Adult Asperger's is [Maybe] Confusing Me
July 6, 2009 6:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm worried that I might have adult Asperger's or some similar social disorder that is keeping me from living a full and happy life. Lots of details after the jump.

Basic stats: 21-year-old, female college student, intelligent, and in good general health. My Myers-Briggs type indicator is INTJ.

I've been thinking about the possibility that I have Asperger's or something similar for a few years now but have felt that something is off especially acutely lately. Prompted by another AskMe answer, I took this quiz and got 36.

Brief history of my life: happy childhood, wonderful, supportive family. I was awkward in high school and had very little social life but did have some close friends. Most of my time was spent studying or reading/researching my hobbies. Now I attend a elite, small, liberal arts college where I am generally well-adjusted and have an excellent group of friends.

What concerns me are two general fields in my life: feelings and social interaction.

Now, I have feelings, where I feel affection or admiration or enthusiasm. But something tells me that I don't feel as strongly as normal people do, that I ought to feel a stronger tie to my friends and family. I have a hard time showing empathy; when someone I love is sad or disturbed, I often feel out of place and wish I could comfort them, without really knowing what to say or how to act. I feel fairly stoic most of time, though I can have times when I am fairly dejected and not feeling very well.

As for social interactions, I have gotten better than I used to be, where I could barely talk to people in social situations. Growing up, I always preferred parties with adults since I found it easier to converse with them than with my peers (this is less true now that I have a great peer group at my college). With the onset of legality, I've appreciate the help of a drink or two to help me relax in social situations and feel less ill at ease. Still, there are times when I'm in a car on the way to an event or in the middle of a circle of people and all I can think is "Get me out of here." I find small chit-chat hard to handle and forced.

Also, it's hard to read people. While I have a dry sense of humour and enjoy employing sarcasm, I find it hard to tell when others are sarcastic. Apparently I also project an unfriendly air; I have been told that some people though I didn't like them when I only felt indifference to them. On the topic of romantic relationships: I've never had an official one, just a few "things" with some guys in high school and college. This does bother me.

I read a lot and get really drawn into the story, especially with fantasy or science fiction. Sometimes when I'm reading, I look up and feel almost surprised to *not* be in the world of the book I'm reading. I'll get sometimes a sense of dreaminess when I walk around, a sort of quiet detachedness.

In the area of my personality, I am very introverted and can spend lots of time by myself. I tend to get intensely into my hobbies and kick things off by buying a lot of books and doing a lot of internet research when I find something new. For example, I was really into Lord of the Rings in high school and I learned Quenya, read The Simarillion, made costumes, bought the atlas, etc. I haven't dropped that interest entirely, but I'm less into LotR now, and more in the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So I watched the whole series, read the comics, looked up quotes online, read the Wikipedia entries on the episodes, etc.

This guy's question also resonated with me. I love facts and trivia (as evidenced by six years on Academic Teams/Quiz Bowl) and I hate the idea of being shown up in knowledge or knowing that someone is wrong and won't admit it. I like to find typos and correct them and have been known to correct teachers and profs (I know this is smart-assery, but can't help it).

I know I should probably talk to a professional about this, but I'm not on campus this summer and the school therapists are not therefore an option. I'd probably have to talk to my parents first, and I think they'd be really thrown by this. In many ways, I am at my best with my family since I love them and am comfortable around them, so they don't see my extreme reactions to social situations or social trepidation. I feel that if I shared this with them, they'd be surprised and confused and not necessarily reject it out of hand, but I imagine they'd not see it coming.

Please help me, AskMe. This is really been frustrating and I'd like to make some progress in my life.
posted by fantine to Human Relations (42 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, I'm an INTJ, too, and have found it useful to find people's whose ease with social interaction I admire and model mine after theirs. Fake it till you make it, as it were.

As to whether your Myers-Briggs type is really indicative of anything, I have no idea. I do know that there is controversy surrounding it: some people claim it is BS, and others live by its every word. You need to figure out for yourself the extent to which you want your life constrained or enhanced by your personality type.

As to Aspergers, I don't know anything about it and so can't comment.
posted by dfriedman at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2009

Well, if you have some sort of identifiable mental illness or condition then let me know, because I have the same thing. Being introverted, etc isn't the same as having Asperger's syndrome. If you want to talk to a therapist or a psychologist there's no reason not to, but IMO? You're just you.

I'd like to make some progress in my life.

