WAPLT? Aggrandizing, Devious, Antisocial: The ADA Spectrum

According to the Bioevolutionary theory, individuals with an active-independent orientation share similarities with the antisocial personality disorder outlined in the DSM-5, now referred to as the antisocial/psychopathic type. This series refers to this group as the broad and diverse ADA spectrum. These personalities act in ways that preemptively resist their expectation of being treated poorly and betrayed by others. They do so by engaging in clever, duplicitous, or illegal behavior, with the goal of exploiting others for their own benefit. These individuals are skeptical of others’ motives, and they desire autonomy while seeking revenge for perceived past injustices. (Millon 2011 423)

Many psychiatrists and psychologists view the antisocial personality as a severe character type, rarely considering that it may potentially be normal. This perception stems from the negative implications of the term “antisocial.” However, if the syndrome were approached from a clinical rather than social perspective, it may be recognized that the behaviors characterizing the disorder are not necessarily repugnant in their social consequences. Instead, the diverse manifestations of this personality should be seen as expressions of the individual’s latent psychological makeup. From a broader clinical viewpoint, it is known that the latent components of this personality may manifest in behaviors that are minimally obtrusive, particularly when displayed in sublimated forms such as independence, ambition, competition, risk-taking, and adventurousness (King, Kidorf, Stoller, Carter, & Brooner, 2001). (Millon 447-448)


Figure 9.1 from Millon 2011


Evidently, the self (individuating) and active (modifying) polarities are both prominent in these personalities. This suggests that individuals with antisocial tendencies are primarily driven to benefit themselves, and secondarily driven to take vigorous action to ensure that these benefits are obtained. This pattern differs from that seen in narcissists, whose unjustified self-confidence assumes that their desires will be effortlessly fulfilled. In contrast, those with antisocial tendencies recognize from past experiences that achieving desired ends requires considerable effort, cunning, and deception. Furthermore, these actions serve to protect against the malice anticipated from others and to dismantle the power held by those who wish to exploit individuals with antisocial tendencies. (441)

It’s also worth noting that the pain polarity is not prominent in these personalities. They are generally undeterred by risk or painful consequences to their actions. Because of this, punishment is generally ineffective in altering their behavior.

Trait Domains

Table of Trait Domains of the ADA Spectrum 


Figure of Salience of the Trait Domains in the ADA Spectrum


Emotional Expression: Impulsive: Individuals with the impulsive trait tend to have a low tolerance for frustration, act impulsively, and prioritize immediate pleasure over long-term consequences. They tend to act quickly, restlessly, and spontaneously, without much planning or consideration of alternative actions. This can lead to shortsighted, incautious, and imprudent behaviors.

These individuals also tend to become easily bored and restless, struggling to maintain routine responsibilities such as marriage or a job. Some seek thrills and take risks without considering potential negative outcomes, appearing immune to danger. They may jump from one exciting activity to another without regard for consequences. When things go their way, they can act gracious, cheerful, saucy, and clever, but when they are frustrated or feel mistreated, their behavior can become brash, arrogant, and resentful.

It is important to note that not all individuals with an ADA personality fit the stereotypical image. Many can appear quite conventional in their appearance, manners, and behavior, consistent with their occupations. Therefore, one should not make assumptions about an individual’s inclinations based on superficial appearances. (442-443)

Interpersonal Conduct: Irresponsible: Many ADA personalities exhibit a lack of responsibility and reliability in their personal relationships. They may intentionally neglect or fail to fulfill obligations related to marriage, parenthood, employment, or finances. Some of these personalities may violate social norms and engage in deceitful or illegal behaviors. They may seek power and possessions and derive pleasure from taking them from others, including through plagiarism, swindling, or extortion. Once they have exhausted one source, they may seek to exploit others and then discard them. They may take pleasure in the misfortunes of those in positions of power or wealth.

Having learned to trust only themselves, ADA individuals may lack loyalty and exhibit treacherous behavior, even while maintaining a veneer of politeness and civility. They may use people as a means to an end and seek to subjugate and demean others to vindicate themselves for past grievances, misery, and humiliations. They may seek power and material gains as a means of retribution and vindication.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of ADA personalities is their tendency to challenge authority and social norms. They may act as if rules and customs do not apply to them and may engage in illegal acts and deception. Many ADA individuals are adept at pathological lying and may weave tales of competency and reliability, often charming others and playing on their weaknesses. However, their lack of reliability may be revealed over time as they stop working at their deception or grow increasingly focused on demonstrating their cleverness.

Cognitive Style: Nonconforming: Many individuals with a nonconforming cognitive style interpret events and human relationships based on socially unorthodox beliefs and morals. They often reject traditional ideals, fail to comply with accepted social norms, and are frequently dismissive of conventional ethics and values. While they possess clear and logical cognitive abilities, they actively reject social conventions, exhibit a marked deficit in self-awareness, and seldom demonstrate the foresight one would expect, given their intellectual capacity. Therefore, while they understand why they should modify their less attractive behaviors, they repeatedly fail to do so. For them, the concepts of right and wrong are irrelevant abstractions. Unlike most young people who learn to empathize with others thoughtfully and responsibly, individuals with a nonconforming cognitive style utilize this awareness for their personal benefit, making every opportunity a contest between their desires and those of others, leading to the decision that they alone deserve every advantage.

It should be noted that many individuals with a nonconforming cognitive style are unable to change because they have deeply rooted habits that are largely resistant to conscious reasoning. To make their more objectionable behaviors more acceptable to others, they are likely to concoct plausible explanations and excuses, such as blaming their upbringing or past misfortunes. By feigning innocent victimization, they seek to absolve themselves of blame and justify continuing their irresponsible behaviors. When their rationalizations fail to convince others, such as when they are caught lying or being dishonest, many will pretend to be completely innocent, claiming without any shame that they have been unfairly accused.

Self-Image: Autonomous: There are two main aspects to this self-image. Firstly, individuals on this spectrum tend to reject societal values and goals and take pride in being unconventional and different from others. They may value qualities such as being clever, cunning, or deviant as part of their self-image. Secondly, there is a fundamental desire for autonomy and a lack of personal attachments or responsibilities. These individuals feel unencumbered by people, places, obligations, and routines and often strive for self-sufficiency.

However, this independence from others can make them too proud to ask for help or support from others, even if they need it. They may feel that accepting help from others is humiliating or that others cannot be trusted to act out of genuine concern. They may also be dismissive of societal rules and behave in a dishonest or manipulative way to achieve their goals, without acknowledging the antisocial nature of their behavior.

It’s worth noting that there are different types of individuals within this spectrum, with some being more violent or aggressive, while others may be more sly and devious. These differences can lead to contempt or scorn between individuals on the spectrum.

Intrapsychic Content: Debased: To understand the behavior of ADA personalities, we need to view the world from their perspective – a place filled with danger and frustration, where one must be constantly vigilant against the malevolence and cruelty of others. They feel they cannot trust anyone because they will be abused, exploited, dispossessed, and dominated if they do. To protect themselves, they believe they must acquire all the power they can and prevent others from possessing the means to harm them. Showing weakness or compromising is not an option, as it could lead to fatal concessions. These personalities believe that only by acquiring personal and material power can they control their lives and thwart the misuse of power by others. Their internalized objects consist of memories and images of a degraded and corrupt nature, which fuel their restive impulses and revengeful attitudes. They seek to subvert established cultural ideals, devalue personal sentiments, and covet material wealth that they believe society has denied them.

Intrapsychic Dynamics: Acting Out/Projection: The inner tensions that arise from repressing manipulative thoughts and malicious feelings are not present in most ADA personalities. Instead, they quickly act on these impulses without guilt or remorse. Unlike other personalities, who might attempt to refashion or repress socially repugnant impulses and feelings, ADA individuals allow these feelings to be openly expressed, regardless of their disingenuous and socially offensive nature.

Projection is another mechanism utilized by ADA personalities. Having been conditioned throughout life to expect indifference or hostility from others and attuned to the slightest signs of contempt and derision, they quickly interpret others’ actions and words as fresh attacks on them. Given their perception of the environment, they feel justified in their outbursts as a response to the malevolence of others. The ADA personality sees themselves as the victim, an indignant bystander subjected to unjust persecution and hostility. Through this projection maneuver, they disown their malicious impulses and attribute the evil to others. This allows them to feel free to counterattack and gain restitution and vindication as persecuted victims.

Intrapsychic Architecture: Unruly: Constraints that typically help shape a person’s personality organization are largely absent and undeveloped in individuals with an Antisocial Disorder of Personality (ADA). As a result, their psychic system is poorly constructed, leaving them with weak or ineffective mechanisms for controlling harmful energies and attitudes. They easily transgress boundaries and have a low threshold for both devious and irresponsible actions, as well as for hostile and erotic discharge. Additionally, they lack developed sublimatory channels to direct problematic impulses.

These individuals often feel a deep sense of emptiness as a result of devaluing their own past. This inner emptiness drives them to seek validation and fulfillment through superficial materialistic attainments, such as big rings, expensive cigars, colorful cars, and fancy clothing. They are disconnected from themselves and others, unable to experience anything with depth or meaning. Due to their lack of trust in anything or anyone, nothing possesses value for them other than in the moment. Therefore, they seek immediate pleasure or recognition and quickly discard anything that may threaten to take control of their lives. Nothing is allowed permanence, whether it be a person or a material object.

Mood/Temperament: Callous: Most individuals with callous moods tend to act impulsively instead of processing their emotions through intrapsychic mechanisms. Although they may show restraint in certain situations, they often express their feelings and urges directly and abruptly, rather than inhibiting or reshaping them. While some people may perceive this directness as a sign of honesty and forthrightness, in reality, these behaviors are usually intended to shock or alienate others. As a result, callous individuals often exhibit irritability and aggression.

In addition to lacking deeper sensitivity, many individuals with callous personalities seem to have a passion for life and hedonistic pleasures. They may also enjoy exploring forbidden activities and testing their limits. This is particularly true for ADA-EET mixed types who have an intense desire for excitement and pleasure.

Furthermore, callousness often arises from a lack of compassion and sensitivity towards others. People with this personality type thrive on adventures and risks rather than concern and empathy. This temperament often leads to cynicism and skepticism, causing them to distrust the goodwill and kindness of others. Many less socially advantaged individuals with callous personalities display coarse incivility and a disregard for their own and others’ safety and welfare. (442-446)


The typical antisocial personality is action-oriented, independent, nonconforming, and innovative. They are socially confrontational and seek to stretch the limits of prevailing laws while keeping within socially acceptable boundaries. Their primary focus is on their own desires and they assert themselves through sheer willpower, overcoming obstacles and cleverly maneuvering just within the boundaries of danger and legality. They possess a knack for turning setbacks into new opportunities and are extremely resourceful and self-motivated, taking the initiative to make things work toward their own ends. Some are effective leaders, masterful in their authority, ready to take charge, resolute and decisive.

In essence, they are entrepreneurial adventurers and rugged individualists who use the free enterprise system, such as Wall Street, to pursue their desires. Successful aggrandizers include industrialists, businesspeople, and lawyers, who are driven by the same desires to fill whatever void they feel within themselves as are the disordered antisocials. However, while successful aggrandizers remain within societal boundaries, extreme cases of antisocial disorder may fail to do so.

