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An Aspergers psychologist describes the characteristics of Aspergers in adults Studies show that Asperger’s Syndrome is one of the fastest growing mental health conditions in the United States. Upwards of 2,000,000 adults are likely to have been diagnosed with this condition, close to a 100% increase in the last decade.
Some say Aspergers has reached epidemic proportions in this country. Asperger’s Syndrome is similar to autism with one primary difference: autism causes delays in language development whereas Asperger’s does not. People with Aspergers may have unusual speech patterns or may speak without inflection, as though the emotional content is missing, but their language skills are normal.
In most other respects, autism and Aspergers share similar features. In my work as an Aspergers psychologist, I’ve been asked many times to describe what Aspergers is like in adults. Here are the main characteristics: Poor Empathy Adults with Aspergers have difficulty comprehending or communicating feelings.
It’s not that they are incapable of emotions; in fact, Hans Asperger, the Austrian pediatrician who first studied this condition, believed those with Aspergers were capable of very strong feelings. It is more a problem of being cut off from emotional experiences. Adults with Aspergers have trouble distinguishing feelings from thoughts, and because they find it hard to recognize their own feelings, they focus on what they do recognize: reasoning. This difficulty with identifying feelings makes it hard for someone with Aspergers to relate to others.
The ability to recognize what other people mean to say by their gestures is either absent or poorly developed, making it easy for someone with Aspergers to misunderstand others.
Social Isolation People with Aspergers tend to focus on their own personal interests, without seeing the needs and wishes of others. This often causes them to lead isolated lives. Others see this behavior as self-centered or insensitive, but what causes people with Aspergers to focus on themselves are their difficulties with reading body language and facial expressions as well as the challenges they experience in picking up the rules of conversation.
This is not to imply that people with Aspergers don’t desire social contact. In many cases, they crave company and stick close to others. Intellectualization Because adults with Aspergers tend to be cut off from their feelings, they acquire facts and information without understanding how those facts can be applied to real-world situations.
They are detail oriented, often missing the overall picture, and they apply the same level of detail to every situation whether appropriate or not. Individuals with Aspergers often have an intense interest in one or two narrow topics, bordering on obsession.
Stamp collecting, song lyrics, and computer puzzles can become focal points in their need to collect and organize facts, which is comforting to people with Aspergers. Because of their focus on reasoning and intellect, many adults with Aspergers make great intellectual contributions. Recent reports of highly successful professionals in Silicon Valley suggest that a high proportion of them have tendencies that lie within the Aspergers range.
Physical and Sensory Difficulties Children diagnosed with Aspergers are often delayed in their physical and sensory development. These difficulties persist into adulthood. Coordination that is required for actions such as walking, swimming, and riding a bike develops later for people with Aspergers. Fine motor skills like handwriting or tying shoes can be difficult for adults with Aspergers.
Sometimes, individuals with Aspergers demonstrate repetitive behaviors, such as rocking back and forth or flapping their hands. Some are sensitive to sounds, smells, bright lights or the sensation of clothing against their skin.
Treatment for Adults with Aspergers Adults with Aspergers who are willing to work at it can benefit from treatment. As an Aspergers psychologist, I have seen many adults with Aspergers who lead successful, fulfilling lives. Those who have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses can develop helpful coping skills.
Their ability to reason and focus provides a model through which they can learn to relate to others, adopt appropriate social behaviors and develop close friendships and intimacy.
Many more people would seek professional help if they knew that Aspergers can be treated successfully. Working with an Aspergers psychologist is a key component to the successful alleviation of the struggles that cause so much distress for so many people. Help is really not that far away. If you believe you have Aspergers or know someone who does, it makes sense to seek help from someone with extensive experience in treating Aspergers.
Dr. Kenneth Roberson is an in San Francisco with over 30 years of experience. There are times that sounds and lights seem too bright And hurt my eyes even though they aren’t too loud Or are the usual setting for ex the tv or the lights In a store the sun etc.
Anyway to cope with this is this normal. I always seem ok do sometimes When people are talking at once It hurts my ears and have hard time Following. Noticed that I have Auditory processing problems Does that happen to anyone Besides me? I am an Adult. I was married to a man for 20 years who I now believe has asbergers.
I am so badly damaged by his lack of intimacy and empathy, but I’m still not sure if that’s what he has. He is now getting remarried and I can’t help but be hurt wondering what she is giving him that I tried to for so many years. I don’t think he is at all aware there’s anything wrong. Is there anything I can read to help me feel better and that I really couldn’t have done anything to help him more than I did.
I was so lonely. Please help me find some peace. Julie Armstrong Glasgow Scotland UK. Dear Kim: Please look for a therapist in your area who specializes in, or at least has experience with, Aspergers.
Your brother and your family needs help with this problem. If you would like help locating someone who could work with you, let me know and I will do some research.
Good luck with this. Dr. Roberson Hi Kenneth, A very easy way to pop it doen into paper. My son has many of the characteristics of Aspegers, we always knew something just wasn’t right but never really knew, at nursery school he wouldn’t do anything but sit and play with trains, then one of his teachers in primary school mentioned Aspergers and i read an overview and it was like reading a character assessment of my child (well almost).
