Are Introverts Wrongly Labelled with Asperger’s?

While reading the “Daily Fail” to my ill mother, I came across this slightly disturbing article.

Darryl Hannah, actress with Asperger'sAs an introvert I intensely despise small talk, but I’m not autistic and I do not have Asperger syndrome, unlike actress Darryl Hannah (right). The “Daily Fail” has a rep for misrepresenting facts and blowing situations out of proportion, but I couldn’t help but question if introverts and those that can’t handle small talk are really being labelled with disorders, either officially or by self-diagnosis.

Yes, we’re usually the outsiders in any general group of people but we’re not living in Salem in the 1600s. There are no witches here. Nor am I possessed by a demon. Why must we label the unusual? ‘Variety is the spice of life,’ or so the saying goes. Everyone has their idiosyncrisies that set them apart.

Mental illness as the new must-have accessory

As Good As It Gets (1997)OCD is an acronym rarely used or understood before As Good As It Gets in 1997 and has since become so popular that now everyone has “a touch of OCD” – we’ve all said it, even I’m guilty of it. At the moment, countless TV shows abound about hoarding, cleaning, extreme couponing, etc. Most seem light-hearted, or exploitative with an unsettling freak show vibe, with few deserving the title ‘documentary’. Either way it belittles a serious illness that affects the ability to have a “normal” life that many take for granted.

Perhaps Asperger’s is the next Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

It does seem lately that every celebrity is struggling with mental health problems, with bipolar disorder appearing as the most popular type at present – Catherine Zeta Jones is one of the latest. It pisses me off no end that celebrities use mental illness, whether they truly suffer from it or not, to excuse their behaviour and are furthering their careers by eliciting public sympathy.

Fair enough if they’re trying to raise awareness, like Stephen Fry (pictured below), who’s made several brave attempts to explain to the world what everyday life is like for those tormented by serious mental illness in order to diminish the ignorance and stigma surrounding it.

Stephen Fry

However, in response, some ardent fans will do everything they can to emulate their idols and may aspire to become just as famous. Sob stories are at the heart of game shows and reality TV right now. If you have no talent then the sympathy vote is the only means to compete. If that means fabricating mental health issues, so be it.

The irony is that instant fame results in instant pressure and stress to live up to potential which can result is depression, anxiety, exhaustion and mental breakdowns. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy; joking and pretending to have mental health issues one minute and actually suffering from it the next. We’ve heard that kind of story before, it’s called The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and we all know how that ended.

Related articles:

4 thoughts on “Are Introverts Wrongly Labelled with Asperger’s?

  1. Came across thsi post searching for Asperger’s. I am autistic myself and I can tell you, even high-functioning autism (aka Asperger’s) is more than being introverted. It includes sensory processing difficulties, obsessions, strict routines, being literal-minded, etc. The DSM-5 actually says that you can’t have autism spectrum disorder (they removed Asperger’s fromt he books and are now calling the entire spectrum ASD) if you don’t need supports.

    That being said, I agree that Asperger’s is a bit of a fashionable label and that many introverts, highly sensitive people, etc. identify with it. This is problematic because it wrongly suggests that ASD is not a disability (I know many autistic people conside rit merely a difference but then they’re referrign still to disability terminologyw hen they talk of discrimination etc.). I feel this drives away attention from the needs of actual autistics.


    1. Thanks for commenting, Astrid. I have to admit I don’t know too much about Asperger’s so thank you for enlightening me.

      You’re right that it does shift the focus away from “actual autistics” and perpetuates a falsehood that Asperger’s / ASD is less severe, less disabling than it truly can be.


  2. It’s an important, interesting issue that isn’t by any means resolved — in large part because “introversion” is typically used to describe several different personality traits (i.e. preference for solitude, introspection, shyness, etc.) that overlap with behavioral features os ASD (including Aspergers). Also, apparently, the neurological basis for introversion doesn’t seem to be worked out in the way that it is (increasingly) for ASD. The ASD literature has a pretty well established explanation for why a person with ASD would feel depleted by social situations (it’s very hard work to pass as neurotypical or navigate) and why a person with ASD could restrict social interaction or over-engage (i.e. it’s difficult on one hand or they don’t recognize when it’s too much or the wrong thing for the other person). I think Astrid’s point about: “includes sensory processing difficulties, obsessions, strict routines, being literal-minded” is on the mark. There’s more and of course those aspects of ASD have specific clinical meanings that differentiate them from what a layperson might think. Finally, this link has a very interesting discussion of how interversion may and may not relate to autism.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s