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Psychiatriki. 2017 Apr-Jun;28(2):175-182. doi: 10.22365/jpsych.2017.282.175.

Asperger syndrome and schizophrenia: ╬Łeurodevelopmental continuum or separated clinical entities?

[Article in English, Greek, Modern]

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1
Child and Adolescent Unit, Community Mental Health Byron Kesariani, 1st Department of Psychiatry, Medical School, University of Athens, Greece.

Abstract

This article is an overview of the literature on Asperger's syndrome and schizophrenia and aim to discuss their similarities and differences. Eugen Bleuler who associated the terms "schizophrenia" and "autism" a century ago, viewed autism as a form of solitude of schizophrenic patients representing withdrawal from reality. Ever since, there has been confusion as to the boundaries between these conditions. Nowadays recent research, from a variety of perspectives-genomics, neurodevelopment, psychiatry, etc. has given new information on these conditions. It is easier to demarcate these two disorders at the extremes, but it is extremely difficult dissociating milder forms of both disorders. Asperger's syndrome (AS), is considered to be a continuous and lifelong disorder with strong heritability, present from early childhood. It is included within the category of autism spectrum disorders and it is usually diagnosed in childhood. Patients with Asperger syndrome are often diagnosed late or they are considered as having schizophrenia. Misdiagnosing Asperger syndrome creates severe problems by preventing effective therapy. A lot of clinical characteristics of Asperger's syndrome are also present in schizophrenia, such as impaired social interaction, disabilities in communication and restricted interests. On the other side some clinical features may facilitate the differential diagnosis, such as the younger age at onset, family history of pervasive developmental disorders, pragmatic aspects of language use, lack of imagination, ect. It is known that symptoms of Asperger's syndrome have some overlap with those of schizophrenia, but less is known about comorbidity between these two syndromes. It is still a question whether autism spectrum disorders in young children can increase the risk for the development of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, later in life. Both disorders are of neurodevelopmental origin and genetic factors are prominent. In both neurocognitive deficits as well as deficits in social cognition and social functioning are marked. The boundaries between AS and schizophrenia are still not clear even if this distinction is necessary for the appropriate treatment of the patient and his family. For the writing of the literature review, the following electronic databases were used: PubMed, Scopus, Psycinfo, Cochrane Library, Web of Science and Google Scholar. The key words used were: Asperger's syndrome, schizophrenia, children and adolescents, differential diagnosis, autism spectrum disorders.

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