Covetously Aggrandizing Personality: The covetously aggrandizing personality is driven by a deep and pervasive sense of emptiness, a powerful hunger for love and recognition they did not receive early in life. They believe that life has not given them their due, that they have been deprived of their rightful level of emotional support and material rewards, and that others have received more than their share. Envy and a desire for retribution drive these individuals. The highest reward for the covetous aggrandizer is to usurp what others possess. Although similar to some narcissistic personalities, they differ in that they actively exploit others to achieve their goals. They do not manifest a benign entitlement, but an active exploitive-ness in which greed and the appropriation of what others possess are central motivating forces.

The covetous aggrandizer is characterized by insecurity and avariciousness. They treat others as possessions in their power games, manipulating them to supply desired services and commodities without offering any genuine reciprocation. They may become successful entrepreneurs or exploiters of others, but they remain jealous and envious. Their lives are often openly materialistic, characterized by both conspicuous consumption and ostentatious displays. Regardless of their voracious desires and achievements, they remain forever dissatisfied and insatiable. They are pushy and greedy, anxious lest they lose the gains they have achieved. Although they have little compassion for the effects of their behaviors, feeling little or no guilt for their actions, they remain at heart quite insecure about their power and their possessions, never feeling that they have acquired enough to make up for their earlier deprivations. They are completely self-centered and self-indulgent, often profligate and wasteful, unwilling to share with others for fear that they will take again what was so desperately desired in early life. (449)

Disaffected Aggrandizing Personality: The Disaffected Aggrandizing Personality is characterized by a strong desire for the good things in life, although they may be unsure of what those things are. They tend to intervene in the affairs of others in an impulsive and unorthodox manner in order to ensure their own satisfaction. Despite their adventurous and oppositional nature, they are less than comfortable with themselves and the world around them, and are unable to function in a self-directed and self-actualizing way as they would like.

The Disaffected Aggrandizer is often noncompliant and behaves erratically, which can confuse and put off others. They are strongly compelled to follow their own dictates and engage in risk-taking behaviors, often seeking tangible, visual products from physical skills. They prefer to achieve goals as quickly as possible and act spontaneously, exploiting their resources for quick and creative solutions. However, these actions may lead to problematic outcomes, such as failing to follow through or taking risky shortcuts.

The Disaffected Aggrandizer values independence and autonomy and prefers to live by their own nonconforming principles and values rather than those of society. They are disinclined to be fettered by societal standards and are motivated by novelty and risk. Their decisions may appear impulsive, but are often the result of considerable brewing feelings of disillusionment with both themselves and others. They may withdraw or behave contrarily, but can also engage in constructive and adventurous self-determination.(449)

Aggrandizing personalities can resort to devious means to achieve their desires if their efforts are unsuccessful and lack social support. This can lead to risk-taking behavior and a defensive attitude towards critics. The following paragraphs illustrate two moderate types of the ADA spectrum.

However, the impulsiveness and irresponsibility of these personalities often result in negative judgments by others, who may label them as trouble-makers, nonconforming, and socially repugnant. As a result, their actions are likely to become increasingly unacceptable socially. They may experience a deterioration in their competency skills or adopt a more overtly antisocial lifestyle. Incarceration rarely leads to a remedy, and instead, their devious skills and behaviors may become intensified. (450)

Risk-Taking Devious Personality: Risk-taking is often pursued for the thrill and excitement it provides, rather than for material gain or reputation defense. However, the Risk-Taking Devious Personality may also exhibit impulsive and uncontrolled behavior. They are often fearless and seemingly unaware of the potential consequences of their actions. This recklessness may lead them to pursue dangerous and foolhardy ventures. Although they may appear dauntless and audacious, their actions are often characterized by irresponsibility and a disregard for the well-being of others.

Unlike other deviates motivated by aggrandizement or nonconformity, the Risk-Taking Devious Personality is driven by the need for stimulation and excitement. They are easily infatuated by opportunities to test their limits and pursue treacherous adventures. Their actions are unpredictable and lacking in responsibility, leading them to pursue their whims and desires at the expense of others.

