Debatable mental conditions – 4: Dispelling confusions around Asperger’s disorder

Ever came across a smart, intellectual and knowledgeable person who despite all the qualities struggles with socializing and communicating with others. Scientifically, this condition is known as Asperger’s disorder. Primarily characterized by symptoms, such as limited social interaction skills, “robotic” or repetitive behavior, idiosyncratic interests, tendency to indulge in one-sided conversations, etc., Asperger’s disorder is a developmental disorder that delays the progress of motor skills.

While the condition was earlier considered as a separate condition, the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), has listed it under the category of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Since seen as the upper end or high-functioning type of ASD, both cognitive and communicative development are within the normal range in the beginning in the case of Asperger’s disorder. In fact, most of the people with Asperger’s disorder usually display strength in terms of verbal skills.

Despite being listed in the DSM-5, Asperger’s disorder, which is a life-long condition caused by genetics, is not considered a mental illness or development disorder.  Like others, people with Asperger’s disorder are largely seen as people with different personalities. As part of the series “Debatable mental conditions,” which highlights the misconceptions regarding certain conditions, the current article discusses Asperger’s disorder in detail to bring forth the controversies around it as a mental disorder.

Controversial revised guidelines for Asperger’s disorder cause confusion

Essentially created to provide clear definitions and symptoms to diagnose mental illnesses, the newest edition of DSM has raised new debates in the medical fraternity by removing Asperger’s disorder as a separate diagnosis. By placing it as a subcategory of ASD, newer complexities are likely to be witnessed due to the revision of an already established diagnostic system, such as underdiagnosis of patients.

Though the changes have been done with the aim to accurately diagnose autism, this has created problems for children who were earlier diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder. They will not be able to receive behavioral therapy and other services due to the lack of clear diagnosis.

On the contrary, another segment states that with the introduction of “pervasive developmental disorder,” people with the symptoms of both ASD and Asperger’s disorder will be covered.

Keep check on language pattern to identify Asperger’s disorder

Despite being categorized under ASD due to similarities with autism in terms of developmental issues, people with Asperger’s disorder witness a few symptoms that are different from autism. In comparison to autism, Asperger’s disorder is less severe and does not have the symptom of language delay. Instead, children with Asperger’s disorder are often observed to have good language and cognitive skills. However, they tend to use language in different patterns, usually lacking rhythm or inflection.

Another stark difference between both the conditions is that while children with autism are seen to be aloof and uninterested in social gatherings, children with Asperger’s disorder wish to interact but lack the skills. Hence, they exhibit social awkwardness, limited eye contact, and inability to understand gestures or sarcasm.

Road to recovery

As the lack of physical parameters and instruments make it often difficult to identify the presence of a mental disorder, the conditions are often ascertained by the means of behavior, perception ability, language skills and social interactions. However, the similarities of symptoms between Asperger’s disorder and autism further makes the diagnosis difficult. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help to ensure accurate diagnosis of any mental disorder.

If you or a loved one has any form of mental health disorder, contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to learn about the best mental health programs in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online to learn more about mental health and mental disorders. Our mental health experts can also help you find the mental health rehabilitation centers near you.

Read the other articles of the series “Debatable mental conditions”:

  1. Unraveling the mysteries of dissociative identity disorder
  2. Understanding gender identity disorder
  3. Unmasking hysteria