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Aspergers Adults and Anxiety Prevention


Anxiety is very difficult for many grown-ups with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism to over-come. It can affect an individual psychologically and physically. Anxiety can happen for a range of reasons, and adults with Aspergers can vary in their ability to cope with it.

Emotions are abstract. To understand emotion you need an imagination. One of the areas of difficulty for adults with Aspergers is not being able to imagine things, so understanding emotions can be difficult for them.

Anxiety can affect both the mind and the body, and produce a range of symptoms. The psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety are closely linked and so can lead to a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. The psychological symptoms of anxiety are:
  • becoming preoccupied with or obsessive about one subject
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • easily losing patience
  • thinking constantly about the worst outcome

Its physical symptoms include:
  • dizziness
  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urinating
  • headaches
  • loose bowel movements
  • muscle aches
  • periods of having gas
  • periods of intensely pounding heart
  • pins and needles
  • stomach upsets
  • tremors

If you do experience any of these symptoms, it is important to also get medical advice to rule out other medical conditions.

Once you understand anxiety and identify the things and situations that make you anxious, you can then take steps to cope with it. Strategies for managing anxiety include the following:

1. Any activities that are pleasant and calming such as taking a bath, listening to relaxing music, aromatherapy, playing on a computer may also help reduce anxiety. Some Aspies may find lights particularly soothing, especially those of a repetitive nature, such as spinning lights or bubble tubes.

2. Keep a diary. Try to understand the anxiety symptoms you display when you are anxious – and to look at the causes of your anxiety. Keeping a diary in which you write about certain situations and how these make you feel may help you to understand your anxiety and manage it better. Use the diary also to think about the physical changes linked to anxiety. Aspies often retreat into their particular interest if they are anxious about something. Use the diary to monitor this as well.

3. Create an “anxiety plan.” An anxiety plan is a list of things and situations that cause anxiety as well as solutions and strategies you can use to help manage your anxiety levels. The plan can be adapted, depending upon how well you understand anxiety.

4. Physical activity can often help to manage anxiety and release tension. Using deep breathing exercises to relax can be helpful, as can activities such as yoga and Pilates, which both focus on breathing to relax. Use a visual timetable or write a list to remind yourself when you need to practice relaxation.

5. Aspies can find it very difficult to relax. Some adults with Aspergers have a particular interest or activity they like to do because it helps them relax. If they use these to relax, it may help to build them into their daily routine. However, this interest or activity can itself be the source of behavioral difficulties at times, especially if they're unable to follow their interest or do the activity at a particular moment. Some Aspies may need to be left alone for short periods of the day to help them unwind.

6. Some adults with Aspergers find direct confrontation difficult. They may therefore be unable to say they don’t like certain things or situations, which will raise their anxiety levels. If they identify they are anxious, they could use a card system to let family or friends around them know how they are feeling. They could also carry a card around with them to remind themselves of what they need to do if they start getting anxious. Devise a stress scale that you can use whenever you find something particularly stressful.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Correcting Social Deficits: Tips for Aspergers Adults

One of the most characteristic symptoms of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism is a deficit in social behavior. Many reports written by researchers have described this problem, and it is thought by many to be the key defining feature of Aspergers. The social problems can be classified into three categories: socially indifferent, socially awkward, and socially avoidant.

1. The socially indifferent Aspie:
  • does not seem to mind being with people – but at the same time – does not mind being by himself
  • does not seek social interaction with others (unless he wants something), nor does he actively avoid social situations

It is thought that this type of social behavior is common in the majority of Aspergers adults. One theory is that they do not obtain 'biochemical' pleasure from being with others. Beta-endorphins (an endogenous opiate-like substance in the brain) are released in the brain during social behavior. There is evidence that the beta-endorphin levels in people with Aspergers are elevated, so they do not need to rely on social interaction for pleasure. Some research on the drug called “Naltrexone” (which blocks the action of beta-endorphins) has shown to increase social behavior.

