Asperger’s / autism is Asperger’s / autism, and antisocial behavior is antisocial behavior

I cringe every time I hear the word “antisocial” used to describe someone (or people in general) on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.  I’m baffled by the refusal on the part of those who statements like this, especially professionals or other conventionally-respect authorities, to show a little humility and sit down to talk with us.  I’m equally baffled by the assumptions these people make in place of such a chat.

Just because you have a degree or a license doesn’t mean you know everything.  Assumptions are still assumptions, and they can make one look like a foolish jackhole.  Just because someone with a fancy academic pedigree or a rank of high authority assumes an idea to be true, that doesn’t make it so.  The truth is the truth.

I’m confused and frustrated to be constantly reminded that although we, the people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, are perfectly capable of stringing words into sentences in some way, shape, or form, just like the rest of the world in general, we continue to be ignored, marginalized, and sidelined.  We’re perfectly capable of giving our viewpoint and sharing our perspective, but ours is never sought.  We might be the subject of the conversation, but we hardly ever receive the invite to be a part of it.

Would that be Vexation Without Representation?

(See what I did there?)

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah–“antisocial”.  Let’s explore that topic.  I feel the need to push the keys around and get some words on record.

Defining the vocabulary is usually a good place to start, so why not?

JRANK.org, which contains a decent free psychology encyclopedia, defines Antisocial Behavior as:

A pattern of behavior that is verbally or physically harmful to other people, animals, or property, including behavior that severely violates social expectations for a particular environment.

PsychCentral gives a similar definition, but from a slightly different angle:

Antisocial Personality Disorder is a disorder that is characterized by a long-standing pattern of disregard for other people’s rights, often crossing the line and violating those rights.

JRANK goes on break down Antisocial Behavior, particularly in children, into two elements:

  1. the presence of antisocial (i.e., angry, aggressive, or disobedient) behavior, and
  2. the absence of prosocial (i.e., communicative, affirming, or cooperative) behavior.

PsychCentral illuminates several interesting facts regarding Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD):

  • It first appears in later childhood or early adulthood, and persists throughout life.
  • This is the clinical term for the phenomenon which popular culture refers to as sociopathy or psychopathy.
  • Neither sociopathy nor psychopathy actually exist as formal diagnostic conditions.
  • People with this disorder may have an over-inflated sense of themselves; they may be excessively arrogant, opinionated, self-confident, or cocky.
  • They may, for example, the belief that ordinary work is beneath them, or perhaps they may be unrealistic in their assessment of their current problems or their future.
  • They may be superficially charming, flippant or glib, deriving satisfaction from talking over other peoples’ heads with fancy jargon or an otherwise convoluted vocabulary.
  • It’s a pervasive pattern that must be seen in two or more of the following areas:
  1. cognition
  2. affect
  3. interpersonal functioning
  4. impulse control

And, although most people would like to believe that APD is a rare condition, it’s actually rather common.  Just like Asperger’s/autism spectrum conditions, new APD diagnoses top over 200,000 per year (the top tier prevalence category; I’m not sure about exact numbers of annual new diagnoses).

According to PsychCentral, symptoms of APD include:

  • Failure to conform to social norms (such as established laws, etc)
  • Deceit, such as lying (i.e. the “pathological liar”), using aliases (again, think in terms of law enforcement), or scamming other people for their own gain
  • Poor impulse control, failure to plan ahead or consider the potential consequences of their actions
  • Irritability/Aggression, usually involving a history of physical fights or bullying
  • Recklessness and disregard for their own or others’ safety
  • Irresponsibility, such as being unable to hold down a job or make payments on loans, etc.
  • Lack of remorse, especially after wronging someone else

To an outsider (most likely an ignorant one–either one who is genuinely, innocently ignorant, or perhaps someone who willfully remains ignorant due to an underlying current of judgmentalism), someone on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum might appear to share some of those characteristics used to describe the Antisocial Personality.

After all, (meanwhile), Asperger’s/autism is characterized by what is commonly known as the Triad of (Social) Impairments as part of our set of diagnostic benchmarks:

  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understand relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

However, the way I see it, Asperger’s/autism and Antisocial Personality have very little in common.  So why might the uninformed connect the word “antisocial” to people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum?  I’ll explain, working my way down the bullet points of the list of Antisocial Personality symptoms, comparing and contrasting the two conditions as I go along.

Failure to conform to social norms: 

We (Aspie/autistic people) also often “fail” to conform to social norms, much preferring to march to the beats of our own drums.  We like to work at our own pace.  We tend to have higher instances of gender fluidity, nonbinarism, or other types of nonconformity.  We like to build our environments to suit our sensory systems and construct routines that fit us like comfortable shoes, all in order to make life easier.

