Asperger's Syndrome could be the CAUSE of Social Anxiety - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-08-2007, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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Asperger's Syndrome could be the CAUSE of Social Anxiety

I've heard people mention Asperger's Syndrome on this board occasionally, but never really took the time to learn about it since I am so preoccupied with worrying about my social anxiety. But I went on wikipedia a little while ago and read up on it a bit, and was shocked after seeing how well it described my personality. Then I realized that there's a good chance that Asperger's Syndrome could be the root of my social anxiety. Here's a list of some symptoms I found on wikipedia.

1. Difficulty reading the social and emotional messages in the eyes - People with AS don't look at eyes often, and when they do, they can't read them. I certainly don't look into people's eyes very much, but that's mostly because I'm afraid I'll stare too long and end up looking like a weirdo.

2. Making literal interpretation - AS individuals have trouble interpreting colloquialisms, sarcasm, and metaphors.

3. Being considered disrespectful and rude - Prone to egocentric behavior, individuals with Aspergers miss cues and warning signs that this behavior is inappropriate.
Every now and then I'll say something completely off-topic or innappropriate, and that's when I immediately shut up so as not to embarrass myself any further.

4. Honesty and deception - Children with Aspergers are often considered "too honest" and have difficulty being deceptive, even at the expense of hurting someone's feelings.

5. Becoming aware of making social errors - As children with Aspergers mature, and become aware of their mindblindness, their fear of making a social mistake, and their self-criticism when they do so, can lead to social phobia.
I can definitely relate to this. I know that when I was a child I was kind of shy, but was never too self-conscious about it, until I entered middle school and began to realize how different I was from all the other kids. That's when Asperger's led to my social anxiety I believe. BTW, mindblindness is described as the inability to recognize and understand the thoughts and feelings of others.

6. A sense of paranoia - Because of their mindblindness, persons with Aspergers have trouble distinguishing the difference between the deliberate or accidental actions of others, which can in turn lead to a feeling of paranoia.
Yes, I'm definitely paranoid about people's intentions and what they might think of me, and it seems to be getting worse.

7. Managing conflict - Being unable to understand other points of view can lead to inflexibility and an inability to negotiate conflict resolution. Once the conflict is resolved, remorse may not be evident.
This is something I sometimes struggle with. For example, when I argue with someone, I don't always try and see things from their point of view and instead focus on making them think that I'm right and they're wrong.

8. Awareness of hurting the feelings of others - A lack of empathy often leads to unintentionally offensive or insensitive behaviors.
At times I can be a little insensitive, but for the most part I try my best not to hurt people's feelings.

9. Repairing someone's feelings - Lacking intuition about the feelings of others, people with AS have little understanding of how to console someone or how to make them feel better.

10. Recognizing signs of boredom - Inability to understand other people's interests can lead AS persons to be inattentive to others. Conversely, people with AS often fail to notice when others are uninterested.

11. Introspection and self-consciousness - Individuals with AS have difficulty understanding their own feelings or their impact on the feelings of other people.

12. Clothing and personal hygiene - People with AS tend to be less affected by peer pressure than others. As a result, they often do what is comfortable and are unconcerned about their impact on others.
This one doesn't describe me at all. It's quite the opposite actually. I usually try and wear what's cool and in style so I'll fit in with everyone else.

13. Reciprocal love and grief - Since people with AS react more practically than emotionally, their expressions of affection and grief are often short and weak.
When I'm feeling sad or angry, I can't seem to express it effectively or at least enough to the point that someone actually notices. I'm sure I experience emotions just like everyone else, but I can't outwardly express them as others do.

14. Understanding of embarrassment and faux pas - Although persons with AS have an intellectual understanding of embarrassment and faux pas, they are unable to grasp concepts on an emotional level.
Embarrassment is something that I'm entirely familar with, intellectually and emotionally.

15. Coping with criticism - People with AS are compelled to correct mistakes, even when they are made by someone in a position of authority, such as a teacher. For this reason, they can be unwittingly offensive.

16. Speed and quality of social processing - Because they respond through reasoning and not intuition, AS individuals tend to process social information more slowly than the norm, leading to uncomfortable pauses or delays in response.
I often find myself searching for something to say when in a conversation. Whether this is due entirely to anxiety or something else, I don't know.

17. Exhaustion - As people with AS begin to understand theory of mind, they must make a deliberate effort to process social information. This often leads to mental exhaustion.
After being in a conversation for more than 5 minutes, I do feel very exhausted and have the urge to try and end it as soon as possible.