I never really know how to explain it to other people, he comes across as an intelligent young man (he is now 15) but he says things back to front sometimes when i hug him he doesn’t respond, he is still, he can oversmile at you which can feel odd. He is clumbsy at all sports. He constantly needs to know where i am going and what time and will go on and on about it. He didn’t learn to ride a bike until he was 12, he couldn’t toe his shoe laces until he was 12, he couldn’t open jars and packets and has no strength when shaking hands or when grasping.
He would easily pick up a tiny shirt, put in on and would be unaware of his mistake and that it clearly didin’t fit. He has this pure innocence about the world.
He is a gently child, he can’t organise at all. He has a short term memory for tasks. He isn’t as bad now he is older but one area is his handwritng, it is still barely legible and this intelligent kid is going to end up losing out in his exams but i fel now he is older all the other aspects are hard to detect, especially when he attends a school which has many highly educated people from all nationalites, his quirkiness is not as apparent.
One of his teachers would liek a diagnosis to allow me to use a computer so he can complete his examinations. My question is do you think at this late age we could get a diagnosis, even ehrn he comes across as just a quicrky intelligent kid ?
Dear Jo: Yes, your son could be diagnosed. It’s not too late. In fact, there are many advantages of receiving confirmation of Aspergers from an expert. As you mentioned, getting compensatory services at school is one of them. Depending on where you live, I might be able to help you find a specialist in Aspergers who could assist you with a diagnosis.
Thank you for contacting me. Dr. Ken Roberson I do understand that Asperger syndrome is genetic and normally, kids who grew up having such syndrome may display many characteristics as described. However, what I need to understand is “can this syndrome being acquired due to environmental factor / influence?” I noticed that I have gradually changed from a normal guy who normally feels, laughs, talks, do crazy things, etc….any normal person would do to become a more “asperger person” although I can still cope up with the negaitve side of it.
I also suspect that this might be due to the control mechanism set. Kindly advise if this is actually possible. Thank you.
Isaac, there is only evidence to suggest what causes AS and Autism disorders. There is not completely found links to it being genetic nor to environmental factors, however, one thing is certain, you are only born with AS and it develops as a child. Normal functioning adults do not develop AS. It is NOT a “disease” that can be caught NOR a “genetic mutation” that can develop from exposure to chemicals, UV/X-ray/Gamma rays, STDs and the like. I recommend looking into basic information on various Asperger’s Syndrome websites.
🙂 P.S. There are many things that can cause SOME AS-related behaviours. Depression can cause issues, you may have AS that is not diagnosed, but, if you never had any AS behaviors as a younger person it is extremely unlikely you would be diagnosed with it today. I recommend seeing an AS knowledgeable therapist like Dr.
Roberson for more info and potential diagnosis. Hi again, After reading Jo’s email, I realized that I work in an environment whereby a few of my colleagues and even my good friend have begun to displayed asperger syndrome. This syndrome somehow also affected me emotionally. Yes, Jo was right. They are extremely intelligent and excel in their line of work. Again, would all these affect a normal person? Zac Zac: Aspergers cannot be acquired through one’s environment.
It is a biologically based condition that must be present early in one’s life in order to qualify as Aspergers. It’s possible, as you point out, for one to take on the characteristics of others who have Aspergers, but in that case it wouldn’t be considered true Aspergers.
Perhaps what you’re describing are reactions that appear to be Aspergers. You might consider seeking a consultation with a professional who is experienced with Aspergers who can help you understand what it going on. Let me know if you have further questions or need any assistance. Regards, Ken Roberson, Ph.D. Epidemic?!!!!… Mental health condition?!!.. Are you implying that Aspergers is not healthy and that its a mental disease..Is having aspergers that bad?
I have Aspergers and yes, it is difficult but it’s not like I have a mental illness, it’s just the way I am and although it is hard at times, I’m actually okay with the way I turned out. Adult Asperger’s Syndrome: The Essential Guide Do you have Asperger’s Syndrome or know someone who does? Are you looking for a reference guide about Asperger’s in adults? Do you have questions you’d like to ask an expert in adult Asperger’s? If your answer is Yes to any of these questions, this book is for you.
Chapter 3 Do You Have Asperger’s? Perhaps you are a spouse wondering if your partner has Asperger’s, a friend, acquaintance or colleague of someone you suspect has it, or perhaps you wonder if you might have it yourself.
How would you know? In this chapter, I will explain how the process of diagnosing someone for Asperger’s is usually carried out, both in general terms and the specific way I undertake a diagnosis. I will describe the types of information that is sought in an assessment for Asperger’s and how that information is collected. I will answer the question of how accurate a diagnosis is, the confidence one can have in a diagnosis of Asperger’s and I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having a diagnosis.
The Diagnostic Process Diagnosing Asperger’s is a fairly easy process in principle. But in practice it is complicated and necessities a professional who understands thoroughly not just the characteristics of Asperger’s but how they are played out in real life.
Reading about Asperger’s in a book or articles generally makes it seem that Asperger’s is a clear cut, well defined and easily identifiable condition. In truth, people with Asperger’s behave in many different ways and not always exactly how it is defined. For example, someone with Asperger’s can be quite intelligent and have mastery over numerous facts, yet have much less comprehension emotions and how they are expressed. The person may be able to identify basic emotions, such as intense anger, sadness or happiness yet lack an understanding of more subtle expressions of emotions such as confusion, jealousy or worry.
