When people say Asperger's is a 'mental health' problem...

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Bloodheart
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14 Feb 2011, 8:56 pm

...what do you say?

Asperger's counts as a mental health issue, as it's a condition that produces abnormal behaviour I suppose it is classed as a psychological disorder - although is my behaviour really all that abnormal, or is it just my way of thinking or looking at the world that makes me different from NT's? Why are NT's 'normal' and we're 'abnormal' - is it fair to consider us as 'abnormal'?

I do think of mental health issues differently, for example when I think of mental health problems I think of issues such as depression, in a way that is a result of nurture or a persons circumstances, but then issues like bipolar or schizophrenia are genetic and I'd consider those to be mental health issues, so I can't exclude Asperger's from the label of 'mental health' problem based on that idea.

I'll willingly admit I don't like it being called a mental health problem because there is a stigma, there shouldn't be and I shouldn't be bothered by the idea of people thinking of me as having a mental health problem, but I am because that stigma brings about prejudice. Accepting asperger's as a mental health problem means I go from having a different brain to having 'something wrong' with me, I'm no longer on equal footing to NT's but now I'm like an NT with something wrong with me, mental, a nut-job, crazy, weak, broken, window-licker, etc. If I have a meltdown people think I am a nut-job - explaining it as asperger's suddenly makes it okay, if asperger's is considered a mental health problem you're right back to people thinking you're a nut-job. I am little different to an NT, I function as well and my behaviour isn't too much different to an NT's...so why does being an aspie mean I have to be considered to be 'a mental'?

Mental health problems aren't the issue, it's how mental health problems are perceived that's the issue.

Note: I mean no offence to people with mental health problems, terms I'm using here are examples of the sort of terms and negative ideas about mental health issues held by wider society.

Do you just accept when people say it's a mental health problem or do you expand a little to explain asperger's so you're not thought of in the same way as others with mental health problems?

Those of you who have [other] mental health problems, do you differentiate between asperger's and your other mental health problems?

Any other thoughts?


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Last edited by Bloodheart on 14 Feb 2011, 10:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

OddDuckNash99
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14 Feb 2011, 9:06 pm

I have OCD and panic attacks in addition to Asperger's. Also, I was diagnosed with OCD before I even knew I had Asperger's. So, I have no problem classifying Asperger's as a neuropsychiatric disorder. It's in the DSM. Therefore, it has a psychiatric component to it, and it's not merely some neurological condition. It makes us do things that are considered "weird" and "abnormal." Thus, I view it as a mental illness of sorts. And all neuropsychiatric disorders are biological in nature. Depression is just as much a brain problem as schizophrenia. The reason there is stigma associated with mental illness still is because we haven't yet found the technology to get a true diagnostic test to "prove" that this condition is "real" and has a brain basis. And yes, Aspies' behavior is "abnormal" in the psychological sense of the word. Because it often causes us significant distress in our functioning. If we were simply "different" and it weren't psychological in nature, then we could live through the world without accommodations. For example, synesthesia isn't a psychiatric disorder. It is solely a difference and a uniqueness. Why is this? Because it doesn't cause impairment in functioning. As a neuroscientist, I always am for espousing my beliefs on issues such as these.
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14 Feb 2011, 9:19 pm

I don't think AS itself is a mental problem per se. But many people with AS have comorbid conditions that are definitely problems. This has been very severe for me, personally. I think such conditions easily develop in those of us who grow up being maladjusted because of the way our ignorant society often treats people on the autism spectrum. This is hard for me to put into words so I hope I'm making any sense.



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14 Feb 2011, 9:49 pm

I refuse to have people mistake my AS as a mental health problem. AS isn't an illness. Depression is an illness. My AS is a developmental disorder. My Depression is an illness. There's a big difference between the two of them.


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johnrobison
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14 Feb 2011, 9:59 pm

CockneyRebel . . . there may not be as much difference as you think. Depression probably has some neurological foundation too. "Illness" implies it is curable. Soem depression can be cured, but for a large percentage of people, depression can only be controlled. In the same way, Asperger's becomes something we learn to live with. We cannot "cure" it either.

The more we learn, the more we see that afflictions or differences of the mind are founded in a combination of our neurology and life experience. And when it comes to terminology, one person's terrible affliction is another person's eccentricity.

As to referring to Asperger's as a mental health issue . . . at this moment, anyone who receives services for Asperger issues gets them from a mental health practitioner, hence the designation you don't like . . .

Even if we had a hard diagnostic test, the result in the field would remain the same. You'd still get the range of services you have today, from the same providers.