Progress in what? Are you flunking out of school? When I say you sound like me, every single point in your self-description sounds like my life (except for the gender). Without sounding too defensive, I may not be perfect, but my life is fine. I don't see what exactly is wrong with your life that needs to progress. What is it that you want to do that you're not doing?
posted by GuyZero at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2009

Um, so what's yer problem? If you got Asperger's, congratulations.

My answer is this: wait until the fall. Go see a free shrink on campus. Sounds like you want to talk to a therapist, which can be very constructive.

But hey - you are not in crisis. Relax, enjoy your nerdy hobbies, great peer group, and summer off, and I bet by September you forget about your burgeoning Asperger's.
posted by RajahKing at 6:38 PM on July 6, 2009

Response by poster: GuyZero, no, I'm not flunking out of school. I mean progress in the sense of being able to talk to people with some amount of ease and feeling like I'm more emotionally engaged in my friends and their lives.

I can't shake the feeling that something is off.
posted by fantine at 6:40 PM on July 6, 2009

I feel like a lot of the talk about personality disorders and whatnot is just making too big a deal out of things. A lot of what gets labeled a disorder is, I think, simply a personality. If you are introverted and dislike social situations that doesn't mean you're inwardly lacking, it's just a part of who you are.

I'm INTJ as well. I can relate to a lot of what you said, and it's something I sometimes struggle with. I think you really do literally have to fake it 'till you make it. A lot of standard social procedures feel incredibly phony to me, but it's important to remember that others quite often don't see it that way.
posted by Autarky at 6:46 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I took that quiz and scored a 40. I don't have Asperger's; I'm just kind of an antisocial jerk with dorky hobbies and an apparently distressing lack of empathy.

(Note: I'm not saying you are a giant jerkfaced git like me, I'm just saying that there are other options. From what I've seen of people with true Asperger's, it's far beyond what you've described.)

See how your summer progresses, and if you're still worried about this come autumn, it surely cannot hurt to see one of the university therapists.
posted by elizardbits at 6:50 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, I don't think you have aspergers.
posted by Autarky at 6:52 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

I will admit upfront that I don't know anything about a real diagnosis of Aspergers. But from your description I don't think that you have it. For one thing, that quiz is useless. I don't care if they say a professional wrote it, what kind of test gives you the same score for both "definitely" and "slightly"?

Frankly, you sound almost exactly like me at 21, down to the INTJ type. The question you linked to also resonated with me, because I also could see my younger, know-it-all self in him.

I'm 34 now, and all I can say is that I've learned better social skills over the years. I've learned to let other people be right. I've learned that the easiest way to get through small talk is to get other people to talk about what they enjoy. My life is far from perfect and I still have trouble making friends. I beat myself up over that sometimes, I admit.

On preview, it sounds like quite a few of us understand how you feel. I second the suggestion that you go see the campus therapist when you get back.
posted by cabingirl at 6:53 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Doesn't sound particularly abnormal. That quiz thing is largely inconclusive and it's from what I know difficult to diagnose.

Some people in the world are very introverted and live in our minds and tend to act more logical and be less emotional. This is not a problem. You are probably more able to think clearly when emotionally stressed than the people around you. This is a good thing. People who are high-strung on emotion all the fucking time and who are histrionic are scary.

Emotional ties are hard to forge. Not everybody makes friends easily, and it's good to be discerning in who you hang around.

In terms of correcting people, pick your battles. If a professor really screws up bad, by all means, call them on it since they're supposed to be teaching correctly, but nitpicking typos in random books and arguing over where a wine vintage is from is a little on the petty side.

I am a VERY introverted person. I am relatively even-tempered, generally placid, just moderately emotionally expressive (relatively cool, emotionally. Not cold, just cool.), pretty logical, and pretty nerdy. I can talk for ages about science, particularly neurobiology, and I can also talk pretty easily about chemistry and physics (particularly astrophysics and particle physics, which I'm doing a good bit of reading about in my free time lately), philosophy, history, politics, and all sorts of other things that require a brain. I love talking about these things, and am shit with small talk. Oh, I can make it, and I'm generally pretty confident in social situations, but I steer toward groups of people that make use of their neurons when they have a conversation.

Don't knock introversion.
posted by kldickson at 6:53 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: There's a strange sort of perfectionism that seems to afflict INTJs. I'm one too. It's this odd belief that there is a right thing to say, a right way to act. There's not. I know many people who spent large chunks of their twenties believing there was something wrong with them that needed to be fixed. The awesome thing about pushing 40 is the realization that I am fine just the way I am. A lot of social anxiety stems from this idea that there's a script that everybody else knows and you don't. My special mantra is: "to hell with it." I say it to myself a few times before plunging into any social situation.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:55 PM on July 6, 2009 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Learn to care for your introvert.