However, in stark contrast to APD, the social norms we choose to shirk usually have minimal–if any–impact and are relatively harmless–even if embarrassing–faux pas.  In general, we’re not setting things on fire, vandalizing property, driving at breakneck speed, beating people up, or otherwise getting into trouble with the law.  In fact, most people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum prefer to stay out of that limelight, thank you very much.

Deceit:

About the only form of “deceit” (if one could even call it that) that I’ve seen in people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum (including myself) are the uses of pseudonyms, screen names, and avatars online.  However, this custom is highly justified and hardly immoral or harmful.  We might not have fully “come out” as Aspergian/autistic to everyone in our lives, nor would it be advisable for many of us to do so, and thus, if we’re going to offer up our voices and other contributions to the world, we might not be able to afford to slap our real names and faces on it.  I argue that that practice could hardly be considered deceit.

Unlike Antisocial Personality peeps, we’re not repeatedly lying to anyone, nor would the vast majority of us dream of conning or scamming anyone else.  If anything, we’re much more honest, direct, and straightforward.  I enjoy our Aspie/autistic no-frills, no-muss, no-fuss style.  With my fellow autism spectrum community, I know where I stand, and I try to make it clear where they stand with me (which is overwhelmingly positive).  Some people might think we’re shifty or dubious in light of our scanty eye contact, but those people obviously didn’t get the memo that one’s honesty has hardly anything to do with one’s level of eye contact.

Poor impulse control/lack of planning ahead: 

Although Asperger’s/autistic people may experience “executive function” (EF) challenges, an umbrella term under which planning, critical thinking, complex decision-making, and even physical coordination are nestled, that’s a slightly different phenomenon than that which pertains to Antisocial people.  Our version of EF challenge might manifest in benign ways such as running into a wall because we turn a corner too early, or forgetting something at home or school, or perhaps veering off our to-do list because we didn’t stay focused.  Or, if you’re like me, you didn’t check to see if you had enough peanut butter before starting to make that sandwich.  It’s nothing that will harm anyone, especially not on purpose.

On the other hand, the APD version of poor impulse control can hurt people.  They might be hyped up on grandiose self-thoughts, weaving in and out of traffic, cutting it way too close when pulling in front of other cars, and they could very well cause serious damage–to themselves and other people.  They do this because they honestly think they’re capable, and they don’t stop to consider that maybe they won’t succeed next time.  They simply don’t think that far ahead, nor do they care to do so, because they figure They’ve Got This.

Irritability/Aggression: 

Personally, I frequently feel irritated, and I’m pretty sure that my spot on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum has something to do with that.  It’s not like it’s “all autism’s fault”, though; it’s my own individual, personal flavor of my Asperger’s/Autistic OS.  Not everyone on the spectrum is prone to irritation; that’s just how my nervous system expresses its periodic feelings of stress, overload, resentment, over-stimulation, or bombardment.  Rarely do I become aggressive; if I do, it’s usually in very extreme situations, after which I’ve given every benefit of the doubt and taken every countermeasure I’m capable of.  In my rare aggressive instances, the target is not a person or people, nor is it physically expressed; it’s usually verbal, and may be directed at a specific individual or limited group, or maybe even a concept/idea that I find offensive.

In the Antisocial Personality, however, this irritability is taken to a whole new level, and it becomes aggression much more frequently.  These folks get loud and overbearing, attempting to intimidate others so that those people succumb and submit to their control.  They’ll initiate conflict, picking fights with others; they may also respond in a very exaggerated manner to a slight comment, often resorting to bullying.

Recklessness and disregard for safety:

(This was covered under “Poor impulse control”, so I won’t bore you by repeating myself here) 🙂

Lack of remorse, especially after wronging someone else: 

This Antisocial Personality attribute is perhaps the scariest one, in my book.  Everyone is human, and all humans make mistakes.  In fact, that’s one of the few “all/always” statements that I feel comfortable making about all populations across the globe.  Sometimes, those mistakes hurt other people.  Sometimes, someone gets hurt through the action of someone who is completely unaware of the harm they’re causing.  It happens.  I’m sure I’ve done it.

What separates the two populations (the Antisocial people from the Asperger’s/autism spectrum people) is this: when the person realizes they’ve negatively impacted someone else in some way through their words/actions, how do they respond to that realization?  Are they genuinely upset at the idea, or are they cold, hard, and callous about it?

To the (warning: broad brushstrokes ahead) general neurotypical population, we Aspergian/autistic people might appear to be callous (or at the very least, ambivalent or nonchalant) upon hearing that their actions affected someone in a negative way.  However, in 99% of the cases, it merely seems that way.  If we appear ambivalent at first, give us time; we might be processing (either the verbal communication itself, or maybe the memory of the incident in question, or perhaps our emotional response to hearing the news, or possibly a socially-correct verbal response that contains all the “right” elements fit for a neurotypical-dominated society).  During this Processing time, we may or may not be capable of putting together the right facial expression or verbal response just yet, because all of our resources are devoted to processing what we’ve just heard.  Chances are, hearing that we’ve badly affected someone in some way is fairly earth- (and soul-)shattering news for us, and thus, we’re probably reeling from it.

