Andy Warhol and Konrad Lorenz are two persons with Asperger’s syndrome. The diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome is important in Adult Psychiatry because it can be confused with schizophrenia. Asperger’s syndrome cannot be scientifically and clearly differentiated from High Functioning Autism and the diagnosis are used interchangeably. Similarities between the two conditions include difficulties in interpersonal relationships, problems in non-verbal communication, narrow repetitive routines and interests. In Asperger’s syndrome there is no clinically significant general delay in language according to DSM-IV although this criterion is now highly controversial as language difficulties of one sort or another are often seen particularly of the semantic pragmatic variety. It has also been suggested that the persons with Asperger’s syndrome have a later onset of problems and are diagnosed at a later stage and can show in a minority of persons significant antisocial behaviour. Indeed for the majority of persons with Asperger’s syndrome very high moral behaviour is a characteristic. Whatever about the similarities or differences between High Functioning Autism (and there are more similarities) or Asperger’s syndrome the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is currently the most accurate diagnosis.
Andy Warhol is a classic person with Asperger’s syndrome. Andy Warhol was born in 1928 and died in 1987. He was one of the most famous artists of the 20th century and his most famous saying was ‘In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes’. He had an eccentric father which is not uncommon in this situation and was bullied at school which is also very common in this situation. His mother was even more eccentric than his father. His mother would make statements like ‘I am Andy Warhol’. His art could be extremely repetitive something that’s typical in persons with Asperger’s syndrome. An example here is the Campbell soup can. He particularly liked screenpainting which provided him with a quick and easy way of indulging his penchant for repetition. He had enormous deficits in interpersonal skills and was to a large extent socially incompetent. Like many people with Asperger’s syndrome he did want to make close relationships but lacked ‘know-how’. He stalked Truman Capote. He experienced himself as an alien like Temple Grandin another famous person with this condition. He clearly had a very narrow obsessive interest in art. He was a workaholic. He was an obsessive collector and a great deal of what he bought he never took out of the wrapping paper. He was a singular person. He had an autistic mechanical mind. He loved machines of all sorts. He had the typical high-pitched tone of voice persons with Asperger’s syndrome have. He had an immature personality. He was very naïve. He had the classic motor clumsiness of Asperger’s syndrome and suffered a great deal from anxiety. His fear of hospitals meant that he delayed going to hospital when he developed acute abdomen and he died soon after the operation.
The late Konrad Lorenz the animal behaviour researcher was born in 1903. Asperger’s syndrome helps to explain some of his actions in his life. He was addicted to animals and the study of animal behaviour. He is famous for his research on imprinting. An interest in nature is particularly not uncommon in persons with Asperger’s syndrome. He was very lucky to have a supportive wife as he had what is now called an ‘Asperger type’ marriage where the wife supports, contains, and grounds the person with Asperger’s syndrome. Lorenz tended to speak in monologues. He was an autodictat. He showed evidence of significant interpersonal difficulties and lack of empathy for people. This didn’t stop him being a great ethnologist. He also suffered from mood swings. Control was very important to him. He was both a collector and very much in scientific terms a systematizer. His first fascination was with the Jackdaw and later he became fascinated with fish and with ducks. While he served in the German army during the 2nd World War and was accused of being a Nazi but I don’t think that he was a Nazi. It was his Asperger’s syndrome and naivety that made him write about degeneracy in men of other races. Leon Eisenberg accused him of his writing been ‘redolent of concentration camps’. He was not a racist but he was extremely naïve. Konrad Lorenz in reply to Leon Eisenberg’s criticism stated “the 1940 paper tried to tell the Nazi’s that domestication was much more dangerous than any alleged mixture of races”. During the war Lorenz worked as a neurologist in a psychiatric unit. Later in life Konrad Lorenz was equally naïve in accepting the Schiller Prize from a neo-Nazi group. Konrad Lorenz was politically naïve about the implication of these matters and was not a Nazi. He was a person with Asperger’s syndrome.