Advantages And Disadvantages Of An Asperger’s Diagnosis In Adulthood

Asperger's diagnosis
The advantages of an evaluation for adult Asperger’s generally outweigh the disadvantages

Does it makes sense to find out if you have Asperger’s syndrome, and if so, what should you anticipate? Are there real advantages to knowing? Would a diagnosis of Asperger’s be inviting any unexpected problems? Is there any point in getting an evaluation? Is the whole thing worth it?

Here are some thoughts about the pros and cons of an Asperger’s diagnosis as an adult, to help you sort through this important decision.

Advantages of an Asperger’s Diagnosis

  • Understanding yourself better may be the most important reason to seek an evaluation. If it turns out that you meet the criteria for Asperger’s (now formally referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder), you will have gained a better understanding of what you do and why you do it. This translates, more directly, into greater awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, the problems you are likely to encounter, and the assets you have to deal with those problems. 
  • Although there are several traits that are typically associated with Asperger’s, each person is unique. Asperger’s affects everyone differently. What is common to someone with Asperger’s, however, is that each individual has strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else, and we all benefit from knowing these.
  • For many people, knowing they have Asperger’s dispels their fear of being crazy or weird. Asperger’s is simply a different way of thinking and behaving, no better or no worse than how neurotypical people behave. It’s a difference, not an abnormality. Knowing this often helps people to forgive themselves for the differences they have. A diagnosis heightens awareness of challenges and obstacles in a positive sense, reducing insecurities and negative self-esteem.
  • Contrary to what some believe, a diagnosis of Asperger’s more often than not helps improve the quality of one’s relationships. Many couples struggle with misunderstanding, miscommunication, confusion, resentment, and other problems. Knowing what they are dealing with, as an outcome of an Asperger’s diagnosis, helps improve the stresses and strains that build up when a couple doesn’t understand what they are facing.
  • Many adults find that an Asperger’s diagnosis provides a rational explanation for past behavior that formerly appeared inexplicable. A diagnosis illuminates difficult experiences, such as difficulty understanding other people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. It helps put into context the actions of other people, including those who have been key figures in one’s development, such as parents, teachers and friends. 
  • A diagnosis of Asperger’s from a professional provides peace of mind and validation, not only for those who have suspected they were different but also for friends, family members and others who suspected the same. By identifying the source of one’s differences, the truth is revealed for all to believe. Doubt and uncertainty no longer rules.

Disadvantages of an Asperger’s Diagnosis

  • There is always a risk that the diagnosis is incorrect, whether the determination is that one does or doesn’t have Asperger’s. Even though the criteria for Asperger’s are described and illustrated in detail, in the end the diagnostic process is a subjective one. Regardless of training and experience, personal feelings, attitudes, and experience factor into the decision making process of an evaluation. We may like to think the evaluation is devoid of personal influence, like the readings of an x-ray scan, but that cannot be. Whenever people are involved in a decision, subjectivity plays some role
  • It’s inevitable that one’s identity is affected by an Asperger’s diagnosis, sometimes negatively. Depression, confusion, loss of self-confidence, shame, anger, and feelings of failure are only some of the reactions that can and do occur for many who receive a diagnosis of Asperger’s. What must be understand is that these are, in most cases, normal reactions, not signs of flaws or abnormality. What matters is access to support from others, understanding that Asperger’s is a difference not a disease, and awareness that all things, Asperger’s included, can be overcome, if that is what one wants.

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Dr. Kenneth Roberson is an Asperger’s psychologist in San Francisco with over 30 years of experience. To ask a question or schedule an appointment, please call 415-922-1122.