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Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory has many personality quirks, some of which make him a tad hard to take at times.

  • He has difficulty expressing empathy
  • He has a good vocabulary but has difficulty understanding subtlety
  • He has a hard time with humor, especially sarcasm
  • He's completely egocentric
  • He could not make friends as a child
  • Prefers repetitive routine and gets upset with change
  • He is deaf to verbal cues
  • He doesn't understand non-verbal communication
  • He finds it difficult to look people in the eye unless they are close friends

These are all symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. I have seen every episode several times but do not remember hearing any reference to this outside of his mother "had him tested" for an unspecified disorder.

Is it ever mentioned in the series?

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    "had him tested" referred to being 'insane' but I don't remember anything about aspergers or any Autism spectrum disorder, have to google! – Decypher Apr 1 '16 at 6:38
  • I've never manage to watch this show consistently (I literally watched the first 3 mins of the first episode) but by "He doesn't understand non-verbal communication" do you mean he does not understand body language? – user31114 Apr 1 '16 at 9:05
  • @Mango Sometimes called body language, but also includes micro-expressions. Theoretically, more than half of human communication is on the non-verbal level. – Cascabel Apr 1 '16 at 17:23
  • @Mango yep, pretty much. He often misses the information conveyed by body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, word choice, and other things that go beyond the direct meaning of the words that are spoken to him. My guess is, it's not that he doesn't understand it (in the sense you wouldn't understand a foreign language), it's that his brain is simply trained to tune it out and he doesn't even recognize it's there. – David Z Apr 1 '16 at 17:44
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    Pretending that this completely fabricated/fictionalised/stereotypical so-called "comedy" portrayal has anything to do with actual autism sufferers, is borderline offensive. This nonsense is why they're so widely misunderstood. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 3 '16 at 15:05
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According to the character's actor, Jim Parsons the answer is a confident "no", however he does happily admit (and has extensively spoken about) Sheldon's 'asperger's-like' characteristics.

JP: When I was first asked about it, I literally hadn’t… Well, I’d heard of the disease. Do they call it a disease? I don’t want to be…

AVC: A disorder.

JP: Disorder, thank you. How ridiculous now, looking back, that I said that. I’d heard of the disorder but I didn’t know what it was at all. And when I asked the writers if Sheldon had Asperger’s, they said, “No, he does not. That’s not what we’re doing. - AVC Interview

and

Q. As the show’s gotten bigger, you’ve been adopted by more than one community. Rather than say “Hey, do you want to be a spokesman for, you know, Pepsi and we’ll pay you X?” people say, “You are now the spokesman for Asperger’s.” How do you deal with that?

JP: Asperger’s came up as a question within the first few episodes. I got asked about it by a reporter, and I had heard of it, but I didn’t know what it was, specifically. So I asked the writers—I said, “They’re asking me if Sheldon has Asperger’s,” and they were like, “No.” And I said, “OK.” And I went back and I said, “No.” And then I read some about it and I went, OK, well, if the writers say he doesn’t, then he doesn’t, but he certainly shares some qualities with those who do. I like the way it’s handled. - Adweek Interview


Similarly, the show's co-creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady head indicated that from a writing perspective, the decision was taken not to have him positively indicated as having a specific condition because it would make it easier for them to change his character if they needed to:

"We chose not to diagnose Sheldon," says "Big Bang" co-creator Chuck Lorre.

"Big Bang" co-creator, Bill Prady, who based Sheldon on computer programmers he used to work with, has said they were afraid that if they labeled Sheldon an Aspie, they would have too much responsibility to depict the condition accurately within a sitcom. - NJ.com

Prady also stated in an interview with Slate that Sheldon's quirks are uniquely "Sheldony" without necessarily being part of a wider condition.

"I just think of his actions as 'Sheldony.' Some things feel instinctively correct for his character," says Prady, who recalls one software colleague who couldn't go anywhere alone that he hadn't been to before. "He'd say, 'I can't go to 47th Street Photo by myself.' And it was maybe three blocks away. It was never questioned. Quirks were never challenged—they were simply accepted as a quality of the person."
"Are these things Asperger's?" he asks. "I don't know."

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    One of the writers modeled Sheldon on programmers that he once knew (aspergers is called the "engineers' disorder" in this article: wired.com/2001/12/aspergers ). But they don't want to label him as having the disprder so they won't be held responsible for being accurate in the portrayal. To me, that sounds like a "Yes" that they don't want to be held responsible for. – Leatherwing Apr 1 '16 at 12:46
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    @leatherwing - I don't disagree. The clear aim was for him to have asperger's traits but sufficient 'wiggle room' for the writers to have him act however they want without having to deal with people saying "but that's not what people with asperger's syndrome do/say/act like" – user7812 Apr 1 '16 at 13:13
  • I've got 2 really great answers here and I don't know which to check off. – Cascabel Apr 1 '16 at 17:30
  • @Gandalf - Whichever you found more useful. Was there anything mine didn't address that you'd want to know more about? – user7812 Apr 1 '16 at 17:39
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    @Richard You think the writer's don't want to be held responsible for depicting Aspergers correctly. I think they don't want to be a target for those who would say they are attacking or making fun of a disability. But we are both speculating on that point. All we can do is read their published statements and decide for ourselves. Your interpretation is more than valid and a good SE answer. – Leatherwing Apr 4 '16 at 11:45
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A simple answer, No.