What irritates people about our initial response to such news is generally the lack of one, at first.  What irks people is the non-response we express as we pull inward, crunch facts and feelings, and attempt to assemble a gameplan to pick up the pieces.  In the meantime, if we’ve just heard that we’ve said or done something wrong, the last thing we’re going to want to do is do or say anything else, at least until we’ve pulled ourselves together.

Contrast that with the Antisocial Personality response, which might simply be to shrug and fire off retorts like, “oh well”, “tough beans”, or “that’s their problem”.  They’ll simply refuse to acknowledge that their actions were wrong.  Or, they might haul off and pitch a fiery-tempered fit, going off explosively about their victim, or even perhaps the third party who simply acted as the messenger.

Once in a fluorescent blue moon, I might not feel very sorry about something I said or did that might have irked or offended someone.  I might actually believe that that person was a little irrational and oversensitive.  There is extra-sensitive, and there is oversensitive.  Extra-sensitive is when you’re bothered by truly horrible concepts; oversensitive is when you can’t handle ordinary concepts or you get offended when someone tries to present a logical thesis.  If I’m talking about ordinary, everyday, commonly-accepted-as-non-offensive situations, concepts, or vocabulary, or I’m making a logical statement, and someone gets offended, I’m sorry that they were negatively offended, but that’s as far as my remorse goes, since, in such a circumstance, I truly don’t think I did anything wrong.  That’s not to say that I don’t feel bad for the person, but I don’t feel bad on that intense, deep, internal level.  However, I don’t think that makes me an Antisocial Personality; if I know I truly hurt someone, however, I’ll feel devastated and incurably horrible.

Final Thoughts…

Given all this discussion and upon hitting that Total Button and looking at the sum in a big-picturesque panorama, I can’t see how, the nanosecond one scratches away the first grains of sand from the surface, Asperger’s/autism and Antisocial Personality share anything in common or look anything alike.

So please, general population, if you’re using the term “antisocial” to describe us, please stop.  It doesn’t fit at all.  It’s like making the remark that we shoot purple rays from our auras or something, and it only makes you look ignorant and confused.

If an outsider wanted to call me “antisocial”, would it be just because I want to read a book or stay in for the evening, or maybe because I prefer not to be the life of the party?

That’s introversion.

“Antisocial” is not synonymous with introversion.

One is profoundly difficult to deal with, the other is a mild annoyance at most.


References & Further Reading:

Antisocial Behavior – Causes and Characteristics, Treatment” – from psychology.JRANK.org

Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms” – from PsychCentral.com

Antisocial Personality Disorder” – from PsychologyToday.com

Antisocial Behavior” – from HealthOfChildren.com

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Diagnostic Criteria” – from CDC.gov (United States Center for Disease Control)

 

 

 

 

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23 Comments

    1. Ooooh, thank you so much for sharing that!! Sounds like a really captivating read, actually. I’m going to check that out 😊😊💓

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i got mixed up you know, and thought this was one of annas posts! on the subject of remorse, its a challenge to let go of any wrong ive ever done. theres a jewish belief (im not saying its common, but i think its quite old) that says heaven and hell are quite simply a perfect awareness of everything youve done in life– heaven for the good, and hell for the wicked.

        that would be an upgrade to first class for me, because as things are, it is much more work to rest on my laurels over the good ive done, yet i still recall “bad deeds” (a simple remark, for example) from age 7 that hurt someones feelings, and its always tempting to feel bad about it. dude, let it go already! “anti-social,” my ass… (im not saying im perfect, just that im already held to impossible standards before society shows up with its very poor understanding.)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes! Lol I’m still embarrassed about stuff I said or did when I was 7 😊. I like your Jewish saying! Thank you for sharing that. I always learn a shizz-ton from your comments! 🤗💓. I’m also going to take it as quite the compliment that you originally thought this was one of Anna’s posts! She rocks 💜💙

          Liked by 1 person

  1. We need to remember there is a difference between how words are used by people in their own field and how they’re used by the general public. I’ve been called anti-social all my life, by people who’ve never read a psychology textbook, know nothing about introversion, or the actual meanings of the words they’re using.

    codeinfig, thanks for reminding me about Levine’s article. I may still even have it somewhere on my computer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True that! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I absolutely agree 😊 In a way, I think it’s possible to become “over sensitive” to certain words because they used to mean one thing, but have morphed into a completely different context since then. I also think there’s a potential hazard when people throw around words they don’t completely understand. Antisocial is, in a way, a relatively benign word, especially because it’s typically used in a semi-light way. People use it to poke mild fun at themselves (“I’m being antisocial today”) 😊 Given the general (low) opinion of the general population toward the autism spectrum, the word “antisocial” could go either way. Since many are still under the impression that we’re mentally ill or that autism is a mental disorder, and there are so many misconceptions and accusations already, the word antisocial could burn us. I hope not, but I see some potential there 😊