FWIW, every young INTJ I know at one point or another self-diagnoses as Asperger's or APD (anti-social personality disorder). They should diagnose themselves with a chronic case of youth, because as they age, they feel better and better.

Others rot, INTJs turn to bronze.
posted by foooooogasm at 7:00 PM on July 6, 2009 [7 favorites]

Be wary of self-diagnosis, especially fueled by the internet.

Like GuyZero, most of what you list describes me pretty well too, and sounds a lot more like personality traits than the symptoms of a disorder. The best way to get better at socializing is to do it more in situations where you feel comfortable. You'll get good at thinking up things to talk about off the top of your head eventually. Mostly it just sounds like you need to be more confident.

Like others have said, if it's not an urgent problem wait until you have access to a professional and tell them about your worries. They'll be much more qualified to diagnose you than internet people or yourself, if indeed there's anything to diagnose.
posted by Nomiconic at 7:02 PM on July 6, 2009

I have a grandson who has Asperger's. He is awesome with the computer and has a fantastic memory. He is brilliant, but has a great deal of trouble in social situations. He seems to lack empathy for what others are feeling. His parents are working with him and he is slowly becoming less awkward with others. I think as he learns social skills and uses his intelligence that he has a great future ahead of him. He recently turned 9.
posted by psc1860 at 7:22 PM on July 6, 2009

I too am INTJ! And I relate a lot to what you said. I'm also 21. I don't have Asperger's, and from your description, I don't think you do, either. A cousin of mine has it, and I, and presumably you, do not behave like him even slightly.

I have a need to know everything, a thirst for trivia, and I get really into different series and fandoms (which is embarassing to admit for me!)

I've never had a boyfriend, or really done anything with a gent - the closest was a stage kiss with a 40 year old when I was 16. I never really had trouble making friends until I hit college, but I've always been a nerd prone to introversion! It does bother me, especially the lack of boys! But I'm trying and I feel like I am getting better.

Thanks for asking this question - it's nice to see other INTJs around! (In one of my business classes, we had to take the Myers-Briggs, and were then grouped into projects with the same types. I was the only INTJ out of 40 college kids. It was lonely! But it's not lonely on ask.mefi!)
posted by firei at 7:33 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

You do not have Aspergers.

My nephew is on the gentle end of the autism spectrum. I have met and interacted with people on many points of the spectrum.

Aspergers syndrome is really. fucking. obvious. If you had it, you and everyone around you would know. I promise. It is not the sort of thing one gradually starts to suspect about themselves while nobody around them notices. What you describe? Not even close.

You're a shy, slightly nerdy introvert. That's all. You and I'd guess about 80% of the people reading this website. Including me. Hi. Pleezetameecha. Don't worry so much.
posted by ook at 7:36 PM on July 6, 2009 [11 favorites]

Seems like you're really introverted. Hanging around people all the time will make you less introverted eventually...

Do see a professional, though. Self-diagnosis is hard sometimes, mental illness can make it hard for us to have perspective and understand ourselves.
posted by kathrineg at 7:38 PM on July 6, 2009

Oh, and if you have health insurance that allows it, see if you can visit a well-recommended psychiatrist over the summer break. See if you can find one who specializes in Asperger's. Your school therapists may or may not be helpful, depending on their level of education or training.
posted by kathrineg at 7:39 PM on July 6, 2009

Oh, also what selfmedicating said:

My special mantra is: "to hell with it." I say it to myself a few times before plunging into any social situation.