The need for autonomy drives their actions as they feel trapped and burdened by routine and responsibilities. They lack the habits of self-discipline and are unsure if they can ever fulfill their inner emptiness. As a result, they are drawn to chancy and hazardous activities, leading them on an erratic and desultory course. (451-453)

Reputation-Defending Devious Personality:  Not all individuals with the ADA personality type seek to fill their emptiness by acquiring material possessions. Some are driven to defend or expand their reputation and status. For them, deviant behavior is self-enhancing and designed to demonstrate that they are individuals of substance, who should not be taken lightly. The reputation-defending ADA variant is best described as an invincible and formidable person, with qualities of strength and invulnerability that others should be aware of. This personality type shows a strong mix of characteristics from the ADA antisocial and the CEN narcissistic personality.

Reputation-defending individuals seek to convey that they are tough and powerful individuals who cannot be easily pushed around and will not tolerate anyone questioning their status. They react with great intensity when their status and capabilities are challenged and are always on guard against the possibility of being denigrated or belittled. Some react impulsively to slight, while others brood and wait for the right moment to act defensively and assertively.

These personalities are more likely to engage in violent or terrorist actions due to their strong sense of victimization and alienation. They may be members of extremist groups and cultures that believe their enemies are moral transgressors, which justifies their violent counteractions.

Among adolescents, reputation-defending behavior reflects their social position and group status. Individuals with the ADA personality type are particularly sensitive to signs of indifference, disinterest, or criticism. As a result, they may engage in aggressive leadership or risk-taking behaviors, often of a violent or criminal nature, to demonstrate to their peers that they are contenders of potential significance. The high prevalence of drug involvement and turf wars among gangs illustrates these activities. Strengthening their reputation is often a by-product of these acts. What was initially intended as a defensive step to protect their status may become a major drive and aim in itself.

For most individuals with this personality type, being tough and assertive, proving one’s strength among peers, is primarily a reputation-defending act and not a hostile one, as is often the case among mixed antisocial/sadistic personality types. (453-454)

Antisocial personalities can take many forms, but they share a marked self-centeredness and disregard for others. Individuals with this personality prioritize their own security and gratification over the needs and interests of others, often viewing the world as an opportunity for exploitation and self-aggrandizement.

In the past century, psychopaths, sociopaths, sadists, and antisocial personalities have been grouped together despite their different characteristics. Some clinicians describe these individuals as impulsive, immature, naïve, aimless, and flighty, while others see them as sly, cunning, and capable of making clever long-term plans to deceive and exploit others. Some also exhibit cruel aggression and derive pleasure from disrupting and intimidating others, while others feel discomfort when their actions harm others.

This confusion arises because these behaviors can stem from different personality combinations or mixtures. This section focuses on two severe variants with core elements that characterize the most serious psychiatric cases of the disorder.

Fully antisocial lifestyles often involve a persistent pattern of socially unacceptable behavior, with individuals viewing larger society as hypocritical and malign. These individuals adopt nonconforming attitudes and pervasively devious aggrandizing behaviors.(454-455)

Nomadic Antisocial Personality: The Nomadic Antisocial Personality is instantiated by individuals who feel unwanted, cast aside, and abandoned by society, leading them to passively drift or actively escape to the periphery of society. They scavenge what little remains they can find of what they could not achieve through acceptable social means. These individuals are angry at the injustices they have faced but now feel sorry for themselves and have distanced themselves from conventional social affairs because they have little influence on others and fear further rejection. The isolation of nomadics is not benign, as beneath their social withdrawal are intense feelings of resentment and anger.

The nomadic antisocials’ behavior is not benign, despite their chronically peripheral and nomadic existence. They exhibit what may be called a ‘‘passive asociality,’’ a well-suited lifestyle in which one neither works nor assumes any responsibilities other than basic survival. Their motives are short-term, to reduce tensions and the discomforts of everyday life. They have difficulty envisaging life beyond the moment, and their sense of ‘‘being no place’’ is both similar to and different from the experience of depersonalization.

