Can Someone Have Both Asperger’s And Depression?
By Sarah Fader
Updated January 02, 2019
For reasons that many either do not understand, or otherwise disagree, Asperger's syndrome was removed as a separate disorder from the DSM-V-TR and included with the cluster of autism spectrum disorders (Ohan, Ellefson, & Corrigan, 2015). Individuals with Asperger's are typically higher functioning than those with autism, many having attributes of genius and giftedness. High functioning in reference to Asperger's is a misunderstood concept (Doobay, Foley-nicpon, Ali, & Assouline, 2014), as it is not entirely referencing cognitive functioning.
The cognitive abilities, the intellect of most persons with Asperger's is significantly higher than other individuals (Amend, Schuler, Beaver-Gavin, & Beights, 2009); it is the social functioning that creates the discrepancy leaving many with Asperger's not receiving proper education in public schools, and many never making it to post-secondary education as a result (Doobay et al., 2014). Those with severe autism are trapped in their own worlds and do not interface with society ("Interacting With Autism," n.d.); however, those with Asperger's do have an awareness, a heightened awareness of the social world, and also of their inability to connect (Mazzone, Ruta, & Reale, 2012). This awareness may cause depression due to feelings of isolation, being misunderstood, and also underestimated.
We Want to Be Alone
Many extremely intelligent people throughout history are thought to have had Asperger's syndrome, and these people were more often than not loners, rejects from society, happiest when allowed the solitude necessary to create (Happé & Frith, 2009). Society often does not understand those who do not care to be a part of it, but rather apart from it.
Perhaps it is the pressure to conform to society that causes the depression in those with Asperger's; or perhaps it is the feeling of despair when society does not accept the need for solitude. Not all with Asperger's are born into an environment or to a family that can recognize and nurture the natural gifts and talents innate to the person with Asperger's. When the drive to create is stymied, the gifted become morose, depressed, and even angry (De-la-Iglesia, Olivar, & -Sixto, 2015).
It is critical that parents and teachers strive to meet the needs of children who are considered high functioning autistics, who may actually be what was diagnosable as Asperger's syndrome. When a child is fixated on order, shapes, sequences, and how things interconnect, he or she is providing clues to an innate gift. Instead of redirecting the focus, engage, nurture, and provide for it (Ronksley-Pavia, 2015).
To deny the child with Asperger's the opportunity and room to create is to deny Mozart his piano, or Einstein his chalkboard. Here genius is displayed. Remove the opportunity, deny the room, and the child with Asperger's will become agitated, and even enraged. This has often been confused with behavioral disorders, or psychopathy, and in past history led to institutionalization (Happé & Frith, 2009). The acting out is a symptom of depression, yet has not until recent years been associated with it.
To Be Misunderstood…
Unfortunately, more often than not, tests using scales of measurement are used to diagnose depression. Individuals with Asperger's may lack the ability to take the test for their world is different from that of others, as they lack the experiences to compare their current state (Mazzone et al., 2012). Those considered high-functioning Asperger's recognize they are unhappy, yet cannot define happy, and can often express in their terms the reasoning behind this unhappiness. However, parents, teachers, and caregivers do not "speak" or comprehend the language of Asperger's and are therefore incapable of meeting the requested need.
The misunderstood genius is an archetypal theme, universal to life and literature. Emerson said, "Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."
Many who are now in our present days recognized as such, were not during their lifetimes, and were ostracized, isolated, and some even driven to suicide (Shumaker, 2013). Those considered high-functioning Asperger's can often fake it in society, but are miserable in the company of others. They are only content when their minds are active, when they are creating.
Living with someone with Asperger's syndrome can be very rewarding, but also very draining, both emotionally and physically. Often-times "lesser" mortals, parents and siblings become frustrated, and may experience guilt over these feelings. It is important to take a break from time to time, to find an outlet for frustrations so they do not spill over into the family dynamic, or become directed in a negative manner toward the individual with Asperger's. There are support groups, message boards, and other outlets available. Seeking guidance and support from a licensed therapist who has knowledge of autism spectrum disorders and Asperger's may prove beneficial to individuals or family members of the person with Asperger's.
For more information about Asperger's syndrome and how working with an online therapist can help you and the ones you love better understand and appreciate your loved one with Asperger's, visit Bettehelp.com.
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De-la-Iglesia, M., Olivar, J., & -Sixto. (2015). Risk Factors for Depression in Children and Adolescents with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Scientific World Journal, 2015, e127853. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/127853
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Emerson, R. W. (n.d). Self-Reliance.
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Ronksley-Pavia, M. (2015, September). A Model of Twice-Exceptionality: Explaining and Defining the Apparent Paradoxical Combination of Disability and Giftedness in Childhood. Journal for the Education of the Gifted; Thousand Oaks, 38(3), 318-340.
Shumaker, D. (2013, April 16). 11 Famous People With Autism. Retrieved May 4, 2017, from https://www.babble.com/entertainment/famous-people-with-autism-2/