Asperger Syndrome is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests as difficulty with social situations and nonverbal communication. In some instances, the disorder is characterized by repetitive behavioral patterns and interests. Asperger's is among a range of conditions on the Autism spectrum. As a milder form of Autism, people with Asperger's have typically normal intelligence and language compared to other disorders on the spectrum.
Asperger's affects 31 people globally, as of 2013. It is unknown how many American's suffer from Asperger's due to its difficulty to properly diagnose. Likewise, many Americans will live with Asperger's without ever receiving a formal diagnosis.
Asperger Syndrome is difficult to diagnose and formal diagnoses are often delayed. There are, however, several signs and symptoms that most people living with Asperger's will share. These symptoms include repetitive, stereotyped behavior, social interaction impairments and difficulty communicating nonverbally. It's also determined by the absence of other signs and symptoms that could possibly meet the criteria of other developmental disorders or schizophrenia.
In some cases, it's difficult to distinguish Asperger Syndrome from High-Functioning Autism as both disorders have overlapping symptoms. For those who are diagnosed, however, it's usually done between the ages of 4 and 11. This process usually starts with an early screening by a pediatrician, at which point, should they observe identifying signs, the child is sent for a more comprehensive team evaluation that usually includes a neurologist, psychologist, psychiatrist and a number of other experts in the field of diagnosing Asperger Syndrome.
Asperger Syndrome is not a life-threatening disorder in itself and the occurrence of the disorder doesn't seem to affect longevity and life expectancy primarily. People with Asperger Syndrome can expect to fall into the normal ranges of life expectancy based on their sex and location rather than by their disorder.
That said, depression as a result of having Asperger's can play a role in life expectancy by having a negative impact on suicide rates. According to a 2016 study, adults with Autism die 16 years younger than the average member of the general population. It's these secondary mental health issues that ultimately have the most impact on life expectancy of people who suffer from Asperger Syndrome as opposed to the disorder itself having an impact on physical health that results in a shorter lifespan.
While the life expectancy of people living with Asperger Syndrome doesn't appear to be affected by the disorder, quality of life can often be affected negatively. For those with Asperger's, there is an increase in prevalence of psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety disorder and depressive disorder. Though these issues can last a lifetime for some, the long-term effects are more positive, with most symptoms becoming better with time. Social impairment, however, typically resides in people throughout their lives, though it can be treated through a number of different methods, including behavioral therapy.
Though people with Asperger Syndrome exhibit high cognitive potential, they typically remain at home and work alone. People with Asperger's often feel a sense of "different-ness" which can lead to withdrawal from society. Adults with Asperger's, therefore, can feel a resulting sense of anxiety, stress, hyperactivity, aggression and become inattentive and obsessive.
For people with Asperger Syndrome, a normal, healthy lifestyle can be achieved, especially depending on the severity of the disorder. Though higher rates of depression and anxiety are noted among adults, children suffering from Asperger's can see the severity of their symptoms diminish with age, though never fully disappear. Still, compared to disorders on the Autism Spectrum, Asperger Syndrome won't affect life expectancy directly in a significant way.