The history of psychiatry is often portrayed through the metaphor of a pendulum, the profession swinging back and forth between a concern with psyche and soma. Recent work critiquing the pendulum metaphor, however, suggests that it does not account for the complexity of psychiatry. This article explores the metaphor through an analysis of the changing aetiological accounts of personality disorders associated with antisocial behaviour advanced in the American Journal of Psychiatry from 1950 onwards. It is argued that the social, scientific and economic factors which help shape overarching professional trends in psychiatry only partly structure personality disorder discourse. If the pendulum swings, therefore, not all psychiatrists move with it.