2. The socially awkward Aspie:
  • desires romantic relationships, but does not have the skills to find and keep a partner
  • does not learn social skills and social taboos by observing others
  • is self-centered
  • lacks common sense when making social decisions
  • lacks reciprocity in interactions, since conversations often revolve around self
  • may try very hard to have friends, but can’t keep them

3. The socially avoidant Aspie:
  • avoids virtually all forms of social interaction

In childhood, the most common response in the socially avoidant individual is having a tantrum or running away when someone tries to interact with him or her. As infants, some are described as arching their back from a parent to avoid contact. For many years, it was thought that this type of reaction to their social environment indicated that the person with Aspergers did not like - or was afraid of - people. Another theory (which is based on interviews with Aspergers adults) suggests that the problem may be due to hypersensitivity to certain sensory stimuli (e.g., some said that a parent's voice hurt their ears, some describe the smell of their parents' perfume or cologne as offensive, some describe pain when being touched or held, etc.).

In addition to the above three types of social deficits, the social cognition of adults with Aspergers may be lacking. Recent research has shown that many Aspies do not realize that other individuals have their own thoughts, plans, and points of view. They also appear to have difficulty understanding other people's beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. As a result, they may not be able to anticipate what others will say or do in various social situations. This has been termed “mind-blindness.”

Treatment—

1. Biomedical: Naltrexone is usually not prescribed to improve social interaction; however, research studies and reports have often indicated improved social skills when given Vitamin B6 and magnesium, and/or dimethylglycine (DMG).

2. Sensory: If the problem appears to be due to hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli, sensory-based interventions may be helpful (e.g., auditory integration training, sensory integration, visual training, and Irlen lenses). Another strategy would be to remove these sensory intrusions from the person's environment.

3. Social-Skills Training: A major goal of social skills training is teaching Aspergers adults about the verbal and nonverbal behaviors involved in social interactions. There are many Aspies who have never been taught such interpersonal skills (e.g., making "small talk" in social settings, the importance of good eye contact during a conversation, etc.). In addition, many of these individuals have not learned to "read" the many subtle cues contained in social interactions (e.g., how to tell when someone wants to change the topic of conversation or shift to another activity). Social skills training helps a person with Aspergers to learn to interpret these and other social signals, so that he or she can determine how to act appropriately in the company of other people in a variety of different situations.

Social skills training makes the assumption that when individuals improve their social skills or change selected behaviors, they will raise their self-esteem and increase the likelihood that others will respond favorably to them. Aspies learn to change their social behavior patterns by practicing selected behaviors in individual or group therapy sessions. Another goal of social skills training is improving the person’s ability to function in everyday social situations. Social skills training can help the person to work on specific issues (e.g., improving one's telephone manners) that may interfere with his or her job or daily life. 

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Building a Healthy Self-Esteem: Tips for Aspies

To feel good about your life and the way it evolved, you need to change two basic things: (1) how you see yourself, and (2) your personal responsibility over your life. If you don’t take responsibility for your actions, and if you don’t fight to make your wishes come true, then you are bound to believe that you have no control over your life and your achievements, that you are at the mercy of fate, and that you will never be happy! So you are doomed - doomed to live a life which you don’t appreciate, you don’t respect, don’t feel proud about it, and of course ... you don’t want!

How can you feel good about your life and your achievements? How can you improve your confidence and self-esteem? How can you see yourself with other eyes and take responsibility for your life?

Starting from this moment, you can follow these strategies that, although simple, can have tremendous impact on your psychology and the evolution of your life:

1. Nothing is more valuable to your life than when you can accept your weaknesses and improve your strengths. You are not the only one in the world who has difficulties and problems! We all have. Rather than grumble about your weaknesses you need to reconcile with them, face them and you win the first battle against them! The refusal and arrogance never helped anyone. You need to see yourself objectively.

