8 Signs of Asperger's Syndrome in Adults

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  • Asperger's is another name for "high-functioning autism." It wasn’t until 2013 that the American Psychiatric Association classified Asperger’s syndrome under the broader diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. As such, many adults have yet to be diagnosed. Identifying the signs of Asperger’s in adults can be helpful not only in getting treatment but also in finding effective ways to help them learn to navigate their day-to-day routine. Learn the signs of Asperger's in adults, such as a desire for sameness and difficulty with social interactions, among other traits on the Asperger checklist, and what to know about Asperger's testing in adults.

  • 1
    Same daily routine
    Man brushing teeth

    More often than not, one of the primary ways adults with Asperger’s cope with the condition is by setting and maintaining a strict routine. This goes beyond getting up, going to work, and coming home afterward. They must get up exactly at 6 a.m., be at their desk by 8:30 a.m., take a lunch break at 12:15 p.m., and be home by 5:45 p.m. This strict schedule is also applied to chores, watching TV, and other activities. If they are delayed even just five minutes, it could cause distress.

  • 2
    Social interaction difficulties
    Mature woman hanging out with friends during cocktail party

    Because adults with Asperger’s prefer to stick to the same daily routine, social interactions with others could interfere with that routine. Social interactions also could put the adult in an unfamiliar situation, one that makes them feel uncomfortable and anxious. They may feel like they have no control over what is taking place, which could result in them becoming withdrawn and unwilling to participate.

  • 3
    Unintentionally rude to or uninterested in others
    woman sitting on sofa watching her friend use cell phone

    Although Asperger’s in adults doesn’t typically include speech or language impairments, it’s likely these adults have trouble communicating with others. As a result, they may come across as rude or uninterested in others because they don’t have the communications skills to convey interest or emotion. Instead, their manner of speaking may be more robotic in nature, without any inflection or emotion in their speech. They also may not be aware of or recognize others’ emotions, so their lack of awareness may seem like self-absorption or disinterest.

  • 4
    Take things literally
    African American woman in conversation with friend on couch

    When talking with others, adults with Asperger’s have difficulty recognizing sarcasm, irony or humor, so they are likely to take whatever is said literally. This can cause confusion and misunderstanding, and trying to explain the original meaning or intent of the statement can be difficult. As such, talking with adults with this Asperger’s trait can mean taking special care to ensure you say what you mean without joking or using hidden meanings.

  • 5
    Preference to be alone
    young man sitting on a couch reading a book

    For adults who have Asperger’s, the discomfort they experience in social situations or the desire to maintain their daily routine leads them to want to spend time alone instead of with others. This helps them maintain control over their environment, and allows them to focus on those things they are interested in—without distractions. It’s also common for them to have interests that can seem obsessive because they can become very fixated on those things. Because others don’t share those interests, adults with Asperger’s don’t seek out company when exploring those interests.

  • 6
    Difficulty expressing feelings
    Young African American woman looking angry and arguing with unseen female friend

    Because adults with Asperger’s have a hard time with social interactions and relating to others, they don’t develop the instincts and skills they need to express their own feelings and thoughts. As a result, they find it hard to share their emotions, which can be frustrating for them. In addition, they may come across as rude if they cannot express themselves the way they want (or the way others tend to expect). Trying to help them express their feelings and thoughts could lead to further aggravation.

  • 7
    Clumsiness
    person's hand cleaning spilled orange juice on counter

    With many adults, Asperger’s traits include a high likelihood of clumsiness. In fact, according to a 2016 study published in Molecular Autism, motor coordination difficulties are significantly more common in adults with autism spectrum conditions. They may find it difficult to walk or sit, and using fine motor skills for things like tying their shoes or buttoning up their coat can be challenging. The study also concluded that motor coordination skills are important for effective social skills and empathy, which could explain the lack of those traits in adults with Asperger’s.

  • 8
    One-on-one friendships vs. groups
    Women in painting class

    As they have grown up being on the spectrum, many women learned how to mask their Asperger’s traits better than men, making it more difficult to diagnose. Their coping mechanisms may include seeking out one-on-one friendships in order to avoid group situations. This directly contrasts many men with Asperger’s, who prefer to be alone. Also, unlike men, women with Asperger’s also tend to be more in tune with emotions, both their own and those of others.

There is no specific Asperger’s adult test for diagnosis.

Right now, there is no specific test for diagnosing Asperger’s in adults. In fact, diagnosing Asperger’s in adults can be difficult because the symptoms are not always as apparent as those in children. However, if you suspect you or someone you know may have Asperger’s, it’s important to talk with your doctor, who may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in autism spectrum disorder. Receiving an Asperger’s diagnosis can be very useful in receiving therapy or medications to help with certain behaviors, such as those that interfere with work or forming relationships.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 7
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Signs of Autism in Adults. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/signs/adults/ 
  2. Signs and Symptoms of Asperger’s in Adults. Kenneth Roberson Ph.D. https://kennethrobersonphd.com/signs-and-symptoms-of-aspergers-in-adults/ 
  3. Signs of ASD in Older Children and Adults. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. https://www.carautismroadmap.org/signs-of-asd-in-older-children-and-adults/ 
  4. Cassidy S, Hannant P, Tavassoli T, Allison C, Smith P, Baron-Cohen S. Dyspraxia and autistic traits in adults with and without autism spectrum conditions. Mol Autism. 2016;7:48. Published 2016 Nov 25. doi:10.1186/s13229-016-0112-x https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5123360/ 
  5. How Are Women With Asperger’s Different From Men With Asperger’s? Kenneth Roberson Ph.D. https://kennethrobersonphd.com/women-aspergers-different-men-aspergers/