Do INTJs have Asperger’s syndrome or autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Many INTJs (and even INTPs, ISTJs, etc.) wonder if they have some mild form of autism, and it’s not uncommon for others to label INTJs having Asperger’s syndrome. I even saw a funny internet meme featuring Laurence Fishburne from The Matrix movies, and it read, “What if I told you that INTJ is really just short for mild Asperger’s Syndrome?” Pretty funny!
Interestingly, one of my sisters has two sons: Her younger son has been diagnosed with autism, and her older son is an INTJ. She seems to think that her INTJ son has Asperger’s. In fact, she has told other people that I have Asperger’s! For the record, I have never been diagnosed as having Asperger’s, and I don’t believe I have any form of autism (not that there’s anything wrong with it).
In this article and video, I’m going to discuss Asperger’s syndrome in relation to the INTJ type (and MBTI).
Do INTJs Have Asperger’s Syndrome?
The first thing you want to keep in mind is that the two are not mutually exclusive. Some INTJs have it, and some don’t. Since starting my YouTube channel, several male and female INTJs have indicated that they have been diagnosed with Asperger’s. You’ll find forum posts on the INTJ forums discussing this issue exhaustively. I think a lot of INTJs, INTPs, ISTPs, and ISTJs struggle in determining whether they have Asperger’s or common quirks of their psychological type. However, there are differences between the two.
MBTI is an assessment that helps you determine your personality type based upon Jungian theory. There are no “good or bad” types. Each type has a different attitude of energy (introvert vs extrovert), a different way of perceiving the world (intuitive vs sensing), a different way of judging the world (thinking vs feeling), and the different attitudes toward the external word (judging vs perceiving). In addition, each type has a specific stack of cognitive functions.
In contrast, Asperger’s Syndrome, which is now part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is classified as a developmental “disorder.” It’s considered to be a “high functioning” form of autism. So, one is a personality temperament—a type, and the other is a developmental “disorder.” That’s a big difference. Neither means “stupid, inferior, or broken.” Both INTJs and Aspies will have their challenges, as will the other 15 personality types (or other “disorders”). We’re all humans, and we all have our weaknesses.
I think a lot of the confusion between these two lies in the fact that there are many overlapping traits, as well as some ambiguity surrounding the actual signs for Asperger’s. This happens a lot in medicine. For example, let’s consider two conditions: Crohn’s disease and the stomach flu. Crohn’s disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease, whereas the stomach flu is typically short-lived and caused by a viral or bacterial infection. However, both conditions can cause stomach cramps, low-grade fever, diarrhea, nausea, etc.
Similarly, Asperger’s signs and INTJ traits do overlap (May not apply to all INTJs or Aspies):
- Difficulty engaging in social interaction—I think for most INTJs, it’s more of a boredom, exhaustion, and frustration with small talk (or socializing) than an inability. INTJs can often fake an extroverted persona. A lot of people with Asperger’s will describe a real difficulty connecting with others.
- Having a narrow group of interests—Both can do this, although INTJs can also become a “jack of all trades.”
- Robotic speech or mannerisms—INTJs are sometimes accused of being robotic. However, we can also show expressions or gestures, but perhaps not as much as an extroverted feeler.
- Talking at great lengths on topics of interests—INTJs can do this, but perhaps not as much as a person with Asperger’s. Most INTJs can recognize other people’s boredom and stop talking.
- Sensitivity to excessive lights, noise, touch, or sensory input—Having extroverted sensing as our inferior function, we can become sensitive to touch, sounds, smells, etc. Your least used cognitive function can sometimes create an uncomfortable feeling when using it. Strong scents give me a headache. I don’t like loud noises or bright, flashing lights, but I don’t feel a sense of panic like Aspies often describe.
- Dislike changes in routine. I dislike changes in my plans, but I’m sure that a lot of “J” types are like that. I do have trouble regrouping (and often feel as if my day has been ruined), but I can bounce back.
