Do I Have Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger syndrome no longer exists -- but you may have the symptoms!

adult child
adult child. adult child

Do I have Asperger syndrome? Does my husband, wife, co-worker, son, nephew, or professor? The more we read about Asperger syndrome, the more we seem to see it everywhere!

Why You Can No Longer Be Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (It's Now Part of Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Oddly enough, given the fact that Asperger syndrome seems to be on the rise, it is now actually impossible to be officially diagnosed with the disorder.

That's because, as of May 2013, the diagnosis disappeared from the official diagnostic manual (the DSM-5).

If you really do have all the symptoms of the disorder once called Asperger syndrome, and you go to a practitioner and receive a diagnosis, your official diagnosis will be Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) includes everyone with any level of autism, which means you can be very severely disabled or quite high functioning; if you are a person who would have received an Asperger syndrome diagnosis in the past, you are almost certainly diagnosable as "Level 1" on the autism spectrum (meaning in need of relatively little support). If you are a person who already HAD an Asperger syndrome diagnosis, your diagnosis is automatically switched to ASD.

So what is Asperger syndrome, and why has it been banished from the diagnostic books?

Asperger syndrome, named after its discoverer Hans Asperger, is a disorder whose symptoms include social difficulties and delays, sensory challenges, difficulties with verbal and/or non-verbal communication, and, often, learning disabilities.

  During the 1990's, Asperger syndrome was famously dubbed "The Geek Syndrome" and "The Little Professor Syndrome" because people with AS tend to be intelligent, articulate, and socially clueless.

The disorder was discontinued because it was so difficult for practitioners to tell the difference between Aspergers and...

  • high functioning autism spectrum disorder
  • social anxiety disorder
  • non-verbal communication disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • garden variety geekiness and social anxiety

Do I Have Aspergers If I'm Intelligent, Articulate, and Socially Clueless?

Of course, plenty of people have many of the same qualities and are NOT diagnosable on the autism spectrum. The difference really lies in the degree to which those delays, disorders, and difficulties impede your ability to live a normal life. If you have many of the qualities that define a person with Asperger syndrome, but none of those qualities are disabling, you probably would not be diagnosed with ASD. 

Many people also have just one or two of the symptoms of autism or have related symptoms. Sometimes those symptoms are disabling -- but they do not constitute autism.  They may, however, be part of a constellation of symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis of another disorder such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, or Social Communication Disorder.

How to Seek Out an Autism (Aspergers) Diagnosis

If you're curious about how to seek out a diagnosis as an adult, you may want to consult a psychiatrist or psychologist who has experience in that area (start by reading Diagnosing Adults with Asperger Syndrome).  

If you're impatient to find out more right now, though, there are some great resources available. One of the best is a terrific online quiz, created by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues at Cambridge's Autism Research Centre. This Autism-Spectrum Quotient quiz isn't a diagnostic tool per se - but if you find you score especially high, it may be a reason to look deeper into your concerns about AS. You can also dig deeper into the topic of AS on this site:

Bear in mind, however, that receiving a diagnosis of ASD, while it may explain a lot about your life, will not change anything. There is no cure for ASD, and while there are some therapies that may help you manage certain issues (such as cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, or social skills practice), those therapies are available with or without a diagnosis. The decision is yours!

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