laurajv: Holmes & Watson's car is as cool as Batman's (quick watson to the batmobile)
[personal profile] laurajv
[personal profile] movies_michelle was talking about Sherlock (check out the post, there are some awesome fic recs in it!!), and reminded me of something [personal profile] beatrice_otter said about Sherlock not having an autism spectrum disorder, so I went to look up that post while my kid was napping and it was about something else, really, but it did remind me of a book I got on [personal profile] beatrice_otter's recommendation -- So Odd A Mixture-- which contains a really good overview of autism spectrum disorders for laypersons. So I looked that up, too. And then my response got really long and obnoxious, so I moved it over here.

Sherlock certainly has things that could be superficially viewed as Asperger's, but what strikes me about the portrayal (and about the character in general, from Doyle onwards) is that -- ok, so I think, when most people think about the Sherlock portrayal as one of Asperger's, they are thinking of what [personal profile] movies_michelle talks about: "social isolation, acute focus on specific things at a time, and inability to socialize on what is generally considered a normal level". While those certainly exist (in all versions of the character, I think), they exist in plenty of people who don't have Asperger's, too, but have completely different issues, or no diagnosable issues at all. It's *how* those things fit into something that makes them an autism spectrum disorder.

Anyway, "So Odd a Mixture" has a handy-dandy list of 9 areas of difficulty that you tend to see, to one degree or another, in people on the autism spectrum: theory of mind (understanding that others think differently from oneself, understanding motives of others, etc), central coherence (understanding what details are important and how they impact the whole), executive function (complex planning), cognitive shifting (ability to shift focus), language processing, dyspraxia (motor impairments), awareness of the unwritten rules of conversation, interpretaton of non-verbal cues from facial expression and gestures, and sensory sensitivities.

Of those, I can only really see Sherlock (in any incarnation, not just this one) of having issues with cognitive shifting (he tends to focus intently and may not pay attention to peripheral information, though "The Great Game" in BBC Sherlock might argue against difficulty in this area for that particular version of Sherlock Holmes) and sensory sensitivities (it's certainly one plausible explanation for the character's ongoing physical disdain for women, though of course homosexuality or asexuality are alternate explanations).

Of the others -- if he had serious difficulties in any of them, he couldn't do what he does. What he does displays a deep, well-managed, coherent understanding of human motivations and of how details impact the whole.

He's bad with certain emotions (not understanding how someone could still be upset about a death that occurred years ago), but he does understand emotions in general. Even if he doesn't experience certain emotions himself, which he might not, he is clearly aware that other people have them and what effects different emotions might be expected to have upon those people's behavior.

Mostly, how he reads to me is as a bright, callous individual who really doesn't care much about other people. He does not read to me as a sociopath, though sociopathy I'm more willing to buy for the length of a story than I am an autism spectrum disorder.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-24 10:48 pm (UTC)
beatrice_otter: John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, from BBC's 2010 Sherlock miniseries (John and Sherlock)
From: [personal profile] beatrice_otter
THANK YOU for doing the "No, Sherlock's not autistic!" post. THANK YOU.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-24 11:15 pm (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (my kitty brethren)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
I cannot imagine Holmes having autism in any incarnation I've seen*. He is too damned good, yes, at reading human motivation. He may not grok much of it on a personal level, but he reads it extremely adeptly in people's demeanour and actions. That -- pretty much right there, is why I would never have thought to posit Sherlock Holmes as having Asperger's or something similar.

Inasmuch as I see him having mental illness or not being neurotypical, I'd always taken him to have bipolar disorder. His cyclical phases of mania and depression, and the self-medication are fairly -- well, he's a fictional character and I'm not a psychologist, but still, they're fairly classic symptoms and I'd always imagined surely Doyle had known people with the disorder to be able to portray Holmes so.

I'd have to say, I'd be more willing to follow sociopathy (or psychopathy) than a story that posits an autism spectrum disorder, unless it were an exploration of who Sherlock Holmes might be if he genuinely were somewhere on the autism spectrum.