How is it possible to tell for sure if someone doesn’t understand subtle emotions? They often don’t come up while sitting in an office speaking to a professional and because the person is not aware of their presence it’s unlikely that person would volunteer how hard it is to understand them.
Relying on a spouse’s or friend’s report about how someone recognizes emotions is not always advisable since those reports are filtered through the spouse or friends’ own biases and their own ways of understanding emotions. The only way to tell is to be around someone long enough to experience what they are like, to see how they respond in situations that test the features of Asperger’s and ask the right kinds of questions to clarify whether they have those features. There is test yet developed that can be used to make a diagnosis of Asperger’s, no instrument that measures Asperger’s nor any procedure that can objectively sort out those with Asperger’s from those without it.
Brain scans, blood tests, X-rays and other physical examinations cannot tell whether anyone has Asperger’s. The bottom line is that Asperger’s is a descriptive diagnosis. A person is diagnosed based on the signs and symptoms he or she has rather than the results of a specific laboratory or other type of test.
Those signs and symptoms are often subtle and it takes someone with considerable experience to tell whether they are present and, if so, whether there is enough of a case to say confidently that the person has Asperger’s. It is all a matter of confidence, that is, with very few exceptions no one can say that someone else has Asperger’s only that one has a certain degree of certainty that a person does have Asperger’s. Diagnosing Asperger’s With this in mind, what is the actual process of finding out whether someone has Asperger’s?
Other professionals may take different steps but I have a clear-cut procedure that I go through when asked to assess Asperger’s. I first determine whether it makes reasonable sense to undertake an assessment of Asperger’s.
The assessment process itself is time consuming and it can be costly. Why go through with it if there is no good reason to assume there might be some likelihood of finding the behaviors and signs of Asperger’s? After all, you wouldn’t go to the trouble of evaluating whether you have a broken foot if, in the first place, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your foot. Screening Questionnaires: Currently there are nine screening questionnaires that are used to identify adults who may have Asperger’s.
Most require the respondent to indicate whether he or she agrees with a statement related to Asperger’s. Examples of actual statements are: • I find it difficult to imagine what it would be like to be someone else. • The phrase, “He wears his heart on his sleeve,” does not make sense to me. • I miss my best friends or family when we are apart for a long time. • It is difficult for me to understand how other people are feeling when we are talking.
• I feel very comfortable with dating or being in social situations with others. • I find it easy to “read between the lines” when someone is talking to me. Completing one or more of these questionnaires can identify abilities, inclinations and behavior that could be indicative of Asperger’s syndrome. The results might suggest that it makes sense to investigate further if enough criteria are present to indicate a diagnosis of Asperger’s.
The questionnaires and scales for adults are as follows, in alphabetical order: • Adult Asperger Assessment (AAA) (include link, for each test below) • Aspie Quiz (AQ) • Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) • Empathy Quotient for Adults (EQA) • Friendship and Relationship Quotient (FQ) • Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale (RAADS) • Social Stories Questionnaire (SSQ) • Systematizing Quotient (SQ) • The Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) These questionnaires indicate whether a person has characteristics that match those of people with Asperger’s but that, in and of itself, doesn’t prove someone has or doesn’t have Asperger’s.
The person filling out the questionnaire may be responding to the questions with the intention, conscious or not, of demonstrating that they don’t have, or for that matter they do have, Asperger’s. Often people answer these questions based on what they know about Asperger’s, they’ve read or been told about it, or what they imagine it is, and what they are indicating in their answers is not a accurate reflection of the characteristics they actually have.
Again, screening questionnaires are designed to identify potential cases of Asperger’s syndrome but they are not a substitute for a thorough diagnostic assessment. To do that, an experienced professional needs investigate two things: the person’s medical, developmental, social, family and academic history; and how the person responds to a face-to-face assessment of social reasoning, communication of emotions, language abilities, focused interests, and non-verbal social interaction.
Personal History Diagnoses are most valid and accurate when they are based on multiple sources of information. One highly important source are any documents, including reports, evaluations, notices, or assessments, that speak to the person’s social, emotional, language, and physical growth. An example is previous medical reports documenting signs of early language delays and/or peculiarities, coordination problems, behavioral difficulties or unusual physical problems.
School reports might indicate past social and emotional difficulties, along with academic tendencies, that could be relevant to any indications of Asperger’s syndrome. Tutoring reports, evaluations of group activities, personal diaries, family recordings and other such records often provide valuable insights about the likelihood of Asperger’s.
It is often the case that a person seeking an evaluation does not have any documentation, formal or informal, that is relevant to the assessment process. That is not an insurmountable problem. We work with what we have, and a diagnosis, either way, doesn’t depend upon any one piece of the assessment process. I have had many cases where I was able to conclude with confidence whether the person had Asperger’s without seeing one single piece of written evidence about that person’s past.
It helps when that evidence is available but it is not critical. Clinical Interview Sitting down and talking to someone makes the difference between an assessment of Asperger’s that has a high degree of confidence and one that is questionable.
When I assess someone for Asperger’s I ask to meet face-to-face for three meetings. The first meeting covers general facts about the person, particular those relating to his or her present life. I want to find out about the person’s significant relationships, whether they are friends, work colleagues, spouse or partner, children or anyone else with whom the person interacts regularly.
I am interested in how the person gets along at work and his or her work performance, how the person manages daily living, what initiative the person takes in planning and achieving life goals, and how satisfied the person is with his or her life.