This, a million times. I even use a mantra too. So much of social interaction accepting that things will not go exactly as you plan them and you will have to improvise, and also that no matter how that goes you will be fine afterward.
posted by Nomiconic at 7:44 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I read a comment on AskMe a while back, that I cannot now find, that I think would apply to your situation. Basically, it pointed out that, to some extent, an official diagnosis can be immaterial. You can use the coping strategies recommended for a particular syndrome--Asperger's, ADHD, what have you--regardless of whether you have actually been diagnosed with it. So, instead of worrying about whether or not you have an official diagnosis, you can go poke around in the Asperger's toolbox, try some things out, keep what's helpful and leave the rest. I suspect there are a lot of tricks used by people with Asperger's that are equally good for people who are just on the intellectual and introverted side.
posted by fermion at 7:46 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was like that in high school and in college, and I taught myself to have much better social skills. (I got a 21 on the quiz, but would have definitely scored much higher when I was in college.) Since you're good at studying and learning, apply that skill to the problem of reading, socializing with, understanding and befriending people. You can do this in several ways. First, get some books about social skills, such as People Skills, Reading People, Intimate Connections, How to Talk to Anyone, or some of the many other books on the subject of interpersonal communication (you may need a more basic book if you're starting at the beginning). Get a whole stack of these out of the library and go through them to find out which are the best for you. Be forewarned that many social skills books can come across as hokey, but they do contain good information. As an INTJ you should be able to distill the information in these books into rules and principles. Second, and even better, find some friends to hang out with who model good interaction skills, and copy what they do. Third, see a therapist and explain your situation -- they will be able to provide guidelines and instruction on how to relate to people better. I don't think you have Asperger's, you are just introverted and have a lack of experience. Finally, practice! The more you talk with people the better you'll get. Finally, realize that even if you had the most well-developed social skills, there will be a good many people who nonetheless won't click with you, don't share your interests or outlook on life, and you simply won't like. Don't feel bad if you don't connect socially with more than a small percentage of the people you meet. Go to places where people like you can be found (is there a Buffy convention? Go to that! Trivia gaming club? Join it!)
posted by lsemel at 8:20 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on being an INTJ. Apparently, INTJs outgrow the awkwardness. I'm an INTP and, in my fifties, almost as distressed as you about my lack of empathy and my attenuated ability to connect with other people.

On the other hand, I've come to realize that there's really nothing "wrong" with me other than my persistent propensity to think that there is. The notion that you need to fix yourself is just BS. There is no right way to be, so fixing yourself is an illusion. Can you improve your life, your self? Sure—everyone can. But there is no standard of perfection.

Do I hurt people's feeling unintentionally sometimes? Yes. But no more often, I've come to see, than anyone else. And, oddly enough, people keep cutting me slack for my blunders, because they can see I mean well.

Forgive people easily, and associate with people who do the same.
posted by bricoleur at 8:23 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: when someone I love is sad or disturbed, I often feel out of place and wish I could comfort them, without really knowing what to say or how to act.

Yes. The fact you're writing this shows you're uncommonly self-aware.

I can't shake the feeling that something is off.

From your description, nothing is off, you're just a bit overly self-conscious.

I love facts and trivia (as evidenced by six years on Academic Teams/Quiz Bowl) and I hate the idea of being shown up in knowledge or knowing that someone is wrong and won't admit it. I like to find typos and correct them and have been known to correct teachers and profs (I know this is smart-assery, but can't help it).

I think this is the source of your problem. You're very concerned about what others think of you, perhaps out of a fear of lonliness or rejection. Ironically, the people who care less are often much better received socially. It's important to make the distinction between caring about people, caring about how the feel and think, and caring about how the feel/think about you. Why should you care what they think of you? Often, that concern gets in the way of really relating to people - I want to ask this guy/girl out but I'm afraid I'll look like a loser if she says no. I want to comfort my father but I'm afraid I'll mess it up some how. I want to take this class, but it's outside my comfort zone and I don't want to look stupid.

Essentially, I think you need to find the things that fuel your vanity and purposely deliberately compromise yourself in those regards. If it's important to you that you be seen as well educated or intelligent, look for opportunities to admit you don't know things. If you're vain, try deliberately looking a bit unkept (obviously, in situtations where it isn't a major social transgression - where the only purpose would be to impress people). You get the idea...

I was on the trivia team in highschool as well and for a while I think I had the same neurosis about coming off as smart - so maybe I'm just projecting. But I think it's a pretty common fixation.

Overall, just give less of a damn.
posted by phrontist at 8:25 PM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I work on an autism diagnostic team and while I mostly work with children, I have tested some adults. The biggest question my team always poses when working with an adult is: Why do you want this diagnosis now? What purpose does it serve? How will this label - this note in a medical chart - impact your life?

If you're looking for SSI because it is impossible for you to work, then you should definitely get tested. If you're cultivating obsessive/compulsive tendencies or depression or anxiety due to your difficulties, then you may want to see if an ASD might be exacerbating your problems. But if you're just looking for tools or coping strategies, you may find what you're looking for in self-help books, especially considering that there are very few therapists who specialize in adults with high functioning autism/Aspergers anyway. As another poster above me said: the label is superfluous if you can find something that works for you.

Another thing to consider: In all the self-assessment quizzes and aspergers criteria all over the internet, everyone wants to focus on the minutia and check off symptoms like a list, but they are always leaving out the most critical piece of the DSM criteria:

(III) The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Where's your impairment? You listed bunch of quirky personality traits, but where is the thing that makes it impossible for you to function in at least one area of your life?

