American Asperger's Association Support Group

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Aspergers in adults

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1 Aspergers in adults on Thu May 21, 2009 5:57 am


Being Diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as an adult

©️ Ms. A.J. Mahari February 2004

Finally adults are being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as it becomes much more understood. There is still a gap in professional services between Developmental Disorders and Mental Health Disorders. These health care systems are planets that orbit each other but fail to acknowledge their overlapping universe. The result is a lot of pain and misunderstanding for too many adults, and maybe more women than men.

By Barbara L. Kirby, Founder of the OASIS Web site writes:

“Asperger Syndrome or (Asperger's Disorder) is a neurobiological disorder named for a Viennese physician, Hans Asperger, who in 1944 published a paper which described a pattern of behaviors in several young boys who had normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. In spite of the publication of his paper in the 1940's, it wasn't until 1994 that Asperger Syndrome was added to the DSM IV and only in the past few years has AS been recognized by professionals and parents."

To read more about what Asperger’s Disorder is and how it is defined in the DSM-IV please go to What Is Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger’s Syndrome is still diagnosed way more often in males than it is in females.

“According to Tony Attwood and other professionals in the field, women with high functioning autism and Aspergers may be an underdiagnosed population. If this is true, some of the reasons may be attributed to gender differences.” writes Catherine Faherty in an article entitled Asperger’s Syndrome in Women: A Different Set of Challenges?

In recent years, Asperger’s Syndrome is being recognized and diagnosed in adults and not just in children. Many adults who have been misdiagnosed with a host of psychiatric labels are finally being recognized as having this developmental disorder. While AS is not a psychiatric disorder, it can cause issues to arise that create other types of challenges that then threaten the overall mental health of the adult with AS.

Given the reluctance of many professionals to recognize Asperger’s in adults many adults have suffered needlessly. There still is a gap between the Mental Health delivery system and the Developmental Disorders delivery system where there should be a healthy over-lap so that adults who were misdiagnosed with a host of psychiatric issues until their AS was recognized and diagnosed have some recourse to work through the damage that is done when one is misdiagnosed and not properly treated. In many areas of the world, there is still a lack of professional counselors to help adults with this diagnosis and the challenges that they face in their lives.

The greatest sources of damage for adult Aspies who are diagnosed only after nightmare involvement with Mental Health Systems results from the false-hope given, the inappropriate, unhelpful and often damaging medication that they are saddled with, the unrealistic expectations placed upon them for change along with the pathologizing of what is for “normal” for those with AS. Unlike many mental health disorders, Asperger’s with its etiology in physiology is more intractable than disorders based in the emotional realm psychologically.

Kicking around in the mental health system, as many adult Aspies have, can and does do its own type of damage and has for many adults only added insult to injury. Most adults who are diagnosed with AS, no matter what process they have to work through in understanding and self-acceptance, find the diagnosis a meaningful revelation in their lives. Substantial enough in scope, is this diagnosis, that it can mean the difference between a life of self-recrimination, self-loathing, self-hatred, isolation, alienation, or an increased understanding of self that enables those diagnosed with AS to make much more sense out of their lives and experiences.

This leads to a much greater chance for self-acceptance, self-worth, self-love and esteem. With this insight and understanding as to why socialization, communication and relating are often so challenging adults with AS can learn to “join in”, learn to feel less alienated as they learn new and different coping strategies that allow them to compensate for the areas in relating that can make life very difficult and lonely.

Inherent in each of most of us is a desire to love and be loved. Connection is just as vital for an adult with Asperger’s as it is for those who are Neuro-Typical (NT) and don’t have Asperger’s. It may not look the same as most NT’s desire for, or ways of, connecting. Those with Asperger’s also have a wide range of emotions. What is substantially different from the feelings of NT’s is the compromised ability to express those emotions.

The parents of children diagnosed with Asperger’s now, are able to find support and services for their kids that can teach the Aspie Kids a lot of skills and compensatory strategies that most adult Aspies have not had a chance to learn or have any support around.

To come to a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome in adulthood, as I did, at the age of 40, can initially be both a relief and a nightmare. The relief, as I experienced it, had all to do with finally understanding so much about all that was so difficult and painful in my life.

The nightmare was the process it took to integrate how much I had suffered without an understanding of why I had been so alone (always felt different) most of my life and why trying to relate to others or be social was extremely difficult most of the time, if not impossible, for me at other times.

Without any understanding of what was really behind most of my relational difficulties I was left to feel, time and time again, like I was “less than”, like a failure. I experienced this as being “unlikable and unlovable” Feeling this way lead me to feel very alienated. I had spent most of my life frantically searching for what was “wrong” with me. My family, peers, and society at large gave me endless messages that I was not okay.

Not understanding this very pervasive aspect of myself left me unable to really understand who I was. Without this knowledge of my “self” I was lost and in a great deal of pain for much of my first 40 years of life. Not knowing why I was the way I was, the way that I am, still, caused me to try to be whatever others told me I “should” be. This was torture. This is the epitome of being lost. I was alienated from my very self by the expectations and judgments of others.

My lack of being “what others expected me to be” along with my lack of knowing what others have always expected that I “should” know based upon my age or intelligence was literally crazy-making.

I will be sharing a lot more of my personal experience here in future articles.

I am still in the process of evolving as I continue to attempt to reach the kind of self-acceptance that allows for consistent hope and optimism and a meaningful personal peace.

©️ Ms. A.J. Mahari February 2004

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