These questions help me assess whether the person’s attitudes towards life, conduct in relationships, and general success in achieving life goals reveal any of the characteristics that typically are found in people with Asperger’s. The second meeting focuses on the person’s background, particularly information about the person’s early family life; previous school experiences; past friendships, employment and intimate relationships; childhood emotional development and functioning, and significant interests throughout the person’s life.
Because Asperger’s is a condition that exists at or before birth, clues about the presence of Asperger’s are found in the history of the person’s childhood. Hence a thorough understanding of early social, emotional, family, academic and behavioral experiences are essential to the diagnostic process.
The third and final meeting is a time to clarify questions that were not completely answered in the previous meetings, gather additional information and raise additional questions that have emerged from the information collected so far. When everything has been addressed to the extent allowed in this timeframe, the final part of the clinical interview is the presentation of my findings. Presenting these findings is a multi-step process.
First, I explain that certain characteristics are central to Asperger’s syndrome. If those characteristics are not present in the person then he or she doesn’t have Asperger’s and if they are present a diagnosis of Asperger’s is much more viable.
There are also characteristics that are related to Asperger’s but are also shared by other conditions. An example of this is difficulty noticing whether people are bored or not listening in conversations. Lots of people don’t pay much attention to whether people are listening to them, but that doesn’t mean they have Asperger’s.
On the other hand, in combination with other signs of Asperger’s, not noticing how people respond in conversations, could be a significant confirmation of an Asperger’s diagnosis. To diagnosis and adult with Asperger’s requires that the person have: • Persistent difficulty in communicating with, and relating to, other people. Their conversations have to be generally one-sided. There has to be reduced sharing of interests and a lack of emotional give-and-take.
Superficial social contact, niceties, passing time with others are of little interest. Little or too much detail is included in conversation, and there is difficulty in recognizing when the listener is interested or bored. • Poor nonverbal communication, which translates into poor eye contact, unusual body language, inappropriate gestures and facial expressions.
• Difficulty developing, maintaining and understanding relationships. • Narrow, repetitive behaviors and interests. Examples of these are insisting on inflexible routines, eating the same foods daily, brushing teeth the same way, following the same route every day, repeatedly rejecting changes in one’s life style, being either very reactive or hardly reactive at all to changes in one’s environment like indifference to temperature changes, hypersensitivity to sounds, fascination with lights or movement.
• Signs of these characteristics as early as 12-24 months of age, although the difficulties with social communication and relationships typically become apparent later in childhood. • Indications that these characteristics are causing significant problems in relationships, work or other important areas of the person’s life. • Clear evidence that these characteristics are not caused by low intelligence or broad, across-the-board delays in overall development. What happens if someone has some of these difficulties but not all?
Do they qualify for a diagnosis of Asperger’s, or not? The answer lies in how much these characteristics affect the person’s social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. If, for example, the core characteristics of Asperger’s lead a person to speak in few sentences, interact with people only around very narrow, special interests and communicate in odd, nonverbal ways, we can say that these are indicators that a diagnosis of Asperger’s is correct.
If, on the other hand, the person engages in limited back-and-forth communication, attempts to make friends in odd and typically unsuccessful ways, and is not especially interested in reaching out to others, a diagnosis of Asperger’s could be considered but not assured. A diagnosis is most assured when the signs of Asperger’s are present in the person all the time, they have an obvious effect on the person’s ability to be successful in life, and don’t vary much.
Additionally, when the information used to make a diagnosis comes from multiple sources, like family history, an expert’s observations, school, medical and other reports, questionnaires and standardized test instruments the diagnosis is likely to be more accurate and reliable. Advantages and Disadvantages of an Asperger’s Diagnosis The advantages of having an accurate, reliable diagnosis of Asperger’s are many.
It can eliminate the worry that a person is severely mentally ill. It can support the idea that the person has genuine difficulties arising from a real, legitimate condition. Other people, once they are aware that the person has Asperger’s are often able to be more accepting and supportive. A new, and more accurate, understanding of the person can lead to appreciation and respect for what the person is coping with.
Knowing someone has Asperger’s opens up avenues to resources for help as well as access to programs to improve social inclusion and emotional management. Acceptance by friends and family members is more likely. An acceptable explanation to other people about the person’s behavior is now available leading to the possibility of reconciliation with people who have had problems with the person’s behavior. In the workplace and in educational settings, a diagnosis of Asperger’s can provide access to helpful resources and support that might otherwise not have been available.
Employers are more likely to understand the ability and needs of an employee should that employee make the diagnosis known. Accommodations can be requested and a rationale can be provided based on a known diagnosis. Having the diagnosis is a relief for many people. It provides a means of understanding why someone feels and thinks differently than others. It can be exciting to consider how one’s life can change for the better knowing what one is dealing with.
There can be a new sense of personal validation and optimism, of not being defective, weird or crazy. With the knowledge that one has Asperger’s, joining a support group, locally or through the Internet can provide a sense of belonging to a distinct and valued culture and enable the person to consult members of the group for advice and support. Acceptance of the diagnosis can be an important stage in the development of successful adult intimate relationships.
It also enables therapists, counselors and other professionals to provide the correct treatment options should the person seek assistance. Liane Holliday Willey is an educator, author and speaker. She was diagnosis with Asperger’s syndrome in 1999. In her 2001 book, “Asperger’s Syndrome in the Family: Redefining Normal in the Family, she wrote the following self-affirmation pledge for those with Asperger’s syndrome.