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IdahoRose
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14 Feb 2011, 9:59 pm

Bloodheart wrote:
Those of you who have [other] mental health problems, do you differentiate between asperger's and your other mental health problems?

No. I count Asperger's among my other mental illnesses.



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14 Feb 2011, 10:03 pm

CockneyRebel wrote:
I refuse to have people mistake my AS as a mental health problem. AS isn't an illness.

I agree, yet I must still go see the shrink for meds and disability documentation ... and of course, that also includes a bit of help dealing with my related burnout (chronic fatigue), depression and anxiety.


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14 Feb 2011, 10:11 pm

I would say that in a better world, where people with AS did not get tormented by "normal" people, where people with AS could get a little extra training in social skills, then I would agree that AS is not a health issue. In the world that I grew up in, where I was constantly abused for being different, where my lack of social skills have hampered me at every turn, I would say that AS is a disability. I strongly suspect that my depression is the direct result of my inability to fit in and my lack of social skills.


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14 Feb 2011, 10:16 pm

Sorry I just don't think of Asperger's syndrome as a mental health problem anymore than I think of left handedness, homosexuality or lesbianism as mental health problems; yet at some points in times they all were considered mental health issues and the hostility of the majority culture did in fact cause mental health issues with persons of these minority populations. Also I've grown overly sensitive to the word "abnormal" it has a pejorative connotations, maybe atypical might be a better choice.
Societal pressures ostracizing atypical people definitely lead to mental health issues. Developing coping mechanisms to compensated for some of the challenges are mental health issues as well as many of the common co-morbid conditions; but those aren't Asperger's syndrome.


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14 Feb 2011, 11:03 pm

Xeno wrote:
I don't think AS itself is a mental problem per se. But many people with AS have comorbid conditions that are definitely problems. This has been very severe for me, personally. I think such conditions easily develop in those of us who grow up being maladjusted because of the way our ignorant society often treats people on the autism spectrum. This is hard for me to put into words so I hope I'm making any sense.


A syndrome (according to what I just looked up) is defined as a group of symptoms that are characteristic of a certain disorder. So I do believe your answer is the most accurate. Whether it's consider a mental health disorder would have to depend greatly on the symptoms of the particular AS person. If the AS symptoms are incredibly severe then they would probably be classified as mental disorder. I do believe that the severity of symptoms are dependent on how the individual with AS has been raised or has thrived. The least thriving ones with AS likely have the most severe symptoms and would be considered mentally ill.



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15 Feb 2011, 1:09 am

Or replace AS with homosexuality, back when that was in the DSM:

OddDuckNash99 wrote:
I have OCD and panic attacks in addition to being gay. Also, I was diagnosed with OCD before I even knew I was gay. So, I have no problem classifying homosexuality as a neuropsychiatric disorder. It's in the DSM. Therefore, it has a psychiatric component to it, and it's not merely some neurological condition. It makes us do things that are considered "weird" and "abnormal." Thus, I view it as a mental illness of sorts. And all neuropsychiatric disorders are biological in nature. Depression is just as much a brain problem as schizophrenia. The reason there is stigma associated with mental illness still is because we haven't yet found the technology to get a true diagnostic test to "prove" that this condition is "real" and has a brain basis. And yes, homosexual behavior is "abnormal" in the psychological sense of the word. Because it often causes us significant distress in our functioning. If we were simply "different" and it weren't psychological in nature, then we could live through the world without accommodations. For example, synesthesia isn't a psychiatric disorder. It is solely a difference and a uniqueness. Why is this? Because it doesn't cause impairment in functioning. As a neuroscientist, I always am for espousing my beliefs on issues such as these.

Works just as well. Why isn't it in the DSM now?



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15 Feb 2011, 5:51 am

Bluefins wrote:
Or replace AS with homosexuality, back when that was in the DSM.

While it's true that the DSM changes, the fact remains that people take psychiatric medications to treat symptoms of Asperger's. Thus, there's an undeniable psychiatric link between the two. If you're left-handed or homosexual or just "different," you don't need services to help you live an independent life. Asperger's and autism affect a person's functioning.


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15 Feb 2011, 8:41 am

OddDuckNash99 wrote:
While it's true that the DSM changes, the fact remains that people take psychiatric medications to treat symptoms of Asperger's. Thus, there's an undeniable psychiatric link between the two. If you're left-handed or homosexual or just "different," you don't need services to help you live an independent life. Asperger's and autism affect a person's functioning.


