ADHD or Aspergers?

It's been almost a year since I asked for a divorce from my ex, who moved out of our home after I could not take his inability to empathize and contribute anything to the household, followed by verbal abuse and a chronic, maddening sense of irresponsibility. Too little too late, I'm learning about a condition that very, very closely mirrors ADHD (and is sometimes comorbid with it): Aspergers Syndrome.

The fact that the medication was not helping -- he tried several -- should have tipped me (and his counselors) off. But we just kept titrating, trying new things, even going with off-label meds and then completely hitting a wall. Contrary to helping, the medication made him aggressive, agitated, angry, if not explosive. He was constantly, constantly on edge. Yes, the meds created a sense of focus, but the extra stimulation did NOT make him feel calm, as many with ADHD report. In fact, it overstimulated him because he has an autism spectrum disorder -- the hallmark of which is hypersensitivity to stimulation.

I encourage everyone to read more about Asperger's Syndrome, which unfortunately did not make it into the DSM until 1994 -- the year my ex graduated from high school and left behind all opportunities for a meaningful intervention in school. His adult life has been fraught with work and interpersonal problems, money problems, and an inability to connect deeply with others. His self esteem is completely gone, and I know that he carries with him the feeling that his life has been one giant failure.

I tried, as the relationship disintegrated, to encourage him to get properly diagnosed. But he is so angry about the end of the relationship, and already struggling with his self-image after the ADHD diagnosis, that I doubt he will ever get screened. Here are some characteristics or traits, in my amateur, non-clinical, anecdotal experience, that I thought mimicked each other.

ADHD                                                                           ASPERGERS

hyperfocus                                                                   --> rigid, narrow focus on interests

trouble empathizing                                                      --> extraordinary difficulty expressing and experiencing empathy

has meltdowns (can't regulate behavior)                        --> has meltdowns (overstimulated)

breaks rules (that they understand; impulsive)               --> breaks rules (that they don't understand; social integration issues)

unfocused, forgetful, disorganized (distractibility)            --> unfocused, forgetful, disorganized (no filter)

may lack self-control                                                    --> marches to their own drummer

daydreaming / fantasy                                                  --> "in their own world"

Etc, etc. etc.

I encourage everyone on this board to read and learn what you can about Aspergers. If you're encountering difficulty with treatment, or if the diagnosis just doesn't "fit," or if meds aren't helping, then it may be Aspergers or another form of High Functioning Autism.