Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise?
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Keys To Overcoming Excessive Worry: Help for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

If you are an adult on the autism spectrum who is prone to worry, you have two options: (a) give in and live with it, or (b) learn to overcome it. By giving in, you will continue to suffer and feel unhappy and anxious. It is far better to learn to overcome worry, or at least weaken its grip over you. Chronic worrying wastes your time and energy and weakens you both mentally and physically. You help no one and solve no problem by worrying about this, that, and the other. The earth will go on revolving around the sun, even if you stop worrying and being so anxious. Always know you have a choice: to give in to worry, or to overcome it.

Here are the keys to overcoming worry:

1. Worry is simply another way that your body tries to communicate with you. Listen to your body. After years squelching your feelings, your body has had to up the ante to grab your attention. Pay attention to what it is that your body is trying to tell you and it will be able to tone the message down. Never feel good in the presence of your boss? Guess what? Wrong job! If you stifle a feeling over and over again, you will re-experience that feeling at higher and higher levels of distress until you finally "get it." These moments are incredibly powerful teaching moments if you can curb your desire to get away at all costs and instead, pay attention.

2. Stay busy and do something, because activity keeps your mind from worrying. When you wake up in the morning, start doing something right away, and keep busy all day. Working in your garden, reading, studying, etc., can help you keep your mind away from stressful thoughts. Staying idle and thinking about your problems won't make them go away.

3. Start meditating on a daily basis. There are many forms of meditation, so you can choose any style that you feel comfortable with. One form of stress release may be to imagine a golden sun in front of you and, with every inhale, imagine breathing light into your heart and, with every exhale, imagine it circulating through your body. Do this for 10 minutes, imagining all your tensions turning to light.

4. Exercise daily for one hour. This can include taking a walk, a swim, a yoga class, or a session of training with weights. One hour of physical activity will help everything to flow and work properly in your body, which will give you the stamina to deal with each day. Exercise will help to release endorphins and help you to get a deeper sleep, which will allow you to feel rejuvenated for the next day. Exercising your body and staying fit is a good way to keep the negative thoughts away.

5. Find reasons to laugh. This will bring light and happiness into your life, and drive worry away. Watch comedies on TV, be with happy and amusing friends, or read something that makes you laugh.

6. What are the messages that you give yourself? Learn to observe the dialogue you have with yourself and the movies you play in your head, and you may be amazed. Your mind generates random and often irrelevant thoughts that you can follow for hours on end in concentric circles. This probably served a useful function back when man was figuring out where the saber-toothed tiger might be hiding, but this ability of the brain has out-lived its usefulness today. Follow your “worry string” sometime and be amazed at your mind's ability to invent worry-inducing scenarios.

7. If watching the news fills you with excessive worry – turn off the TV! Limit the time you watch the news, and don't watch anything that might upset you before you go to bed.

8. Pay attention to your emotions. You know those moments when you feel that you just can't take it anymore and you absolutely must escape in some fashion? We all have them. If you struggle with addiction, this is the moment when you absolutely must have that cigarette/drink/hit or else! Your body is trying to communicate with you at these times, and if you are present in your body, you'll know that you need to pay attention. What sequence of events has brought you to this point? Is it a feeling of powerlessness? Should you be speaking up for yourself and you are not? It's inevitably not a good feeling that you're having, but running away from it will not make it go away.

9. Practice deep breathing exercises. Breathe in for four counts, hold the breathe four counts, exhale four counts and hold the breathe out four counts. When doing this breathing exercise breathe into the diaphragm, placing your hands at the bottom of your ribcage and making sure the diaphragm expands on the inhale and deflates on the exhale.

10. Remain in the present moment as much as possible. Remaining in the present moment is incredibly difficult. Whether it's reviewing what you need to pick up at the grocery store on the way home, or trying to discern what your boss really meant yesterday when he said X, odds are you're doing anything but being here now. A few tricks to getting yourself into the present moment include bringing your attention into your body and sensing how it feels from the inside out. Paying attention to your breathing helps.

11. Review your diet and cut down on refined sugars and white flour, because they send the blood sugar levels up and then down, which ultimately affects your mood and energy levels. Caffeine should be cut from the diet if you are worrying a lot about things. Fried foods will increase fats in the body, which will lead to feeling lethargic and should also be cut. Fill your diet with at least 8 glasses of water a day and plenty of fruit and vegetables.

12. See a therapist so that you can talk and discuss the current issues on your mind. This can help you to get perspective on how you are perceiving, approaching and reacting to life. Cognitive therapy undergone with a therapist is a recommended form of treatment for dealing with excessive worry.

13. Set a goal and work every day to achieve it. This action will direct your thoughts and feelings away from anxieties, toward something more positive and constructive.

14. Start the day with several minutes of positive affirmations. Tell yourself how you would like your day to be. Use positive, motivating words.

15. Take omega-3 fatty acids from fish or flaxseed oil. This will keep all the blood vessels, nerves and joints in your body healthy. Once you have been taking these for 1 month every day, your energy levels and ability to deal with stress will greatly increase. Taking a multivitamin containing the vitamin B group will help to keep the nervous system healthy. An herbal supplement such as St. John's wort will help to combat stress.

16. Talk about your tendency to worry all the time with someone you trust. Talking about your anxieties can alleviate them and put them in the right proportions, provided you talk objectively and with a real desire to get rid of your worries.

17. Visualize positive scenarios. You have some rewiring to do. Counter-balance all of the negative outcomes you've been visualizing for years. Challenge yourself to think of every possible thing that could go right. Get specific, be creative and enjoy yourself. Have some fun with this: Go overboard!

18. When you go to bed at night, think about the good things that are happening to you. There are always some good things happening, even if small and seemingly insignificant.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The Prevalence of Avoidant Personality Disorder in Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum

According to some professionals in the autism community, Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) manifests itself more frequently in older teens and young adults on the autism spectrum compared to the general population. Reasons for this may include: (a) social rejection as a child, (b) difficulty cultivating friendships throughout the lifespan, (c) being the victim of bullying as a child, (d) difficulty maintaining gainful employment due to social skills deficits, (e) an over-reliance on parents in adulthood (i.e., “adult-child syndrome”), and (f) “learned helplessness” (i.e., the adult believes he/she is fundamentally “flawed” in some way, thus he/she simply gives up and stops trying to “connect with” others in a meaningful way).