– I am not defective. I am different. – I will not sacrifice myself-worth for peer acceptance. – I am a good and interesting person. – I will take pride in myself. – I am capable of getting along with society.
– I will ask for help when I need it. – I am a person who is worthy of others’ respect and acceptance. – I will find a career interest that is well suited to my abilities and interests.
– I will be patient with those who need time to understand me. – I am never going to give up on myself. – I will accept myself for who I am.(Willey 2001. p. 164) Are there disadvantages to a diagnosis of Asperger’s? Yes, but the list is shorter than the list of advantages. Some people receive a diagnosis of Asperger’s with discouragement and disapproval, believing they necessarily will be severely limited in how they can lead their lives. No longer will they be able to hope to have a satisfying, intimate relationship.
Instead, their future will be filled with loneliness and alienation from others with no expectation of improvement. This, of course, is an unrealistic and exaggerated depiction of what living with Asperger’s is like.
Of course, it is possible that people in someone’s life will react to the diagnosis of Asperger’s by alienating themselves from that person. Stigmatizing and disapproval, based on the knowledge that a person has Asperger’s is still prevalent in our society. Damage to one’s self-esteem as a result of disapproval, ridicule, discrimination and rejection is possible when knowledge of an Asperger’s diagnosis is disseminated.
Job discrimination is a realistic possibility in the event that an applicant reveals an Asperger’s diagnosis. While it is not legally acceptable to do so, we know that silent discrimination happens, hiring decisions are not always made public and competition can leave someone with a different profile out of the picture.
Similarly, having a diagnosis of Asperger’s may lead others to assume the person will never be able to be as successful in life as neurotypical people. It is commonly assumed that Asperger’s makes someone too difficult to be around, unable to get along with people, too narrowly focused on their own interests, and too stubborn, self-absorbed and lacking in empathy to be a contributing member of society, a view that is narrow in its own right and sadly mistaken in many cases. Nevertheless, attitudes like this can arise when a diagnosis of Asperger’s is made public.
Dual Diagnoses Often, people tell me when we meet to discuss an Asperger’s evaluation that the symptoms of Asperger’s they have seen, usually online, match what they notice in themselves. Just as often other people, in researching Asperger’s symptoms, believe the person coming to see me has those very characteristics and therefore must have Asperger’s. The problem with this is that several other conditions share many of the same symptoms with Asperger’s.
Just knowing how the person behaves, thinks and feels does not, in and of itself, tell you whether he or she has Asperger’s. It very well might be that some other condition is the real problem or, more likely, two or more conditions are overlapping. In this case, it is more accurate to say the person has co-existing conditions rather than it being a straightforward matter of Asperger’s.
Here is a description of the psychiatric conditions most frequently associated with Aspergers’: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) People with ADHD typically have difficulty paying attention to what’s going on around them, they are easily distracted, they tend to do things without thinking about the results, they are often forgetful, have trouble finishing what they intended to do, are disorganized, jump from one activity to another, are restless and have poor social skills.
Many of these symptoms overlap with those of Asperger’s. Research has shown growing evidence for a connection between Asperger’s and ADHD. Genetic studies suggest the two disorders share genetic risk factors, and studies of the incidence and distribution of both conditions confirm that many people with Asperger’s have symptoms of ADHD and vice versa.
Brain imaging and studies of the brain structure show similarities between the two disorders. Having said that, there are important differences between the two. People with ADHD often try to do multiple activities at the same time. They get distracted easily and jump from one interest or activity to another.
Focusing on one thing for a long time is hard for them. On the other hand, people with Asperger’s tend to focus on only one activity at a time, and they focus on that activity intensely with little regard for anything else going on around them.
They are hyper-focused rather than unfocused. There is a similar difference with respect to impulsivity. People with ADHD will do things without considering the outcome of their actions. They act immediately and have trouble waiting. They interrupt, blurt out comments and seem unable to restrain themselves. People with Asperger’s think through their actions more carefully. They may interrupt and say things without regard for whatever else is going on but it is because they don’t understand how conversations are carried out rather than not being able to restrain themselves.
There is a big difference in how adults with ADHD use language compared to adults with Asperger’s. They do not tend to have specific weaknesses in their understanding and use of language.
They readily understand when a statement such as, “it’s raining cats and dogs” is being used as a figure of speak and not as a literal statement. They also speak with a normal tone of voice and inflection.
In contrast, adults with Asperger’s tend not to understand non-literal language, slang or implied meanings. They may talk a lot and have more one-sided conversations as do adults with ADHD but they do so because lacking an understanding of how the person they are talking to is grasping what they are saying they are, in effect, talking to themselves. Difficulty interpreting non-verbal communication and subtle aspects of how people relate to each other is characteristic of adults with Asperger’s.
They confuse behaviors that may be appropriate in one setting from those that are appropriate in another, so that they often act in appropriate for the situation they are in. They find it hard to interpret the meanings of facial expressions and body posture, and they have particular difficulty understanding how people express their emotions.
Adults with ADHD, on the other hand, understand social situations more accurately and they engage much easier in social situations even though they are easily distracted and often not observant of what’s going on around them. They can consider what other people are thinking much easier than adults with Asperger’s and they participate in the give-and-take of social interactions more readily.
