Does social anxiety have anything to do with Asperger syndrome?

29 January, 2018 , / Mateusz

Asperger syndrome according to DSM V

Pursuant to the DSM V disorder classification of the American Psychiatric Association, Asperger syndrome is included into a wider group of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

According to DSM V, the symptoms of Asperger syndrome include:

A. Persistent deficits in social communication and relationships with numerous environments, as manifested by:

  • deficits in socio-emotional reciprocity including failures in maintaining conversation, limited needs in the area of sharing interests with others, emotions, affection and reaction, all the way to complete lack of social interaction,
  • deficits in non-verbal communication including inadequate integration of both verbal and non-verbal communication, poor eye contact and body language, inadequate understanding of gestures as well as complete lack of non-verbal communication and mimic expression in communication,
  • deficits in establishing, maintaining, and understanding social relations – including difficulties in adapting behavior to different situations or contexts, problems with forging friendships, difficulties in the games that require imagination, lack of interest in maintaining relationships with peers.

B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following symptoms:

  • stereotypical or repetitive body movements, speech or use of selected items (for example movement stereotypes, echolalia, idiosyncratic speech),
  • strong attachment to routine, emphasis on repeatability in terms of non-verbal behavior and verbal communication, excessive aversion to changes (such as strict adherence to particular daily plans, walking the same routes on a day-to-day basis, using the same words and gestures in certain situations, selecting the same dishes),
  • limited, narrow interest characterized by excessive intensity and a high level of concentration (manifested by commitment to unusual items or excessively narrowed interests),
  • hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory stimuli or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g. apparent lack of sensitivity to pain, hot or cold, negative reaction to selected sounds or fabrics, , etc.).

C. The symptoms must be present in the early stages of development (but do not have to manifest themselves until the social requirements exceed the limited capacity).

D. All symptoms both limit and impair everyday functions. Autism spectrum is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It occurs from the period of infancy or early childhood; although at this stage, it may not yet be identified due to low social requirements.

Please note that specialists do not indicate the presence of anxiety as a factor of indication for autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger syndrome.

What is social anxiety according to DSM V?

According to DSM V, social anxiety is applicable when:

  • a person feels persistent fear of one or more social situations or situations during which the person is exposed to contact with unknown persons. There is fear of actions that might result in embarrassment and humiliation.
  • exposure to situations resulting in anxiety almost always causes unease, which can manifest into a panic attack,
  • a person suffering from social anxiety cannot justify the reason for the anxiety and feels overwhelmed,
  • a person suffering from social anxiety avoids situations that cause intense anxiety,
  • fear, anxiety and avoidance interfere with daily activities, both professional and social as well as functioning in a relationship, or cause the fear of phobia,
  • fear, anxiety and avoidance are durable and last for 6 months or longer,
  • fear, anxiety and avoidance are not a result from poor health or the impact of certain substances on the body (e.g. medicine, drugs)

A clear distinction between these two disorders is extremely important for people who experience disturbing symptoms. Firstly, an accurate diagnosis allows choosing the right procedure and significantly improves the life of patients. A correct diagnosis of the disorder also helps prevent unnecessary treatment of diseases from which they do not suffer from in reality. It is worth mentioning that social anxiety is sometimes mistakenly diagnosed not only as Asperger disorder but also with depression, impaired manic-depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia as well as ADHD. In the case of a mistake in the diagnosis, treatment will not only fail to bring relief, but can also significantly worsen overall health conditions.