APD is characterized by feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy, and sensitivity to negative criticism and rejection. However, the symptoms involve more than simply being shy or socially awkward. APD causes significant problems that affect the ability to interact with others and maintain relationships in day-to-day life.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an individual diagnosed with APD needs to show at least four of the following criteria:
  1. Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
  2. Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  3. Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
  4. Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
  5. Is unwilling to get involved with people unless they are certain of being liked
  6. Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  7. Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others

APD symptoms may include a variety of thoughts, feelings and behaviors, for example:
  • avoidance of social or occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fear of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
  • avoids physical contact because it has been associated with an unpleasant or painful stimulus
  • belief that one is socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • emotional distancing related to intimacy
  • persistent and pervasive feelings of tension and apprehension
  • extreme shyness or anxiety in social situations, though the person feels a strong desire for close relationships
  • highly self-conscious
  • is unusually reluctant to take personal risk or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
  • is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
  • lonely self-perception, although others may find the relationship with them meaningful
  • low self-esteem
  • mistrust of others
  • problems in occupational functioning
  • restrictions in lifestyle because of need to have physical security
  • self-critical about their problems relating to others
  • self-imposed social isolation
  • uses fantasy as a form of escapism and to interrupt painful thoughts
  • and in some more extreme cases, agoraphobia

The adult on the autism spectrum may feel as if he is frequently unwelcome in social situations, even when that is not the case. This is because people with APD have a low threshold for criticism and often imagine themselves to be inferior to others. When in social situations, an individual with APD may be afraid to speak up for fear of saying the wrong thing, blushing, stammering, or otherwise getting embarrassed. He may also spend a great deal of time anxiously studying those around him for signs of approval or rejection. The individual who has APD is aware of being uncomfortable in social situations and often feels socially inept. Despite this self-awareness, comments by others about his shyness or nervousness in social settings may feel like criticism or rejection. This is especially true if he is teased, even in a joking way, about his avoidance of social situations.

APD causes a fear of rejection that often makes it difficult to connect with other people. The affected individual may be hesitant to seek out friendships, unless he is certain that the other person will like him. When he is involved in a relationship, he may be afraid to share personal information or talk about his feelings. This can make it difficult to maintain intimate relationships or close friendships.

As with other disorders, a mental health professional can design a treatment plan that is appropriate for the affected individual. APD treatments vary, but they will likely include talk therapy. If a co-existing condition (e.g., depression, anxiety disorder) is also diagnosed, appropriate medications may also be used.

Other disorders can occur along with APD. Treatments in these cases will be designed to help with the symptoms of each disorder. A few of the conditions that most frequently occur with APD include:
  • Borderline personality disorder, in which adults on the autism spectrum have difficulties in many areas including social relationships, behavior, mood, and self-image
  • Dependent personality disorder, in which these adults rely excessively on others for financial support, advice or to make decisions for them
  • Social phobia, in which the individual experiences overwhelming anxiety and self-consciousness in common social situations

Many APD symptoms are commonly shared among these other conditions, particularly in the case of generalized social phobia. Because of this, the disorders can be easily confused. It may take some time for a mental health professional to make a clear diagnosis and choose the appropriate treatments.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Stress and the Holidays: Coping Skills for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

The holidays often bring an unwelcome guest: stress. And it's no wonder since the holidays present a dizzying array of demands like parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, just to name a few. But with some practical tips, people with Asperger's (high functioning autism) can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays – and they may even end up enjoying the holidays more than they thought they would.

How to prevent holiday stress:

1. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 5 minutes alone without distractions can refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk in the evening and gaze at the stars. Listen to soft music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner peace.

2. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to that budget. Don't try to buy happiness with a ton of gifts. Instead, donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts, or start a family gift exchange.

3. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to your expectations. Set aside resentments until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get angry or upset when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress as well.

4. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently stressed out or depressed, plagued by physical aches and pains, unable to sleep, irritable and disheartened, and unable to face everyday chores. If these emotions last for a while, talk to a mental health professional.

5. Saying 'yes' when you should say 'no' can leave you feeling angry and resentful. Friends and coworkers will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say 'no' when your employer asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

6. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, etc. Plan your menus, and then make your shopping list. This will help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten items. And be sure to get assistance from others for party preparations and cleanup.

7. If you feel lonely or isolated, find some community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Also, volunteering your time to help others is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

8. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Over-indulgence only adds to your anxiety and guilt. Have healthy snacks before holiday get-togethers so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese, wine, etc. Also, continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

9. The holidays don't have to be perfect. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change too. Choose a few rituals to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones (e.g., if your adult child can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, like sharing pictures, emails or YouTube videos).

10. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sorrow and/or moodiness. It's perfectly alright to take time to cry or express your emotions. You can't force yourself to be cheerful just because it's the holidays.

Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress that can descend during this time. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers (e.g., financial pressures, personal demands, etc.) so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive self-talk, you can find serenity and pleasure during the festive season.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Dealing with the Thanksgiving Blues: 50 Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of gratitude, happiness, and fellowship with family. During the long Thanksgiving weekend, we are bombarded and inundated with reminders of past holidays. The multitude of reminders can be a trigger for several unresolved issues such as:
  • Anticipating a significant loss
  • Contrast between image of holiday joy and reality of one’s life
  • Contrast between then and now
  • Disappointment about now
  • Past loses
  • Sense of increased isolation and loneliness
  • Unresolved grief

We asked a group of 50 men and women with Asperger’s (high functioning autism) to:  

“Write down one piece of advice you would give to someone on the autism spectrum who is experiencing the “Thanksgiving blues.”

Here’s what they had to say (and if you are a bit depressed as we head into Thanksgiving, hopefully you will find something here to help you through):

1. Create a box of old memories and traditions. Include in this box, new traditions that you want to create.

2. Connect with someone you have lost touch with.

3. Be careful about resentments related to past Thanksgiving holidays. Declare an amnesty with whichever family member or friend you are feeling past resentments. Do not feel it is helpful or intimate to tell your relative every resentment on your laundry list of grievances. Don't let your relative do that to you, either.

4. Remind yourself of the festivity of the occasion.

5. Set limits. Try to maintain a balanced diet, eat and drink in moderation.

6. Set up a gratitude box where each family member puts a piece of paper in it to briefly describe what they are thankful for.

7. Decide upon your priorities and stick to them. Organize your time.

8. Do one good thing for someone outside of the family.

9. Do something for someone else. Take the focus off yourself. It always feels good to help others.

10. Be reasonable with your schedule. Do not overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion--this makes Aspies cranky, irritable, and depressed.

11. Be realistic in your expectations. If you haven't got along with your relatives in 15 years, it's not suddenly going to change.

12. Invent new family traditions. This will help decrease longing for missing loved ones. Instead of being sad that grandma is no longer alive to bake her famous German chocolate cake, begin a tradition of baking German chocolate cupcakes with the kids in the family. This creates a new tradition, but honors grandma as well.

13. In the spirit of good will toward others, get involved with a volunteer activity. Check with local churches, food banks, soup kitchens, and youth organizations to see how they can benefit from your knowledge, skills and abilities.

14. If you find yourself feeling blue just remember: The choice is always yours. The sky is partly sunny, and the glass is half full and revel in our gratitude for our bounty, health, hope, and our courage to face each day with hope and determination.

15. If you drink, do not let Thanksgiving become a reason for over-indulging and hangovers. This will exacerbate your depression and anxiety. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is a depressant. People with depression shouldn't drink alcohol.

16. If you are feeling lonely, get out and get around people. Consider volunteering for non-profit organizations or visiting a nursing home as a good way to remember the spirit of Thanksgiving.

17. Don't expect Thanksgiving Day to be just as it was when you were a child. It never is. YOU are not the same as when you were a child, and no one else in the family is either.

