Am I Really Dysthymic and Anxious or is it Just Part of My Asperger’s Disorder?

Reader’s Question

I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have two children with ASD (one more seriously affected than the other) and I had suspected for awhile that I was also on the spectrum. However, I was really surprised after all the testing was done that I was also diagnosed with a mood disorder. I tend to agree with the anxiety disorder diagnosis, but I’m also not entirely sure that it reaches beyond the scope of what the criteria for AS already describe. Anyway, I thought my emotional flatness, and social exhaustion, and sadness was all apart of AS, too.

I feel that I have done pretty well with life. I’ve been married for 12 years and I’m a stay at home mom with three wonderfully unique children. I adore my family, and love taking care of them. I’ve never ever stayed in bed too much, or felt apathetic, especially not in the last 10 years or so. I’ve always stepped up and taken care of things, and have been complimented by many on my parenting skills.

How common is Dysthymic Disorder co-morbid with Asperger’s, and will it eventually go away if I am successful with changing my thought patterns through behavior therapy, meditation, and mindfulness? I have tried all sorts of different meds for depression in the past, and they were never effective.


Psychologist’s Reply

Generally speaking, if a person’s symptoms are better accounted for by the principal Axis I condition for which they are diagnosed, secondary diagnoses are not made. This is expressly stated in the criteria for GAD and most other conditions, but not expressly stated in the criteria for Dysthymia. It is not uncommon for individuals with Asperger’s Disorder to experience mood and anxiety problems and sometimes these can be in excess of what might be solely attributable to their developmental disorder. And to truly meet the criteria for having a dysthymic disorder, in addition to other symptoms, a person must experience at least two of the following for at least two years:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Irritability

You might want to discuss the issues with your doctor. It’s not uncommon for professionals to arrive at their diagnoses for a variety of reasons other than being purely technically accurate insofar as published criteria are concerned. So don’t hesitate to visit with your treating professional about your questions and concerns.

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