Do I have Asperger's Syndrome?

Originally Published: April 30, 2010 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 31, 2012
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(1)

Dear Alice,

Do I really have Aperger's Syndrome? The other day, one of my friends sugested that I was showing some autistic signs, which made me quite worried. I thought something may have been wrong with me. Since then I've taken several AQ tests on the internet and most of them say I may be an "Aspie." I'm too frightened to tell my peers because they'll most like treat me differently, and I'm to embarassed to tell my close family. What should I do to me certain whether or or not I have Asperger's Syndrome?

(2)

Dear Alice,

I just turned 18, and I'm a girl. I've been diagnosed with Asperger's "traits" by my psychiatrist in the past (I was also diagnosed with ADHD Inattentive Type), but since I've started working at a school for kids with Spectrum disorders, I've started to realize how similar some of my behaviors and reactions to them. For instance, I don't recognize facial expressions, unless they're extreme, I love sensory things- like rolling one o those squishy toys with the rubber tentacles between my hands- and I love applying pressure to myself- like applying pressure to my temples or sinuses when I get a headache or massaging my own hands or feet. I also have actions that calm me, like playing with bumps in my hair caused by my ponytail and biting my nails. I have certain actions that make me want to scream, like when my brother (who was diagnosed with Aspergers) pops his knuckles or taps his fingernails on the tabletop. I'm not overly sensitive to sound, but I hate bright lights and strong smells. I also hate new social settings. Meeting new people freaks me out, and I have a VERY hard time making conversation, even with people I'm very familiar with. I daydream a lot, tend to get songs and rhythms stuck my head for days, and when I'm interested in something, I'm obsessed. I've been obsessed with King Arthur and the knights of the round table for years, and I'd love to tell everyone about thm, but i keep my mouth shut because I know that most people don't like that kind of thing. Is it possible that I have Asperger's, or am I simply just showing some traits?

Dear Readers,

Before getting into the specifics of diagnosing Asperger's, there's another important "condition" to be aware of. It's called Intern's Disease, a condition that many medical and psychology students "come down with" as they study various disorders. The gist of it is that, as a person learns about signs, symptoms, and syndromes it is very common to begin diagnosing oneself with conditions that aren't actually present. Before jumping to conclusions about having Asperger's Syndrome, you may wish to consider other possible conditions, including "Intern's Disease."

Perhaps throughout the course of your research, you have come across the term "autistic spectrum" or AS. Diagnostic labels can sometimes be misleading in that they imply that either you have a certain condition, or you don't. Sometimes, a spectrum viewpoint can be more accurate. Asperger's is thought to be on the mild end of autistic spectrum, similar to high-functioning autism. Some signs of Asperger's can include:

  • A lack of empathy for others
  • Trouble with nonverbal communication (eye contact, body language)
  • Clumsy movements, trouble with visual-motor skills
  • Difficulty forming friendships, one-sided social interactions, social isolation
  • Intense, repetitive, interest in particular topics such as TV shows, weather, small details, or parts of objects

No one knows the exact causes of Asperger's, but genetic factors seem to play a role. Signs typically emerge in childhood. Even if you are hesitant to tell your close family about your concern, perhaps you can ask them about patterns in your childhood. Did you have trouble making friends? Did the adults in your life have any concerns about your emotional or social development? If so, why? Did they ever consult any therapists or physicians about such concerns?

Asperger's can be difficult to diagnose. The difficulty in diagnosis relates primarily again to this notion of a spectrum. While some cases of autism or Asperger's may be clear cut, for others, it can be hard to tell where to draw the line between "normal" and "abnormal" personality quirks. It may be helpful to ask yourself if your daily functioning at work, school, or in social situations seems to be impaired. There is no cure for autism-like conditions, but there are treatments that can help build social skills. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the name given to a series of techniques that can help curb some of the difficult or stressful tendencies that can come along with autism or Asperger's. Seeing a health care provider or counselor may be helpful if there are aspects of yourself that you wish to change or areas in which you'd like to grow. Students at Columbia can make an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services if they have concerns about Asperger's or any other issues by calling x4-2878. Try not to let the Asperger label overwhelm you, whether or not it actually applies. For more information, check out the Asperger Foundation or the Online Asperger Support Center.

Take care,

Alice