*Disclaimer: I'm not watching/haven't watched the recent BBC Holmes so I've no idea exactly what they've been doing on that show. But if they'd drastically re-imagined Holmes, I'd have thought it would have come up quite a bit.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-25 01:29 am (UTC)
copracat: alia with text "we are all made of stars" (alia made of stars)
From: [personal profile] copracat
This particular Sherlock is not a sociopath, he doesn't have Asperger's, he's just an arsehole. His treatment of Molly in the third episode shows he knows how she feels and he manipulates her for whatever reason, maybe for his amusement, maybe he's just bored and he can, so he does.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 01:21 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
*nods nods*
Also, he shows emotion when he is not looked at, and this is something you will never see a sociopath doing. He is also defensive, and again no sociopath would behave so (with John in the first episode, he was on defence the whole time). I think he wish to be a sociopath, but in truth isn't :)
I agree with Moriarty as a true sociopath, and he understands that Sherlock isn't one ("We both knows it isn't true")


(no subject)

Date: 2011-11-09 12:32 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hmm, yes, but he does describe himself as "high-functioning" which could be taken any way, really. I interpret it as meaning he has some, but not all, of the traits that would define someone as a sociopath. Also I think it was a more of an "Anderson, shut up" moment than a proper diagnosis.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-07-09 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Seeing as he he is so obviously clueless about Molly in the fourth episode at Christmas, I beg to differ - but then again, when you wrote that, the second season hadn't aired yet, had it?

I believe he *wants* to be a sociopath - but his symptoms are *the* cliché for highly intelligent/gifted people, only a bit extreme.

Shall I elaborate? (I am in "treatment" for being gifted and the issues that ensue, and I'm fifteen, but I know a bit about that stuff by now)

First of all: Gifted people, meaning people with an IQ of more then 130, perceive the world differently.

Second: We experience the world, and emotions and human interactions differently.

Third: We think differently.

That all adds up to a few issues.

I'll take myself for an example.

While I do have friends, I always, really always, have to curb myself down. I have questions after questions about things others would find gross, but I restrain myself. I have funny urges about touching other people, but I restrain myself. (My psychologist says I'm lonely, so I want to hug my friends, but I know that's not something the persona I created for me would do, so I squash the urge, to hold on to the picture of normalcy)

I really have a lot of acquaintances, and while I'm really good at making friends, I often have problem deepening the relationship. I sometimes have problems understanding social norms, and, as my psychologist says, it's always the gifted who have to accommodate, and I think Sherlock simply does not do this.

He uses his arrogance and coldness as a wall to protect himself - he probably was a high-achiever in school, and we all know how other children react to that, don't we? (Even though I have learned - what needs, must - to act like a "normal" person in the eyes of society, I am often called names for being good at school)
But if he doesn't let anyone near enough to care about them, they can't hurt him. It's a typical reaction, really.
He knows there's something "wrong" with him, always has been, and this affects a child, and an adult.
He's most likely insecure, and it's really hard to imagine thinking in a different way from how we do - but it's a fact, none the less.

In my opinion, Sherlock simply does not have those restraints. He doesn't care about what other people think, he is who he really is.

My psychologist told me to stop being so tame and nice all the time. It's burning me out, she said, and nothing better than using only half your brain power (the other is always under stress and trying to note anything that would betray your picture of being "Normal") is the best way to stunt your brain.

Please note that I used tie " " around "normal" deliberately, I simply know of no other way to indicate what I mean. It's just that we're different, so the ones who're not are normal, for lack of a better word. And please also take in consideration that I am fifteen, German and not a psychological student. I have merely repeated what my psychologist told me.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 01:17 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"Autism" like "Sociopathy" (or in any way you can call it... it changes every few years °-°'') is rather complex.
I see more Sherlock as having a disorder of the autistic spectrum (which is not only Asparger, because you can have some autistic traits even withouth the "entire" disorder) because sociopaths don't have emotions. Jim is a definitive sociopath in Sherlock, and he doesn't have any emotion save "bored" and "excited". Sociopaths are also completely amoral (obviously). Holmes, in any incarnation (and I would be very sad if they don't put it in Sherlock, really) has strong moral principles, and shows feeling (towards Watson mostly, but also occasionally clients, Lestrade, Mycroft, Mrs Hudson and others).
Even in Sherlock he often show emotion like sadness (the scene in which Sebastian says everybody in Uni hated him is the first that come into my mind).
The "signs" of Asparger you cite are to be treated with extreme care.
Sherloc, the BBC one, also shows sign of sensory overload (the bank).
Still, I don't see Sherlock Holmes as an Aspier or Autistic neither. He is far too manipulative to fit the definition. Some Aspies can read people very well. Some have an uncanny ability to read non-verbal clues also. Yet, an Autistic person doesn't manipulate other people, even when she/he "could".