2. Building confidence is a process that needs a lot of effort, courage and patience. Confidence is defined as the absolute faith in yourself and your abilities. Confidence includes self-esteem and dignity and the belief that you are able to carry out and meet any challenge or dilemma in your life. Self-confidence is the way you talk to yourself.

3. The people you love, your pets, your flowers, your friends and what makes you feel beautiful in life is precious. Make sure that you love and protect and fill your life with more love. A life full of love is of great value.

4. You never know enough. No information is useless. You should learn as much as you can, and never think that you know everything. The only thing certain is that if you spend all your life reading, you will still have little awareness in front of the infinite knowledge that exists around you. So, you should not be dogmatic, don’t reject other ideas, and don’t always think you are right. There is no surer way to screw-up your life!

5. If you are constantly thinking of the future and you always wait for something to happen, you lose the moment, which you may already have all these things that you are waiting for ...and simply you don’t see them! Live in the moment. Be creative now. Try something new now. Don’t leave for the future what you can do now.

6. Even if your life is not as you want, don’t be discouraged. Fight for the life you want. There are always opportunities for you. There are always alternatives and other routes that can lead you right where you want to reach. Don’t compromise using expressions like this: “Life is a bitch – and then you die.” This is defeatism. You can do everything!

7. If something goes wrong in your life, then ask yourself who is to blame, what you are doing wrong, what you can change, how can you learn more information to get a better picture, etc. Don’t take anything for granted, and above all, don’t take your life for granted! Question your behavior, the methods you have learned to use, the way you think and operate – even question your values. Review your behavior and don’t sit back and hide behind the security of the current situation. The current situation is not necessarily the right thing for you. There are thousands of individuals who feel so much security in the current situation who don’t dare get out of this comfort zone! Don’t be one of them. You need to have courage to learn the truth and acknowledge your mistakes. You need courage to accept the imperfections and win the life that you would like!

8. The past can’t change, and in any case, the past does not specify your future. Don’t be discouraged by the past. Use today to make one more step closer to your happiness.

9. Confidence and high self-esteem is really valuable for those who have managed to acquire it. These individuals feel beautiful and they show it. They are effective and productive. They don’t have insecurities, and they operate knowing that they are capable of being loved and respected. They don’t try to improve their self-esteem by reducing other people around them or humiliating them.

10. Psychologists often indicate that almost all sectors of our lives - our happiness, our success, our relations with others, creativity, sexual life - is based on our level of confidence and self esteem. The more confidence we have, the more we achieve our objectives.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Conversation Skills 101: Tips For Aspergers Adults

Individuals with Aspergers (high functioning autism) often find social situations very difficult. There are so many social rules that "neurotypicals" (i.e., people not on the autism spectrum) learn instinctively. "Aspies" often have to work at learning these rules. It can often be confusing and cause anxiety as many social rules are unwritten and not spoken about.

Unfortunately it would be impossible to fit every helpful idea into this article, but it does offer some basic suggestions that you could begin to think about. Discussing these with someone you feel safe with may help you to think of some other ideas.

Starting a conversation:

1. If the individual you would like to talk to is already talking to someone else, especially if it is someone you do not know, it may be better to speak to them later when they are free.

2. Approach the individual, but stop when you are about an arm’s length away and face them.

3. Saying 'Hello' is normally a good way to start a conversation. Try to think of some other good greetings as well (e.g., 'Hi' to a friend or 'Excuse me' if you wish to attract someone's attention). It is important to remember that the appropriate type of greeting changes depending on the situation and individual you are speaking to (e.g., you may say 'Hey' to a friend but 'Hello' to your boss).

4. Using the individual's name before or after your greeting will help them to know you are talking to them. In some families, individuals do not address elder relatives by their name, but call them Aunt, Uncle, Grandma as appropriate. Think about the names that you use when you speak to the individuals in your family.

