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Signs of Asperger’s Syndrome

Signs of Asperger’s

Detecting the signs of Asperger’s syndrome begins by developing an enhanced understanding of the condition.  By definition, Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism - typically considered a higher-functioning form of the disorder, where those affected often have a high level of intelligence and highly-developed communication skills.

In 2015, it was estimated that as many as 37.2 million people worldwide were affected by Asperger’s syndrome.  However, Asperger’s was not formally recognized and classified within the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until as recently as 2013.

Research suggests that men are more likely to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome than women, though the signs of Asperger’s syndrome in women are typically identified and diagnosed at a later stage than with men.

Sign of Aspergers

What is High Functioning Asperger's?

High-functioning Asperger's is not a formally a recognised disorder or diagnosis. Asperger’s syndrome has traditionally been recognised as a “high-functioning” or “mild” form of autism, meaning that all cases of Asperger’s are effectively “high-functioning” with regard to the capacity of those affected to function in their everyday lives.

When a reference is made to high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome, therefore, it is technically incorrect. The term is often used in reference to individuals with Asperger’s syndrome who demonstrate comparatively mild symptoms, though it is not a formally recognized medical term or diagnosis.

10 Signs of Asperger’s in Adults

Identifying the signs of Asperger's in adults can be difficult for a variety of reasons.  In many instances, adults living with Asperger's may have learned to effectively hide their difficulties, making it almost impossible for others to pick up on them.

In most instances, only the individual in question is able to identify their problem habits, behaviours and the issues affecting their lives, in order for an Asperger's syndrome diagnosis to be made.

10 signs of Asperger's in adults that are common in most instances are as follows:

  1. A lack of flexibility and fear of change
  2. Difficulties displaying or dealing with emotions
  3. Awkwardness and confusion in social situations
  4. A lack of empathy with how others are feeling
  5. Not understanding how to be candid or lie politely
  6. Being overtly interested in or obsessed with one specific topic
  7. An obsession with structure and organization
  8. Exaggerated or uncontrollable emotional responses
  9. Repetitive behaviours or motor coordination issues
  10. Strong preference to avoid social situations

What’s important to remember is that in none of these instances does a sign or symptom of Asperger's (or any combination thereof) form the basis for a formal diagnosis. 

However, anyone who has concerns regarding any of the above or any aspect of their wellbeing in general should speak to a suitably qualified professional at the earliest possible stage.

Asperger’s Symptoms in Adults Checklist

Creating a formal ‘checklist’ for the symptoms of Asperger's in adults is difficult, as no two cases are ever identical.  Nevertheless, the vast majority of signs and symptoms fall within three major categories of Asperger's symptoms, as outlined in brief below:

1. Emotional and Behavioural Symptoms

  • The inability to understand or empathize with the emotions of others
  • Predominant or exclusive focus on your own feelings and emotions
  • Repetitive behaviours, as often associated with an OCD
  • Hypersensitivity - being oversensitive to everyday stimuli
  • Hyposensitivity - being under-sensitive to everyday stimuli
  • Engaging in behaviours compulsively without mindful intent
  • Difficulties understanding emotions like grief, embarrassment or regret

2. Communication Symptoms

  • Finding it difficult or impossible to take part in lengthy conversations
  • The inability to make polite small talk with other people
  • Problems associated with body language such as maintaining eye contact
  • Inappropriate use of tone or inflection when conversing with others
  • The inability to read the body language or verbal cues of others
  • Robotic or repetitive speech with minimal variation of vocabulary
  • Fear or anxiety when faced with the prospect of conversation

Other Symptoms

  • Some adults with Asperger's experience coordination difficulties and may come across as clumsy or absentminded
  • The symptoms of Asperger's can often be confused with those of obsessive compulsive disorder, when those affected develop an unusual or obsessive fixation with certain objects, habits or behaviours
  • An outright reluctance to socialise or make any effort to maintain friendships can also be a sign of the difficulties associated with Asperger's syndrome

Positive Symptoms of Asperger’s

When discussing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it is not uncommon to hear references to the ‘positive’ symptoms of Asperger's syndrome.  This is where a high-functioning individual may have a remarkable talent in one or more areas, such as exceptional attention to detail, adeptness in problem-solving or the ability to master a specific skill at an accelerated pace.

For example, it is not uncommon for individuals with Asperger's to excel in academic pursuits or play musical instruments at a professional level.

Signs of Asperger’s in Adults: Detection and Diagnosis

As previously mentioned, the fact that the signs of Asperger's in adults differ from one case to the next can make a formal diagnosis difficult to reach.

There is currently no formal test or diagnostic procedure that can reach a formal Asperger's diagnosis, based on any specific set of signs and symptoms.

Instead, it is a case of discussing any symptoms or concerns you have with your healthcare provider, who may refer your case on to a psychiatrist, psychologist or suitably qualified professional.  Any course of action deemed appropriate in accordance with your case will be based on considerations such as:

  • Information and observations about your social life- how you interact with others and the quality of your social relationships in general.
  • Any physical issues affecting your wellbeing- the symptoms you are experiencing may take a toll on your general health, which will be assessed.
  • Association with other health issues - many of the signs and symptoms of Asperger's may be indicative of other underlying conditions.
  • Your psychological health - your doctor will want to establish whether you are suffering from depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD or any other common psychological health issue.

Asperger’s in Adults: Treatment

As the root cause of ASD is unknown, there is still no outright cure for Asperger's in adults.  However, there are various approaches to the treatment and management of Asperger's that can help those affected cope and improve their wellbeing.

The most common examples of which include the following:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy. This a form of counselling that seeks to help patients deal with the social and emotional issues that may be affecting their lives, such as anxiety or social phobia.
  • Speech therapy. Working with a speech therapist can be useful for improving spoken language and general communication skills.
  • Occupational therapy. Most adults with Asperger's are able to gain and maintain employment, though others may benefit from targeted coaching and support.
  • Medications. In comparatively rare instances, medication may be prescribed to help Asperger's patients cope with particularly severe or debilitating symptoms.

Why is Asperger’s in Women Less Common?

This is another question for which there is currently no accurate explanation.  Both in childhood and adulthood, males are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with autism or Asperger's than women.

However, this does not necessarily confirm that Asperger's in women is rarer than Asperger's in men.  Many researchers believe it could simply be that Asperger's in women symptoms are either less pronounced than those of men with Asperger's, or that women are naturally better at hiding certain symptoms of Asperger's than men.

This could explain why cases of Asperger's in women are typically identified at a much later stage in life than with men, though again this is a subject of considerable debate.

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