In my opinion, Sherlock Holmes is not neurotipical, and might have some austic traits (might). But I also think his "peculiarities" are things he carefully cultivate to keep people at bay, as well. Our world is less forgiving of "eccentricities" than Victorian Society was :( we have this nasty habit to NEED to give a word or a label to person, often in their face (no victorian gentleman would tell to somebody face "you are a freak". They might have called him arrogant behind his back, but that was it).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 01:21 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is me, btw, forgot to sign :P


(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-28 04:42 am (UTC)
kickair8p: Totenkopf's Brain Sculpture (TotenkopfBrainSculpture)
From: [personal profile] kickair8p
But that would be so great -- I'd know what I am. All my odd bits finally nice and neat in their little color-coded plastic boxes, easy to find when I need them, safely tucked back on their shelves with I didn't.

Yes, I can see several downsides, and it's not like I wish I was neurotypical. I just wish I had access to the kind of social framework that neurotypicals typically have, that they can so easily build because "everyone" is just like them, in all the "important" ways at least. And my, that wandered off from where I thought I was going with it . . .


(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-27 06:54 pm (UTC)
mecurtin: Doctor Science (Default)
From: [personal profile] mecurtin
Does Sherlock ping your sociopath detector? I assume you've seen mustangsally's theory of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Pro writer Graham Robb argues IMO convincingly that both Holmes and Poe's Dupin are canonically but subtextually homosexual, and that their powers of observation and detection are based on gaydar.
anglepoiselamp: Harle from Chrono Cross is one of my most favourite videogame characters. :) (Default)
From: [personal profile] anglepoiselamp
Since Sherlock is a fictional character, it's clear that he's a pick-and-mix of different character traits that might not constitute a viable diagnosis of any sort. But for the same reason it's possible to build all sorts of different interpretations of his personality (and presumed disorders, or lack thereof). And that's what's so awesome about it all, right?

I love reading about an autistic spectrum Sherlock or an asexual!Sherlock, because I find them personally empowering. I suppose others might love a predominantly bipolar or antisocial or choose-your-disorder-du-jour Sherlock for the same reason. Or just because it feels right. Your interpretation is equally valid and I can totally see where you're coming from with it - it's just not one that personally appeals to me at all.

That said, a textbook or even the official diagnostic criteria won't tell you much about autistic or Aspergic people and how they function in day to day life. Spectrum is the preferred term for a reason. And I don't read the 'OMG Sherlock totes has Aspergers!' posts in communities for the same reasons that [personal profile] beatrice_otter talks about in the post you linked to. That stuff tends to be superficial at best and hurtfully ignorant at its worst. So my personal mantra is something like "It's nice to have someone to identify with on tv, I love how Sherlock can be read as Aspergic... but not like the interwebs reads it."

And because tl;dr is the way I roll, I jotted down some points that I find interesting re: the autistic spectrum discussion. Feel free to ignore - just seems like I had a lot of this stuff on my brain, waiting to be released into the wild. :3

  • in well-rehearsed social situations (like shopping or going to the bank) I can easily pass for a neurotypical person, although I've had to put a lot of effort into learning to smile and greet and make eye contact and avoid saying things that are 'a bit not good'. This is one of the dealbreakers between aspergic / sociopathic, IMO - a sociopath would also learn to do these things by rote, but would be very good at faking them, whereas an Aspie would remain a little awkward while going through the motions. I see that awkwardness in Sherlock, but maybe that's just me.

  • Someone already mentioned sensory overload in the going-to-the-bank scene, it's interesting that someone else interpreted it like that too. There's a lot of that elsewhere in the cinematography as well, the sounds and colours and overwhelmingness of London traffic etc.

  • When it comes to "understanding that others think differently from oneself", high-functioning Aspies most probably reach a state where they *do* understand that others think differently, but they may not understand how or why and may be constantly exasperated by neurotypical thought processes. I think that's definitely present in Sherlock, although it's mixed with his annoyance when others aren't clever enough to follow his thinking.

  • I'd say Sherlock also has difficulties with the unwritten rules of conversation (at the first morgue scene he doesn't understand Molly is asking him out; occasionally he'll just turn away or even walk away from the person he's been talking to). Of course you can just as well interpret those as signs of the 'Sherlock's just a jerk on purpose' theory, but I tend to disagree because he seems so genuinely baffled at times. Also in The Great Game it seems like he almost has to do a double-take and verbally verify that John's angry at him, which I instinctively read as a difficulty in seeing nonverbal cues, but again, that might just be me projecting my own issues.