You can be weird and goofy and antisocial and nerdy and not be autistic.

If you're dying to give it a name though, in my clinic we call it Oddism :)
posted by lilnublet at 9:09 PM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

You sound a loooooooot like me. Especially this part:

As for social interactions, I have gotten better than I used to be, where I could barely talk to people in social situations. Growing up, I always preferred parties with adults since I found it easier to converse with them than with my peers (this is less true now that I have a great peer group at my college). With the onset of legality, I've appreciate the help of a drink or two to help me relax in social situations and feel less ill at ease. Still, there are times when I'm in a car on the way to an event or in the middle of a circle of people and all I can think is "Get me out of here." I find small chit-chat hard to handle and forced.

In addition to having nerdy interests, I have a pretty clear cut social phobia, i.e. I fear other people the way they fear spiders and clowns. When I was growing up, I could barely look people in the eye, even friends and family; addressing them by name was hellishly terrifying; sustained conversation with strangers was nigh on impossible. As a result, I didn't really get the hang of things like small talk until very, very recently (I'm still not much good at recognizing or reading faces). I have since learned enough of that sort of thing that I can make friends and stuff normally (hooray for me!), and as a result most social interactions are now bearable or even pleasant.

Now, I'm not saying you have a social phobia, but some sort of shyness-related anxiety thing might be going on; it would certainly be consistent with you feeling like you can't read people properly -- the great majority of social cues are learned, and if you bolt from groups, you're not going to learn them. Again, I don't know that that's your problem, but it might be worth reading about obsessively chatting over with a therapist. But really, out-and-out therapy isn't necessarily warranted: if you can muster enough self-discipline to practice being social more often, you'll (almost certainly) start to feel more confident very quickly.
posted by Commander Rachek at 9:15 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Nthing the 'you sound like me' bit - a few years ago. While not specifically unfeeling, it did feel like I claimed the emotional nature of Spock. The quarter-life crisis is / was real, and worth talking about to a counselor at school. With that said, relax. Enjoy life. Just because you're unlike most people around you makes you different - that's all. It's all good.
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:44 PM on July 6, 2009

It just sounds like you're socially awkward, and perhaps you just don't enjoy social situations all that much. Do some reading about how to make small talk.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:00 PM on July 6, 2009

nthing "you sound like me in college" and "you probably don't have Aspergers." I'm not saying you shouldn't reflect on how to make myself happier and more satisfied with life, just that slapping a label on yourself probably isn't the best path to that happiness. There's lots of good advice upthread.
posted by Alterscape at 10:32 PM on July 6, 2009

err, myself = yourself. Jetlag kills, folks.
posted by Alterscape at 10:33 PM on July 6, 2009

Yeah, you sound a hell of a lot like the 21 year old version of me (I was even on quiz bowl team in high school -- actually, ahem, the team captain). Don't worry, you are fine.

I had pretty crippling social anxiety, which waxed and waned over the years in my teens and 20s, but was always present. Therapy definitely helped, and so did forcing myself repeatedly into social situations (I just kept telling myself "Hey, I'm not gonna die from talking to someone"). Yeah, a few drinks were often involved to get me over my hesitation to talk to people.

It helped to find people doing or talking about stuff I liked to do or talk about. (And I totally understand the dislike for idle chit-chat.) So find those people who like what you like, for starters. Then go hang out with them. For me, it was college radio, of all things, that made me a lot more at ease with myself and with people around me. I was not shy or awkward (ok, maybe a little) over the radio. I was a heavy metal goddess! In your case, your 'people' might be found doing something related to your love of fantasy and sci fi, perhaps. Go find your people, and don't worry about this so much. You sound like a really cool person.
posted by medeine at 12:31 AM on July 7, 2009

A lot of posters are saying, "oh that's just the characteristics of an introvert" and " it's pretty normal, don't worry." And while you may just be the average introvert , you may in fact have Asperger's and it's pretty frustrating to *know* you have a problem and for anyone not to acknowledge it. I don't think that it's fair that the posters saying, "oh i know someone who has x which is similar to yours, and you are not anything like that etc." Really, only a mental health professional can tell you for sure whether or not you have Asperger's.

Anyway, I thought I'd offer a different perspective here: I took that quiz too, and I got a a 30 on the two occasions I took it. I think my Myers Briggs test said I was an INFP.

I was/ am still like you. Up until my senior year of college, I could barely function socially. I had great best friends and a great family, but anyone outside of my social circle whom I haven't had the chance to know for years -- I clammed up. I couldn't do the whole social chit chat thing. I grew up labelled as "slightly weird", and had these totally odd mannerisms and weird lapses of concentration during conversation.

However, unlike you, I feel things very strongly -- which probably contributed to my 'lower' score on that test. I get emotional over just about everything, so I'm really great at emphathizing with other people. (I think I picked these skills up from reading a ton of fiction -- apparently, studies have shown that reading fiction allows a person literally step into another person's shoes, hence, teaching them emphathy). Also, people are my obsession, so I understand people's emotions very well. However, understanding people did not meant that I knew how to act around people.

In college, I used my understanding of people and applied that to my own social interactions. I learned stock phrases to use in stock social situations, socially nappropriate topics and phrases. You would be surprised how may social situations are pretty standard and formulaic. These were my coping mechanisms, and they worked pretty well, for most of the time. But it says something that I had to learned these social mannerisms that most people do far more naturally than I do.

If your elite, small liberal arts college was anything like my elite small liberal arts college, you would have encountered a series of maladjusted people too. I guess the difference between them and I was that social maladjustment was one of the defining characteristics of my life, and has affected my social life in every way, which is why I think I have Asperger's and they don't.

I haven't been to a mental health professional to determine whether or not I have Asperger's. When I did that test, I had learned all the basic social skills that I needed to learn, through the long hard years of childhood and adolescence. (Well, more or less anyway. Yesterday, I sent a series of texts to my boyfriend, which contained what I thought were playful insults. Apparently, he cried when he got the texts, and hid his phone so he didn't have to get hurt by any other texts that I might have sent ... oops). If I were to get tested, it would be to merely validate my theories (for example, I could say here in AskMefi, "Yes, I was diagnosed with Asperger's! I took the quiz and got 30! Now you all have to listen to what I have to say! And you're wrong!").

Anyway, my question to you is: Would it make a difference if you were diagnosed? How would your life improve?
posted by moiraine at 2:16 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fantine, from what you write, my impression is that indeed there is not much to worry.

As to the several times asked question "why seek diagnosis?", it is for the person's sake, but also for wellbeing of close relationships. Diagnosis is a vital information for anyone whom you want to let really close to yourself, be it a close friend or a significant other. These people are not family, and have no "inbuilt" coping mechanisms with that "something off", inexplainable by regular causal attributions part of relationship. Many of Aspie-NT relationships would have been enriched and saved if both parties where knowledgeable about it; in reality many, if not most, of those close relationships shatter, leaving both sides hurt and lost (often beyond levels of "regular", otherwise there would be no therapists specialising specifically in Asperger's or partners of people with Asperger's) - completely unnecessarily, because of pure misunderstanding of how Asperger's works. If I could, I would plead every Aspie and their family to let any romantic partners know - so that they can educate themselves on how to be in a relationship with that very special person.
posted by Jurate at 3:11 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Welcome to Introversionville, population you!
And me!
What helped me was finding others who were just as nerdy as I was, and hanging out with them. I use MeetUp to find such people and they have become a joy in my life.
Of course, I still love my hours spent alone, but knowing that should I decide to get outside and do something dorky, there's folks out there who want to do the same, and I am welcome to join them.
Give it a whirl!
posted by willmize at 5:26 AM on July 7, 2009

Hello. I'm also an INTJ (although I've scored INTP. I've become more judgemental as I get older, I guess). I've also got about ten years on you, and I can say that from your description you sound an awful lot like me, and I don't think I've got Asperger's, and even if I do, it really hasn't hindered me from being successful. Which is not to say, I don't face challenges. I have a hard time with small talk, and a really hard time with parties and rooms full of strangers outside of a professional setting. To that end, I'm trying out some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to try and get over the irrational fears I have around groups of people. After a recent bad experience, I've realized I can't live my life by avoiding such situations entirely. I do realize I'll never be the life of the party, though, which is fine with me. I wish I could tell you it was working, but I just started a couple days ago, and haven't really encoutered any large gatherings yet.

Being introverted can seem really isolating at times, especially because you are not likely to run into other introverts out and about, so it is easy to come to believe you're alone, which isn't true. My advice to you would be to not jump to drastic conclusions. Chances are you don't have Asperberger's. If your social anxiety is bothering you, talk to a therapist, or a doctor. Therapy and medicine can help (if you want to take medicine. I'm trying to go without for the moment). To borrow from Douglas Adams, Don't Panic. Wait until school is back in and make an appointment with a therapist. They've seen it before.
posted by dortmunder at 5:47 AM on July 7, 2009

Best answer: lilnublet's comment gets to the crux of the matter. You've described a full life without impairment. You may have awkwardness, you may feel challenged by social situations, but you haven't described significant inability to proceed because of those things. Psychological symptoms exist on a spectrum, and as such, are almost always present in everyone at some level. Who has not been sad but is not depressed? Who has not been ecstatic but is not manic? Who has not been awkward but is not functionally unable to have empathy with other people? Without the crucial qualifier of impairment, these spectrum issues are not diagnostically meaningful, as meaningful as they may be to you!