18. Give priority to gifts that can't be bought--such as time, support and sharing of memories. (Last year we visited my Grandmother in Maine, which I will be eternally grateful that my husband got a chance to meet her.)

19. Give yourself a break. Create time for yourself to do the things YOU love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness: aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices, taking long fast walks, or any activity that calms you down and gives you a better perspective on what is important in your life.

20. Surround yourself with supportive people.

21. To put things into perspective, try waking up very early and watch a sunrise with a cup of hot cocoa or coffee.

22. Try to recognize (and put a positive spin on) unrealistic expectations.

23. Write down positives about past holidays. Start a new tradition of a journal with just 2 or 3 happy thoughts every year.

24. Go outdoors and get active.

25. Honor lost loved ones. Lost loved ones does not simply refer to those who have passed, but can also refer to those who are deployed with the military, or live in a different state. Send care packages, video tape activities and events, communicate via Skype. To honor those who have passed, have a special meal or a moment of silence or visit a place the person enjoyed.

26. Pace yourself.  Don't take on more activities, make more commitments, or try and do more than you can reasonably handle during Thanksgiving.

27. Pets help me through the holidays. They provide a lifetime of fun, laughs and companionship. Be realistic about the type of pet that’s right for you. Think beyond cats and dogs. Consider hamsters, guinea pigs, and birds.

28. Plan ahead. Set priorities and budgets before Thanksgiving. Plan a calendar for shopping, baking, visiting and other events. Create a "To Do List" if things get overwhelming.

29. Get plenty of rest.

30. Get involved with community service.

31. Volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter. Work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children at Thanksgiving. There are many, many opportunities for doing community service. No one can be depressed when they are doing community service.

32. Exercise regularly.

33. Enlist your friends’ help before Thanksgiving.

34. Enjoy those who are around you.

35. Enjoy some free activities. Check with local community and recreation centers, churches and shopping malls for a schedule of free activities.

36. Don't use Thanksgiving as a time for family therapy, whether before, during or shortly after.

37. Don't pretend that feelings of loss are not there if you have them. Say a special prayer, reminisce and continue counseling.

38. If the symptoms of hopelessness and depression last for more than two weeks, or if they worsen, you need to see your doc. Anyone having suicidal thoughts should seek immediate care, either through their own doctor or through the nearest hospital emergency department.

39. Keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive in your home.

40. Isolation increases feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and helplessness. Maintain your regular work and leisure schedule as much as possible. Accept invitations to spend time with family and friends.

41. Invite family members to your home. Be realistic about the type of event you have. If the thought of a huge family dinner is too much to contemplate, then mix things up a bit. Smaller gatherings with fewer expectations reduce the stress of preparing for a large crowd and gives you something to look forward to.

42. If you are feeling grief or loss, acknowledge them. Recognize and accept that both positive and negative feelings may be experienced during Thanksgiving, and that this is normal.

43. Reach out to past friends and family. Send a card with a hand written note, make a phone call, send an e-mail, or search Facebook. Whatever the reason the relationship has grown apart probably isn’t still relevant or meaningful. Put those long-forgotten reasons aside and rekindle that relationship.

44. Make a list of the losses and the positives that have influenced the year. Deal with the feelings that the list evokes.

45. Make pacts with friends to motivate each other.

46. Minimize the number of negative people (even if these are family members!).

47. Plan unstructured, low-cost fun activities: window-shop and look at the holiday decorations, look at people's Christmas lighting on their homes, take a trip to the countryside, etc.--the opportunities are endless.

48. Reach out and make new friends, especially if you will be alone during Thanksgiving.

49.  Remember, no matter what your plans, Thanksgiving does not automatically take away feelings of aloneness, sadness, frustration, anger, and fear.

50. Spend time someone you care about. Accept invitations, give invitations. Don’t allow your negative symptoms to drive your behavior and perhaps drive away friends and family.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The "Winter Blues": Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Winter is coming. The days are growing shorter, colder and darker. This is rather depressing in some ways, wouldn’t you say? Cloudy, cold days run my emotional battery down! Plus, I’m not a big holiday person, so Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s do not inspire me much. I call this the “winter blues.” BUT, I have found some ways to get through these dark days in one piece (and yes, I’m already looking forward to spring).

The winter blues is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like many Aspies (i.e., people with Asperger’s or high functioning autism) with the winter blues, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

Symptoms of the winter blues may include: 
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Oversleeping
  • School or work problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Weight gain

What gives you the winter blues? A few specific factors that may come into play include:
  • Family history. As with other types of depression, those with the winter blues may be more likely to have blood relatives with the condition.
  • Having clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
  • Living far from the equator. The winter blues appears to be more common among Aspies who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter, and longer days during the summer months.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in the winter blues. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body's internal clock, which lets you know when you should sleep or be awake. This disruption of your circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression.

What can you do to beat the winter blues? Here are some ideas:

1. Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase the winter blues symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.

2. Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.

3. Try light therapy. In light therapy, also called phototherapy, you sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box so that you're exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.  Light therapy is one of the first line treatments for the winter blues. It generally starts working in two to four days and causes few side effects. Research on light therapy is limited, but it appears to be effective for most Aspies in relieving the winter blues symptoms. Before you purchase a light therapy box or consider light therapy, talk to your physician or mental health provider to make sure it's a good idea and to make sure you're getting a high-quality light therapy box.

4. Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.

5. Try mind-body therapies. Mind-body therapies that may help relieve depression symptoms include Yoga, Meditation, Massage therapy, Guided imagery, and Acupuncture.

6. Practice stress management. Learn techniques to manage your stress better. Unmanaged stress can lead to depression, overeating, or other unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

7. Psychotherapy is another option to treat the winter blues. Although the winter blues is thought to be related to brain chemistry, your mood and behavior also can add to symptoms. Psychotherapy can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. You can also learn healthy ways to cope with the winter blues and manage stress.

8. Several herbal remedies, supplements and mind-body techniques are commonly used to relieve depression symptoms. It's not clear how effective these treatments are for the winter blues, but there are several that may help. Keep in mind, alternative treatments alone may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. Some alternative treatments may not be safe if you have other health conditions or take certain medications. Supplements used to treat depression include Melatonin, Omega-3 fatty acids, SAMe, and St. John's wort.

9. Socialize. When you're feeling down, it can be hard to be social. Make an effort to connect with family and friends you enjoy being around. They can offer support, a shoulder to cry on, or a joke to give you a little boost.

10. Some Aspies with the winter blues benefit from antidepressant treatment, especially if symptoms are severe. Antidepressants commonly used to treat the winter blues include paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and venlafaxine (Effexor). An extended-release version of the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin XL) may help prevent depressive episodes in Aspies with a history of the winter blues. Your physician may recommend starting treatment with an antidepressant before your symptoms typically begin each year. He or she may also recommend that you continue to take antidepressant medication beyond the time your symptoms normally go away. Keep in mind that it may take several weeks to notice full benefits from an antidepressant. In addition, you may have to try different medications before you find one that works well for you and has the fewest side effects. Stick to your treatment plan. Take medications as directed, and attend therapy appointments as scheduled.

