Grey’s Anatomy: Autistic Headcanon

Grey’s Anatomy: Autistic Headcanon

I wrote a piece recently about Grey’s Anatomy portrayal of an Autistic character but now I wanted to share a headcanon I have about another character on the show.

Incidentally, at this rate I’ll have to create a new subsection on my key posts page for character reviews as I seem to be doing a lot of them! You’ll probably be getting a few more of them unfortunately – I mentioned earlier this week that I’m having a busy couple of weeks, and this posts take the least amount of brain power. Also, I get to watch a show.

Anyway, my personal headcanon is that Cristina Yang has Asperger’s/Autism.

Understand: based on how they portrayed the other autistic character, I don’t think they actually intended to portray Cristina Yang as autistic/aspergic. I just think they ended up portraying an intelligent, focused, bluntly spoken, woman who has trouble both expressing emotions and relating to other people.

Wait a minute… 😛

My favourite scene was this one:

Cristina works on Mr. Henley, who asks if she’s “one of those, what do you call ’em, when someone’s really smart, like a genius, but they’re a little different. Like, they don’t know how to talk to people?”

“Are you asking me if I’m autistic?” Cristina replies.

“That’s the word,” Mr. Henley says. She lays him back down and says nothing. He tells her she’s “a tough nut to crack” and reminds him of her daughter, who is not coming to see him.

Quote Source

When I was trying to look up that quote (which was really hard to track down, by the way) I stumbled across these three posts, of other people sharing my headcanon.


I’m going to evaluate Cristina, as she is portrayed in the show, against the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria that I found it in The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood.

Section A: Social communication and interaction

A1: Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity

Cristina constantly struggles to make friends. She often only has one good friend (Meredith) and even then, often struggles to share interests or emotions. Her conversations dont often feel as easy or free as they do between other characters.

A2: Deficits in nonverbal communication 

Admittedly this is hard to judge in a character that is not being actively portrayed as Autistic. She often struggles to read emotions in other characters and needs emotions pointed out to her.

A3: Deficits in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships

As I said earlier, Cristina constantly struggles to make friends and often only has one good friend. She can make friends, and she has a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships, but seems to struggle with both.

Section B: Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interest or activites

B1: Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech

Cristina doesn’t seem to do this, but it does say in the book that this section is more associated with severe autism rather than Asperger’s Syndrome

B2: Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualised patterns of behaviour

This, I have to admit, is also not something we see in the show.

B3: Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus

Yes! Cristina’s special interest is cardiology, and cardiac surgery, and the heart, much like the other autistic doctor who showed up in the show.

B4: Hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input

This is something else that is hard to judge in a character that is not being actively portrayed as Autistic. We don’t see her being drawn to or avoiding any particular sensory inputs.

Section C: Symptoms must be present in early development

The show does not show Cristina’s childhood

Section D: Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning

We see times at which Cristina struggles with social functioning. She has trouble forming strong and lasting relationships, and often ostracises the ones she has because of her problems communicating. Admittedly Cristina is very “high-functioning” so her symptoms might be considered “sub-clinical” .


It’s not exactly a clinical diagnosis but it’s often the impression I get from her. There are huge gaps missing we can’t really comment on, like her childhood, her sensory sensitivities, how she interprets nonverbal communication.

There are, however, a few other clues scattered throughout – this post, for example, points to her dance-it-out thing she has for stress, which I wasn’t sure whether to include under “routines” or not, and a post on this page references her difficulty breaking rules.


Difficultly breaking rules? Me? Noooo….

So that’s my personal headcanon for Cristina Yang of Grey’s Anatomy.

Has anyone watched enough of the show to offer their two cents? (2p in GBP at the time of writing)(no, seriously, I checked)

Or does anyone have a show or character they want me to investigate? As I said up the top, I seem to be doing a lot of them right now. I have plans to review The Good Doctor and The A Word as well, but if there’s a show or character you’d be interested in getting my opinion on I’d be happy to check it out.



3 thoughts on “Grey’s Anatomy: Autistic Headcanon

  1. I was just telling my mum today that I was rewatching greys anatomy, and have watched it before, from start to finish (more than once), and that even though it’s never said, I think Christina also has ASD.
    I don’t actually recall Dr Dixon (I followed the link).
    I think there are an awful lot of undiagnosed people out in the world. Including me.

    Liked by 1 person

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