The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders did not allow a joint diagnosis of ADHD and autism spectrum disorders like Asperger’s disorder until late in 2013. The DSM plays a significant impact on the way research is conducted and this recent change paves a way for better clinical management of patients with these conditions.
Autism has always been considered a more severe condition than ADHD; hence different management practices were applied. However, recent studies show a similarity in the symptoms of both conditions, which begs the question: is there an overlap between ADHD and Asperger’s disorder? The text expounds on the issue.
ADHD and Asperger’s Disorder
What is ADHD?
ADHD is an acronym for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The condition develops in childhood and affects one’s ability to focus, communicate, and learn. Some kids experience reduced symptoms as they grow old, while for others, the condition persists into their adolescent years and adulthood.
What is Asperger’s Disorder?
It is a disorder or a syndrome that affects a child’s ability to socialize and communicate. As such, the child may develop restrictive and repetitive behavior, including attachment to a particular item. The disorder is part of the larger group of neurodevelopment conditions known as autistic spectrum disorders.
Studies show 30-80% of patients that have autism also exhibit ADHD symptoms. However, patients that have both sets of symptoms are less likely to respond to regular ADHD treatment. These findings have prompted scientists to make a more detailed look into the two conditions.
Similar Symptoms in ADHD and AS
Children with either of the conditions experience:
- Difficulty in interacting with other people
- Episodes of non-stop talking
- Extreme impulsivity
- Reduced concentration on things that don’t interest them
How the Conditions Differ
While AS and ADHD share many symptoms, there are behavioral traits that set them apart. Symptoms AS patients exhibit include:
- Intense interest in a particular object or topic
- Difficulty understanding others feelings and those of oneself
- Difficulty understanding irony, humor, or sarcasm
- Lack of rhythm when talking
- Inability to make nonverbal communication like facial expressions, eye contact and body gestures
- Lack of an essential motor development milestone like bouncing a basketball or catching a ball
Symptoms that Set ADHD Apart
- Learning difficulties
- Poor memory
- Trouble paying attention
- Reacting without restraint
- Getting distracted easily
- Need to play or touch everything in a new environment
Why is there an Overlap in Symptoms?
A detailed examination of patients’ brain structures is critical to understanding why the conditions overlap. A paper examining MRI scans from more than 500 participants with a particular interest in a brain structure called the caudate nucleus was recently published. The structure was found to predict the similarity in behavioral traits between the two conditions.
The paper also studied the globus pallidus, another brain structure that affects both conditions. Both structures are located on the front part of the brain called the striatum, which plays a critical role in decision-making, planning, and motivation.
The caudate guides the brain in selecting goals it wants to achieve, and the globus pallidus updates the reward value based on the outcome of the action. Upon examination, autistic traits were common where there were high caudate-related activities and lower globus pallidus-related activities.
Another study on autistic children found similar results in that the kids exhibited reduced connectivity between voice-selective parts of the temporal lobe and the striatum. As such, the kids did not react to voices as much as healthy children.
This overlap of ADHD and Asperger’s disorder paves the way for researchers to investigate aspects like developmental stages of kids with the conditions, treatment response, and neuropsychological measures that should be applied.
Be its ADHD or Asperger’s disorder; none of these should spell doom on you. If you have either of the conditions, feel free to contact Mango Clinic for the best professional help. Visit our website today for inquiries about our services and to schedule an appointment.