  • Come to think of it, AS people are also capable of learning what the necessary social conventions for a situation are - and then ignoring them on purpose because they're not important. I've seen this more with male Aspies. That's kind of an amalgamation of the 'being an ass on purpose' and 'being Aspergic' theories, although I think Aspies aren't usually rude to be hurtful, it's more about painful levels of honesty and impatience with norms.

  • one more little thing: Sherlock's tone of voice when speaking is fairly monotonous. A monotonous or unusual tone and inflection + fast or unusual pacing in conversation + use of extensive or strange vocabulary are pretty common with Aspies, although it doesn't always get mentioned in diagnostic overviews.
  • (no subject)

    Date: 2011-02-13 05:58 am (UTC)
    lawless523: kanzeon bosatsu (sherlock - sexual tension)
    From: [personal profile] lawless523
    I know this is long after the fact -- I was reading some of your fics, including your latest -- but hurrah for saying that the evidence for Sherlock (or any other version of Holmes) having Aspergers or a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder is weak. It's understandable, given his disregard of some social cues, why people might think the BBC version exhibits Asperger-like symptoms, but it's more of a handy label to throw on him than something truly revealing about the character. (As an aside, there is talk of eliminating Aspergers as a separate category in DSM-IV and replacing it with autism spectrum disorder, with what's currently called Aspergers being on the highest-functioning end of the spectrum. If that ever came to pass, there'd probably be less talk of him having an autism spectrum disorder.)

    It's wonderful to use characters to explicate a little-known condition, but I only enjoy it if it's a reasonably plausible interpretation of the character. A version of Sherlock with autistic spectrum disorder would have a hard time convincing me unless it were presented as an AU, a "what if". On the other hand, ACD canon Holmes is the poster boy for asexuality, and BBC's Sherlock is probably intended to be asexual too, although that was clearer in the unaired pilot than in the actual first episode. It's at least a plausible interpretation of the character.

    He doesn't strike me as a sociopath, either. I think he self-diagnosed and embraced the identity to keep people out of his way. He's arrogant and thinks a lot of himself; as the TV producer in the movie Broadcast News said when accused of enjoying being smarter than everyone else, it sucks to be the smartest person in a room. (That is probably not a direct quote.) Moriarty strikes me more as a psychopath than a sociopath.

    Holmes (and possibly Sherlock) reads more as bipolar than anything else. Of course, we'll never really see it on the show because Sherlock lounging around doing nothing doesn't make for compelling TV, but the alternation between work and being bored seems to fit that as well or better than sociopathy. I can't really speak to NPD other than to say he seems more manic than delusional, and he admits that he sometimes errs -- in the case of his deductions about John's sister, he didn't expect to be 100% correct.

    Sherlock definitely is meant to have a posh background, and Benedict Cumberbatch has an upper-class accent. I read his speech pattern as him attempting to keep whatever is spilling out of his brain under control and in some semblance of order, not as a monotone or flat voice.

    It's a shame you got flamed for expressing an opinion in a reasoned and intelligent manner.

    P.S. - I'm an Anglophile, not a Brit.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2011-02-27 12:36 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Not entirely sure how I ended up on this page but I thought I'd give my two pennies' worth as I drift on by.

    I think talking about Asperger's in general terms full stop is very difficult because it's so varied, particularly between the genders but even between individuals. You can very easily fill a room with people with AS and they'll all have very different traits. I think it presents differently as a result of upbringing, personality, IQ and when the person was diagnosed.

    That being said, I actually discovered I have AS relatively late in life as a result of watching the BBC Sherlock show. Life's odd like that. Basically I saw a lot of logic in what Sherlock did, although I also saw how inappropriate a lot of his behaviour was. I definitely see some very AS qualities in him. In particular, his demand that people be quiet while he's trying to work through a problem (not something I personally do) and his inability to fit together emotions with situations such as his lack of sensitivity and his rather utilitarian "cost-benefit" style approach to matters that perhaps require a more delicate touch (the Great Game, for example).

    Because of the near infinite variations of AS it seems possible for Sherlock to have AS. It's quite possible, for example, that he could be fairly decent with relationships. I think some people with AS don't find interpreting interactions as difficult but rather struggle with how to respond to them, for example. It's rather like being a foreign tourist: you can tell from the inflection that another person is angry or happy but you don't know how best to respond. This can lead to, as Sherlock seems to do, turning cold instead, rather than "risking" getting it wrong.

