Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Aspergers and Introversion

A lot of the more common behaviours and feelings associated with Aspergers seem to lend themselves to a definition of Introversion and it's tempting to see aspies as simply "introverts" but this clearly isn't the case. It is true however, to suggest that there are more introverted aspies than extroverted ones.

Most aspies feel very much like "a fish out of water" at social gatherings. Often, we don't care for a lot of social contact and we need a lot of "alone-time" particularly following intense social gatherings like school, work and parties.

It's fairly accurate to describe aspies as "nerds" but that shouldn't imply that we are all scientifically minded and boring dressers.

Can Aspies be Extroverts?
Many aspies will do extroverted things to their appearance, like get a tattoo, dye their hair or wear "loud" or colourful clothing. Unlike NTs though, they'll do this because they personally like a particular look (or want to "be" a certain fictional or historical character) rather than because they want to fit into a particular group of people. In this way, even an outrageous punk or goth appearance can still qualify one as a "nerd" in much the same way as wearing a Star Trek costume can.

The point here is that loud and colourful people are generally interpreted by society as extroverted. Aspies too can be extroverts.

I saw a recent non-scientific survey of 100 aspies which put introversion amongst aspies at 85%. This figure is possibly a little high but is probably reasonably representative.

Is there a danger that young introverts are being incorrectly classified as aspies?
I think that while there's always a danger of over-diagnosis, aspergers is growing in our society because;

  1. It was always more widespread and is only now being more easily detected

  2. Aspergers is now more "fit" for our current lifestyle (in the Darwinian sense) resulting in an increase in numbers.

Most paediatricians who diagnose aspergers look for more than introvert characteristics. They're using the DSM IV criteria which contains things which aren't necessarily the result of introversion. Provided that your child is diagnosed by a practitioner who gives the criteria due consideration, the risk is minimal.

A bit of fun
For a bit of fun, you'll find a link to a quick online quiz for introversion below;

Online Introvert vs Extrovert Quiz

You may find that your results differ significantly from one visit to another because introversion/extroversion changes somewhat with your mood.


THE MOM BOMB said...

Thanks for the post. We will definitely have a professional evaluate my son for characteristics beyond his introversion.

Interesting points on why you think the rate of Asperger's is growing, especially #2. Over the past 2 centuries, we've shifted from an agrarian, to an industrial, to an information-age economy. It'd be fascinating to know if there's a correlation between that and the incidence of Asperger's.

Anonymous said...

Introverts and ASD. Hmmm. I have 2 boys diagnosed ASD, that are very different in personality. The eldest is also an introvert,who loves to dress up and is colourfully interesting in style but definately not the younger, he is just cool. How interesting it is that so many want to 'help' these different personalities. Information has helped me as their Mother in acceptance, uderstanding and nurturing of them and their various needs is the best I can do. I love them both dearly and enjoy their wonderful quirks.

"if it weren't for the Aspies of this world we'd all still be swinging from the trees'. Tony Attwood.