Cutting, Chloe (2020) What right do we have to label? Understanding the impact of Asperger’s syndrome on self-identity, anxiety, depression and self-esteem. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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 selfesteem,
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.

FINAL THESIS - Cutting.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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