Answers To Your Top Questions About Aspergers In Adults
Updated November 19, 2019
Reviewer Emily Genever
While those with moderate to severe autism may be easy to diagnose, it has only been in recent years that the spectrum has been developed and individuals with less severe symptoms have been diagnosed. Individuals who have high-functioning autism, also referred to as Asperger's may have eluded diagnosis as their symptoms may have come across as simply poor social development rather than pointing to an underlying developmental disorder. If you are just learning about Asperger's and believe that you have it or someone in your family may have it, you may have a lot of questions about the disorder.
What Is Asperger's?
Do you feel like you make a lot of social gaffs or often feel out of place around others? Many Asperger's adults report feelings of loneliness, being misunderstood, or just being different from others. We can all feel a bit of social anxiety at times, but Asperger syndrome in adults is something more than a normal case of uncertainty about oneself.
If you are an adult with Asperger's, your symptoms are likely different from the symptoms of a child with Asperger syndrome because you have new life circumstances to cope with. Thus, the symptoms manifest in different ways as you attempt to cope with the situation you are in. Adults with Asperger's may have been diagnosed as children and are learning to cope with their new life circumstances. On the other hand, they may never have been diagnosed and are now wondering about the symptoms of Asperger's in adults.
Is It Normal to Have Asperger's As an Adult?
Like many other developmental disorders, Asperger's does not go away with age. In fact, you are not alone. Approximately 3.5 million Americans live on the spectrum and there are plenty who manage their symptoms to lead a better quality of life. While your symptoms will be there as you navigate life, they do not have to take the wheel.
It is not uncommon to be diagnosed with Asperger's as an adult and you may find yourself in this exact situation. Whether you are just learning about your disorder or trying to learn how to cope better, this article will answer your questions so you can get a clearer idea of what Asperger's in adults looks like. Let's dive into some of the most commonly asked questions in regards to adult Asperger's.
Is Asperger Syndrome Autism?
Autism is a spectrum disorder. It can exist in very subtle manifestations or it can be more obvious with symptoms that are easy to detect. Asperger's and autism share similar symptoms with varying degrees. Although Asperger's used to be considered a separate diagnosis, it is now considered a part of the autism spectrum, on the high functioning end. In fact, Asperger's is not the only subtype of autism that used to have a separate diagnosis. Because differences can be so subtle, medical professionals have found it more useful for patients to consider all these similar diagnoses to be a part of autism spectrum disorder.
Individuals with more pronounced autism may have language or cognitive difficulties, but people with Asperger's tend to have a good grasp of language and cognitive skills. Where they fall behind is in social skills. There are many nonverbal social cues and social etiquettes that adults with Asperger's may simply miss or not understand. Rest assured that if you do have Asperger's, you can learn to catch up on these skills. However, you may have to actively learn social skills that others seem to pick up naturally and easily.
Even though Asperger's is now officially part of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, that doesn't mean it still isn't helpful to distinguish it from other parts of the spectrum. When you receive a professional diagnosis, it is likely that your healthcare professional will also diagnose any particular subtype of the autism spectrum that you fall on. This allows you and your healthcare provider to specify the particular symptoms you have and to come up with a personalized treatment plan.
How Can You Recognize Adult Asperger's?
For those who were diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome as children, navigating adulthood with the disorder can often be easier. That's because early diagnosis allows children to receive treatment and guidance that help them to develop better social strategies. Symptoms may become less noticeable over time for these individuals.
If you have never been diagnosed, however, and are now seeking a diagnosis as an adult, you may still be struggling with issues related to your social behaviors. These struggles can make it difficult for you to excel at work or to have healthy relationships. The first step in improving problem situations is to recognize the symptoms of adult Asperger's.
Asperger's in Adults Symptoms Checklist
How do you know if your social problems stem from undiagnosed Asperger syndrome? The following symptoms are potential signs of Asperger's. Keep in mind that if you only have one or two of these signs, then it is likely that you are not on the autism spectrum. When multiple symptoms are present, it is more likely that an Asperger's diagnosis is warranted.