11. Take a trip. If possible, take winter vacations in sunny, warm locations if you have winter the winter blues or to cooler locations if you have summer the winter blues.

12. Take care of yourself. Get enough rest and take time to relax. Participate in a regular exercise program. Eat regular, healthy meals. Don't turn to alcohol or illegal drugs for relief.

If you take steps early on to manage the symptoms of winter blues, you may be able to prevent them from getting worse over time. Some Aspies find it helpful to begin treatment before symptoms would normally start in the fall or winter, and then continue treatment past the time symptoms would normally go away. If you can get control of your symptoms before they get worse, you may be able to head off serious changes in mood, appetite and energy levels.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How Adults on the Autism Spectrum Can Improve Their Mood

Coping day-to-day with Asperger's or High Functioning Autism can be stressful to say the least. Sometimes due to various circumstances related to living on the spectrum, your mood may fade a little and leave you sad. And although you know that fighting the feelings can be overwhelming, there are ways to strengthen yourself in those moments and get ahead. 

With the following tips, your mood will be uplifted (and perhaps help others who are going through the same as you):

1. Be thankful. This is part of the "count your blessings" proverb we've all heard. Being thankful for all you do have, and saying thanks to others helps you to see the good around you.

2. Change your facial expression. You experience emotion, in part, to communicate to others. Part of the way you do this is through making muscular changes in your face - hence a grimace, frown, look of horror, or smile. We all assume that when we are happy, we look happy – and when we are sad, the result is a sad expression. But it's actually more intriguing than that. Researchers have found that it also works the other way. For example, if you feel blue, start smiling at people and watch how your mood improves. Try it! What have you got to lose?

3. Don’t blame yourself for past mistakes. This is the simplest and most important thing you can do to beat depression. The stigma of depression, plus feelings of guilt and inadequacy, gets in the way of happiness. Managing the symptoms of depression requires a practical, proactive approach—and patience with yourself.

4. Do some form of exercise every day. Exercise can lift your spirits. One reason is the release of endorphins, a morphine like hormone sometimes referred to as "the runner's high."

5. Get a good night’s sleep. Much remains unknown about the connection between depression and sleep, and everyone has different sleep needs, but experts recommend that depressed people need to get enough sleep and maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule.

6. Laugh out loud. Laughter has positive health effects. Search diverse sources of comedy as books, presentations or movies, and enjoy a good time for recreation.

7. Let the sunshine in. Brightening your bedroom when you wake up helps you feel happier all day. Leave curtains and blinds open, and put lamps on a timer to switch on 15 minutes before your alarm sounds to get a “dawn simulation” effect. Just being outdoors can boost your mood as well. Morning sunlight is most beneficial, so take a pre-work walk.

8. Play with a pet. Petting a dog for just 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, and lowers the stress hormone cortisol. If you’re more of a cat person, no problem. Other research has found that playing with your kitty gives a similar mood and health boost.

9. Look on the bright side. How you frame something can change everything. Try to consider the sunny side of a situation rather than focusing on the negative. If it’s pouring rain, think of the good it will do for your garden. A more optimistic and inventive you who can take on just about anything will result.

10. Use herbs to improve mood. A soothing cup of chamomile tea comes in very handy, especially late on a winter's night. The warmth is welcome and the mild nerve tonic can help relax you. For an added boost, try some jasmine, lavender or passionflower.

Are you smiling yet? Come on, smile for me :)

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Online Dating: Tips for Lonely Adults on the Autism Spectrum

If you find yourself constantly alone, and if you would really enjoy having a love relationship but don't know how to get one, you will want to consider starting with an “online dating” approach.

Too much anxiety and self-consciousness create a bad first impression; therefore, believe me when I tell you that online dating is infinitely better for adults with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism compared to a first-time, face-to-face blind date. Dating sites will help you break-out into the dating scene, and help you talk to potential dates in a more relaxed manner.

Imagine walking into the local pub with 50 strangers in it. If you’re looking to start a conversation with someone, where do you start? (You’re feeling anxious already, aren’t you?!) Do you just sit there by yourself in hopes that someone will come up to you and starting talking? Do you risk being offensive by asking someone if you can buy him or her a drink?

An online dating service is like having a friend go into the pub ahead of you as a “scout,” and this scout picks 5 people who you could go out with. How cool is that?! Of course, this doesn't mean that any of those 5 people are perfect for you, just that they share important traits and interests that are the basis for a compatible relationship.

10 reasons to consider dating online:

1. Most online dating sites have a "matching algorithm," (i.e., a formula that matches people in a way that helps ensure they are compatible, thus significantly increasing the chances of romantic success).

2. Adults on the autism spectrum often tend to be better at writing out what they feel and think (e.g., in chat messages), whereas in “real life,” they might hold back feelings or thoughts, or be too afraid or embarrassed to talk about some things.

3. Dating sites allow you to place a photo along with a personal ad, and some even have audio capability so you can listen to your potential partner’s voice. While this may sound a bit superficial at first, it actually takes the whole "meat market" aspect out of the dating process because it allows you to weed out the individuals that you feel uncomfortable with from the start.

4. For the frugal minded “Aspie, online dating saves you a lot of money. When you go out on a “real life” date, you have several possible costs involved (e.g., gas to and from the date, a meal for two, movie or concert tickets for two, etc.) – and this is just for one date! When you date online, you save all of that money (and if the date does not go as you had hoped, you will not be out any money).

5. If it turns out that a particular “online person” is not for you, you can graciously back out without the awkwardness of a “real life” date.

6. One of the “hidden” benefits of online dating is that it allows you to critically examine what you want out of life (not just out of a potential relationship) in a way you haven’t done before.

7. Online dating helps you meet potential partners rapidly so that you can quickly determine whether or not there is any compatibility. Initial contacts may be through online chats and messaging exchanges, which help you get to know your potential date.

8. Online dating offers you access to potential mates that you would be unlikely to meet through other avenues.

9. When you look for that special someone online, you are able to be yourself, to relax more, and not feel so pressured to impress the other person. You can just be you.

10. With online dating, you get to know the “real” person. Once you have chatted with someone online for a while, you begin to know that person, how he or she feels and thinks, and what makes him or her happy or sad.

So if you’re tired of being single and isolated, consider joining a dating site soon (or how about now?!). But before you do, understand this:

In romantic relationships, many of us are somehow convinced that one particular individual (yet to be discovered) will make us completely happy. This is a myth! The modern idea of romance, the idea that one “special person” is out there, that there is a perfect match waiting for you, is simply bullshit. There is not one specific individual for which everything should be given up so that you can have a “happily ever after.” So, forget about it. Get online and start looking over all the available matches, pick on, then see how it goes. If it doesn’t work, simply go on to pick #2, then #3, and so on. Eventually you will find someone who will be just fine as they are (which won’t be perfect, but that’s O.K.).

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Commitment Phobia in Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Are you an adult with Asperger's or High Functioning Autism? Do you want to be in a relationship, but you suffer from commitment phobia? Do you keep picking the wrong person to be with? Would you really like to discover the underlying cause of your fear and what you can to do about it?

