Asperger’s syndrome in adults: symptoms, causes and treatment

Asperger’s syndrome. Leaving aside a well-known character from a popular American sitcom, considering one is faced with an autism-related impairment (albeit with normative or even superior intelligence) probably the first to imagine upon hearing this name will be a child with a number of problems related to literalism, perseverance and fixation on certain issues and problems of socialization and communication.

However, this child we have in mind will not be a child forever: over time, he will grow up and eventually become an adult. And in this vital stage, the person will also see and face new realities and challenges, at the same time as, as happens to all of us, the growth of his own subject brings about changes in his way of seeing, thinking and thinking. live. .

How is Asperger’s syndrome in adults? Let’s take a look at it throughout this article.

Asperger’s Syndrome: What Are We Facing?

Before getting straight into the topic, it may be helpful to give a quick overview of what Asperger’s syndrome is and the type of problems or difficulties it involves.

Asperger’s syndrome is one of the neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by the presence of great difficulties in communication and socialization, With difficulties in coping with change and the existence of restricted and rigid models of behavior and interests. This syndrome is usually diagnosed around the age of seven or even in adolescence. While there may be some previous clues, it’s usually not until evolutionary development allows us to communicate fluently with our peers when they start to see these issues.

These people find it difficult to put themselves in other people’s shoes and feel empathy, As well as guessing or interpreting the mental state of others based on their behavior or words. In this sense, it is common for them to find it difficult for others to act the way they do. They also have difficulty interpreting gestures, looks and symbolic elements. They are deeply literal and have difficulty understanding language figuratively. This is why it is difficult for them to understand many expressions, sayings, made-up sentences or jokes. They also pose problems in pragmatic language, that is, using certain languages ​​and ways of expressing oneself according to the context.

Difficulties in socializing

One of the most characteristic elements is the presence of problems when interacting with their peers and the limitation of their social life, with great reserve and difficulty in establishing relationships. Despite this, they generally have an interest and a desire to relate and bond with others. There is also a tendency to need a personal space of their own and to isolate themselves when they feel bad.. It is common for them to add to their thoughts. It is common for them not to look in the eye and maintain a neutral facial expression, as they may also have difficulty expressing their own emotions.

Generally, the intelligence level of these people is in the middle of the population, and sometimes even above. In terms of behavior, they are generally very formal (sometimes even considered pedantic) and generally have an extensive and flowery vocabulary. It also highlights the fact that they usually have repetitive and constant interests., Which great experts can become. Also, another common element is the difficulty in coping with change: they need a routine life to feel safe and calm.

Awkwardness at the motor level

Another common element in people with Asperger’s is the presence of motor awkwardness, as well as occasional stereotypical movements that they use as a method of calming themselves down. Finally, it has been observed that they sometimes show hypersensitivity to certain types of stimulation, such as sound, light or smell.

Although they can lead a normative and independent life, the characteristics of this syndrome allow those who suffer from it to have difficulties in their daily life, especially when it comes to connecting with others (both at the level of the socio-economic relationship than academic or even work).

Sprinkle in adults

As we said and given that it is a neurodevelopmental disorder, Asperger’s syndrome is generally considered to be a childhood problem. However, as they get older and reach adulthood, their problems and symptoms can be drastically reduced in some ways while others are changed or even added.

More precisely, in Asperger’s syndrome in adults usually has problems with relationships and fluent communication. It can be difficult to start a conversation or meet someone new. In this sense, it is possible that there is difficulty in finding a partner or friends, and even that you think you despise or do not want to contact others. In this, it is particularly important the existence of a very low level of empathy or the ability to understand the behavior and emotions of others.

You may also see cognitive biases aimed at trying to promote yourself. Not because of selfishness per se, but because of not understanding the other’s needs or not understanding why the other’s needs may be as important or more important than their own (remember that one of the symptoms mentioned above was the absence or presence of empathy difficulties).

If the problem was detected in the previous stages of life, it is possible that the difficulties in understanding emotions and even in figurative use of language have improved from what a child would have, although some difficulties persist. usually. The subject probably had to learn mentally or cognitively to react emotionally. Spontaneity is also usually minimal.

At work level, these difficulties can have a negative effect, which at work level can lead to conflicts with colleagues, subordinates or superiors. Teamwork can be a big deal. Despite this, and especially if they manage to do a job that is one of their interests, they can demonstrate high capacity and performance.

Rigid and stereotypical behaviors can reach obsessive levels and take up a large portion of a person’s time. The demeanor can be extravagant and its language monotonous and too formal and grand. They can be extremely sincere, to the point of appearing cruel. They also tend to acquire a great perfectionism, in addition to being extremely rational.

People with Asperger’s disease may have difficulty forming their own identity.. Emotionally, it’s not uncommon for adults with Asperger’s to come to think of themselves as eccentric and even strange people to others. It can lead to self-hatred, depression, and issues like anxiety due to catching each other’s differences.

When the diagnosis is made in adulthood

We have seen what Asperger’s syndrome looks like in adults and what are its characteristics. But in addition to the above, it should be noted that Asperger’s disease is not always detected in childhood but is sometimes first detected when the subject is an adult. And it’s not that the syndrome comes on suddenly – this person has had Asperger’s all their life. But sometimes the symptomatology has been associated with a character or a person’s way of being, has been associated with another problem (in some cases, singular characteristics may have been mistaken for schizophrenia, for example) or is simply went unnoticed.

These cases, who may even come to the consultation themselves after reading or seeing something about the syndrome which they suddenly realize is what is happening to them, have lived a life in which their difficulties were probably not understood. In this sense, they may have developed a high degree of isolation, be misinterpreted or even rejected, so that other people may have thought it was coldness or even cruelty (when in fact it could be the product of a misunderstanding), and to have had difficulties at the academic and professional level in addition to the social one.

A good diagnosis can allow you to better understand some of the situations that the person may be going through, to make the environment more aware (for example difficulties with figurative language or reading emotions) or even that you can work at the level of. therapy and education with procedures designed to improve your ability to understand what is going on in the environment. In any case, it is also possible to work in adulthood, although usually if it is detected in childhood, it can be easier to cope with possible problems..

Treat with Asperger’s in adults

Asperger’s is in a condition that does not have a “cure”, and in fact what is treatable is the presence of possible difficulties arising from this condition. However, it is possible to use different treatments to promote their social functioning and reduce possible problems. Treatment is generally multidisciplinary and may include psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists or social educators, among others.

Most of us are dealing with a psychoeducational intervention, in which the patient gradually learns to identify his own emotions and those of others, to manage his own emotions or to improve his social skills. Communication skills training is also helpful. It may also be helpful to seek psychotherapy to alleviate any problems with depression or anxiety, as well as to try to combat frequently used cognitive biases that make it difficult for the subject to participate in daily or social life (for example, sitting down). feel different or strange).

The use of speech therapy may also be recommended to improve aspects such as fluidity, rhythm and tone, as well as regular exercise to improve mobility and reduce motor awkwardness. If there is a partner, it can be helpful to work on aspects such as communicating with her. It can also be useful to work on communication and transmission of affection towards children, through different techniques and psychoeducation.

Bibliographical references:

  • Blacher, J. (2003). Asperger’s syndrome and high-level autism, current opinion in psychiatry; 16: 535-542.

  • Taronger, RZ (2014). Progress and prospects in Asperger’s syndrome. NEW. Scientific publication in biomedical sciences, 12 (21).

  • Roy, M., Dillo, W., Emrich, HM and Ohlmeier, MD (2009). Asperger’s syndrome in adulthood. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 106 (5), 59-64.

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