According to this list, I'd say there's a definite connection between Asperger's Syndrome and social anxiety. The question is, even if we're able to overcome our SA, will we still suffer with Asperger's (for those who have it anyway) or will that eventually disappear as well?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-08-2007, 06:41 PM
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I read that same article and noticed I had some of those behaviors as well, but if you keep reading, it says it is only considered Asperger's if no other anxiety is present. Many of the behaviors overlap, but that doesn't mean you have Asperger's. I think most of the things you said that you had are symptoms of SA so I don't think there's any evidence from your post that you have Asperger's. I know when I read about all kinds of anxieties, I think "yeah, I have some of that" but if I read further there are some clear differences. I'm just saying not to jump to conclusions as I don't know your personal situation.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-08-2007, 07:22 PM
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There's tons of symptoms there that I'm sure that anyone could have just by chance. When I look at the main ones, I really don't have aspergers or autism, because I can interpret metaphors, am sensitive to what others are feeling, not really considered rude, can read people eyes. I knew a guy from work who was autistic or had aspergers, and he was similar yet different from me. The biggest difference was that he wasn't anxious around people at all, would often blurt things out in big groups of people, it's just that he was awkward because he was sort of living in his own little world.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-08-2007, 07:41 PM
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re: Asperger's Syndrome could be the CAUSE of Social Anxiety

Some of them really apply to me, especially these:

13. Reciprocal love and grief - Since people with AS react more practically than emotionally, their expressions of affection and grief are often short and weak.

12. Clothing and personal hygiene - People with AS tend to be less affected by peer pressure than others. As a result, they often do what is comfortable and are unconcerned about their impact on others.

I don't know if I have that though. I don't know if it's possible to have AS and SA at the same time. Maybe. I never really did get the hang of socializing so maybe that points to autism, but then I do understand sarcasm and metaphor (in fact use them a lot myself) so that would seem incompatible. As the tree said to the lumberjack, I'm stumped. Yeah that was a lame Ned Flanders joke....

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-09-2007, 01:39 AM
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re: Asperger's Syndrome could be the CAUSE of Social Anxiety

Asperger's has an extremely high comorbidity rate with other disorders such as anxiety.

There isn't much research on the links between this condition and SAD but there is emerging evidence for things such as higher rates of social anxiety disorder being found in first degree relatives of autistic probands. But there was no link found within individuals between SAD and the broad autistic phenotype. (See Piven J, Palmer P; Psychiatric disorder and broad autism phenotype. AmJ Psychiatry 1999, 156:557-563). This would seem counter intuitive seeing as there's a high comorbidity with anxiety (Bellini, 2004; Kim, Szatmari, Bryson, Streiner, & Wilson, 2000; Tonge, Brereton, Gray, & Einfeld, 1999), and this combined with the repercussions socially of the condition. Clearly much research is lacking.

But seeing as there's an overlap in various criteria between certain conditions, sometimes striking, it's easy for people with SAD to jump to conclusions about what else they might have. So caution is needed.

Also, did you notice this part of the Wiki article below?

Peter Szatmari suggests that Asperger's was promoted as a diagnosis to spark more research into the syndrome - "It was introduced into the official classification systems in 1994 and has grown in popularity as a diagnosis, even though its validity has not been clearly established. It is interesting to note that it was introduced not so much as an indication of its status as a 'true' disorder, but more to stimulate research ... its validity is very much in question."
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-09-2007, 12:36 PM
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re: Asperger's Syndrome could be the CAUSE of Social Anxiety

I've visited the Asperger's message board a few times, and it seems most of those people don't feel social anxiety, and they often have friends, which makes me think the two are not related. However I can see a lot of those qualities in myself, especially not being able to show emotions, I've always had that (although don;t have the problem when drunk!)
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-09-2007, 02:48 PM
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re: Asperger's Syndrome could be the CAUSE of Social Anxiety

I think in my case AS could have led to SA. I am on the autism spectrum and probably likely have AS. I didn't just jump to this conclusion overnight though. I spent months researching AS and reading posts on forums of people who are diagnosed with it and it felt like I could have written a lot of the posts myself.

I'm not diagnosed with AS or even SA (at least not exactly officially) but I'm thinking of seeking diagnosis in the future. It would at least be a confirmation for me, and a relief. For me my traits go even back to childhood. They have to, or you can't be diagnosed.

IMHO, it doesn't sound like you have Asperger's Syndrome, just anxiety. That doesn't mean people with it don't get anxiety though. That's a myth. A lot of people with AS get anxiety, and social anxiety in particular. It would make sense too, especially if you have poor social skills. Poor social skills leads to teasing from others, which could lead to low self esteem, depression and anxiety.

If, however you want to look into Asperger's more, here's a couple of sites that are useful

The second one has a wealth of information. Probably more than you need.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-09-2007, 05:39 PM
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re: Asperger's Syndrome could be the CAUSE of Social Anxiety

Hopefully the latest treatment of autism data (1 in 150 kids with autism in the U.S.) will lead to more money, and more research.

One of my younger brothers has Asperger's Syndrome. He has very limited social abilities, which makes me wonder if he is more of a high-functioning autistic. He can identify with many of the accepted Asperger's symptoms. I can identify with some, but definitely not others.

I wouldn't doubt Asperger's Syndrome can cause social anxiety, but social anxiety likely has many triggers.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-09-2007, 06:06 PM
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I have been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. I don't know if I can say that it caused my SA though. How can my personality be separated like that? I think that my personality as a whole, and also other external factors, caused my SA.

It's funny though, because before I was diagnosed, most people had no patience with me when I wouldn't speak, and just got annoyed with me. But now, however weird I act due to SA, they just say "ah, she has Asperger's syndrome, she can't help it", and they never criticize me any more. So, it seems that normal people want very much to label me with something to explain why I am different to them.
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