Untreated Mental Illness Has Destroyed an Entire Town
- Engages in one-sided, long-winded conversations, without noticing if the listener is listening or trying to change the subject
- Displays unusual nonverbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, few facial expressions, or awkward body postures and gestures
- Shows an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects, such as local small town politics, elementary schools, or dendrology
- Appears not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others’ feelings
- Has a hard time “reading” other people or understanding humor
- Speaks in a voice that is monotonous, rigid or unusually fast
- Moves clumsily, with poor coordination
- Exhibits quirky behavior
- Approaches people in a strange, awkward manner
- Unable to understand another person’s point of view
All of the above are symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) in adults. AS is a neurological disorder. It is listed under ‘autism’ spectrum disorders. The exact cause of the disease is unknown. Genetic disposition is believed to be the main cause of AS and so it is considered as a hereditary disease. AS is more common in men than women and can also be known as the ‘Little Professor Syndrome’ or ‘Geek Syndrome’.
Some of the AS in adults related to lack of social and emotional reciprocity, are noticed in childhood, but parents tend to overlook or try to improve, thinking that the child will improve soon. AS in adults or children is difficult to diagnose because they show normal to above average intelligence. Many times, they exhibit intense focus, good levels of concentration and perfect logical thinking. They might surprise you with extreme focus on a particular interest or hobby. It is relatively easier to deal with adults with AS than handle the children…but not always. It is comparatively easier to explain to the adults what is wrong with them.
So…how do you treat AS for adults? Unfortunately, there is no cure. Treatment for adults with AS is focused on physical, occupational and speech therapies and varies from patient to patient. Treatment can help alleviate many of the condition’s more troubling symptoms.
Here are three suggested ways to treat AS:
Cognitive Therapy Curbs the Obsessions
Cognitive behavior therapy plays a major role in treating AS in adults. It is most useful in helping people with Asperger’s to relax and broaden their horizons beyond their usual focused interests and to break the tight routines they may have set up to help them cope. Cognitive behavior therapy can also help to shatter the obsessions that many adults with Asperger’s form.
Cognitive behavior therapy also gives adults with Asperger’s more ability to cope with stressful social situations, such as a gathering of unfamiliar people or an event where more social demands are made of them than they are comfortable accepting. This can eliminate their more disruptive behaviors, such as erupting in an outburst or simply undergoing an emotional meltdown when they feel overwhelmed.
Help in Understanding Social Interaction
Many of the problems that affect adults with AS can be solved with some training in social skills. While people without Asperger’s pick up social skills and cues as a result of simple day-to-day interaction, Asperger’s adults may need to learn in a way that is more structured and explicit. Training in social skills can help them to learn the difference between humor and sarcasm or what certain gestures mean and how to interpret tone of voice. Some training even helps them to speak in a more natural-sounding voice. The teaching style is similar to that used to teach a foreign language and has proven to be quite successful.
Medication Can Relieve Other Disorders
Medication doesn’t help to alleviate any of the symptoms of AS by itself. However, since there are other disorders that often accompany Asperger’s, such as depression and anxiety, antidepressants can help relieve them. Atypical neuroleptic medication such as olanzapine can calm the disruptive behaviors they may have, such as an emotional outburst or repeating acts that may hurt themselves. Atypical neuroleptics also may reduce obsessive behavior. However, the medication does have several side effects, such as weight gain and a loss of control over the body’s movements.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) also have been shown to relieve obsessive behavior, although these medications also have side effects. The main problem that comes from treating Asperger’s with medication is that adults with the syndrome lack the needed communication skills. They may not mention a side effect that people without the disorder would bring up as soon as they noticed it.