5. If the individual you speak to answers 'Hello' (or something similar) it usually means that they want to talk.

6. It is a good idea to ask some general questions at the beginning of the conversation rather than starting on a certain topic. Some ideas of things to say here are:
  • Did you enjoy the film/concert/TV program?
  • How are you?
  • It's nice to see you.

Try writing down some other general questions and topics that you can use when you are talking to other individuals.

What to say during a conversation:

1. Remember to take it in turns when talking to someone. Let them answer your questions and give them a chance to ask you one in return if they want to.

2. Talk about things that you know the other individual likes as well as the things that you like. If you both like the same things, then you could talk about these. However, it is not appropriate to talk to some individuals about certain topics. It is probably a good idea to avoid talking about them if you do not know the individual well. Try to make a list of things that are - and are not - appropriate to talk about.

3. If you find it hard to understand that someone else may feel differently to you, you may not realize that not everyone is as interested in a certain topic or hobby as you are. You may want to talk about it a lot, but the other individual may not be as interested or knowledgeable about the topic as you are. If you are talking to someone about a topic and they begin to look like they want to end the conversation, you could say 'Would you like me to tell you more?' or 'Would you like to talk about something else?' However, sometimes the individual will want to end the conversation altogether for another reason. For example, they may need to get to work.

4. You may also find it difficult to tell how someone else is feeling because they are not actually saying how they feel and you find it difficult to read body language and facial expressions. What is appropriate to say to them will sometimes be different depending on how they are feeling about the topic. If you are not sure how someone is feeling, you can ask them.

How to end a conversation:

Watch out for signals that someone wants to end a conversation with you. These may include:
  • looking around the room
  • not asking questions back
  • saying they have something else to do
  • yawning

Do not get upset if the individual does this. Sometimes it is better to end a conversation before you run out of things to say. If you want to end the conversation, say something like, "Well I'd better be going now" before saying "Goodbye" because it is more polite than just saying "Goodbye" and walking away. Try to think of some other ways to end a conversation.

Making friends:

Making friends can be difficult for Aspies, but once you have established them, they can be enjoyable. You will have someone to go out with, talk about things you enjoy, and discuss your problems with.

It can be difficult to tell if someone is not a real friend. This can be especially difficult for Aspies. This is because the signs that someone is pretending to be your friend are often very difficult to detect, because they include body language and tone of voice. You may not find it easy to notice these. A true friend will always make you feel welcome and talk to you if they have the time. A true friend will treat you the same way that they treat all of their friends. Someone pretending to be a friend will sometimes make you feel welcome, but show signs that they do not want to talk almost immediately. Someone pretending to be a friend may treat you differently to their other friends.

Telling others that you have Aspergers:

Sometimes people find others who behave differently to themselves hard to understand. Neurotypicals may find it hard to understand why you may prefer not to look them in the eye while you speak or why you like to talk a lot about a special interest. A way of helping others to understand your differences and communicate well with you is to tell them that you have Aspergers. Obviously, it is your choice whether or not to tell others, but it can often be a positive decision.

You do not have to go into great detail about what Aspergers is. Perhaps you could tell them about the triad of impairments and the difficulties that you have because of this. Things to think about include:
  • Social interaction - Do you prefer to be alone? Do you find it difficult to make friends? Do you find it difficult to keep a conversation going?
  • Imagination - Do you find it difficult to imagine how someone else feels? Do you find it distressing when things change? Do you have a special interest?
  • Communication - Do you find body language difficult to understand? Do you find it hard to tell what emotion others are feeling? Do you find it difficult to say what you mean?

Not all of these difficulties will apply to you. You could ask someone who knows you well how you behave differently in social situations in comparison to a neurotypical. Knowing this can be very useful as you will then be able to tell others about these difficulties and also work on improving them.

Social skills:

Here are some additional ideas and things to remember to help you when dealing with social situations. This does not cover every possible situation you may find yourself in, but it does provide advice for some of the most common circumstances:

1. Even if you do not want to socialize with others and prefer to be on your own, it is a good idea to develop your social skills.

