Elon Musk says he has Asperger’s, but is it still an Asperger’s diagnosis? Here’s what the experts told us

Elon Musk made a startling announcement during the Saturday Night Live host this weekend: he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Musk mentioned his diagnosis in his opening speech, after pointing out that his tone doesn’t change much when speaking. He then went on to say that he was “the first person with Asperger’s to do SNL” and then joked that he was “at least the first to admit it.”

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Many people have pointed out on Twitter that Asperger’s Syndrome is an outdated diagnosis. “I still feel a bit embarrassed when I have to use Asperger with some older/less knowledgeable healthcare providers when they are not up to date with the current terms,” wrote one person. “I mean, if you just google for 10 minutes, you get a good overview of all the baggage and issues that come with that word. Another simply wrote that “Asperger’s is no longer a diagnosis.”

But what is Asperger’s syndrome and is it always a diagnosis? Here’s what you need to know.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that is part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD, in case you didn’t know it, is a group of neurological disorders that can lead to impaired speech and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive behavior patterns.

The biggest symptom of Asperger’s Syndrome is a child’s obsessive interest in one object or object, says NINDS. Children with Asperger’s want to know everything about that particular topic and don’t want to talk about much else. Other symptoms may include:

  • Repetitive procedures
  • Features of speech and language
  • Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior
  • Failure to successfully interact with peers
  • Problems of non-verbal communication
  • Clumsiness

Children with Asperger’s are often isolated due to poor social skills and have a history of developmental delay, NINDS explains.

Technically, this is not the case. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) excluded Asperger’s syndrome in 2013 and included it under the umbrella term “autism spectrum disorder”. “At least in the United States and wherever the DSM-5 is used, Asperger’s syndrome is no longer an official diagnosis,” said Christopher Hanks, MD, a general practitioner at the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University, who deals with treatment for autistic disorders. Health.

Instead, the condition that was previously simply known as autism has been expanded into an autism spectrum disorder. “The DSM now describes autism spectrum disorders as “mild, moderate or severe,” although the criteria for distinguishing between these three levels is somewhat vague and has not yet been confirmed,” said David Mundell, MD, professor of psychiatry at the university. University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Perelman and director of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Center.

There are several reasons why Asperger’s syndrome is no longer a diagnosis. First, it can be difficult to distinguish from autism. “Even very experienced and qualified clinicians couldn’t agree on cases,” Mundell said. “That is to say, clinicians were not reliable in differentiating Asperger’s syndrome from autism. This is partly because the appearance of people with autism can change dramatically with age and over time. »

Asperger’s syndrome was also excluded from the diagnosis to “clarify that autism is a broad spectrum and can present differently in people,” says Dr. Hanks.

But there was also “increasing evidence” that Hans Asperger, the pediatrician for whom the disease is named, was a Nazi and a “tool of the Nazi Party,” Mundell says, adding that “researchers and clinicians in the field have rightly sought to get away from his terrible legacy. »

But Mundell says “there was a lot of controversy between scientists, clinicians and advocates when Asperger’s syndrome was removed from the DSM.” Why? It took some scientists and doctors more time to study the disorder and distinguish it from an autistic disorder. That’s why, Mundell says, some people with autism still refer to themselves as “aspies.”

Asperger’s syndrome and autism are now considered the same diagnosis, that is, part of the autism spectrum disorder.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Asperger’s was once thought to be different from ASD because people with Asperger’s have average or above average levels of speech and intelligence.

Of course, if you’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s and identify with it, you can use any term you want. From a medical standpoint, Dr. Hanks says the term “asperger” “should not be used at this stage.” But, he adds, “There are a lot of people who identify with Asperger’s and cling to it. If someone comes up to me and says, “I have Asperger’s,” I have no right to say I don’t have it. »

Mundell says there are many other “difficult” issues related to ASD that need to be addressed. he wonders if we didn’t do people a disservice by saying that people who can have serious problems but who work, are in relationships and live independently have the same status as people who have no words. , and require 24/7 care. Changing your DSM name will not solve this problem.

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