Why do so many women think their men have Asperger's syndrome? Is there a hidden mental health epidemic, or have the rules of relationships changed? Asperger's only entered the textbooks in 1994, but since then there's been an explosion in the number of people diagnosed. Mostly it's male children, but increasingly, women seem to be diagnosing their adult partners as being "on the spectrum".
But the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's are vague and, some argue, arbitrary. One criterion is that the person is bad at social interaction. The other is that they have to have restricted interests. In the case of the mature male, it's hard to work out what distinguishes Asperger's - which is in the textbooks as a "mental disorder" - from the behaviour of a "neurotypical" man who tends towards shyness, introversion, or selfishness. Today's men are required to be more emotional in relationships than their fathers and grandfathers. Does the fact that some struggle in this respect mean that Asperger's is being uncovered where previously it would have been hidden?
Jolyon Jenkins talks to women frustrated at their husbands' lack of empathy, sociability, and romantic impulses, and to clinicians who specialise in the diagnosis and counselling of people with Asperger's. He also talks to the man largely responsible for getting Asperger's into the psychiatric textbooks, who now regrets his role and believes that it had led to the "pathologising of normal behaviour".
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.
Aspergers, men and women
Maxine Aston, the therapist featured in the programme, can be found here:
Professor Tony Attwood is here:
"Muddling Through Aspergers" blog:
The "mind in the eyes" test: