Signs of Aspergers in Adults – Sound Familiar? (2023)

What are the signs of Aspergers in adults to look for? And what do you need to know if you suspect that your colleague might be on the spectrum? That you are dating someone with Asperger’s? Or even that you might have it yourself?

What is Asperger’s syndrome?

Asperger’s syndrome is a subtype of autism which seesyou communicate and socialise in ways that are outside of the norm, and can have a more restricted and repetitive way of approaching things than others do.

Also called ‘Asperger’s disorder’, it is actually no longer an official diagnosis in the UK (or the USA, for that matter). Since 2013 this was dropped in favour of using the more general umbrella diagnosis of ‘autism spectrum disorder’ (ASD).

But those who have a diagnosis may still like to use the term ‘Asperger’s’, or ‘Aspie’ for short. And most medical practitioners are fine for you to use either term.

Is Asperger’s an illness?

No. Aspergers isn’t an illness. There seems to be some biological and neurological differences in those that have it, but the research is still new and small. (Such as a study using magnetic resonance brain imaging on 32 adults with Asperger’s and concluded they had a volume difference in their amygdala). Otherwise, like all mental health labels, Asperger’s is just a term to describe a group of symptoms shared by certain individuals.

It’s also important to remember that nobody is a mental health label. They are a person with their own unique character, who might just fit the profile of ‘Asperger’s.’

[Want to hear about the experience of Asperger’s from someone who actually lives with it? Read our connected piece, “My Life With Aspergers Syndrome“.]

The three main Aspergers symptoms in adults

There are ongoing disputes over what is and isn’t Asperger’s, such as discussion over gender-based differences. A girl or woman with Aspergers syndrome might, for example, have a different experience with it than someone who identifies as male. And they might be better at ‘masking’, hiding the signs of Asperger’s in adults.

And note that symptoms can vary from person to person, as well as the ways that symptoms manifest. Some people will have high functioning Asperger’s, managing to have a fairly normal life, and others will struggle more.

(Video) 7 Signs of Autism in Men (DSM-5 Symptoms of Autism/Aspergers in High Functioning Autistic Adults)

But this said, the three main signs of Asperger’s syndrome in adults that will generally be present, as per the NHS, are difficulty with social communication, social interaction, and social imagination.

Secondary symptoms include:

  • love of routines
  • special interests
  • sensory difficulties.

Note that these different ways of behaving that are signs of Apserger’s will have been present since childhood. The autism spectrum doesn’t just suddenly develop later in life.

More than 10 signs of Aspergers in adults

Again, not all symptoms are in all individuals beyond the three main symptoms listed above. These are just possibilities of how Asperger’s is known to manifest.

1.Talking differently.

People with Aspergers might be more factual than normal. Instead of telling stories to get a point across, they will be direct.

They might also not be as prone to pausing and allowing interaction when they are speaking about something they care about.

They have no intention of being rude, they just are not as easily aware as you might be about how a conversation is ‘supposed’ to go. And they are passionate about what they like.

2. A lack of nonverbal behaviours.

Gestures and facial expressions can be less, or even missing. It’s just not the way many Aspies naturally communicate.

3. Little to no eye contact.

It’s common for someone with Asperger’s to not make much eye contact. It simply doesn’t feel natural for them.

(Video) "Copy & Paste’ - Hidden Asperger’s-- Girls with Aspergers | Niamh McCann | TEDxDunLaoghaire

If you tell them about it, they might then try extra hard to look you in the eye and then overdo it. They are doing their best, they just don’t have the same inbuilt feeling for eye contact that you might.

4. Not naturally one for social graces.

What many people consider ‘normal manners’ may not be intuitive for someone with Asperger’s. They can walk away when you are talking, invite you over for dinner then ignore you, open the door to let you into their house and look at you then walk off….

You might assume they are being rude. Not at all. They simply don’t have the same natural understanding of society’s ‘rules’ and have to learn them and work hard to keep them up.

