Adults with Asperger’s Disorder

In What is Asperger’s Disorder? we looked at an overview of this condition which forms one of the autistic spectrum disorders, a developmental disorder that influences how the brain processes information, particularly in the area of social cues.

Much of the available literature on Asperger’s deals with the diagnosis and treatment of children with the disorder. Similar material can often be difficult to find on adult sufferers. This is largely due to the fact that the DSM-IV criteria for the diagnosis of Asperger’s is of relatively recent origin. The disorder was only distinguished as a condition in its own right during the 1990s, although it was first reported by the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger as far back as 1944.

Asperger initially labeled the disorder as “autistic psychopathy.” The term “autism” referred to “self” and “psychopathy” referred to “personality disease.” Ironically, Hans Asperger himself displayed many of the characteristic behavior patterns of the condition, which includes poor ability to form meaningful friendships, lack of empathy, clumsy movements, and intense absorption in particular special interests. The condition was only separately classified from autism and labeled Asperger’s Disorder after Hans Asperger’s death. The disorder is named in his honor.

More males than females experience Asperger’s and there exists a range of symptoms which vary in intensity from individual to individual. Typical adult characteristics include:

  • Specialized fields of interest or hobbies, often involving numbers, patterns, or rigid rules
  • Average to above average intelligence
  • Problems in empathizing with others or understanding why others are upset/angry/sad
  • Inability to comfort others due to the above lack of empathy
  • Problems in seeing another’s point of view
  • Problems with abstract concepts. The typical Asperger takes most conversations literally and does not understand more intellectualized forms of humor, such as puns
  • Difficulty in maintaining “normal” conversations
  • Difficulty in making and keeping long term-friendship
  • Difficulty in dealing with interpersonal intimacy issues. The average divorce rate for a marriage involving one partner with Asperger’s in around 80%
  • Inability to maintain “normal” social conduct; sufferer will often make social faux pas of which they are completely unaware

In the next blog, we will look at skills in coping with a person with Asperger’s Disorder.

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