    That being said, because the characteristics of AS are so varied they can very well apply to any number of other conditions or certain personality types. I think it's an interesting way of considering his character but it can threaten to take over in stories at the expense of the plot and characterisation.

    :D So... yeah, just my thoughts on it all.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2011-07-21 09:37 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Livvy here again.

    Yeah, I don't really get the Asperger's vibe from him, either, and I wondered about BC's understanding of Autistic Spectrum Disorders when I heard him say that. Maybe I am basing my ideas on the fact that he is nothing like JP, really, and I know that JP is hardly the one flavor of Aspergers or ASD out there, but just-- no. I just don't see him as autistic. I could see him as gay, a control freak, possibly a sociopath to some degree, completely out of touch with what 'mundane' people feel, someone who wraps his extremely high IQ around him like a shroud or armor from an early age to deal with bullies or irritated, abngry people when he blurted out something he shouldn't, someone who stepped in it quite a lot and when he hurt people's feelings, rather than admit that he messed up or deal with it said, "Get over it, it's true!" but I don't see him as a sociopath. I could even see him as possibly, just maybe, a little bit ADD, but not even that, really. Someone who gets bored extremely easily, that couldn't have been made more obvious unless the show had been made by an American Network, by the people at Fox who make Bones, even, but I don't see Aspie.

    He has no problem reading facial expression and accurately understanding tone of voice (his discussion with John in the Great Game, when he asked if he'd disappointed John springs to mind, he could do it, he just hadn't bothered till he couldn't ignore it anymore, and his asking, "Not good?" in Study in Pink), he can express himself just fine, with both his command of the language as well as tone of voice, pitch, nonverbal cues/body language, and he takes delight in pissing off certain people, which isn't something I've known a lot of autistic/Aspie people to do.

    But preaching to the choir here, I know.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2011-07-21 10:39 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)

    i meant to say I don't see him as the average person's idea of a sociopath, because he does have some understanding of other people's emotions, he just frequently doesn't really give a damn. I think he actually *tries* to be a sociopath because its easier for him for him to pretend like other people's feelings don't matter. I think he has sociopathic tendencies, and he leans on them and cultivates them a lot, rather than it being something he was born with. After all, it's easier to tell yourself and others you don't care that your classmates don't like you than it is to figure out why they don't like you and try to do something about it, and really, it's arguable how far it's healthy for one to go in order to 'fit in' and be well liked by your classmates.

    demystify of gifted, asperger and shaman

    Date: 2011-08-28 05:54 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    If you want to have the translation of that new current study about demystify the gifted, asperger and shamans, you are welcome to contact me at

    Source :és

    (no subject)

    Date: 2012-01-22 08:55 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    First of all I understand your view and why you would think that.
    But in my opinion he does have Autism, and by 'he' I mean the BBC's Sherlock. I have Asperger Syndrome and even before I had any idea that I had AS I could relate to him A LOT, I never related to anyone the way I related to him.
    The best 'evidence' is that the things he does, by that I mean when 'normal' people consider those things rude, inappropriate etc., are thing most people just don't understand, they have no idea why he acts that way, they think he does that because he's just an asshole. But I, and other autistic people, do understand why he does the things he does. I tend to act like him a lot. And I totally understand why someone who doesn't have Autism could think he's a Sociopath, I used to think I was one myself before I found out about AS, but he obviously does care, but he shows it in ways non-autistic people don't understand, that's why we're almost always misunderstood. The reason you give why he's not are thing we learn along the way, the things that don't come natural to me are thing I learned, and I can see that in Sherlock as well.
    The most obvious thing though are his breakdowns, when his brain just overloads, it's something that I happens to me a lot and I've seen it happen to Sherlock a number of times. You just shut out everything else, which might come over as ignoring and being rude, but it's not on purpose, we only later realise what we have done.
    There's a lot of things why one might suggest that he's autistic, but you can only see them when you understand the way autistic people think. I'm not saying that he actually he is, but it is highly probable. But on the other hand, he is definitely not a sociopath, he shows empathy but not in the ways you'd expect.

    I agree

    Date: 2013-10-31 02:25 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    I definitely agree as a fellow aspie

    He does though

    Date: 2013-10-31 02:24 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    I've always thought of Sherlock Holmes as autistic, mainly because it matches up perfectly with my aspie symptoms.

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