2. If you make a mistake and upset someone, it does NOT mean they don’t like you. Usually, saying sorry helps. If you are not sure what you have done to upset someone, ask.

3. Rules change depending on the situation and individual you are speaking to. For example, it would be appropriate to say ‘Hey’ to a friend but 'Hello' to your boss. A good example of this is the story of a man who was told that it was polite to go up to people and smile and shake their hand when he met them. This was appropriate most of the time. However, when he attended a family member's funeral, people thought he was being insensitive because he was walking around with a big smile when they were feeling sad.

4. Saying 'please' and 'thank you' is appropriate in all situations. This shows other individuals that you are polite.

5. Sometimes it is ok not to tell the truth to make someone else happy (e.g., saying they do not look fat, even if they do). Some call these 'little white lies'. Try thinking of situations where this may be the case with a family member or co-worker.

How to develop and practice social skills:

Social skills groups are run in most countries. They usually focus on the main areas that Aspies find difficult (e.g., making friends, having a conversation, identifying and expressing emotions, problem solving, body language and tone of voice, etc.).

You could also ask a family member or friend to help you practice social skills. You could do this using role play. Things that you could practice include approaching others, starting a conversation, taking turns and ending a conversation. You could ask the individuals who know you well which skills they think it would be a good idea for you to practice.

Watching soaps on TV might give you some ideas of how to act in different social situations. You could also record an episode and ask someone to press pause during the program and talk about what you would do next in that situation.

Joining a social group:

Social groups provide the opportunity to meet others and socialize in a safe environment. They do not offer structured social skills training but are a good place to practice those that you have learned. All groups operate differently. Most groups meet on a regular basis (e.g., weekly or monthly), and at an agreed place (e.g., a pub or community hall). The activities will vary depending on the interests of the members. Some may focus on one hobby, such as drama, while others may offer a wider range of activities, such as cinema one week and bowling the next.

How to meet and socialize with neurotypicals:

There are lots of different types of social groups. Many of these meet because members have similar interests (e.g. sports, reading, art or religion). For someone with Aspergers, joining a social group where the members have similar interests to your own would be beneficial. This is because you would have something to talk about and to use to start conversations. Individuals at these groups will probably be keen to talk about your special interest if they enjoy it too.

Do keep in mind that some social groups require you to become a member to attend, and for this, you sometimes have to pay. It may be a good idea to call the organizer to find out about this to avoid disappointment.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How to Read Your Date’s Body Language: Tips for Aspergers Men

Neurotypicals have a million ways of showing whether they’re interested in someone, only a few of which involve speech. But it’s these nonverbal cues that pose the biggest challenge for the dating Aspergian – especially males.

Here are some dating tips for the Aspergers man who has difficulty reading body language:

1. Be aware of your date’s nervous gestures:
  • Lowered eyebrows and squinted eyes illustrate an attempt at understanding what is being said or going on. It's usually skeptical. This is presuming she is not trying to observe something that's far away.
  • If your date brushes her hair back with her fingers, this may be “preening” (a common gesture if your date likes you) or her thoughts about something conflict with yours. She may not voice this. If you see raised eyebrows during the date, you can be pretty sure that she disagrees with you. If your date wears glasses, and is constantly pushing them up onto her nose again, with a slight frown, that may also indicate she disagrees with what you are saying.

2. Check your date’s arms:
  • If her arms are crossed while her feet are shoulder width or wider apart, this is a position of toughness or authority (e.g., she may not want you to get too close).
  • If her hands are closed or clenched, she may be irritated, angry, or nervous.
  • If she rests her arms behind her neck or head, she is open to what is being discussed or just laid back in general.
  • Individuals with crossed arms are closing themselves to social influence. Though some adults just cross their arms as a habit, it may indicate that your date is (slightly) reserved, uncomfortable with her appearance, or just trying to hide something on her shirt.