Adults with ADHD tend to express their feelings directly and fairly clearly whereas adults with Asperger’s do not show a wide range of emotions. When they do communicate their feelings they are often out of synch with the situation that generated the feeling. Adults with ADHD tend to process sensory input in a typical manner.
They may have preferences for how they handle sensory input like music, touch, sounds, and visual sensations but generally the way they handle these situations is much like other adults. In contrast, adults with Asperger’s have more specific preferences about the kind of sensations they like and dislike. They may be overly sensitive to one kind of sensation and avoid that persistently. Or they may prefer a certain type of sensation and, a certain type of music, for example, and seek it over and over.
Overall, sounds, temperature differences, visual images and tastes more easily overwhelm adults with Asperger’s than adults with ADHD.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders The core features of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are frequent and persistent thoughts, impulses or images that are experienced as unwelcomed and uninvited.
It occurs to the person that these intrusive thoughts are the produce of his or her own mind but they can’t be stopped. Along with these thoughts are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in order to reduce stress or to prevent something bad from happening. Some people spend hours washing themselves or cleaning their surroundings in order to reduce their fear that germs, dirt or chemicals will infect them.
Others repeat behaviors or say names or phrases over and over hoping to guard against some unknown harm. To reduce the fear of harming oneself or others by, for example, forgetting to lock the door or turn off the gas stove, some people develop checking rituals.
Still others silently pray or say phrases to reduce anxiety or prevent a dreaded future event while others will put objects in a certain order or arrange things perfects in order to reduce discomfort. These behaviors, to repeat the same action over and over, are similar to the repetitive routines associated with Asperger’s.
Individuals with both conditions engage in repetitive behaviors and resist the thought of changing them. The difference is that people with Asperger’s do not view these behaviors are unwelcomed.
Indeed, they are usually enjoyed. In addition, whereas Asperger’s occurs early in the person’s life, OCD develops later in life. People with OCD have better social skills, empathy and social give and take than those with Asperger’s.
Social Anxiety Disorder Social Anxiety Disorder, also called social phobia, occurs when a person has a fear of social situations that is excessive and unreasonable.
The dominate fear associated with social situations is of being closely watched, judged and criticized by others. The person is afraid that he or she will make mistakes, look bad and be embarrassed or humiliated in front of others. This can reach a point where social situations are avoided completely. Asperger’s and Social Anxiety Disorder share the common element of discomfort in social situations.
Typically, along with this discomfort is lack of eye contact and difficulty communicating effectively. The difference between these two conditions is that people with Social Anxiety Disorder lack self-confidence and expect rejection if and when they engage with others. Adults with Asperger’s, on the other hand, don’t necessarily lack self-confidence or are afraid of being rejected, they are simply not able to pick up on social cues.
They don’t know how to act appropriately in social situations and thus tend to avoid them. In addition, Social Anxiety Disorder may be present in children but more commonly it develops in adolescence and adulthood whereas Asperger’s can be traced back to infancy. Schizoid Personality Disorder People with Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD) avoid social relationships and prefer to spend time alone.
They have a very restricted range of emotions, especially when communicating with others and appear to lack a desire for intimacy. Their lives seem directionless and they appear to drift along in life. They have few friends, date infrequently if at all, and often have trouble in work settings where involvement with other people is necessary. They are the type of person that is others think of as the typical “loner.” A noticeable characteristic of someone with SPD is their difficulty expressing anger, even when they are directly provoked.
They tend to react passively to difficult circumstances, as if they are directionless and are drifting along in life. They are withdrawn because it makes life easier. They don’t gain a great deal of happiness from getting close to people. Often this gives others the impression that they lack emotion. While this may strike some as similar to Asperger’s people with SPD can interact with others normally, if they want to, and can get along with people.
They don’t have the strong preference for logical patterns in things and people, an inability to read facial expressions or “blindness” to what is going on in other people’s minds that characterizes Asperger’s. In addition, people with SPD typically do not show these features until late adolescence or adulthood. The characteristics of Asperger’s must be noticeable in infancy or early childhood to receive the diagnosis of Asperger’s.
Most importantly, Asperger’s is a form of autism whereas people with SPD have a “neurotypical” brain and have developed into a personality of extreme introversion and emotional detachment. Antisocial Personality Disorder Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) disregard and violate the rights of others. They don’t conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior, such as destroying property, stealing, harassing others, and cheating. They are frequently deceitful and manipulative so as to obtain money, sex, power of some other form of personal profit or pleasure.
They tend to be irritable and aggressive and to get into physical fights or commit acts of physical assault (including spousal or child beating). They are consistently and extremely irresponsible financially, in their employment, and with regard to their own safety and the safety of others. They show little remorse for the consequence of their actions and tend to be indifferent to the hurt they have caused others.
Instead, they blame victims of their aggression, irresponsibility and exploitation. They frequently lack empathy and tend to be callous, cynical and contemptuous of the feelings, rights and suffering of others. They often have an inflated and arrogant view of themselves, and are described as excessively opinionated and cocky. They can appear charming and talk with superficial ease, attempting to impress others and appear experts on numerous topics. There may appear to be some overlap between Asperger’s and APD, but the resemblance is superficial.