Yes, but Miss Nash, you mean meds to treat anxiety, ADD, or depression as comorbids? The way I understand it is the nonverbal is AS along with narrow interests.
A thought experiment: If the entire globe wasn't covered with non verbal folks, would these problems manifest?



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15 Feb 2011, 9:12 am

When people say Asperger's is a 'mental health' problem... Did Temple Grandin (autism) have a mental health problem? Is a stroke a mental health problem? Is a form of epilepsy like petit/absence/TLE/complex partial and so on a mental health problem? Is dyslexia a mental health problem? Is difficulty concentrating and remembering due to a sports concussion (football, soccer, snow skiing) a mental health problem? Is Alzheimer's a mental health problem? Is imperfect hearing (central auditory processing disorder - CAPD) a mental health problem? Is dyspraxia a mental health problem? Is ADHD - ADD - Hyperactivity - attention deficit(s) a mental health problem? Is Parkinson's a mental health problem? Is cerebral palsy/hemiplegia/hemiparesis a mental health problem? If a person needs to wear eyeglasses/contact lenses, is that a mental health problem? If a person is a Buddhist or a Hindu and not a Christian, is that a mental health problem? If a person is a Democrat and not a Republican, is that a mental health problem? If a person prefers to watch Walt Disney movies vs soap operas on TV, is that a mental health problem?



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15 Feb 2011, 9:15 am

Seems to me there is a lot of hair splitting going on here, with the goal of eliminating stigmas attached to various words. But for all practical purposes, autism is my brain and my mind. If that isn't mental, then I don't know how else to look at it.


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17 Feb 2011, 8:21 am

OddDuckNash99 wrote:
I have OCD and panic attacks in addition to Asperger's. Also, I was diagnosed with OCD before I even knew I had Asperger's. So, I have no problem classifying Asperger's as a neuropsychiatric disorder. It's in the DSM. Therefore, it has a psychiatric component to it, and it's not merely some neurological condition. It makes us do things that are considered "weird" and "abnormal." -OddDuckNash99-


OddDuckNash99 is correct to make this statement, and I agree that this is why we can regard Aperger sydrome as a "mental health problem".

On the other hand s/he also skirts round another important question.

Mental health issues are socially defined as deviations from a "norm".

Scientifically, we can define "normal" in terms of degrees of deviation (mathematically) from an average point. In some cases, such as IQ, we can measure an average (100 in the case of IQ*) and then define "abnormal" as someone who is so many points (usually defined in percentiles or standard deviations from that average).

I suspect NTs are making less scientific judgments along the same lines all the time - so some people are exceptionally stupid, bright, or plain wierd.

In the case of Aspies, I suspect most of us fall under the street category of "wierd". I know I do. It's a social convention with an equivalent in the scientific literature, usually the DSM or ICD-10, with some clearer definitions.

It becomes a "mental health problem" when it impairs social functioning.

This, ultimately, besides political considerations, is why in some countries you can still get locked up in a mental institution for disagreeing with the government. It impairs social function in a highly "normalised" society.

That doesn't make it any less "natural".

Homosexuality is natural and, given its prevalence, both in humans and other animals, normal. Therefore it was taken out of the DSM, where it should not have been in the first place and would not have been had it not been for the narrow minded individuals looking at what was perceived as "normal" in American (sic) society at the time.

So, is Asperger's a "mental health problem"? In that that deviation from measurable averages is a measure of impaired social function, yes. That said, since it's measured against social "norms" much has to do with society having a problem. In consequence, some narrow-minded individuals want an in-vitro test for Asperger syndrome, with the implication of options for termination.

There is a word for this: eugenics.

In a decent society, and I have no illusions that this will be a very long time coming, society would help its members understand, for example, that some individuals have trouble understanding non-verbal cues, while helping those individuals to read those cues as best they can.

Then it is no longer a "problem", for us or them, and can be struck from the DSM. It won't change an inability to read social signals, but it will change our ability to integrate with neurotypicals.


* As an aside, this may explain why Aspies appear to have a higher level of intelligence than the rest of the population. It's a mathematical artefact. Asperger syndrome is partially defined by removing those with impaired intellectual function from the calculation. When you calculate population averages you don't do this. Therefore you will end up with a population mean among Aspies higher than that among the general population, because those with lower intellect have already been shoved in conceptual boxes with other autistic labels.

It is possible, as Baron-Cohen has suggested, that AS has a different organic cause from those for other autistic disorders. This might imply that some people with AS but lower intellect are being misdiagnosed with those other autistic disorders. If that is the case, when those causes are found, we may have to strike higher intellectual function from the definition of AS. I expect that to happen long before society accepts people who are "different".


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