On the other hand, there are several psychological disorders that commonly present during the college years. If you feel that something is off, but particularly if you feel something has changed significantly in your life and your emotional well-being, then you should see a competent psychological diagnostician. This may or may not be a psychiatrist. No one on the internet, no quiz and no website, and most especially no one arguing from anecdote (personal or otherwise) can diagnose you.
posted by OmieWise at 6:19 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don't sound like you have Asperger's, but you sound a lot like me when I was about your age (early twenties, I presume?). INTJ, very (book) smart and good with trivia, felt much more socially inept than I actually was, sometimes painfully shy but seem aloof or snooty to others, and would usually turn around and drive home rather than walk into a party or social gathering.

You can go to a therapist when school starts in the fall, but I really think that what it's going to take is time--I've enjoyed getting older simply because I've been able to relax about so many of those things. It's comforting to look for a diagnosis to know what's "off" but probably nothing at all is off. You're just you, and you're a little insecure about your introvertedness.

One thing that really helped me was taking drama classes and doing some public speaking. Learning to put on a character allows me to go into parties, social events with coworkers and other things I would have dreaded in college. The character is me, only friendlier and a little more outgoing. It's not "me" in terms of changing who I am; it's just a coping mechanism for social events that otherwise cause me anxiety.

Since you like to read, I'd also suggest Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, as recommended in that other thread. The examples are dated but the principles are not, and it made starting conversations (by which I mean getting someone else to talk about themselves) much easier.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:52 AM on July 7, 2009

I am also INTJ and assume that by wondering whether I might have Asperger's or any autistic spectrum disorder, eo ipso I do not have one.

Hope that helps.
posted by methylsalicylate at 9:05 AM on July 7, 2009

In many ways, I am at my best with my family since I love them and am comfortable around them, so they don't see my extreme reactions to social situations or social trepidation.

My guess is that you're okay demonstrating empathy around your family. To my knowledge, those with autism-spectrum disorders aren't usually any better around family members.

I'm naturally an obsessive, shy nerd, too. I hate small talk with a passion. I would probably never go to a party alone and sometimes I just need to be alone to decompress, especially after being around people. For me, it's mostly because of mild anxiety and an over abundance of introspection. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same for you.

Incidentally, working retail and teaching helped a ton in feeling comfortable in strange situations, because now I'm confident in my ability to fake it. Friends with similar problems were helped by anxiety medications.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:59 AM on July 7, 2009

From what I read, you're a lot like me too, but I have a different diagnosis than most here. I would say that you're just a bit more narcissistic than the next guy (or girl).

Reasons why I say this:
- you seem to think you're very fascinating, with your 'adult Asperger' and your 'dreaminess', and your Meyers-Briggs type (oooh, a forty questions long test about Me, Me, Me). The "elite" school you go to. You describe yourself as female, 21, "intelligent".
- "I hate the idea of being shown up in knowledge or knowing that someone is wrong and won't admit it. I like to find typos and correct them and have been known to correct teachers and profs (I know this is smart-assery, but can't help it)"
- you now ask a question about Me Me Me, refreshing the page every 3 seconds to gain an even deeper insight into Me
- the answers you marked as 'best' designate you as Someone Special
- you think you're above the mere chit chat of mortals ("Get me out of here!", "small chit chat" - not worthy of your precious time)

I'm not a shrink, but I believe all this is typical for narcissistic people (I'm not talking about the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, before you start googling DSM IV). Narcissists need to project something, anything, to Be Special. This is also why you have difficulty connecting to other people: because you try so hard to project an ideal persona, you probably have no idea who you are. You idealize yourself, thus taking away the need to get to know yourself. You also need the feedback (admiration) of others to tell you who and what you are, which is what makes you uncomfortable around people you don't know.

The reason you take those stupid Briggs-Meyers tests is because you somehow sense that you aren't earthed particularly well, so you are searching. It's a good thing in itself, but don't stop there (or here on AskMe, or with 'Aspergers').

The thing about narcissism is: it's not so bad. It provides a great drive in life. Be sure to study something that will tap into your need for recognition. Also, find a way to be self employed by the time you're 35 (narcissists and bosses don't get along well). But for the love of god, start accepting and seeing that you are a narcissist, and try to peel away the fascination for yourself to get to know the person underneath this addiction to yourself.