5. Obsessive focus on one topic (which can be an unusual one).

It might be collecting something rare, or an unusual hobby, it might be another person that becomes the focus of someone with Asperger’s.

They might talk incessantly about the subject or other person, unaware they are boring others, lost in their passion.

There is some discussion that girls are less likely to have an unusual focus and more likely to simply over focus on a subject her peers are into. (But this assumes gender stereotypes are in place and she identifies with them).

Note that an Aspie’s focused interest can completely change and move on to another topic. (Which can feel hard if you are the obsessive focus of a person with Asperger’s, only for him or her to then seem totally uninterested).

6. Unable to understand what you are feeling.

Those with Asperger’s can often be judged as ‘cold’, ‘unfeeling’, or ‘lacking empathy’.

It’s not that they don’t have empathy or mean to be unkind. It’s now thought, rather, that some people with Aspergers might even have too much empathy.

(Video) How To Tell if YOU have Aspergers Syndrome (5 TOP SIGNS)

It’s more about finding emotions confusing and overwhelming and not knowing how to to describe or talk about them.

7. Different conversational skills.

Again, those with Asperger’s can talk a lot about what interests them, unable to see that others are either offended or uninterested. But if they don’t like someone, they might suddenly not talk at all, which can be awkward.

Another perspective here is that Asperger’s makes someone honest in perhaps ways we can all learn from. They aren’t going to pretend to be your friend or talk to you if they aren’t interested.

8. Not a ‘sharer’.

Wondering why the person you know doesn’t ask about how your day went? Or tell you about their recent successes? Sharing personal experience unprompted is not necessarily a given for someone with Asperger’s.

They might just need you to be clear that you want to share and be listened to, or to ask directly what you want to hear about.

9. Black and white thinking.

Once a person with Asperger’s comes to a conclusion they can be quite set in it, and find it a challenge to see the perspective of others.

On the other hand, they can be very good at making decisions.

10. Inflexibility.

Last minute change of plans? This can be very upsetting or even overwhelming for someone with Aspergers, who are more comfortable if things go a certain way all the time.

They might also get very upset about something that to others seems tiny or strange, but to them is important.

(Video) 5 ASPERGER Symptoms you NEED to know

11. Signs of Aspergers include a need for routine.

Asperger’s causes a need for routine and and structure. Without it, the person can become very flustered and panicked. On the other hand, they can be very organised and encourage you to be so, too.

12. Not touchy feely.

Those with Asperger’s can be very sensitive to touch and shy away from it, with the exception of someone they deeply trust. They might flinch at being tapped on the back or touched on the arm, and refuse to be hugged.

They might also have other autistic traits like a sensitivity to noise, smell, and colour, which can turn into sensorial overload.

Aspergers vs Autism spectrum disorder

What Aspergers has in common with other parts of the autistic spectrum is that it is a behavioural disorder which shows up in the way someone communicates and acts.

But some ‘Aspie’s’ feel they have little in common with those with other types of autism. Asperger’s affects day-to-day functioning less, for starters. And it doesn’t stop someone from being verbal, it just makes their communication different.

Another major problem is that those who might have previously qualified for a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome find they don’t have the right traits present for the new diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder. This can lead to less access to treatment.

Is the change from Asperger’s to ASD possibly a good thing?

On another note, the German doctor the condition is named after has recently been discovered to be far from the caring practitioner he portrayed himself as. Dr. Asperger worked under the Nazi regime and a recent research study has found he was responsible for the death of up to 800 children, signing them off as ‘unsuitable to live’. Not exactly a name one wants to remember.

Can Asperger’s syndrome in adults be treated?

There is no medication that specifically treats Asperger’s syndrome.

But working with a counselling psychologist can be very helpful. This is also the case if you don’t qualify as having autistic spectrum disorder but feel you would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often the recommended treatment.

During therapy you will learn how to cope under stress, how to communicate more effectively, and how to behave in social situations so that your day-to-day life becomes easier.

Harley therapy connects you to experienced and professionalcounselling psychologists for adults with autism working from several central London locations. We also offer autism testing for adults.

Signs of Aspergers in Adults – Sound Familiar? (5)

(Video) In My Own Words. My Life with Asperger’s Syndrome

FAQs

What does mild Asperger's look like in adults? ›

You may have a hard time reacting to actions, words, and behaviors with empathy or concern. Exaggerated emotional response. While not always intentional, adults with AS may struggle to cope with emotional situations, feelings of frustration, or changes in pattern. This may lead to emotional outbursts.

What does undiagnosed Asperger's look like in adults? ›

Asperger's in adults typically causes issues with communication, emotion regulation and interpretation, social interactions, and behavior. People who have Asperger's may also experience other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or OCD.

What are the 3 main symptoms of Asperger's? ›

About Asperger Syndrome

Many kids are diagnosed after age 3, with most diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9. AS is characterized by poor social interactions, obsessions, odd speech patterns, few facial expressions, and other peculiar mannerisms.

Can you live a normal life with Asperger's syndrome? ›

The majority of children and adults with Asperger syndrome live well and are able to enjoy life and do many things that neurotypical people can do. Many people will have some level of difficulty with some daily tasks or interactions.

What can be misdiagnosed as Aspergers? ›

Examples include:
  • Avoidant personality disorder.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Reactive attachment disorder.
  • Social (pragmatic) communication disorder.
  • Schizophrenia, which rarely happens in children.
18 Jan 2022

Can you have Asperger's without knowing it? ›

Most people are unaware of the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome. They include an unusually high IQ and a difficulty surviving in the social world.

What is a mild case of Asperger's? ›

Asperger Syndrome (ASD) is a pervasive developmental disorder that is widely described as a mild form of autism. People with ASD tend to have many of the social and sensory issues of those with more severe forms of autistic disorder but have average to above average IQs and vocabularies.

How do you get tested for Asperger's as an adults? ›

How do you get a “formal” diagnosis of Asperger/Autism spectrum difference (ASD)? Many individuals pursue neuropsychological testing with a neuropsychologist (PhD) or a psychiatrist (MD). As a result of this testing, it may be determined that the individual has ASD, something related to ASD, or something different.

What are subtle signs of Aspergers? ›

Signs and symptoms of Asperger's syndrome
  • Lack of interpersonal relationship skills and instincts.
  • Inability to express one's own feelings.
  • Often verbalizes internal thoughts that most would keep private.
  • Flat tone / speaking style that lacks pitch.
  • Appears to lack empathy.
  • Has a difficult time interacting with peers.

What causes an Asperger's meltdown? ›

A meltdown is where a person with autism or Asperger's temporarily loses control because of emotional responses to environmental factors. They aren't usually caused by one specific thing. Triggers build up until the person becomes so overwhelmed that they can't take in any more information.

What is the best medication for Asperger's? ›

There are no drugs specifically prescribed for ASD. Some people with Asperger's or related conditions are able to function well in life without taking any medications.
...
These medications include:
  • Antidepressants (SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
  • Anti-psychotics.
  • Drugs for attention-deficit disorder.
2 Jan 2021

What help is there for adults with Asperger's? ›

Autism Speaks provides tools and information for adults with Asperger's, including networking groups, housing support information, educational resources, research information, family services, advocacy programs and online information.

What type of therapy works best for Aspergers? ›

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) This type of “talk therapy” is typically used to help a person with Asperger's better regulate his or her emotions and impulses. It can also help children and adults cope with anxiety or depression.

Can an MRI show Aspergers? ›

Although MRI is not required for diagnosing Asperger syndrome, it can be helpful for identifying cortical defects in the right-central perisylvian area and incomplete formation of the posterior-inferior frontal gyrus (ie, pars opercularis and pars triangularis). However, the results of MRI are inconsistent.

