Beyond childhood: psychiatric comorbidities and social background of adults with Asperger syndrome

Psychiatr Danub. 2015 Mar;27(1):50-9.


Background: Over the past few years, our knowledge about Asperger syndrome (AS) has increased enormously. Although it used to be a syndrome mainly encountered in childhood and adolescent psychiatry, it is now increasingly recognized in adult psychiatry. Nevertheless, little is known about psychiatric comorbidities and life course of adults with AS. The current study aimed to gain an insight into comorbidities and the development of the social situation of adults with AS.

Subjects and methods: We investigated psychiatric comorbidities, psychiatric history, professional background, partnerships, and children in 50 adults with AS (34 men and 16 women) over a broad age range (20-62 years).

Results: Seventy percent of adults with AS had at least one psychiatric comorbiditiy. Most frequent comorbidities were depression and anxiety disorders. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcohol abuse/dependence were also observed. Many adults had previously been treated with psychopharmacological or psychotherapeutic interventions. Although most adults had a high-level school leaving certificate and had gone on to complete training/university studies, less than half were currently in employment. Fourteen adults were living in a partnership and 10 had children.

Conclusions: Adults with AS often have psychiatric comorbidities, indicating lower levels of mental health. Additionally, they seem to have severe limitations concerning professional success, despite having a good school education. Their family situation is also impaired with regard to starting a family. These considerable limitations in the life of adults with AS may help to understand their specific problems, and emphasize the importance of developing specific treatments for improving their mental health and social integration.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Asperger Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Asperger Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Asperger Syndrome* / psychology
  • Asperger Syndrome* / therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Social Class
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*


  • Psychotropic Drugs