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Asperger's Symptoms in Adults

author image R. Y. Langham, Ph.D.
R. Y. Langham served as a senior writer for "The Herald" magazine from 1996-99. Langham holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Fisk University, a Master of Science in marriage and family therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University and a Ph.D in family psychology from Capella University. Dr. R.Y. Langham published her first psychological thriller in September 2011. It can be purchased on, Barnes& and
Asperger's Symptoms in Adults
An adult with Asperger's may have poor social skills or an inability to read another's emotions. Photo Credit: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Asperger's syndrome (AS) is a neurobiological disorder that affects the individual’s ability to communicate with other people, according to the Mayo Clinic. Adults with AS have a difficult time interpreting feelings and emotions. While Asperger’s syndrome is usually diagnosed in childhood, some people are not diagnosed until they are adults. There is no cure for Asperger’s syndrome so it is important to seek medical advice and treatment as soon as possible.

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Impaired Language Skills

Impaired language skills is a common symptom of AS in adults. These individuals can have difficulties with verbal reasoning and problem solving. They may only think in concrete and literal terms, and have a hard time thinking abstractly or hypothetically. An adult with Asperger’s syndrome often uses language as a way to relay facts, information and statistics, and not as a way to talk about feelings, beliefs or emotions. Adults with AS tend to sound robotic, scripted or monotone when speaking. They often talk abnormally fast, and repeat words and sentences multiple times. Adults with Asperger’s syndrome may have trouble controlling the tone or volume of their voices. An example would be an individual who speaks too loudly during a movie, unaware that it is disturbing to other people.

Inability to Empathize

A common symptom of Asperger’s syndrome in adults is the inability to empathize with others, according to the Mayo Clinic. Adults with AS tend to lack sympathy and compassion for other people. They are often unable to interpret facial expressions, gestures, intentions or emotions, which causes them to appear rude, egotistical, selfish and insensitive to others. Adults with Asperger’s syndrome may have a hard time looking at things from a different perspective because they do not understand what someone else is thinking or feeling. An example of the inability to empathize would be an individual who tells someone to quit whining about the loss of a family pet.

Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is another symptom of Asperger’s syndrome in adults, according to the Asperger’s Association of New England. Adults with AS usually prefer routines and schedules. Changes in schedules, routines and/or rituals can cause them anxiety and stress. Familiar objects and settings often provide a feeling of safety for AS sufferers. An example of resistance to change would be an individual who becomes extremely agitated when his manager changes his job responsibilities at work.

Impaired Social Skills

Adults with AS have impaired social skills, according to the Adult Asperger’s Association. They can have a hard time making friends and interacting with people in social settings. Adults with Asperger’s syndrome may appear awkward, quirky and out of place at social gatherings. They may engage in lengthy conversations unaware that the person to whom they are speaking is trying to change the subject or exit the conversation. These individuals tend to talk at people instead of talking to people. Many times adults with Asperger’s syndrome will make inappropriate comments because they are unable to understand voice tone, facial expressions and body gestures. Adults with AS often have a hard time “reading” people and understanding humor. They may not know the right thing to say or the correct way to behave, and may unintentionally upset the people around them. An example of impaired social skills would be an individual who says something insensitive about a co-workers weight in the middle of an office party.

Inability to Control Feelings

Adults with Asperger’s syndrome have problems controlling their feelings, according to Joy de Vries, R.N. and webmaster of the website Asperger Advice. They tend to get angry, depressed and overwhelmed easily. Changes in routines, the inability to communicate with people, and feelings of isolation can cause extreme anxiety and low self-esteem in adults with Asperger’s syndrome. In addition, certain sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures can cause intense reactions in these individuals. An example of the inability to control feelings would be an individual who becomes hysterical when he hears dogs barking. Another example is when an individual becomes so angry that his favorite television show was canceled that he throws the television out of the window.

Intense Specialized Interests

According to the Better Health Channel, adults with Asperger’s syndrome tend to have very intense time-consuming specialized interests. These individuals usually become experts in one or two areas and excel in their chosen careers because they choose jobs that best fit their interests. They are often referred to as eccentric, which sometimes causes social isolation. An example of an intense specialized interest would be someone who spends long amounts of time studying science and statistics, but has little interest in anything else.

Challenges with Higher Level Thinking

The Asperger’s Association of New England states that adults with Asperger’s syndrome tend to have challenges with higher level thinking. They have a hard time following a task or activity from the beginning to the completion. Adults with AS often do not know how to successfully organize, initiate, analyze, prioritize and complete tasks. These individuals are unable to think ahead to the possible end result. They focus on details and find it challenging to look at the big picture. An example of challenges with higher level thinking would be an individual who is unable to envision what he will be doing ten years from now.

Problems with Non-Verbal Communication

Adults with Asperger’s syndrome may have problems with non-verbal communication, according to the National Institute of Neurobiological Disorders and Stroke. They display awkward body gestures, inappropriate facial expressions and/or an odd stiff gaze. They rarely look people in the eye and do not display any form of joy such as smiling, winking or hugging. An example would be someone who appears lifeless when greeting a relative.

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