Many adults on the autism spectrum never get to have the experience of a satisfying, loving relationship because they fear commitment. If they do have a committed relationship, they are constantly fearful and worried about breaking up, fighting and other conflicts that can enter a relationship – so they manage to mess it up.

Your ability to open up and feel comfortable with commitment is affected by a host of factors, which include the following:
  • Society shapes the extent to which you might feel comfortable opening up (e.g., many male heroes in movies, television and novels are usually portrayed as emotionally distant and independent).
  • Previous romantic relationships can also shape your behavior and expectations for future relationships (e.g., a person who was in a very intense relationship with someone who was emotionally abusive could develop a distorted perception about what to expect in a relationship).
  • How you were treated as a youngster has profound effects on how comfortable and secure you feel getting close to others (e.g., kids who were raised by warm and accepting parents tend to feel much more comfortable getting intimate and close to their romantic partners later in life).
  • How your mom and dad interacted and treated one another serves as a model of how you're likely to communicate with - and behave toward - your romantic partner. Individuals who grew up with moms and dads who were emotionally distant or argumentative tend to express their emotions and develop communication styles that are similar to the styles they observed as  children.

What is your reason for not wanting to commit? For example:
  • Can't trust the opposite sex
  • Fear of being rejected 
  • Fear of not finding your "soul mate" – a person who is nearly perfect
  • Fear of sacrifice (e.g., relinquishing your identity and independence) 
  • Fear of trusting people in general
  • Fear related to relationship performance (e.g., pleasing the other person, meeting his/her expectations, not letting him/her down, etc.)
  • Fear that the consequences of a future “relationship breakdown” will be all the worse the more time you invest in that relationship
  • Loss of space
  • No more freedom
  • Not ready for it 
  • Only one sex partner – forever
  • Prefer to be alone
  • Have a history of painful breakups 
  • Have an “inferiority complex”
  • Been burned before
  • Experienced feeling "trapped" in a relationship before 
  • Witnessed the rocky relationships of parents and have the blueprint that “no relationship ever works out”

Research on romantic relationships suggests that there are at least four different types of people with commitment phobia:
  1. People who find partners who are good matches, but then pick them apart (e.g., this person is not attractive enough, too tall, likes country music, etc.). No matter what the potential partner’s strengths are, people like this are able to dissect them to the point that they are no longer desirable.
  2. People who engage in relationships with partners whom they are very incompatible with. These types of relationships always fail and serve to confirm the individual's expectations that commitment is unattainable. These people select romantic partners who will reinforce their fear of becoming too close to them.
  3. People who go back and forth with the same partner. One week they're together …the next week they're apart …the next week they’re together …the next they're apart, and on it goes. This can go on for a very long time and allows people to carry on in a relationship without feeling committed. It's their way of avoiding commitment.
  4. People who are too idealistic. They're always in search of Mr. or Ms. Right. Unfortunately, "right" is equated with "perfect." These people have super high standards for their partners. Their potential partner has to be attractive, intelligent, physically fit, have a good sense of humor, be financially stable, have loving parents, a nice car, and so on. If the potential partner fails to meet even one of these criteria – he or she is dropped.

Luckily, there are ways you can overcome your commitment phobia, letting you enjoy a relationship and experience love with that special someone. Here’s how:

1. Why are you afraid to commit? (e.g., “Because I’m afraid of being rejected!”). Write down these questions and answers. It's important to know what the issue is before you can find an answer. Read the list to yourself. Do these answers make sense? Expand on them into the smallest detail you can go into. Take each question from many angles. Also, you may want to spread this process out over the course of a couple days so you don't make rash decisions in the heat of a moment.

2. Sometimes we like to “control” everything, but “control” is often out of your hands in a relationship. This can be very fearful for some adults on the spectrum, and in turn makes them fear commitment. You have to learn to trust that things will go the way they are supposed to. You may not be able to control everything, but there’s no need to do this. Give up the idea that you must be in control of everything at all times. Life doesn't work like that -- never has -- never will. Period.

3. Indecision becomes a habit over time. Whenever we make a “choice” about anything, we are committing to it (at least for the time being). If commitment to any particular “choice” has been a problem for you, then start practicing being more resolute in a few small ways. Sometimes the more time we spend reviewing the pros and cons, the more perplexed we get. Research has found that “over-thinking” a decision can lead to poorer choices. So get used to just deciding what to do, where to eat, and how to spend your money, and you'll find decisiveness becomes a habit, too.

4. Learn from your friends’ experiences in relationships (e.g., how they have been intimate and loving with each other, how they have stuck together even when problems occur, etc.). Look at your parents and grandparents who have been together for so long and still keep the bond they promised. By knowing about other’s success stories, you will realize that it's a beautiful experience to be committed – and there's no reason to be fearful.

5. Learn how to make small commitments in general. What are the non-romantic choices in your life that paralyze you? Deciding what to eat? Deciding what to wear? Making firm appointments? What type of computer to purchase? When to take a vacation?  Which car to buy? Which interests to pursue?  Which movie to see?  Which organizations to join? Start with the commitments that you perceive to be less intimidating and begin to take small steps in overcoming your indecisiveness.  As your successes accumulate over time, challenge yourself to take on slightly more ambitious commitments.  Don’t punish yourself with unnecessary pressure, just keep building slowly.

6. Seek support from others when you want to commit, but are afraid to do so. Having someone to help you through your reservations and concerns when you enter a relationship can really do wonders.

7. Consider discussing your fear of commitment with a therapist who can really understand your situation. Talk about anything and everything about your fear, your reasons, and the causes. You might have a specific fear that comes in mind when you think of committing yourself in a relationship. What is the main reason for this fear? Did someone you know go through something that made you feel this way? Discovering what triggers your commitment phobia can help you tremendously in overcoming it. Consulting a therapist is the quickest and most effective way of working out these problems. However, be sure to be proactive, and be willing to cooperate with things the therapist asks you to do.

8. Face your fears head-on. Inform your potential partner of your commitment phobia, but let him or her know you are willing to give it a shot. Who knows, maybe this person can help you overcome it as well!

9. Be patient with yourself as embark on the journey toward developing self-assurance in relationships.

10. Use the "Law of Attraction": Visualize yourself being confident, assertive, calm, cool, and collected in all your relationships – romantic or otherwise. Start with an easy relationship first (e.g., your next door neighbor), then graduate to a “love interest.”

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Overcoming Self-Doubt in Relationships: Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

How can men and women with Asperger's (high functioning autism) go about overcoming self-doubt and fear in relationships? Answer: By creating a very powerful shift in your self-perception. This enables the light to shine more clearly on your authentic self. The pathway to authentic living will provide you with many positive tools for change.

How to overcome feelings of self-doubt in relationships:

1. Allow relationships to progress in a natural way. If you really like someone, it’s only normal that you would hope for the relationship to move to the next level. But, it’s very important to allow it to do so on its own time, in a natural and healthy way. Avoid “forcing” the relationship due to your own fear that your “special someone” is going to leave you for another person.