Are you a kind person? Are you a lazy person or not? Are you fearful? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? There are so many character traits that you are not exploring because you're too fascinated with mere trivia about yourself - the dreaminess, this Briggs-Meyers shit. Try to like other people a bit more, and start seeing that you too are a mere mortal who chit chats (yes, you) and shits and pisses. And you will die and rot away, just like the rest of us. Uncomfortable to hear, yes?

It's the second time this week I suggest therapy here on AskMe, so I won't do it again for another year or two, I promise. I would suggest some talk therapy (analysis, whatever you want to call it) because it will be easier to get to know the real you. If you don't want to go to therapy, try this: try being normal. As in: not special at all. Try not to live up to a Higher Than Human standard. Embrace the normality.

And if you want to get better around people: try chit chat. People love chit chat. The weather. Their shoes. The colour of their eyes. Try talking about something that interests them instead of you. This will require finding other people at least mildly interesting. It will require not deeming yourself a higher order of human than them.

For the love of God, woman, you love 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer', how mainstream and ordinary is that?

(the day you can heartily laugh at that last one, agreeing that Buffy is a pretty silly show for teenagers, instead of getting a little bit pissed off: that's when you'll be cured of your 'Aspergers')
posted by NekulturnY at 1:07 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nekulturny, tiny bone to pick: 'higher than human' does not equal 'best of your abilities, which are probably higher than you might think'. It's not wrong to rise above the unwashed dung heap in any area. In fact, it is to be encouraged. It is good to try to be the best person you can be. And actually BE that, not just project the image (and 'best' does not mean 'most popular' or 'wealthiest' or 'most socially mobile', it means a good, well-educated and well-disciplined brain and good character).

The reality lies somewhere in between - there are certain commonalities to human beings, which nobody really agrees on, and beyond that we're unique individuals. Some of us with better character and better brains than others, on average and in varying areas.

She doesn't strike me as narcissist, just... well, overly concerned and a bit too anxious. And perhaps too lazy to admit that she can help it when tempted to correct people in a situation when it is not useful or necessary or non-petty.
posted by kldickson at 2:16 PM on July 7, 2009

Wow, NekulturnY, I guess 'interviewing people for a living' has at some point been upgraded to a clinical qualification, huh?

The excess armchair diagnoses of narcissistic personality disorder on here are second only to self-diagnoses of Asperger's. Seriously, we are people on the web who frequent a site where we ask for, and offer, advice. We are probably more navel-gazing then average, though I have my doubts. You might consider taking a deep breath and quit hating on the OP so much... and looking over some of your answers, people in general. We as a species have a lot of faults but I honestly can't imagine what it must be like to see all human behaviour as negatively as you seem to (and I'm widely known as a grumpy, misanthropic jerk). She's young. A lot of people with similar inclinations to hers have these questions. It doesn't make them toxic personalities by any stretch.

And you should maybe think about taking a holiday from your job, too.
posted by methylsalicylate at 2:47 PM on July 7, 2009

Response by poster: Well, thanks for (almost) all of the answers here. It's great hearing from other INTJ people especially.

For what it's worth, I don't resent introversion or being an INTJ per se -- I've actually found it very helpful to understand the strengths and weaknesses of being an INTJ. The main reason I would like to know if I have a legit social disorder (instead of what most people here agree is basic personality traits) is that I would then have a tidy explanation and a path to explore for improvement. I really appreciate the comments that encouraged reading about social interaction even outside of an official diagnosis. Back in the day, I read How to Find Friends and Influence People, but I agree that a refresher course is in order.

Now, NekulturnY: damn. I mean, I came to AskMe to ask a question (yes, one about my personal issues, not a radical concept for this site) so I could seek to improve my interactions with others and relationships, not to earn accusations of being The Self-Serving Snowflake. Also, hating on Buffy? Not needed.

/end rant

But yes, overall it has been very helpful to read the responses from similarly-minded people. I did grow up feeling like everyone got a manual in middle school detailing the proper responses to social situations. I'm still learning how that is a total myth.
posted by fantine at 7:09 PM on July 7, 2009

I'm not hating on OP (nor on Buffy). I just said that I was the same at her age. And that I later came to the conclusion that I was probably a bit too smitten with myself at the time (probably still a bit, as you point out). I didn't think I was being very negative. I just wanted to offer a dissenting opinion, let's say.
posted by NekulturnY at 11:38 PM on July 7, 2009

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