Diagnosis: Asperger Syndrome

This is the first post in a series about each of my diagnoses. I’ve posted about my medications, but now I’m going to outline each diagnosis, how I manifest the behaviors associated with it, and its treatment.

Autism

I’m begining with austim as people have a relatively easy time accepting and accomodating those with high functioning varieties.

Asperger Syndrome (a high functioning autism spectrum disorder), gets two acronyms: HFA (high functioning autism) and ASD (autism spectrum disorder). How fun is that? The diagnosis is soon to be officially changed to ASD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):

It has been decided that the diagnosis of Asperger’s be eliminated in DSM-5 [due for publication in May 2013], to be replaced by a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder on a severity scale, even though the elimination of the name of this type of autism did cause considerable controversy. Wikipedia

(I enjoy the controversy: some of it has to do with people’s love of the diminutive “Aspy” that’s applied to those with the diagnosis.)

History and Treatment

I was born with ASD but wasn’t diagnosed until my mid-twenties. Following are the behaviors and symptoms I exhibit(ed).

Impairment in social relationships. I had difficulty creating and sustaining long-term friendships until I was about 16, and I had very few good friends until my late 20s (after years of cognitive behavioral therapy).

Deficits in non-verbal communication. I have difficulty reading facial expressions, body language and tone of voice: I’ve learned common gestures and expressions, but unless I’ve spent a decent amount of time with a person and know their repertoire, I can still be easily confused.

Perseverance with interests and activities. Things must get done! This is partly why I do so well working from home.

Dependence on routine. I have a few things that I rely on to make my day go well, especially in the morning: lay in bed, shower, feed the cats, eat breakfast (usually muesli prepared in a specific way) and play some scrabble online (if I miss this it can throw me off for a few hours).

Repetitive behaviors. I count. A lot. I can’t help it. I always count stairs and sometimes I’ll discover myself counting my steps as I walk. I also love puzzle games in which you perform the same action over and over again.

Abnormal responses to sensory stimulation. I’m not sure how much this actually affects me (see my post on Art Recognition and Memory for how I interpret sensory input), but I do tend towards hyperacusis: when the truck parade was blasting noise down Yates Street, my brain went into panic mode and I couldn’t stop shaking my head.

Behavior problems. Wow. Um… I used to have a lot of freak-outs as a child and teen. They were often brought on by the inability to cope socially or having something unexpected happen (like dropping my art portfolio all over the road when I was 14).

Difficulties in sleeping. This one’s still huge for me. I’m not a tosser and turner, but I am a lay-awaker (good English, Amy!). I take sleeping pills every night: I’ve been doing this over a year and I’ve never slept so well, and been so rested, in my life. Sleep is directly related to your mental state.

Difficulties with food. These were more extreme as a child: everything on my plate had to be seperate (eg. the gravy could not touch the salad). I would avoid eating “contaminated” portions. I have no idea why my parents never got me a section plate. I still have issues with touching other people’s plates or utensils: I can become physically repulsed.

Experience of ongoing depression and anxiety. I’ve been dealing with this since I was a child. Therapy and medication improved (and continue to improve) my quality of life.

Although some of these things rear their ugly head occasionally, most have settled comfortably into my personality, and they come out as quirks of character. I’m happy to have a diagnosis: a name allows for proper treatment.

Resources

Discuss - 2 Comments

  1. Jared Warren says:

    Simon Baron-Cohen is a philosopher with some radical (but not dismissed) ideas about autism. Are you familiar with his work? What’s your general impression?

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