2. Avoid over-generalizing. If you’ve been burned in a past relationship, it doesn’t mean that you will be burned in the next one. If you dated someone previously that cheated on you, it understandably could make you feel anxious about a new relationship. But, that situation can be very unfair to your current “special someone.” Take a step back and stop generalizing about people and relationships. You wouldn't appreciate it if someone did that to you. Remember that just because you’ve been hurt before doesn't mean you will be hurt again. Your ex-partner and your current partner have nothing to do with each other.

3. Avoid spying. Don't let self-doubt turn you into a “snoop.” For example, if your boyfriend has a female friend that makes you feel uneasy (perhaps because she is good looking or intelligent), avoid sneaking around and playing back her voicemail messages to your boyfriend. If you listen to something without knowing its proper context, you could be setting yourself up for confusion and unnecessary distress. Also, you don't want to come across as a “nib-shit.”

4. Stay positive. If your feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt are really strong, chances are you put all of your energy towards agonizing about the relationship. Agonizing all of the time is no way to create a happy relationship. Instead, think about why your “special someone” is in a relationship with you in the first place. Remember why you want to be in a relationship with this individual, and focus on all of the good experiences you’ve shared so far. Staying positive will help you eliminate feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.

5. Enjoy what you really like to do. If you enjoy doing something quirky or odd, don't be afraid to show the world. It will make you more contented and inspire other people.

6. Find a new talent. If you have low self-esteem because you feel like you are unable to do anything, then find a talent. Start dance classes or swimming lessons …how about guitar lessons? …may even learn how to scuba dive.

7. Find out the causes of your self-doubts. Do a self-reflection and write down which areas in your life where you lack confidence or assurance. Go over your list of insecurities one by one. Beside each item, write down an explanation why you feel this way. Go back to the time when the self-doubt was born, then examine your feelings. Is your self-doubt justifiable? Or is it just your fear magnified? By looking honestly into the source of your self-doubt, you will discover that you are the one who is punishing yourself.

8. Take a moment to ask yourself what you can do to make progress in the area you are not confident about. Maybe you don't like your appearance. Do a major makeover of yourself (e.g.,  get a new haircut, change your wardrobe, etc.). Maybe you are fearful of getting into a new love relationship because of poor social skills. Do something about it (e.g., read some self-help books, enroll in a class that will address your concern, etc.). There is always something you can do to start building your self-confidence instead of wallowing in apprehension all day.

9. Find support groups that will help you feel better about yourself and your life. They could be your trusted friends, members in your family, online chat groups, etc. Let them know your struggles and your wish to change them. Having another person to help you change yourself makes it easier than doing it alone.

10. A lot of adults on the spectrum become timid in relationships due to their overactive imaginations. If, for example, you are constantly imagining that your girlfriend is showing interest in other men, even when she really isn't, you are letting your insecurities get the best of you. Look at what is really happening around you instead of letting your imagination run wild.

11. Find new friends. The more friends you have the better. But remember that if you are going to get a new friend, he or she has to like you for who you are. If he or she doesn't, then you’ve found the wrong person to like.

12. Don't be timid because you are not like other people. If you love yourself for who you are, others will also. Notice features and aspects of yourself that you like – and be proud of them.

13. Remember that you are not a mind-reader. If you live in a constant state of anxiety that your “special someone” simply isn't that interested in the relationship, stop trying to be a mind-reader. This can only lead to driving you totally nuts. Instead of predicting the feelings of the person you have an interest in, ask him or her. Although asking straight out might hurt if you don't get the answer that you want, it might also be able to save you a lot of time, heartache and uncertainty.

14. Smile. It's really important to smile. Smiling givers others the impression that you are a confident, pleasant person to talk to and associate with.

15. Work on eliminating your self-doubts one at a time. Racing to defeat all of them at once is unreasonable and will hurt your chances of getting over them. Be persistent and pray for your success. True confidence is locked inside of you waiting to be opened. You’ve the right key to open the door to a secure future by getting rid of your self-defeating thoughts and welcoming the real you!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

 

Best comment:

I was reading this blog and have found that many of things on here match my current boyfriend. We have been dating for almost 4 years. When I first met him I thought he was just shy but as I got to know him better I knew that something was off.

If a friend called us to hang out we couldn't go because as he says he wasn't given enough time to mentally prepare. I would have to tell him things a week in advance for him to want to do it. He would make harsh and inappropriate comments and was a bit socially awkward. He also had this obsession with video games.

At first I thought well maybe he just needs to learn to communicate better. It wasn't until last year when my father passed away that I realized that his lack of empathy was a huge problem and that he might be an aspie...one Saturday afternoon about a month after my father passed I tell him that my mom and I are going to go look at headstones and pick one out. I ask him if he can come with me and he responded with a shrug and by saying "this is going to be so boring". I was so hurt that I stormed out. I couldn't believe what he had just said.

Fast forward a few months later, I'm in my first semester of grad school..stressed out at school and still going through grief...I have multiple sclerosis and I have a flare up where my face and neck go numb. I'm in the ER in pain, cant feel my face. After the first hour or so in the ER he says to me "If this takes too long I'll go home and see you tomorrow"...not really want I want to hear at that moment.

So now I'm just really confused because I love the guy, I do, but I have a serious condition where I'm not disabled now but there is a good possibility that I can become disabled in some way in the future and other family stresses (like people passing away, kids getting sick, etc.) are going to happen...I'm just wondering if I can depend on him and if I should stay in this relationship?

He is able to self-reflect but it's usually after he has done something wrong. He never really gets that maybe he should make that comment. He can be very affectionate at times and I've noticed that he is very affectionate towards animals, he is often outraged if an animal is abused and doesn't like to kill spiders in our house.

one time he made a comment to me that he wants to marry me, then a few months later he says to me in an honest face that he said that because he knows that's what I want to hear. I don't know if he has aspergers and if he does, he has done a damn good job of appearing to be a typically developing adult...I mean he's right, that's what women want to hear but he doesn't understand that it's inappropriate to tell them that he only said that because he knows that's what women want to hear lol. Sometimes I wonder if he actually LOVES me or if he has just learned that that's what people do...?

Sorry for my ramble, I don't expect any answers just wanted to share my story. 

Overcoming Feelings of Isolation in Asperger's Relationships

Isolation is a problem that afflicts nearly every relationship with an Asperger’s (high functioning autism) partner at some point. When one of the partner’s is on the autism spectrum, it’s not uncommon for some couples to slowly drift apart in ways they don't even recognize at first. Signs of isolation include the following:
  • feeling of being unable to please or meet the expectations of your partner
  • feeling that keeping the peace by avoiding the conflict is better than the pain of dealing with reality 
  • feeling that your partner isn't hearing you and doesn't want to understand 
  • refusal to cope with what's really wrong 
  • sense that your partner is detached from you 
  • attitude of "who cares, why try?"

If you, as a “neurotypical” (i.e., someone without Asperger’s), are starting to observe these symptoms in your relationship, you have begun experiencing the problem of isolation. All relationships need a plan to reverse isolation and to bring about intimacy. Isolation is like a virus that invades your relationship – silently, slowly, and painlessly at first – but by the time you become aware of its harmful effects, it’s too late. Your relationship can eventually be crippled by monotony and indifference, and it could even die from emotional malnutrition and neglect. 

