Whilst commenting on John Beeler yesterday, I fell to the temptation of making sweeping statements about what medical experts used to call Aspergers Syndrome and which they now refer to as autism spectrum disorder.
I have known people with characteristics of this condition, and others who had been diagnosed with it but lacked some of the “usual” aspects (like collecting railway locomotive numbers, etc.). In my teenage years, I would develop a high degree of knowledge about things I become interested in and failed to recognise that other people were showing signs of boredom, because their own interests lay elsewhere. At the same time, I have not been diagnosed with this condition and have become more sociable with maturity and a more “big picture” view of life.
I really know no more about it that that, and I can be the victim of “a little knowledge” but clearly not enough. Every person is unique and escapes to some extent the typology by which psychiatrists try to find things in common between their patients (like in the case of a physical condition) in order to organise treatment better and more professionally. I am sceptical about psychiatry as a science for this reason, because the human person is unique and gifted with the spirit. Jung probably came the closest to a “whole” approach about the human person. As far as psychiatric categories clarify things in our minds, people may suffer from more than one condition.
Aspergers syndrome people or “aspies” find it difficult to “read” other people’s emotions, and this can be confused with psychopathy in which a person simply doesn’t care about other people or their suffering. Psychopathy is the attempt to explain an evil and immoral person in scientific terms. There are different typologies of personalities, because we have something in common with each other. Perhaps some autistic people may be psychopaths or sociopaths to some extent, which would aggravate their cruelty or callousness in regard to others. There are tests by which personalities can be evaluated by specially trained professionals who develop and use them in their work.
We who have only read things on the internet about these subjects need to be very careful. I have read quite a lot about psychopathy and malignant narcissism, because I have had to try to understand why some people are truly evil. In the case of criminals coming under this category, the law tends to condemn them as responsible for their acts and not suffering from an illness that would mitigate their freedom and moral guilt. The typical characteristics of “snakes in suits” and callous manipulators are there.
Most aspies are not manipulators and usually have moral consciences. They usually have a sense of right and wrong, and remorse for when they have done wrong. This sets them apart from psychopaths.
Here are a few links that can shed light on this difficult subject:
- Asperger’s Disorder vs. Psychopathy
- Empathy as a choice
- Empathy as a choice 2: Autism and psychopathy
There are many articles on these subjects on the internet and in libraries – of differing value and scientific validity. Most of us, not of the scientific community, can only acquire a general idea about these matters. A little knowledge can be dangerous, so we need to be careful.