Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Asperger’s Disorder (AD) are two examples of contested psychiatric categories. Psychiatric categories are an international language used by the media, clinicians, researchers and laypersons to communicate issues concerned with human behaviours that prove difficult for societies to understand and manage. Psychiatric categories of syndromes and disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) have increasingly become technical, specialised, bureaucratised, and medicalised.

As part of the process of medicalisation, disease is thought to exist outside of the individual experience of illness and is tightly linked to specific agreed upon categories, concepts and everyday practices. In 2013, the fifth version of the DSM-5 categorised AD as a sub-group of ASD. This change in psychiatric categorisation has social implications in that the group identity of individuals with AD self-identified as ‘Aspies’, has been altered to that of an autistic within the underlying discourse of ‘autism as disorder’. This new categorisation by the DSM reifies the view that different ways of interacting due to differing brain structure is a disorder.

Given that it has been four years since the change in the categorisation of Asperger’s Disorder, questions of the effect of this change on the lives of adults living with Asperger’s Disorder warrant sociological investigation. This research aims to qualitatively explore the meaning of a psychiatric categorisation on identity-making practices and ways in which these accounts operate within the context of the health sector. The methodology of the exploration involves methods of semi-structured interviews, group observation and thematic analysis.

Project members

Miss Sari Mangru

PhD Graduate