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Signs You May Have Asperger's and Not Know It

Asperger’s is not always obvious. Here’s what to look for.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Asperger's (or Autism Spectrum Disorder) is an easily misunderstood neurological and developmental condition. "No two adults with Asperger's syndrome are exactly alike," says Kenneth Robertson, PhD. "In fact, there is a wide variety of ways in which this condition presents itself. Some people have certain signs of Asperger's and others have different indicators. The degree of Asperger's also varies from person to person." Here are five signs you may have Asperger's, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Social Awkwardness

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

People with Asperger's struggle with making friends and understanding social cues, doctors say. "Difficulty socializing and communicating are hallmarks of Asperger's in adults," says Dr. Robertson. "They typically struggle to make and keep friends; they lack intuition for what is and isn't the right thing to say; don't recognizing humor, irony and sarcasm; have trouble expressing empathy; talk incessantly about a subject while unaware that this is turning people off; and lack awareness of what other people are thinking and feeling."


Speech Problems


Problems with speech and holding conversations could be a sign of Asperger's, doctors say. "Clinicians interacting with individuals who have Asperger syndrome could not have failed to notice that their expressive and receptive language is almost always far from typical," say David Skuse, professor of behavioral and brain sciences at University College London, and William Mandy, lecturer in the university's department of clinical psychology. "Many individuals with excellent formal verbal abilities and high verbal intelligence quotients struggle to set a context for the subject matter of a conversation. They overuse figures of speech; they lack the ability to discuss subjects with coherence, so their conversations tend to run off in unexpected directions; they make overly literal interpretations of idioms and — especially in those who also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — they struggle to initiate or sustain conversations."


Hyperfocus and Information Processing

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Adults with Asperger's have an enhanced ability to process information, researchers say. "Our study confirms our hypothesis that people with autism have higher perceptual capacity compared to the typical population," says Professor Nilli Lavie, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL. "This can only be seen once the task becomes more demanding, with more information to process. In the more challenging task conditions, people with autism are able to perceive significantly more information than the typical adult… There are clearly careers, such as in IT, that can benefit from employing people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders."


Intense Anxiety

woman sitting on floor in home dealing with panic attack

Debilitating anxiety could be a sign of Asperger's, experts warn. "Most people can experience frustration, stress, or anxiety in everyday life situations," says Kim Davis, MS. "There are people who learn how to cope so well that stress or anxiety has little impact on them. But for others, including individuals with ASD, stress and anxiety can cripple them to varying degrees. Remember, situations that create anxiety in one individual may not for another."


Sensory Sensitivities

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"Sensitivity to loud noises, certain odors, particular clothing, food textures, and lights or movement is also common," says Dr. Robertson. "These physical symptoms can also extend to motor skills, such as awkward movements, problems with coordination, and overall clumsiness. Those with Asperger's can be very sensitive to touch and avoid it whenever possible."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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