Aspergers Syndrome in Adults

A closeup of a happy older man with glasses.

Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (or Pervasive Developmental Disorder) characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors and interests. Those with Asperger Syndrome, or AS, may exhibit a lack of empathy for their peers, clumsiness, and atypical use of language, though none of these symptoms are required for a diagnosis.1

The disorder has much in common with High-Functioning Autism, and it has been suggested recently that AS be removed and Autism Spectrum Disorders be rated on a severity scale. Individuals with AS typically lack the linguistic and cognitive difficulties commonly associated with Autism.

Like Autism and other Developmental Disorders, Asperger Syndrome begins in childhood. Unlike other disorders, many with AS are high functioning enough that they don’t receive the diagnosis until well into adulthood. When the disorder was first identified by Dr. Hans Asperger, he believed that it only affected males2. The disorder does affect males at a higher rate than females. Estimates for the male to female ratio range from 10:1 to 3:13, the actual ratio may be lower since the disorder may present itself quite differently in males and females.

The cause of the disorder is unknown; however research supports a possible genetic link.

Adults with Asperger Syndrome can have a variety of symptoms, some of the more common characteristics include:

  • Average or above-average intelligence
  • Difficulty with high-level language skills (reasoning, problem solving, being too literal)
  • Lack of empathy
  • Inability to see another person’s point of view
  • Problems engaging in “small talk”
  • Lack of emotional control, particularly with anger, depression, and anxiety
  • Strict adherence to routines which can lead to anxiety when something unexpected happens
  • Extreme focus on a particular interest or hobby


While there are a number of treatments available for Aspergers, many have little data to show the effectiveness. The most common approach is Behavioral Therapy, focusing on the person’s specific issues. This can be an effective method and can help improve communication skills, reduce repetitious and obsessive behaviors, and may even be useful with physical clumsiness.

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Sean is the Editor of Mental Health Matters. His life changed in 1996 during a business trip to Southern California. After driving through the neighborhood where he grew up, he started recalling a series of traumatic events that eventually took over. After a four-month battle on his own to try and keep the memory buried, he finally sought help. During a series of voluntary stays in a local hospital, he was diagnosed with Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is currently involved in individual therapy and group therapy as he continues to cope with the recalled memory of childhood sexual abuse. Sean continues to recover daily, and is proud to be a part of a site that helps others.

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