Vanishing Diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder

 Sociology of Diagnosis (Advances in Medical Sociology, Volume 12), 237-259, 2011

Purpose – This chapter discusses the proposed changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which eliminates Asperger’s disorder (AD) and replaces it as “autism spectrum disorder.” Implications of these changes on the identity of adults with AD and the influence of everyday life experiences will be addressed.

Methodology/approach – This research is based on 19 interviews with adults diagnosed or self-diagnosed with AD. Central themes surrounding issues of identity and everyday life experiences were determined using grounded theory approaches.

Findings – This study demonstrates how the diagnosis and self-diagnosis of AD is fused with individual identity. It also shows how Asperger identity is positively embraced. The proposed changes to eliminate AD in DSM-V threaten these assertions of Asperger identity, which could potentially enhance stigma experienced by people with AD. Regardless of its removal, Asperger identity must be considered within the broader context of people’s everyday lives and how experiences in social interaction and communication can be strong agents of identity construction.

Social implications – The proposed changes to eliminate AD in DSM-V is a social issue that will impact individuals with Asperger’s and their families, as well as health-care professionals, health insurers, researchers, state agencies, and educational providers.

Originality/value of paper – This chapter offers a unique insight into identity construction based on the diagnosis and self-diagnosis of AD.