OBJECTIVE: There are historical and theoretical indications of a difference in subjective experience between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the schizophrenia spectrum. However, this difference has not been empirically explored. Therefore, to explore potential differences in subjective experience between the 2 spectra, we examined the presence/absence of self-disorders in Asperger syndrome/autism spectrum disorder (As/ASD) compared to schizotypal disorder (Sd). Self-disorders represent changes in basic self-awareness which have been found to accumulate within the schizophrenia spectrum.
METHODS: All participants were recruited from clinical units and interviewed with a focus on the exploration of presence/absence of self-disorders, with the Examination of Anomalous Self-Experience (EASE) scale, and a general assessment of present psychopathology, with Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry (SCAN).
RESULTS: A total of 51 participants (As/ASD, n = 22; Sd, n = 29) were included in the statistical analyses. When controlling for age, gender, years of education, mental problems before the age of 16, and special needs school attendance, there was a clear difference in presence/absence of self-disorders between the 2 groups, with significantly higher levels in the Sd group. Further, there was an overlap in SCAN-rated symptoms between the 2 groups.
CONCLUSION: Our results indicate a significant difference between As/ASD and Sd at the level of the basic self, which, in turn, indicates that an exploration of anomalous self-experience is a valuable supplement in the clinical differentiation between As/ASD and Sd.