3. Do not judge your date solely by her body language.

4. Do not spend too much time looking at and analyzing her body language. Try to look at her face while you are talking.

5. Don't isolate yourself by constantly examining body language when interacting with the opposite sex. There is no reason to gain a social “upper hand” anyway. This is paralysis by analysis.

6. If she looks up at the sky or to the sides, she is probably thinking about you.

7. If she talks at a fast rate and mumbles or isn't clear on what she is saying, she could be nervous or might be lying, trying to stall for time, or not telling the full truth (i.e., being vague).

8. It's easy to spot a confident lady: she will make prolonged eye contact and have a strong posture.

9. Keep in mind that each woman has her own unique body language (called baseline behaviors).

10. Look into her eyes:
  • Dilated pupils mean that your date is interested. Keep in mind, however, that many drugs cause pupils to dilate, including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, LSD and others. Don't mistake having a few drinks for attraction.
  • If her eyes seem far away, that usually indicates that she is in deep thought or not listening.
  • If she looks down at the floor a lot, she is probably shy or timid.
  • Individuals who look to the sides a lot are nervous, lying, or distracted. However, if the individual looks away from the speaker, it very well could be a comfort display or indicate submissiveness.
  • Looking askance generally means your date is distrustful or unconvinced.

11. Observing in context is crucial to understanding body language.

12. Pay attention to how close your date is to you:
  • The closer she is, the warmer she is thinking of you. The farther away that she is, the less she actually cares about you or the date. If you move slightly closer to her, does she move slightly further away? That means she doesn't want your interaction to be any more personal than it already is. If she doesn't move further away, then she is receptive – and if she responds by getting even closer to you, she probably really likes you or is very comfortable around/by you.

13. Pay special attention to “changes” in body language rather than the body language itself.

14. See if she is mirroring you:
  • Mirroring is another common gesture. If she mirrors, or mimics your appearance, this is a very genuine sign that she is interested in you and trying to establish rapport with you. Try changing your body position here and there. If you find that she changes her position similarly, she is mirroring.

15. Some women touch their face and/or play with their hair when they are flirting.

16. Watch her face. It will usually give off a quick involuntary and sometimes subconscious twitch when something happens that irritates, excites, or amuses her.

17. Watch her feet:
  • A fast tapping, shifting of weight, laughing, or movement of the foot will most often mean that your date is impatient, excited, nervous, scared, or intimidated.
  • If your date is sitting, feet crossed at the ankles, this means she is generally at ease.
  • If while standing, your date seems to always keep her feet very close together, it probably means she is trying to be "proper" in some way.
  • If while seated, she purposely touches her feet to yours, she is flirting!
  • Some women may point their feet to the direction of their interest. So if they are pointing at you, she may be interested in you.

18. Watch her head position:
  • A cocked head means that she is confused or challenging you, depending on eye, eyebrow, and mouth gestures. Think of how a dog slightly cocks its head when you make a funny noise. When coupled with a smile, a tilted head will mean she genuinely likes you and is engaged in playful conversation.
  • An overly tilted head is either a potential sign of sympathy, or if she smiles while tilting her head, she is being playful and maybe even flirting.
  • Lowered heads indicate a reason to hide something. Take note if she lowers her head. If it is when she is complimented, she may be shy, ashamed, timid, keeping distance from you, in disbelief, or thinking herself. If it is after she offers an explanation, then she may be unsure if what he said was correct.

19. When your date closes her eyes longer than the time it takes to blink, that usually means that she is feeling stress, alarm, or despair (although it could mean that their contacts are dry, this will sometimes be accompanied by rubbing of the eye).

20. When observing your date, be subtle about it.

Note: Aspergian men who are dating often need to be told point-blank to dial back on their obsessions in order to better interact with a love interest. Also, reminding an Aspergian that most people have more than one relationship in their lives — and therefore, statistically, the majority of a person’s relationships will end at some point — can help to put some perspective on endings for someone who may have an ‘all or nothing’ approach and expect that first relationship to last forever.

Good Luck!


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