Sheldon Cooper doesn't have Asperger, he has 'Sheldony'

Some viewers have asserted that Sheldon's behavior is consistent with Asperger syndrome. The writers have stated that they did not use Asperger syndrome as a basis for the character, but instead thought of his actions as "Sheldony".Series co-creator Bill Prady stated: "We write the character as the character. A lot of people see various things in him and make the connections. Our feeling is that Sheldon's mother never got a diagnosis, so we don't have one". Prady also told Alan Sepinwall of the New Jersey Star-Ledger that while Sheldon shares traits with people with Asperger's, he was uncomfortable labeling Sheldon as having Asperger's.

Also the quote "had him tested" referred to being 'insane'.

  • I've got 2 really great answers here and I don't know which to check off. – Cascabel Apr 1 '16 at 17:30
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Short answer: Yes, he does have Asperger's.

Long answer:

Asperger's Syndrome is diagnosed based on externally-observable criteria, both because a specific physiological cause has not been discovered (if it at exists at all), and because it is a part of the spectrum of autistic disorder, so whether you have nothing, Asperger's, high-performing autism etc. is a question of degree.

Given Dr. Cooper's symptoms, the creators can't "decide" he doesn't have Asperger's - if he behaves that way, he is that way by definition (assuming he's not consciously faking it). Now, true, one could argue some of the symptoms are borderline and he might not be diagnosed as actually having Asperger's, but as a layman rather than a communication skills therapist / Physician of the appropriate discipline it seems to me, like it does to OP, that Dr. Cooper meets the criteria.

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    Remotely diagnosing someone you've not been invited to examine is considered to be a form of medical malpractice in the US and UK. – user7812 Apr 5 '16 at 6:48
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    @Richard: It's a fictional character, there can be no closer diagnosis than watching the episodes. But - good point regarding real people. – einpoklum Apr 5 '16 at 16:32
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If Sheldon Cooper was tested as a child, he probably was not tested for Asperger's.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/history-of-aspergers-disorder/

It wasn't until 1994 Asperger's was made "official". Before that time, it was probably not so common to test for it. If a patent had a high IQ, Autism would often be ruled out, even though Asperger's is considered part of the Autism spectrum.

Even now diagnosis are not clear cut. If you every go in for professional testing you will undergo many tests. The scores for various tests are looked at together to decide the diagnosis. If you score low in test 1 and test 3, but high in test 3 then you receive a diagnosis of A. If low in test 1 and test 2, but high in test 3 you receive a diagnosis of B. ... Many of my family members clearly suffer from Aspergers. Most have not been formally tested. One the results were completely confusing. The groupings did not match any closest diagnosis. There was a long meeting to discuss it, and we were told we could rule out attention deficit disorder, and a few other things and it is was probably Aspergers. Then when writing up the report it said attention deficit disorder. For the most part that left us confused after the speech of how that could be left out, we just ignore the diagnosis and treat it like Aspergers.

In the end, there are no cures. So what you really want to learn from the diagnosis is the best way to educate and interact with people. If the techniques for the "wrong" diagnosis work, then that is better than going with the techniques for the "right" diagnosis that do not work.

If I met someone like Sheldon Cooper, I would treat him like someone who is a Narcissist with Aspergers. Regardless of the official diagnosis.

  • Thank you for your comments, particularly about Narcissism: that was illuminating. This whole experience has been a painful eye-opener for me. Do people in your family find the show offensive, as some have suggested? – Cascabel Apr 3 '16 at 18:12
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Sheldon is a mixture of a lot of things so as to make him a comic character, but does not have any particular trait emphasised to such an extent that it will make mocking him unsuitable or outrageous.

So, he can make you laugh without you feeling that this would be inappropriate because of his social awkwardness, for example.

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As many have said, S. Cooper is a character. The writers don't want to box him into a diagnosis so they have more options with his character. BUT this imaginary character is displaying MULTIPLE symptoms and traits of someone on the "spectrum".

While not universal for all people on the spectrum, some of "Sheldon's" symptoms that are stereotypical Aspergers include: Low desire for sex, human companionship and socializing; not picking up on subtleties and sarcasm; brutally honest; inability to understand how his brutal honesty can hurt others and is socially inappropriate, OCD tendencies, perseveration, etc., etc. For all intents and purposes, the character to this date, has Asperger's or autism. In any case, he's an interesting character. Oh, and as for the empathy thing - not ALL people on the spectrum lack empathy. But some do, and most of the time the Sheldon character does.

  • The question asked if it was mentioned in the series. This does not answer the question. – Meat Trademark May 10 '18 at 7:17
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Throughout the series Leonard has mentioned a few times (while trying to explain Sheldon to a new comer) that that is the way he thinks; he does understand certain aspects of human behavior.
An episode of Grey's Anatomy had a female surgeon come in for one episode that was considered a genius but did not understand certain human behavior; as Sheldon, sarcasm, jokes, innuendos etc. Sheldon always reminds me of that particular episode. Although it is not said on the show I think most watchers would agree he has Asperger's syndrome. Also, Howard's wife has also mentioned in a few episodes how he cannot be blamed for things because his brain does not understand or register such situations or comments.

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