Common misdiagnoses of Aspies AND MY THEORIES WHY...

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10 Mar 2011, 3:04 pm

As somebody born in the 1970s, I was initially diagnosed as ADHD, which I think represents the majority of misdiagnoses. I've heard of other misdiagnoses occurring which is quite shocking, I think those poor fellows who had to deal with quack psychiatrists and be prescribed improper drugs and inaccurate advice...I am just glad that for the generation born in the 1990s that this is much less common.

So here's a list of common misdiagnoses, and my thoughts on why they occur...note that I don't speak to any secondary diagnoses like depression, anxiety, etc.

Very common, because of an assumption that because the Aspie doesn't interpret what the other person "is REALLY telling them" or because they interpret things literally, that they're "not listening". Ironically, this is very black-and-white thinking on an NT's part, that listening has to be all-or-nothing. The reality is they are not FILTERING or PROCESSING the message as intended, otherwise they have an intense focus (and I know that I give someone my undivided attention when they speak to me, even though I still occasionally misinterpret the message). in the mid-2000s, following my diagnosis in 2001, I still had office colleagues gossip behind my back that I must have ADHD. It felt like I was being misdiagnosed all over again!! ! (Suing for slander did not warrant my energy.)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
Also common, and I believe this is so because of the Aspie tendency to hyperfocus on details, and also to meticulously work out the context of a social situation, or try to anticipate the way a social interaction will go through a "decision tree" e.g. if I do X, will Y or Z happen...and become worried or anxious about whether they've analyzed it properly...meanwhile having insensitive NT's say that they over-analyze or obsess on everything, just go with your "gut instinct", trust your intuition...act spontaneously...drivel. So when an Aspie presents this complaint to a lazy or incompetent psychiatrist, they might be quick to diagnose the Aspie with OCD.

(Paranoid) Schizophrenia:
I haven't heard this one as much, but it makes sense. I can easily see an Aspie going to a psychiatrist with complaints like "I don't know who my real friend is and who's just out to abuse me, I don't know who I can trust, or whether I've upset somebody..." so a lazy or incompetent shrink will just think "oh, he must be really paranoid, I'd better diagnose him with schizophrenia - there, that was easy." Never mind the fact that schizophrenia doesn't occur till one's late teens, and the Aspie's bad experiences have started in early childhood. Never mind the fact that the Aspie subject has ACTUALLY experienced harassment and torment, they did not just hallucinate it or imagine people were out to torment them.

Bipolar Disorder:
This is less common, but I can see it happening...the reasons being that sometimes an Aspie will appear "spaced out" and closed off to others, at other times they may be overly talkative & inadvertently spitting out things that are inappropriate to others. Also, because they have trouble regulating their when somebody is describing something serious, they might not be aware that their body language is sending the wrong message, and likewise when somebody tells a joke they seem too serious.

Passive-Agressive Personality Disorder:
Well, let's face it - passive-agressive behaviour is more of an NT thing, as it involves subtlety, deception, and manipulation...which I've been subjected to more than my fair share in the past. However, I can see NT's accusing Aspies of being passive-agressive, since the perceive Aspies as being "so smart" so how could they possibly misinterpret some social nuance? How often have you found yourself apologise to an NT accusing you of being rude or misinterpreting what they said, then you respond with something like "well, you never explicitly told me that's what you really meant..." So, sometimes, psychiatrists can misdiagnose the Aspie as just having a passive-agressive problem and not "making an effort" (if the psychiatrist is REALLY incompetent).

Psychopath: very rare, and again takes a really incompetent psychiatrist...I think insensitive or incompetent teachers use this kind of branding to perpetuate the myth in AS kids' heads to brainwash them into thinking they're a "bad kid"...the absurd assumption being that the Aspie's actions are deliberately intended to push people's buttons because they are very smart.

This sounds cynical, but...I don't think it's always incompetence, sometimes I think psychiatrists SUSPECT something more, but they just don't want to put in the diagnostic effort, they just want to get through the session as quickly as possible with the least amount of effort and most cha-ching. Here in Canada, it's covered through universal health care, BUT it's almost impossible to hold a sloppy shrink to account for their negligence (I tried it once, and let's say the "review board" totally sucks up to their own brotherhood, or they say "there were no witnesses to account for what was said", well duh! it's a confidential session).


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10 Mar 2011, 3:13 pm

A person can have Asperger's and qualify for any of those diagnoses. It's not a more accurate diagnosis, it's simply a more fundamental one.


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10 Mar 2011, 4:54 pm

I think another really common one is social anxiety or some sorta generalized anxiety disorder.

We grow up with people telling us that everything were doing is socially "wrong" so when we get older, we eventually gain a crippling fear of socializing cause we're so afraid of messing up again or offending people. In the end, we'd rather just stay home instead of going out to that social event. Also many aspies dont like going to social events as it is: anxiety or not. Aspies can get overwhelmed in social events easily due to sensory issues and social/emotional overload, like theres too much going on. We'd rather just do our own thing. Psychologists can misread this as we are avoiding social events soely because were super self-conscious about social situations.


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10 Mar 2011, 4:56 pm

I wasn't completely sure that I have aspergers, but after reading that, I am now. I've done some research and I know I don't have any of that other stuff.


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10 Mar 2011, 7:20 pm

Those are very generalised descriptions of those disorders.

ADHD is a little bit more about being unable to pay attention.

Schizophrenia is more than paranoia.

That's a very poor description of Bipolar.

Anyone can have passive aggressive personality disorder. Having AS does not exclude you. You could develop it from having any such experience or emotional trauma.

Can we please get over this stereotyping of NT's for being deceitful and manipulative people? Some of them are really decent folks.

For the record I have HFA, ADHD-C, Temporal Lobe epilepsy and mild ODD. I could be misdiagnosed with any of those disorders listed or even develop them.

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10 Mar 2011, 7:27 pm

I would love to see an in-depth discussion of the various conditions people can be misdiagnosed with. I think there are a ton of reasons that, say, women could be misdiagnosed with borderline personality disorder instead of being properly diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.