Follow these steps to defeat isolation in your relationship to an Asperger’s partner:

1. Attend meetings, lectures, and other activities that inform you about autism spectrum disorders. This is an opportunity to meet people who share similar problems as you do. And the more you get out, the more you will see - and be seen - by others (a remedy to feelings of isolation in-and-of itself).

2. Develop a network of friends and family to help support your relationship – a key in overcoming loneliness.

3. Develop your own identity and get involved in activities that interest you (e.g., self-enrichment classes, yoga, social functions, etc.).

4. Develop relational skills. You can develop skills in relating to your partner just as you can develop skills in golf, cooking, or painting. Most of us develop some bad relational habits over time, and we need training and practice to develop skills in practical, yet vital, areas of relationship (e.g., speaking the truth in love, resolving conflict, listening to each other, forgiving each other, communicating expectations, adjusting to differences, etc.). Your determination to improve your skills in areas like these will show just how serious you are about revitalizing your relationship.

5. Enrich your life by learning something new to bring fresh insight and communication to your relationship.

6. Get a pet. Pets can be great companions, and having an animal waiting for you to come home every day can really boost your outlook and make you feel as though you have a companion.

7. Get involved in causes important to you (e.g., walkathons to raise money to fight breast cancer).

8. Handle anger constructively. You've heard the old adage, "Don't go to bed mad." Well, it's older than grandpa. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Choose to forgive daily. Leave the past behind and move forward together.

9. Have you ever wondered what happened to your best friend from way back when? There are many good opportunities these days with the internet, and e-mail, and Instant Message to hook-up with just about anybody who is still alive. Rekindling old friendships is a wonderful way to reconnect with the human race.

10. Hire a therapist to help you better understand the fears you have about your relationship difficulties. A therapist can help you (a) work through the fears you have, (b) develop coping skills to deal with those fears, (c) learn new relationship skills that will enable you to feel more confident in your dealings with an Asperger’s partner, (d) learn assertiveness skills that will empower you to get your needs met in your relationship, and (e) learn conflict resolution skills to work through the inevitable issues that arise between you and your “Aspie”.

11. Improve the relationship you have with yourself. When you don’t like yourself, it’s hard to believe that your partner likes you. One very simple thing to do to change the relationship you have with yourself is to change the negative thoughts you have about yourself to positive ones.

12. Join a club. Whether it is a church club, a car club, or any other of the thousands of club that are out there, being around people and making new friends is a great way to overcome feelings of loneliness. You can find clubs in your local paper and on the Internet.

13. Join a support group. Support groups are a good place to meet people and make new friends. Support groups are a good, safe way to meet other people who have similar concerns and interests as you do. Sharing common concerns or interests is a great ice breaker.

14. Keep in mind that you can only change your situation. You can't make your partner change his/her behaviors or attitudes about the relationship until he/she is ready.

15. Keep the lines of communication open daily. A good "home-base" is at the breakfast table where the two of you can take a few minutes to talk and discuss concerns.

16. Make sure that the relationship you do have is based on giving and receiving—not just giving. There isn’t a lonelier feeling in the world than to be involved in a relationship in which you do all the giving without doing any of the receiving. If you are one of those partners who give and give and give with the silent hope that you’ll get back in return someday, then it’s likely that you may feel lonelier than the average bear.

17. Make your Asperger’s partner your best friend, if possible. To be well balanced, also include other friendships, but reserve the number one spot for your “Aspie.” Best friends risk being vulnerable, because they know the other person will still love and accept them for who they are, will challenge them to grow, and stick by them no matter what.

18. Revisit your courtship days. Think about what drew you together in the first place, the goals you shared, the traits you admired in him/her, the places you enjoyed visiting, the activities you did together, and so on. Often this exercise helps you trudge through the muck and mire of relationship problems and regain perspective of why you are together in the first place.

19. Set aside time each day to focus on communicating with your partner. Start with a small item that is of interest to him/her. A funny story from a coworker or the newspaper can be a great conversation starter. Keep the conversation light and easy, and don't bring up problems or issues at first. Remember that the focus should be on increasing communication and feeling of closeness.

20. Share experiences. Go for a walk together, or join in for a favorite show or game of cards. Make your partner your primary focus of attention. Turn off all the cell phones and other distractions.

21. Spend time by yourself to think about what you are expecting from your partner. Is he/she aware of what you are looking for? Remember that all couples grow and change over time. Perhaps your needs have changed. Discuss this with your partner. Sometimes we assume our partner knows things that we haven't communicated to him/her.

22. Talk to your partner about how you're feeling, and take time to hash out each other's feelings about any distance in the relationship. Communication is a key in overcoming loneliness in any relationship.

23. Try to manage conflicts as they arise, but respect your partner’s viewpoints throughout the “conflict resolution” process.

24. Volunteer work is a good way to get involved with others who share similar interests. Not only will you be associating with other people, your life will begin to feel more meaningful by getting out of your self-centered isolation.

25. Write a journal. Lack of communication can lead to loneliness. If you have no one to talk to, you can start to feel very isolated. By writing in a journal every day, you will have an outlet for your feelings. By expressing your feelings, it can help you overcome a sense of isolation and loneliness.

In a nutshell, if you are unhappy in your relationship to an Aspie, be proactive about resolving this state of mind -- whatever it takes. Reach out. Ask for help. Be your own self-advocate. Take care of YOU, because if you don't, no one else will.

Living with Aspergers: Help for Couples

30 Tips for the Easily Offended Aspie

Are you easily offended? Do others consider you “high maintenance”? Do others feel they have to “walk on eggshells” around you? Do others say you “make mountains out of mole hills”? Do you explode in fits of anger over little things? Do you frequently take things the wrong way?

If you are like most individuals with Asperger’s (high functioning autism), you have probably been offended numerous times (in one way or another) by someone's comment, action, choice, behavior or lifestyle. But understand this: hypersensitivity is robbing you of happiness, and holding on to grudges because you were offended does not contribute to your overall happiness or mental health.

How adults on the autism spectrum can overcome being easily offended:

1. Allow most of life to be indifferent to you. Someone’s bad mood isn’t about you – it’s about him or her! This way, less in life will offend you, and happiness will be much less fleeting.

2. Consider the context that things are being said or done. Sometimes, you may have misunderstood and taken it wrongly.

3. Don’t be emotionally attached to your opinions and viewpoints.

4. Don’t hold on to the words others use to get at the thing they are trying to express. Hear the idea and ignore the clumsiness of the expression.

5. If everything is reduced to how it negatively affects you, no wonder you are so frequently offended!

6. If you expect others to act and speak a certain way, if you assume others will be as kind or compassionate as you, if you’re offended when they don’t rise to the level of your expectation, you will almost always be offended or on the verge of it.

7. In the heat of the moment, try asking yourself, “Why am I getting so upset? Does this issue really matter that much?” Reason with yourself: “Did that person really mean it the way I was just about to take it? Is that person actually trying to hurt me? If not, what is this person really trying to say?”

8. Keep in mind that when a comment seems offensive, it may not be aimed specifically at you. It may be a casual comment, but the other person is unaware that you are taking it personally.