Can anxiety mimic Aspergers? ›

Social anxiety disorder is markedly different than Asperger's Disorder in that Asperger's is a pervasive developmental disorder (also called a milder version of autism) and that people with social anxiety disorder do not display the patterns of behavior expected in definitions A and B.

How can you tell if someone is on the spectrum? ›

Other Characteristics
  • Delayed language skills.
  • Delayed movement skills.
  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills.
  • Hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior.
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder.
  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits.
  • Gastrointestinal issues (for example, constipation)
  • Unusual mood or emotional reactions.

Do you lack empathy with Aspergers? ›

They may manifest feelings less outwardly, or their facial expression might not match what the individual is feeling inside. People with Asperger profiles do have empathy, despite an unfortunate stigma that suggests otherwise.

What happens if Asperger's goes untreated? ›

Some of the effects of unaddressed or untreated Asperger's syndrome may include: Social isolation. Difficulty making and keeping friends. Challenges in finding and maintaining steady employment.

What are the strengths of people with Aspergers? ›

Average to very high intelligence. Good verbal skills; rich vocabulary. Ability to absorb and retain large amounts of information, especially about topics of special interest. Ability to think in visual images.

How does a high functioning autistic person act? ›

Symptoms. Like all people on the autism spectrum, people who are high functioning have a hard time with social interaction and communication. They don't naturally read social cues and might find it difficult to make friends. They can get so stressed by a social situation that they shut down.

What are the signs of mild autism in adults? ›

Common symptoms of autism in adults include:
  • Difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling.
  • Trouble interpreting facial expressions, body language, or social cues.
  • Difficulty regulating emotion.
  • Trouble keeping up a conversation.
  • Inflection that does not reflect feelings.

What is Aspergers now called? ›

Asperger syndrome, or Asperger's, is a previously used diagnosis on the autism spectrum. In 2013, it became part of one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5).

Can Aspergers develop later in life? ›

Symptoms Develop Later

It's entirely possible that someone with Asperger syndrome would not present noticeable symptoms until later on in their lives. As social interactions become more complex, their difficulty in responding to and understanding those interactions becomes more pronounced.

How does a doctor test for Aspergers? ›

A psychiatrist will sit down with children for observation to see how they interact, play and communicate. This is done to look for the common signs of Asperger's syndrome. These symptoms include social issues, such as missing cues during conversations and during pretend play.

Do adults with Aspergers have outbursts? ›

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders have deficits in communication, social interactions, and emotional regulation and exhibit repetitive behaviors. These individuals can become very reactive to their environment and at times may engage in emotional outbursts.

Can people with Aspergers be obsessive? ›

Obsessional/repetitive behaviours are a core feature of autistic-spectrum disorders (ASD; comprising autism and Asperger syndrome).

Can Aspergers be caused by parenting? ›

Despite early theories suggesting the possibility, we now know that parenting style does not cause any of the Autism Spectrum Disorders. The number of individuals affected by Asperger's Syndrome is not well known, as an accurate diagnosis can be difficult to make.

What is a shutdown autism? ›

Shutdown. During shutdown, a person may either partially or completely withdraw from the world around them. They may not respond to communication anymore, retreat to their room or lie down on the floor.

What do Asperger meltdowns look like? ›

Not all meltdowns look alike: There are a variety of behaviors that occur when a child has lost the ability to stay calm or regulated. They might fall down, act out, cry, swear, scream, throw things, hit themselves or others, run away from you, or bite. Meltdowns can last from minutes to hours.

Do antidepressants work for Aspergers? ›

While there is no medication specifically for Asperger's or autism spectrum disorders, medication may be prescribed for depression, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (e.g., Prozac). Some medications may also help reduce the repetitive behaviors that are characteristic of Asperger's.

What is the best antidepressant for Aspergers? ›

The SSRIs most commonly prescribed to autistic people are fluoxetine and sertraline. Sertraline is often the top choice because its side effects are milder than those of other SSRIs and because it has fewer interactions with other drugs.

