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Asperger’s Syndrome and Mental Illness

The Connection between Asperger’s Syndrome and Mental Illness

Hotly debated ever since being introduced into mainstream America, the connection between Asperger’s Syndrome and mental illness is a tenuous one; different psychiatrists and physicians have varying opinions not only with regard to the presentation of the various forms of mental illness but also whether they are caused by syndrome or simply exist coincidentally. On the other hand, the appearance of so many difference forms of mental illness does make a compelling case for an increased presentation of such ailments in individuals suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome concurrently.

Misdiagnosis of mental illness plays a huge role in these discussions. It has already been established that peer rejection of the Asperger’s Syndrome child will lead to a general distrust of peers and therefore a withdrawal from interactions. Clinical psychologists may misdiagnose this behaviour as paranoia or paranoid psychosis, when it truly is little more than a self imposed defence mechanism against taunts and negative peer interactions. This of course is hard to prove and even harder to dispute.

In the same vein, the child with Asperger’s Syndrome whose primary hobby is a love of all things having to do with a bus may be diagnosed – mistakenly – as having delusions with respect to the immense of a bus stopping at a particular locale, when in reality he or she is simply reciting a bus schedule.

Diagnosis of mental illness in conjunction with Asperger’s Syndrome should not be attempted until the full extent of the Asperger’s symptoms has been charted. On the other hand, there is a very fine line in Asperger’s patients where a preoccupation with an idea turns into wishful thinking. It is then that the rudiments of mental illness may well take hold.

Another condition that has given rise to much speculation is the repetitive nature of many movements and verbalizations of Asperger’s patients. It is most difficult to differentiate these from those brought on obsessive compulsive disorders. Withdrawal and introversion have been considered part and parcel of a depressive illness as well, but at times they are the simple protective mechanisms against a group of peers that would not readily accept the patient as a child. Once again, diagnosis cannot be reached conclusively unless a complete history of the illness and the patient’s life is available.

Quite possibly the best course of action is a watchfulness with respect to signs and symptoms of mental illness and consultation of a psychiatrist familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome and the workings of the disorder. Whenever possible, a copy of medical records should be provided as part of the interview. This might not completely prevent false diagnoses, but it will greatly curtail those mental illness claims that are not entirely grounded in clinical reality and are more an expression of a behavioural coping mechanism.

The latter are the workings of a sound mind seeking to protect itself and the body it inhabits from harm brought to it by peer groups, while actual mental illness does not usually have this kind of foundation and instead seems to be almost random.