In certain respects, the nomadic antisocial represents a mixture of antisocial characteristics and those of either or both the schizoid or avoidant personalities. A lifelong pattern of wandering and migrant roaming becomes more ingrained by the accumulation of repeated disappointments, the conviction of being worthless and useless, and the sense of being abandoned and not belonging anywhere. Their migrant and straying ways may be a symbolic search for what they hope may be their ‘‘true home’’ or their ‘‘natural parents.’’ Many feel like misfits, dropouts from a world where they never felt fully accepted.

Most nomadics are comparatively harmless, owing to their general indifference and disengagement from life. However, in contrast to the remote and affectless schizoid to whom they compare, these personalities are deeply angry and resentful. Moreover, many have normal needs for life’s pleasures, especially those of an erotic character. Stirred by alcohol, in the main, they may become brutal when ‘‘liberated,’’ or engage in criminal-like sexual behaviors in lascivious assaults on the weak and inadequate, such as children.(455)

Malevolent Antisocial Personality: This variant of antisocial personality disorder is characterized by extreme vindictiveness and hostility. Individuals with this disorder are driven by a strong impulse toward retribution, which they discharge through hateful and destructive behavior that defies conventional social norms. They are deeply distrustful of others and anticipate betrayal and punishment, leading them to develop a cold-blooded ruthlessness and an intense desire to seek revenge for perceived mistreatment in childhood.

These individuals reject tender emotions and view goodwill efforts expressed by others as ploys to deceive and harm them. They exhibit a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude and are quick to lash out at those they distrust or those they can use as scapegoats for their destructive impulses.

Characteristic traits of this variant of antisocial personality include belligerence, predatory behavior, rancor, viciousness, malignancy, brutality, callousness, truculence, and vengefulness. These individuals are distinctively fearless and guiltless, expecting betrayal and punishment from others and seeking to exact retribution for perceived wrongs.

The features of this disorder may blend with either or both the MPP paranoid or ADS sadistic personalities, reflecting a deep sense of deprivation and a desire for compensatory retribution, as well as intense suspiciousness and hostility.

Individuals with this disorder rigidly maintain an image of hard-boiled strength, carrying themselves truculently and acting tough, callous, and fearless to avoid appearing weak or being manipulated into submission. They may even court danger and punishment to prove their courage, but such punishment reinforces their rebelliousness and desire for retribution.

When facing persistent failure or frustration, these individuals’ resentment and anger may mount to a moderate level, but rarely to the point where they lose control and become tyrannical sadists. However, their aggressive impulses may surge into the open, and their behavior may become flagrantly antisocial, with minimal guilt or remorse and an arrogant contempt for the rights of others.

Unlike the tyrannical sadist, individuals with malevolent antisocial personality disorder have a cognitive understanding of guilt and remorse but may lack the ability to feel them. They can provide a rational explanation of ethical concepts but are incapable of experiencing them. It is unclear whether this experiential deficit is inherent or the result of early learning deficiencies.

These individuals may come to relish menacing others and making them cower and withdraw, seeking to bring more pressure on their opponents than their opponents are willing to tolerate. They are combative and willing to escalate as far as necessary, never letting go until others succumb. However, they recognize the limits of what can be done in their self-interest and do not lose self-conscious awareness of their actions, pressing forward only if their goals of self-aggrandizement and retribution are likely to be achieved. Their adversarial stance is often contrived, a bluffing mechanism to ensure that others will back off. (458-459)

2 responses to “WAPLT? Aggrandizing, Devious, Antisocial: The ADA Spectrum”

  1. […] blend with most other personalities, though antisocial and borderline traits generally do not fit them. The RCC personality spectrum includes a range of […]


  2. […] and the self-other polarities, which sets them apart from emotionally extreme and interpersonally imbalanced personality spectra. However, they have conflicting primary motives that guide their lives, causing […]


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