Individuals with Asperger’s have trouble understanding how people operate but they do respect others, whereas people with APD have no regard for people. Individuals with Asperger’s are rarely deceitful, in fact, they are often considered excessively, even naively honest, quite unlike those with APD who are predictably deceitful and unremorseful, and unlike people with Asperger’s they are incapable of feeling genuine love.
Asperger’s people do show and feel remorse whereas people with APD do not. Bipolar Disorder People with Bipolar Disorder (BD) have distinct ups and downs in their mood. At one point, they will have extreme energy, be unusually happy, energetic, talkative, feel wonderful about themselves and “on top of the world, have little need for sleep, be drawn to unimportant or irrelevant activities, and generally act unlike themselves. When they are down, they feel sad, empty, hopeless, worthless and inappropriately guilty.
They have little interest in their usual activities, have little appetite, sleep more than usual, are slowed down, have difficulty concentrating and sometimes have suicidal thoughts. When someone with Bipolar Disorder is in a manic state or depressed they may not interact socially as they might if they were feeling normal, they might be withdrawn, lack much emotional response to situations in their life and lose interest in relationships but the changes in their emotional condition is much different than people with Asperger’s.
Someone with Asperger’s is socially awkward, cannot read or use body language or facial expressions well, have difficulty making eye contact, cannot understand sarcasm and jokes, tend to take things literally, may display socially inappropriate behavior without realizing it, have obsessive interests and may have problems with sensory issues.
While they may feel down at times or at other times be unusually happy, their concerns have much less to do with emotional ups and downs.
best dating someone with aspergers symptoms in adults - Aspergers In Adults: Characteristics of Asperger Syndrome
Yes: I have several friends with hpd. They can be quite delightful companions, but one learns over time that their lives nearly always are full of drama and turmoil seemingly outside their control. Emotions can rapidly shift, and their reactions even to relatively minor snags in life can be suggest that the world as they knew it is about to end. That said, they also can be the life an any party. Yes but...: A person with high functioning autistic spectrum disorders can feel romantic notions like any body eles but the level of emotional energy required to maintain a relationship can be exhausting for them and they have to work harder on their ability to continue to show emotions and communicate.
Yes: Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals have experience with people who have histrionic personality disorder. Many other physicians encounter and work with them also, but are not the primary ones to treat this problem. Mental health professionals would be best suited to help such a person directly. Schizophrenia is a: serious diagnosis. A mental health professional makes such a diagnosis. Symptoms can include , seeing things, , etc. Many schizophrenics do very well in life.
They often need medication. A psychiatrist, rather than the family doc, is the appropriate person for medication in this case. Peace and good health. A technical point: symptoms really should be understood to be part and parcel of aspergers.
In DSM, it is incorrect to make a second diagnosis of adhd if the child is already on the spectrum. Unless the child is so severely adhd that limits function or puts them at risk e.g. climbing so much or that they injure themselves multiple times per week. A challenging task!: If you're certain you want to do this & really believe your reasons are healthy ones, it might be possible. Does the friend agree that they are borderline?
If so, you can talk about it & how much you want the friendship to survive, your willingness to work through or wait out difficult times, etc. This sort of conversation could be a way for your friend to actually modify their way of relating. Well: A person with could be high functioning. When someone who is high functioning works on their issues in treatment - a favorable result is possible.
If you have a relationship with someone who has a borderline personality disorder encourage you to learn more about it. Learn to set healthy boundaries. If you are highly reactive to the other person - things could > Well, no not exactly: Sounds like a lot going on.
But, it is actually common to have multiple psychiatric conditions at the same time. So don't fear that you are terminally unique in this matter. You are on () - but are you receiving ? Cognitive processing therapy or the more generalized may be helpful for you.
Take care. Questionable: Although it would be hard to say with much accuracy yes or no on this one, i would lean towards no. Almost any job with , unless it's in the service industry or an equivalent, requires empathy and emotional attunement. These attributes are two essential things kids need from those in charge of them, and that people with apdo lack.
A covered pot of rice and water, if left unattended, will boil over. You can imagine the surprise and stress in the room when the rice and water are boiling over the edges of the pan. Aspergers adults symptoms and signs are like that pot of water and rice on the flame. The same thing happens to adults with Aspergers. What looks like a full-blown rage or tantrum episode, may actually be the accumulation of a lot of little stressors and anxieties bubbling up as reactions to different events.
It’s important to realize, as well, that meltdowns are often . is like the water slowly boiling over the flame. But meltdowns are only one symptom Aspergers adults experience.
Below is a framework that helps explain Aspergers adults symptoms and signs. Framework for Aspergers Symptoms and Signs Based on Processing Differences Dr. Valerie Gaus, in her book, , outlines a framework to help us better understand why stress, anxiety, and depression build up for adults with Aspergers.
Dr. Gaus reviewed research literature that points out three core processing problems for adults with Aspergers: core problems processing a) information about others; b) information about self ; and c) nonsocial information. Each person is unique, so core problems may be more or less pronounced for each of these areas. Core problem processing information about others An Aspergers person struggles with .
Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states – beliefs, intents, desires, knowledge to oneself and others, and to understand that others have beliefs, intents, and intentions that are different from one’s own.
This means that people on the autism spectrum have difficulty formulating ideas about what other people are thinking and feeling. Additionally, an adult with Aspergers struggles with attending to and using social cues. More often than not, someone with Aspergers stuggles with understanding non-verbal expressions and what those expressions mean. Finally, even though his language seems fine on the surface, a person with Aspergers often has difficulty with –this has to do with understanding the communicative purpose of language, including non-literal meaning, as in metaphor, irony, and sarcasm.