Can aspies have good social skills? ›

Someone with Asperger's experiences problems with social skills. They can be just as smart as the person they're standing next to, but it can be a challenge when meeting new people, or dealing with large groups of people.

What are symptoms of high functioning autism in adults? ›

Common signs of autism in adults include:
  • finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling.
  • getting very anxious about social situations.
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own.
  • seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to.
  • finding it hard to say how you feel.

How does Asperger's affect social skills? ›

Like people with autism, people with Asperger's syndrome have a dreadful time understanding what is going on, socially. They do not always pay attention to the social scene in which they find themselves, and even when they do, they are often not able to make sense of what they see, or to respond appropriately.

Is there a mild form of Aspergers? ›

Asperger's Syndrome

People with the disorder are said to fall somewhere along the "autism spectrum." Some are severely disabled, but others may only exhibit mild symptoms. IQ levels can also vary significantly. Those with normal and above-average intelligence are said to have high-functioning autism.

What is it like to have mild aspergers? ›

Signs and symptoms of Asperger's syndrome

People with mild autism tend to have difficulty with social interactions. This can show itself as difficulty understanding others' feelings, expressing your own feelings, understanding gestures, and making eye contact.

What do adults with Aspergers struggle with? ›

Anxiety and Depression are Common

So after years of practice and trying to fit in or find a comfortable place in the world, some adults with Asperger profiles have put together a life, and many live with the worry that it could all come apart because of how precariously it is crafted.

Do Aspergers have empathy? ›

They may manifest feelings less outwardly, or their facial expression might not match what the individual is feeling inside. People with Asperger profiles do have empathy, despite an unfortunate stigma that suggests otherwise.

What is the hallmark of Asperger's syndrome? ›

The hallmark features of Asperger syndrome include normal language development and normal or higher than normal IQ. The children with the condition tend to have a narrow range of interest. The interest may be in specific intellectual areas with an obsessive intensity.

How do adults get tested for Aspergers? ›

How do you get a “formal” diagnosis of Asperger/Autism spectrum difference (ASD)? Many individuals pursue neuropsychological testing with a neuropsychologist (PhD) or a psychiatrist (MD). As a result of this testing, it may be determined that the individual has ASD, something related to ASD, or something different.

How are you tested for Aspergers? ›

Other Common Tests Used to Assess Asperger's
  1. A physical, psychological, and/or neurological exam.
  2. Hearing, speech, or language tests.
  3. An IQ and/or personality test.
  4. An electroencephalography (EEG), a test that looks at electrical activity in the brain.
  5. A brain scan, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Why do people with Aspergers seem selfish? ›

Because of their lack of empathy, persons with Asperger's syndrome may have difficulties to make contact with potential partners in an appropriate way. In a developing or existing relationship they may appear selfish or cold.

Do people with Asperger have anger issues? ›

Individuals with ASDs commonly have a low frustration tolerance and significant irritability. They may report that they alternate from calm to extreme anger very quickly. There have been several studies that suggest individuals with ASDs have difficulty understanding and interpreting their own emotions.

Do Aspergers have mood swings? ›

Mental health issues

Anxiety and depression are common with people with Aspergers. You may also see mood swings. Their behavior may appear to be erratic at times.

What does high functioning autism look like in adults? ›

Difficulty Communicating and Awkward Communication

– Difficulty reading social cues and participating in conversations. – Difficulty empathizing with other people's thoughts and feelings. – Struggling to read people's body language or facial expressions.

How do I know if I am high functioning autistic? ›

High-functioning autism means that a person is able to read, write, speak, and handle daily tasks, such as eating and getting dressed independently. Despite having symptoms of autism, their behavior doesn't interfere too much with their work, school, or, relationships.

How does autism present itself in adults? ›

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults

Difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling. Trouble interpreting facial expressions, body language, or social cues. Difficulty regulating emotion. Trouble keeping up a conversation.

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