coffee.