The role of oxytocin in antisocial personality disorders: A systematic review of the literature
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Background and aims: Antisocial personality disorder is an enduring mental disorder associated with significant disease burden and treatment difficulties. This is apparent within forensic populations. There is growing evidence to suggest that treatment with oxytocin could have some benefit in treating a range of psychiatric disorders. There are no reviews studying the use of oxytocin for patients with ASPD. We aim to present the first literature review on the use of oxytocin in patients with ASPD. Method: We searched relevant databases for original research on effect of oxytocin upon persons with a diagnosis of ASPD or healthy participants with symptoms seen in ASPD. Studies were included if they included healthy participants that evaluated the effect of oxytocin on symptoms relevant to ASPD, including empathy, inhibitory control, compliance, conformity, aggression, violence, and moral responsibility. Results: Thirty-six studies were included. There were a range of study designs, including randomized controlled trials, double blinded, single blinded, and unblinded controlled trials. The sample sizes in studies ranged from 20 to 259 participants. Studies looked at participants with a diagnosis of ASPD and participants with symptoms relevant to ASPD, including empathy, inhibitory control, compliance, conformity, aggression, violence, and moral responsibility. Oxytocin was found to demonstrate diversified effects, in most cases being associated with socially positive or non-criminogenic behaviors. However, some studies found opposite, and non-desirable, effects, e.g., an increase in violent inclinations to partners. The two studies looking at participants with ASPD had a number of limitations and had conflicting results on the impact that OT has on aggression in ASPD. Conclusions: This is the first systematic literature review exploring the potential use of oxytocin in managing ASPD and the symptoms of ASPD. It is apparent that there is a body of evidence addressing related symptoms in healthy individuals. There were diversified effects with oxytocin showing some benefits in promoting positive effects on symptoms of ASPD, but there were also studies showing non-desirable effects. It is difficult to draw any direct inferences from healthy control studies. Further high quality large sample studies are required to explore the effects of oxytocin in those with ASPD.