However, there are also numerous differences (may not apply to all INTJs or Aspies):
- Lack of eye contact or having one-sided communication. Intuitives will sometimes avoid eye contact as they process another person’s dialogue, but they can make eye contact while communicating. I actually go out of my way to make eye contact and ask other people questions. I find it exhausting, but I’ve always done that naturally. In fact, focusing on my wife’s eyes helps me stay focused during dialogue. Some INTJs can ramble on about topics, but we’re mostly happy to let others speak.
- Motor problems or poor ability in sports. I’ve always had natural talent in sports. I would play baseball (I was usually the pitcher), and I would often make the all-stars team. I have no motor problems or issues with sports.
- Awkward movements and mannerisms. I don’t think most INTJs have this (I don’t).
- Inability to understand emotional responses in others. I can recognize when people are upset, and I can even comfort people. However, INTJs, having introverted feeling as their third function, find emotions messy. They can make us feel uncomfortable, and we dislike showing our emotions to others. However, we still feel them, and can empathize or sympathize with others, but probably never as much as someone with a prominent function of extroverted feeling can. It seems that Aspies struggle a bit more with emotions.
- Having trouble distinguishing sarcasm or jokes. Most INTJs love sarcastic humor, irony, or a play on words. I once heard about a train ride that suddenly came to a screeching halt. A woman finally went out to see what was going on, and she saw the engineer cleaning a dead cow off the front of the train. The woman asked, “My goodness! What happened?” The engineer said, “We hit a cow, ma’am.” She asked, “Was it on the track?” The engineer replied, “No, ma’am. We had to chase it all over the field in order to hit it.”
In summary, my opinion is that the INTJ type and Asperger’s Syndrome share many similarities, but there are some distinguishing characteristics. Even those distinguishing characteristics can get muddy or ambiguous, and I think that’s why people have differentiating between the two. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s correct to characterize INTJs or INTPs as having Asperger’s based on their type, nor is it correct to identify those with Asperger’s as automatically being an INTJ or INTP.
Interestingly, Robert Chester wrote an article in the Journal of Psychological Type in December 2006, and he concluded that “there is inadequate discrimination between normal type development and the disordered state.” He also wrote: “In terms of functional pairs, NT is more likely than ST to be seen as having Asperger’s Disorder” and that “I_TPs appear to be at a greater risk for being diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder than any other type.”
So, INTPs are perhaps even more confused as being an Aspie as compared to the INTJ type. He also hinted at extroverted bias on behalf of the parents of children who are believed to have Asperger’s Syndrome. He seems to suggest that Asperger’s is often a misdiagnosis for an underdeveloped (but otherwise normal) personality type.
The article was very interesting, and you can read the PDF version.
However, I’d also note that even extroverted types have Asperger’s. I found many articles and forum posts of extroverted types discussing their struggles of living with Asperger’s Syndrome. Clearly, Asperger’s is not limited to a certain MBTI type, or even introverted types. Nevertheless, introverted types, especially INTPs and INTJs, are probably going to have a higher correlation with Asperger’s, whether by misdiagnosis, misunderstanding, or actual occurrence.
What if You Have Asperger’s Syndrome?
What if you’re an INTJ, INTP, or other type, and you’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome or autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? You shouldn’t view yourself as handicapped, dumb, inferior, or anything like that. People with autism or Asperger’s have incredible gifts and talents to offer the world. They’re people, not freaks of nature. Many people cannot even recognize Asperger’s traits in people, and they are surprised to find out that someone has a form of autism.
My autistic nephew, for example, used to have some developmental problems. However, he has gone through social skills classes, which has greatly improved his small talk and socializing skills. In fact, the last time I saw him, which was at a family get-together, I would have never guessed that he had autism at all.
My advice would be to make a list of your greatest struggles, and work to improve those weaknesses. Read books, watch videos, or even join a social skills class or seek social therapy that can help you improve. We all have weaknesses. I know I do. Look at Asperger’s not as a “disorder,” but as a challenge to overcome. Don’t let it hinder your success or happiness.
Chester, R. G. (2006, December). Asperger’s syndrome and psychological type. Journal of Psychological Type, 66(12), 114-137