The Importance of Identifying Asperger’s Syndrome / High Functioning Autism in Adults

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“Growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome can be traumatic for many individuals.”

Many adults with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome are usually keenly aware that they do not ‘fit in’, yet are unable to either express or understand exactly what it is that makes them feel differently to others.

For this reason many undiagnosed adults develop negative perceptions of themselves as “weird”, “crazy,” or “broken.”

Despite these negative self-images, many undiagnosed adults are able to hide their difficulties by developing coping mechanisms, such as mirroring or mimicking those around them in social settings.

They are therefore seen as being able to engage in the everyday routines of life such as working, having relationships, getting married and having children.

Yet though they have the ability to apply such coping mechanisms, many individuals with undiagnosed AS, are never able to shake off the underlying awareness of themselves as inherently ‘different’ to those around them.

Ironically, the very skill sets that adults with undiagnosed moderate to mild Asperger’s apply, in order to try and ‘fit in,’ have meant that they have flown “under the diagnostic radar”.

Other individuals with undiagnosed AS, who have not learnt such skill sets, may show greater signs of having social communication difficulties.

This can make them more susceptible to situations such as chronic unemployment and social isolation due to the fact that they may be mistakenly perceived as people who are deliberately anti-social, argumentative, objectionable or aloof loners who crave only their own company.

In reality, these people may be individuals who are displaying the lack of social skills required to communicate and act appropriately, that make up the characteristics or traits commonly described in Asperger’s Syndrome.

It is now well established that individual with AS may display varying degrees of some or all of the following characteristics:

A lack of social skills which manifest in inappropriate social approaches, responses or social awkwardness.

Difficulty recognizing the facial expressions or emotions of others.

Difficulties in considering or understanding others’ viewpoints.

Limited interest in friendships


Difficulties with being able to communicate their ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Difficulties in comprehending and following social reasoning and adhering to the status quo.

Difficulty with transitions and changes.

Hold a strong need for routines.

Narrow range of interests or idiosyncratic special interests.

Be overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells and sights.

Have motor coordination difficulties.

Experience difficulty managing their own negative feelings, especially anxiety, anger and depression

Adults with undiagnosed AS are susceptible to experiencing high degrees of stress, frustration, confusion and anxiety due to their awareness that they do not ]fit in’.

These additional difficulties have often been misinterpreted, misdiagnosed, misunderstood and mistreated, especially when their underlying AS is undiagnosed or not adequately understood.

Some of the most common additional difficulties include:

Angry outbursts (physical or verbal aggression, verbally threatening behavior)

Agitation and restlessness

Increase in obsessive or repetitive activities, thoughts, or speech

Low mood or depression

Apathy and inactivity

Unfortunately many professionals who are unfamiliar with AS often only focus on the surface symptoms and behaviors that an individual with undiagnosed AS may display.

This leaves individuals with undiagnosed AS at risk of being incorrectly diagnosed with conditions such as:

Personality Disorders

Psychosis

Bipolar Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Mood disorder

It is therefore essential, that in order to prevent individuals with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome from being incorrectly diagnosed with conditions, treatment plans and medications that will not help them, that a thorough Autism assessment must be applied to adults who fall within this criteria.

A proper diagnosis of AS can better help adults put their difficulties into perspective and enable them to understand the underlying reasons for their lifelong struggles.

Correct diagnosis and effective treatment can help improve self-esteem, work performance and skills, educational attainment and social competencies.

More importantly a correct diagnosis can trigger both a journey of self-discovery and a healing process for the individuals concerned. 

 

The hidden wave of women with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.

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If you’re a woman who feels that you don’t ‘fit in’ with those around you….

Or that you have always been, somehow, just that little bit different to everybody else…

Or that you never seem to see things the way others do….

Never seem to find the right words…

Or know instinctively the right social cues to follow at any given time….

Or you’re a shy, introvert who loves her family and seeks little experience from the outside world…

Or even if you simply feel, as if you are an actress, caught somehow on the outside of your own life….

Always looking in, but rarely truly, outwardly taking part……

Then chances are you’re not likely to admit it out loud to anyone, for fear of being thought of as strange, depressive or delusional.

As women, we’re encouraged not to express our discontentment at the world.

That to do so would mark us out as maladaptive in some spectacularly, psychologically, disturbing way.

We’ve been told for so long that we’re not allowed to admit to feeling socially awkward, shy or simply genuinely disinterested in the pantomime of other people’s lives as they go on all around us, that in order to cope some of us have chosen instead to pretend.

To mimic that which we’re told we should say, be and do.

Which is fine for a while…… but only a while….

Eventually, those of us who genuinely feel as if we don’t ‘fit in’ or that we are ‘different’ in some unknown way to everybody else, will head off in search of answers.

For an increasing number of women, those answers are being found within the growing body of knowledge surrounding the way in which Asperger’s Syndrome presents in women and girls.

More and more women are, if not self-identifying with Asperger’s, then at the very least beginning to question whether or not their quirks and unconventional character traits, (which in the past would never have been spoken of and hidden away), are consistent with the presentation of Asperger’s Syndrome in women.

Yet even throughout this process of questioning the self, which for many can become an outright mission to find the answers that have eluded them, women who  suspect that they may be Aspies, are still experiencing a severe lack of understanding and acceptance from those who are the professionals in the field.

Women in their waves, are now crashing up against the harshness of psychologists, whose glory days are so far away from the realities of the here and now, that they are unable to turn their gaze away from the hazy thinking of the past, long enough to truly listen and engage with what it is that the women of today have to say.

Let alone even begin to understand why they are saying it.

As a consequence of this, many women are either being turned away and denied a diagnosis or worse still, being misdiagnosed with some errant version of a personality disorder, by those who should know better, yet still remain unable to refrain from placing the blame of every woman’s “affliction” on some variant of depression.

The damage this form invalidation is causing to a subset of women, who have already lived at least half of their lives, feeling so out-of-place that they’ve had to hide who they really are and what they really feel, is immeasurable.

Yet despite this onslaught of diagnostic invalidation, women with undiagnosed Asperger’s are not going away.

Instead they are taking to forums, forming alliances and sharing their all too familiar stories, with each other.

And the more they share, they more they are becoming aware that they are not alone.

That this is happening to women everywhere, from every variant of socio-economic background, culture and region.

There is a wave of officially undiagnosed women with Asperger’s Syndrome out there, treading water, not too far from shore, just waiting their turn and sooner or later, they will land.