- Long-term difficulties with social skills
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Inability to decipher the meanings of facial expressions
- Awkward gestures or body postures during conversation
- Difficulty engaging in non-specific conversations and casual banter
- Difficulty understanding others' points of view or empathizing with their feelings
- Functioning well within a routine but becoming stressed when routines are changed
- Intense interest in a specific hobby
- Perfectionism, expecting things to be just the way you want them
- Engaging in long, one-sided conversations without noticing whether the other participant is interested
- Being perceived as self-absorbed or egocentric
- Taking word meanings literally and having difficulty understanding language nuances or humor
- Being prone to outbursts or zoning out
If you've read through the Asperger's symptoms in adults checklist and find that the signs of Asperger's sound familiar to your life, getting a professional diagnosis can help you put your mind at ease and give you access to coping techniques.
What Areas of Life May Be Affected?
Asperger syndrome in adults is marked by the impairment of social skills. Because social skills pervade nearly all aspects of our lives as humans, that means Asperger's can affect many different areas of your life. Let's make it clear, though, that a diagnosis of Asperger's does not prevent you from leading a life filled with enjoyment and happiness. It can, however, mean that you will face different sets of challenges from others.
It's hard to get away from interacting with people no matter what kind of work you do. That said, certain jobs may be better suited to your particular set of symptoms. If you really depend upon routines in order to prevent stress and outbursts or to remain productive and focused, then you may want to seek a position that is heavily routine-driven and one where you are expected to perform the same kinds of tasks each day. Jobs that allow you to focus closely on details may also be a good fit.
Considering the work environment can also be important, especially if you have sensory symptoms. For instance, workplaces with a lot of loud noise may be difficult to tolerate if you are sensitive to sensory input. In some cases, depending upon your tasks, you may be able to compensate for environmental issues by bringing headphones to work and listening to music or otherwise drowning out the distracting noise. Regardless of whether you have adult Asperger's or not, everyone performs best when their job fits their particular strengths. If a job isn't a good fit, it doesn't make you a failure. You just need to look to your strengths in making career decisions.
Relationships come in many forms. They can be relationships with friends, co-workers, family members, and romantic partners. Communication is vital to healthy relationships, and this is where difficulties can arise for an adult with Asperger's. If you communicate differently, misunderstandings can occur. Your disinterest in casual conversation may translate to the other person as a disinterest in them, and when you share at length about one of your topics of interest, they may find it hard to relate.
You may find that others are confused or put off by your dependency upon routines. If you find this to be an issue, remember that everyone's tolerances are different. Being open with friends and intimate partners about why your routine is important to you can help them be more tolerant and mindful of your needs. As with career choices, relationship choices also may have a better chance at success if you surround yourself with people you fit with more easily. This does not have to mean you only form friendships with people who have similar traits to yourself. However, it does mean that both members of the relationship should be able to tolerate and respect each other and genuinely enjoy spending time together.
Physical and emotional intimacy can also be hurdles for Asperger's adults. Sexual encounters are very much social encounters, and they may involve some of the same apprehension and uncertainty as other social interactions. Both partners will need to practice patience and understanding. If your symptoms make you less driven to engage in physical intimacy, it's important to discuss this with your partner in order to avoid hurt feelings or imbalanced expectations.
Parenting can be an especially difficult challenge for Asperger's adults. As a parent with Asperger's, you may at times find it even more difficult to relate to your child and what they are feeling. This can potentially cause the child to think you don't care about them. While you may know that this is not the case, you may be at a loss for how to express what you feel for your child. The best thing you can do is to be open with your child about what it means for you to have Asperger syndrome in a way that is age-appropriate for them.
If stress from a child breaking a routine or not doing things in the way you expect them to causes you to get angry, your child may become fearful of you. This can put a serious strain on your relationship and the development of your child. Seeking therapy for ways to cope with stress and anger can help you improve your parent-child relationship.
Is There a Treatment for High-Functioning Asperger's Symptoms?
Talking to a professional about Asperger's is not just about diagnosis. Treatment is available to make life with Asperger's easier and more enjoyable. Of course, Asperger's syndrome is not a disorder that causes you physical harm, and if you are already happy with your life, there is not a specific reason that you would need to seek treatment as an adult. Treatment is completely optional and up to you. (It's not a cure.) However, working with a mental health professional can help you to grow your understanding of yourself and your life goals. This is quite similar to the kind of quality of life therapy that anyone else would receive, only tailored to your unique concerns instead.
You may also want to consider family or couples therapy if your symptoms are affecting the relationships in your life. Therapy is useful for couples, siblings, or parents and children. Another treatment you may want to ask about is sensory integration therapy. This can help if you find yourself having difficulties at work or in public places because of bright lights, loud noises, or certain textures. Support groups and learning more about Asperger's are also wonderful ways to help yourself.
What Do I Do If I Suspect Someone I Know Has Asperger's?
Because adults with Asperger's may never have been diagnosed, they may not realize that their difficulties stem from this issue. If you suspect someone you know has Asperger's you should approach the subject carefully and respectfully. The possibility of Asperger's should not be used as an accusation but as a productive conversation to help both of you with your relationship - whether that is as coworkers, friends, or family members.
It is certainly a good idea to voice your suspicions about Asperger's to someone you care about. This can help them determine whether adult Asperger's actually is the issue or if they have some other difficulties they need help with. That said, you should be prepared for any number of reactions from the person you approach. Some people don't care to be labeled or diagnosed. If this is the case, you will ultimately need to respect their wishes regarding the matter. They may even become angry at the suggestion or tell you that you are the one with the issue. On the other hand, some may be relieved to finally have a name for their feeling of being different.
When initially approaching the person, you can let them know that being aware of Asperger's may help them to minimize its negative effects on their life and utilize the positive aspects to their advantage. It's a good idea to point out their strengths first so they don't feel like you are attacking them or berating them with this potential mental health disorder. However, you should make sure to point out that you notice them struggling and that you want to be there for them. Then, let them know that the issues they struggle with may be related to Asperger syndrome. By waiting to use the official term until the end of the conversation, you allow them to think about the characteristics you pointed out (both positive and negative) without being biased toward the label.
What Should I Do If I Think I Have Asperger's?
Learning that you may have Asperger's can be a major revelation in your life that can take some time to process and deal with. Once you feel like you're ready to move forward, here are some things that you can do to make sure that you are properly diagnosed and given the right resources.
Take Some Time to Learn More About Asperger's
If you think that you could be on the spectrum, it is important to learn more about what Asperger's is before you make any personal conclusions. Take time to seek out resources, evaluate the symptoms, and see whether or not anything resonates with you. Keep in mind, however, that you may not see everything in yourself that people outside of you would. A professional opinion helps to identify all possible behaviors.
Determine Where You Are Having Trouble in Your Life
Asperger's may impact you differently than someone else with the disorder and this has an impact on certain areas of your life. Part of coping with your symptoms means learning how to work with them in any situation you may find yourself in. You can learn quite a few coping mechanisms on your own but counseling will give you access to professional resources and advice.
Seek Professional Guidance
Whether you notice Asperger's symptoms in yourself or someone you care about, know that there are always resources out there that can help you deal with your disorder and find hope in areas where you may feel frustrated. If you feel like you can relate to the description above and want to change your life by getting diagnosed or finding a professional who can help you, visit BetterHelp.
BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that helps you connect with certified therapists quickly and easily. Rather than having to go through the process of trying to find a counselor in your area with experience treating Asperger's, you can just go online and connect with your therapist on a schedule that works best for you. If you're curious, take a look at a few counselor reviews below, from people experiencing different life challenges.
"Tamera is straightforward and supportive. She's not afraid of pointing out what to work on and give you the right tools immediately. It is highly personalized just for your unique symptoms and situation! Tamera helped me manage my depression and anxiety and I became more empowered to have more control in my life. I feel a lot happier."
"Stephanie immediately diagnosed what was going on with me. She quickly found ways to manage it and make me feel positive that everything was going to be ok. I extremely recommend her."
While having Asperger's may come with some undesirable symptoms, the right diagnosis and treatment can help you lead the life you want. We hope this guide gave you a good starting place to learn more about what Asperger's is and how to live with it. If you need it, help is there. With the right tools, you can continue your journey of strengthening your mental health - take the first step today.