What right do we have to label? Understanding the impact of Asperger’s syndrome on self-identity, anxiety, depression and self-esteem

  • Chloe Cutting

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This study aims to explore the links between Asperger’s syndrome and self-identity, anxiety, depression and self-esteem. The initial interest in this research subject was sparked after discussions with individuals who felt they have Asperger’s syndrome and questioned whether a diagnosis was right for them? Following this I read Portway and Johnston’s (2005) article: “Do you know I have Asperger’s syndrome? Risks of a non-obvious disability”, Within this they questioned the need of a diagnosis on no obvious disabilities such as Asperger’s syndrome. I found this article following this I decided to explore the potential impact that this may have on self-identity, anxiety, depression and self-esteem as they are all known to affect one another. The research followed an interpretivist research paradigm, aiming to explore the lived experiences described by the participants, with the hope of interpreting their answers in relation to the research questions (Gray, 2014). In addition to this the research followed an Epistemological stance which has been constructivism, through this I believe that knowledge is developed through our experiences and the people we surround ourselves with. Constructivism views
individual knowledge as buildable and unique (Gray ,2014). The methodological standpoint has been phenomenology, as this research has explored the individual, unique experiences of the individuals taking part. Five participants took part in this study who have all been diagnosed with specifically Asperger’s syndrome, and all participants were over the age of 18 whilst taking part in the study. Each participant gave informed consent prior to the interview, through a consent form. The consent form explains that they understand what the research aims to achieve and what will be expected from them throughout the research. They were also made aware of the sensitive topics that were to be discussed within the interviews and that they have the right to withdraw at any point. As the participants are in a vulnerable position, due to both their diagnosis and the sensitive topics discussed, steps were taken to ensure that they were capable of providing informed consent and were kept safe throughout the interview process and following the interviews. Each participant took part in a 4-part semi-structured interview which followed a phenomenological approach aiming to explore the lived experiences of each
participant. These interviews were conducted via telephone calls and through email then later transcribed. Following the interview’s, the findings were analysed through a thematic analysis approach attempting to answer the proposed research questions. The overall findings of this study have suggested that all of the participants were able to provide a high level of self-understanding. Additionally, some of the participants expressed how a diagnosis enabled them to understand their strengths and weakness’, giving reason to why they struggled with certain things. This suggests that in terms of self-identity a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome was beneficial. However, in terms of self-esteem, although some individuals appeared to have low self-esteem there was no indication that this was due to their diagnosis. Finally, I was unable to indicate whether the participants diagnosis had an impact on anxiety and depression, although some participants stated that they related to different symptoms, as described by the NHS, they did not state that they had been diagnosed by any professional. Following on from these findings, I have suggested within the discussion that in order to fully answer these questions the study would benefit from a longitudinal case study following the lives of individuals throughout their diagnostic process.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorWayne Bailey (Co-Supervisor) & Alison Ryan (Co-Supervisor)

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