Core problem processing information about self Not only is it difficult to make sense of information from others, but adults with Aspergers may struggle even understanding their own emotional states. Emotional self-perception and regulation, as per Dr.
Gaus, involves abilities to: • Recognize and interpret one’s own physiological and emotional state. • Be aware of one’s own emotional reactivity and variable arousal in response to sensory sensitivities or social overstimulation. • Attend to information in the social situation that is needed to solve problems. • Grade reactions to coincide with the expectations of the current social situation. • Use effective behavioral strategies that are socially acceptable to regulate experience. • Use cognitive strategies to anticipate and cope with dysregulating (upsetting, different, or unpredictable) events Difficulty reading one’s own emotions leads to meltdowns, for example, because a) the person is not aware of her own different emotions and levels of arousal in the present moment and b) sensory-motor perception and regulation difficulties can overwhelm one’s ability to separate emotion from senses.
Sensory-motor perception and regulation challenges can manifest for different autism spectrum adults in different sensing systems. Adults with autism spectrum may struggle with over or under sensitivity to touch, balance, movement, sight, hearing, taste, or smell.
Each person may be either over or under sensitive to these different areas. Someone with touch difficulties might avoid (or seek out) certain experiences, even to the point of ignoring health and safety.
If a person struggles with balance, she may have clumsiness, hyperactivity, or difficulty participating in game sports, thus reducing opportunities for positive social experiences. Challenges with movement can result in poor posture, uneven gait, clumsiness, fine motor (like holding a pencil or pen to write) or appearing odd to others in posture or gait. Visual challenges make it hard to look others in the eye, or to coördinate movement.
Auditory sensitivities can increase irritation at the sound of seemingly small noises, so that it’s hard to pay attention to conversation. Trouble with taste can lead to a very restricted and rigid diet, due to sensitivity to certain textures of foods. An Aspergers adult may have a hard time with certain smells, so that he may not want to wear deodorant, or may be turned off by a partner’s perfume.
Sensory-motor challenges can lead to stimming behaviors, such as , to cope with being “off-balance" in the world. Some Aspergers adults may have learned to “hide" these behaviors, but the movements may come out in moments of severe stress or intense emotion. Core Problem Processing Information in Nonsocial Domains Researchers have found that people on the autism spectrum, including adults with Aspergers, can struggle with flexibility, planning, organization, goal setting, and the use of working memory.
Central coherence refers to a typical person’s tendency to process pieces of information within a context to formulate the “big picture." Adults with autism and Aspergers tend to focus intently on different pieces, but may have difficulty fitting them into a whole. Putting It All Together Here are some challenges that arise out of the core problems with processing information about others and self.
Social Skill Deficits result from difficulty reading social situations and cues; understanding one’s own feeling states; and challenges with picking up social learning at different points of childhood. Sensory challenges and social blindness challenge adults with Asperger’s, because they often don’t know how to respond to others, nor do they know what’s expected of them. Odd mannerisms, difficulty understanding and expressing social language, and “rude" behavior [although never intentional, because they don’t know they’re being rude] can lead others to become frustrated and angry, leading to negative social consequences.
Imagine being ignored, bullied, and rejected, without ever knowing why! Yet it happens every day across the world. Executive functioning difficulties, combined with difficulty understanding oneself, can cause problems in self-management and activities of daily living. These can manifest as inefficient task management, procrastination, poor self-direction, and poor problem basic problem-solving.
The Aspergers adult may have a genius level IQ, yet still struggle with these different aspects of living. The daily living consequences and frequent daily hassles add up to a lot of stressful events. It all adds up over time. Social deficits lead to poor social support; and daily living stress translates to chronic stress.
Chronic stress coupled with low social support can easily add up to anxiety, panic, rage, and depression. The Good News All of these deficits are real. The stress is real. But people are resilient! I read about and meet person after person on the autism spectrum who amazes me with their humor, integrity, capacity for fun, intelligence, fascination with specific subjects, energy, creativity.
The list of positive character traits goes on and on. Also, more and more research is uncovering more and more knowledge and solutions for people on the autism spectrum. Also, society is becoming more aware of the complexity and diversity of people with Aspergers.
So much more is known now than was known ten, twenty, thirty years ago. We have a long, long way to go. But we are slowly getting there. I hope to get Dr. Gaus’ permission to reproduce her illustration from her book that puts all the above information in a flow chart form. But until then, I hope this article gives you a framework for better understanding some of the symptoms of Adult Aspergers.
What do you think? Is Dr. Gaus’ model helpful to you? Is there anything you’d like to add? Image credit: Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." Post navigation You see, I was diagnosed with AS a little over 7 years ago, when I was 38.
Needless to say, prior to that time I had experienced a lot of emotional damage (from bullying, social rejection, and frequent criticism) and had learned to just withdraw into myself.
(I could tell you my story, which also had a couple of elements which I consider providential, but that can wait for another time, if you're interested). -Anonymous Hi Steve, I really enjoy your podcasts. I just found out at age 63 that I have Aspergers. A few months ago, I didn't even know what this was. But all this new knowledge is starting to make some sense out of my life. Thank you for your good work and for sharing this information with all of us.
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