      Thank you again for your perspective! I value it a lot 💜💖

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much for sharing.
    I get how autistic traits can be mistaken in this way, especially when people try to apply ‘normal’ ways of thinking to our behavior.
    Something we do might seem deceitful or purposely hurtful or that we lack remorse, but its usually not.
    I think when so many NT people use manipulation, white lies, and deceit because that’s just how you get things done, it’s hard to accept that people like us don’t do that sort of thing willingly.
    In a John Elder Robison book (I think it might have been Raising Cubby) he talked about how complimenting people felt fake. I related to this so well.
    In our culture, we are expected to act in ways that to me feels deceitful, even if it is meant to be nice. I come off seeming rude or like I don’t care about someone’s feelings when really, I just don’t want to lie to them and tell them nice things just to make them feel good. This is just one example, but the fact that I don’t sugar coat things and gush compliments can really offend people. So the

    Honestly though, I get tired of explaining this kind of thing to people, or even worrying about it. I’m glad you’re making the effort to put this out there. I appreciate reading things I can relate to. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 (Applause). Truth!! I operate in much the same way. Sugar-coating something seems to be a waste of time, and potentially misleading. (And who needs more of that? Lol 😉)

      Thank you for the book mention; I love to hear about different books, especially those suggested or mentioned by people in the Asperger’s/autism community, because chances are, our tastes are probably similar (at least, we’re more likely to have an appreciation for good quality literature), I’ll probably love it! 😉❤️💜

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your detailed article explaining why autistic people are rarely psychopathic. (The confusion came from a poor translation of Hans Asperger’s paper, which refers to autism personality. Unfortunately, some poor translations misuse the word psychopathy instead of personality.). It seems like the manipulation that psychopaths use are the very thing Aspies are poor at. An Aspie is far more likely to get taken advantage of by a psychopath, than be one themselves. It is possible that one of the reasons autism may be on the rise, is that it may genetically weed out psychopathy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ^^Amen! Thank you for your insight! You make excellent points, as usual 😊

      I can see where that could happen, too – in the translation. Words in different languages can have several possible translations, or maybe no good/exact translation. Adding fuel to the fire may be the idea that words can change meaning over time (the word gay, for example, used to mean happy/care-free; then it was meant as a slur against the LGBT+ community; now it’s been taken back by that community and (thankfully) lost its negative connotation, used now as a neutral-to-positive descriptor). Since Hans Asperger’s paper didn’t get translated for nearly 40 years, I imagine that the interpretation left a little to be desired 😊

      Thank you again for shedding light on this! 👏🏼👏🏼❤️

      Like

      1. this is deliberately placed way down here in an old article– i looked for one that was at least relevant in my opinion– ditto for which comment i replied to.

        https://codeinfig.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/heres-one-for-the-shoah-foundation-i-suppose/

        im that outraged. im that amazed. i flat-out compared it to nazi propaganda. and there is a LOT of bullshit out there that can be compared (accurately) to nazi propaganda. im not an authority on the subject, but id be willing to debate someone who is.

        the main reason im linking you to this, is that im not planning to start blogging about this subject. maybe i will, and maybe i wont. do feel free to comment, but please bear in mind im still maintaining a lowness of key on where i personally fit into this. i can publish a brief and scathing article about a dehumanizing piece of pseudoscientific garbage, without “coming out” or adding another subject i regularly blog about. i just didnt want to “say nothing” this time. what i tend to wish upon this person, people should not make a habit of wishing on people.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh man, yeah, I saw that hunk of Bullshizz a few months ago *but* thank you SO much for the reminder!! 😘😘. Yes, this article has been on my chopping block for a while now. The pic of the person in the article is actually exhibiting STRESS symptoms (funny that as a “doctor” he didn’t know that, because I knew about that stuff *before* I became a doctor lol). Yep, I’m going to tear that article–and doctor–a new one where the sun can’t reach 😈😈😈

          Liked by 1 person

          1. >> The pic of the person in the article is actually exhibiting STRESS symptoms

            i love your keen perspective. what are you going to do when youre my favorite person in the world? and what am i going to do? do you suppose we could clone you a little bit? and have a small, but formidable army of say, 5 of you? (they can stay with me if they want…)

            Like

      2. i suppose this article isnt *that* old, but thats fine. you are prolific, and i certainly do admire that ❤ always remember that it is not only your kindness and charm that impresses me. there are many other things as well.

        Liked by 1 person

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