Sunday, January 2, 2011

The many misdiagnoses of Asperger's

Good morning--

It's a beautiful rainy morning in my neck of the woods, I have hot chocolate at hand, and the time is ripe for  starting a discussion on the issue that plagues many people with Asperger's--getting diagnosed.

First, my story.  When I learned that I could be on the Autism Spectrum, I immediately sought a diagnosis. The psychologist I saw met with me for about 30 minutes and immediately said I was in fact Bipolar II, based primarily on the fact that I am highly emotional and because I tend to talk loudly, fast, and am always moving some part of my body (and that I was absolutely not autistic in any way because I am emotional and according to her, autistic people aren't).  Later, as I failed to show trackable mood swings or impulsive behavior, she altered it to Bipolar NOS.  Was she wrong?  Yes, and I did eventually get the more studied and proper diagnosis of having Asperger's Disorder.  But did she make a very common mistake?  Absolutely.

It is very difficult to detect someone on the higher end of the Autism Spectrum disorder, especially in adults where it is so often misconstrued as being shy, or socially inept.  The Mind institute at UC Davis lists just a few reasons, and provides an excellent list of resources.  Moreover, Asperger's or Autism Spectrum can be misconstrued as many things-ADD, ADHD, Bipolar, and others as well.  One merely needs to peruse the internet to find many, many people on the autism spectrum that have had issues with being misdiagnosed, often misdiagnosed within the Autism spectrum itself.  Does your child have High Functioning Autism, or Asperger's?  Does this change with treatment, or age?  And where do you draw the line between being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, as opposed to just being a few 'quirks'?

To compound the difficulty of getting a proper diagnosis, there is the question of what to call it.  In 2010, The American Psychiatric Association decided that Asperger's is not a seperate condition but should be subsumed into the Autism Spectrum Disorder category of the in-progress DSM V (the primary source for diagnosing mental and behavioral conditions),  a choice that many dislike.

If this wasn't complicated enough, there are many who have more than one disorder.  I have a friend who was long ago diagnosed as being ADD, but only found out in his 30s that he has Asperger's as well.  I've read of others with ADHD and Asperger's, or even one women who is struggling with being Bipolar and having Asperger's.  

The final conclusion to be draw from this is that diagnosis is not easy.  The human brain really doesn't quantify itself as neatly as the DSM categories do, and God bless those who try to do it anyway.  

I hope you learned something, and please feel free to share your stories, insights, disagreements if they are respectful, and further information in the comments below.  



  1. It should be noted that TWO psychs misdiagnosed you as bipolar. But that's a post for the Erudite Mom, at a later date. :)

  2. True. And it was erudite mom and a singularly excellent training session that clarified the whole thing...