9. Accept yourself deep inside. Validate your inner being. See yourself as more than your behavior. You are also your potential.

10. Learn from your past experiences, and be careful the next time you speak or do something. It may save an individual who is overly sensitive a lot of grief.

11. Many “Aspies” are easily offended because they can’t emotionally differentiate between their thoughts and their inner sense of self. When identities are too closely tied to one’s opinions, and those opinions are then disagreed with, many feel like they have been rejected – pushed to the pavement and crushed. This, of course, is highly inaccurate.

12. One “Aspie” stated that whenever he hears that he has offended someone, his first response is to stop and think if, in fact, he may have said or done something that could have given the impression of an offense. That, by itself, is a great attitude of humility that would make him almost immune to offense. But he didn’t stop there. He went on to say that he often found that he had indeed said something that could have been construed as offensive. He would then seek out the offended party and apologize for the misconstrued word or deed.

13. Part of accepting others’ imperfections is learning to forgive them for their past mistakes and create a sort of “forgiveness-default-setting” in your heart that you automatically go to when confronted with offensive language or behavior.

14. People who are internally fragile – no matter how “tough” their exterior – break most easily at the wrong or misplaced word or deed. So grow your inner self. Become self-accepting, and life will be a more consistently joyful place to live.

15. Pray for the ability to forgive and forget the offense if you have been truly offended.

16. Putting yourself in the offender’s shoes will have the added benefit of being less offensive to others, as you learn to be “too noble to give offense.” If you can empathize for a minute, you can learn to see things from the offender’s perspective. And then you will see that you too played a role in the conflict. Also, you might come to see that the offender had no such intentions of offending.

17. Realize that your opinions are not you. Any given opinion is not the whole of who you are. To the degree you can detach your ideas from your identity, you will live a fulfilling life with little opportunity to feel offended.

18. Remember, humans are imperfect. You are imperfect. Life is imperfect. And that’s just the way it is. When you can accept others’ imperfection – and your own – you will be well on your way to a life of more emotional stability and joy.

19. The reason you usually feel offended is because of the meaning you attach to what is said or done (e.g., “That means she really doesn’t care!” …or “He’s saying I am no good!” …or “I knew she didn’t really love me!” …and so on.). And so the internal interpretation goes.

20. So often we jump to conclusions, assume an ill intent, create meaning to a word that then hurts and offends. Resist that urge and delay judgment until the conversation has run its course. You just may find there is no offense to be had by the time you get to the end.

21. Self-acceptance will literally destroy others’ ability to offend you. It won’t hurt because your validation doesn’t come from their opinions about you.

22. Stay away from self-pity when offended. It can destroy your self-esteem and make you miserable.

23. Talk to the “offending” party about how you feel. That individual may not even realize that he or she has offended you. Calmly talking over the issues can help to resolve misunderstandings, hidden anger and frustration.

24. Talk yourself out of the offense by telling yourself, “This person is simply expressing an opinion, and listen to how interesting it is! I find it so fascinating that someone can have such an opinion that is almost the exact opposite of mine!”

25. Tell yourself that maybe the “offending” party is having a bad day and does not realize how she came across. Don't judge, and avoid jumping to conclusions.

26. Tell yourself that the individual who is the potential offender has as much right to her opinion as you do to yours. Besides, they’re only words.

27. The “everyone is out to get me” mentality is fertile soil for being frequently offended. Every word out of every mouth, every action or inaction, all that is done or undone, all motives and intentions become a stab at you. That is a HUGE burden to carry.

28. Think positive and stop brooding over the offense. Thinking too much often makes you jump to conclusions that are not based on fact.

29. Unless proven otherwise, assume the “offending” party has noble intent. Maybe the language was clumsy, maybe even ill-advised, but assume a good heart. That should take the sting out of the bite and put some joy back in your moment.

30. We all have faults, quirks and character flaws. So do you! Yours just may be different than theirs. So, shrug and let it slide off your back. Don’t hold on to the imperfections of others so tightly that you strangle yourself in the process!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Mood Swings in Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Mood swings can be described as “a mental health condition that results in significant emotional instability.” This can lead to a variety of other stressful mental and behavioral problems. With mood swings, a person may have a severely distorted self-image and feel worthless and fundamentally flawed. Anger, impulsiveness and frequent anxiety may push others away, even though the person may desire to have loving and lasting relationships.

If you have Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), and you experience frequent mood swings – don't get discouraged. Many adults on the autism spectrum have some degree of moodiness, but they get better with treatment and can live satisfying lives. Mood swings affect how you feel about yourself, how you relate to others, and how you behave.

Signs and symptoms of excessive moodiness may include:
  • Awareness of destructive behavior (e.g., self-injury), but sometimes feeling unable to change it
  • Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses
  • Fear of being around crowds
  • Feeling misunderstood, neglected, empty or hopeless
  • Feelings of self-hate and self-loathing
  • Inappropriate anger and antagonistic behavior (sometimes escalating into physical fights)
  • Short but intense episodes of anxiety or depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

When AS and HFA adults have severe mood swings, they often have an insecure sense of who they are. Their self-image or self-identity often changes rapidly. They may view themselves as “bad,” and sometimes they may feel as if they don't exist at all. An unstable self-image often leads to frequent changes in jobs, friendships, goals and values.

When AS and HFA adults experience frequent and severe mood swings, their relationships are usually in turmoil. They may idealize their spouse or partner one moment, and then quickly shift to anger and resentment over perceived slights (or even minor misunderstandings). This is because people on the autism spectrum often have difficulty accepting gray areas. In other words, things seem to be either black or white.

Wild mood swings (which some people call ‘meltdowns’) can damage many areas of a person’s life. It can negatively affect intimate relationships, jobs, school, social activities and self-image. Repeated job losses and broken marriages are common. Self-injury (e.g., cutting, burning) and suicidal thoughts can occur. Also, the individual may have other mental health disorders (e.g., alcohol or substance abuse and dependency, anxiety disorder, depression, and eating disorders).

Treatment for mood swings may include psychotherapy and/or medications:

1. Psychotherapy is a fundamental treatment approach for mood swings. Types of psychotherapy that may be effective include:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). With CBT, you work with a mental health counselor to (a) become aware of inaccurate, negative or ineffective thinking; (b) view challenging situations more clearly and objectively; and (c) search for and put into practice alternative solution strategies.
  • Mentalization-based therapy (MBT). MBT is a type of therapy that helps you identify and separate your own thoughts and feelings from those of people around you. MBT emphasizes thinking before reacting.
  • Schema-focused therapy (SFT). SFT combines therapy approaches to help you evaluate repetitive life patterns and life themes (schema) so that you can identify positive patterns and change negative ones.
  • Transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP). TFP aims to help you understand your emotions and interpersonal difficulties through the developing relationship between you and your therapist. You then apply these insights to ongoing situations.

2. Medication can help with co-occurring clinical problems, such as depression, impulsiveness and anxiety. Medications may include antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs.

Living with frequent and severe mood swings is difficult. You may realize your behaviors and thoughts are self-destructive or damaging, yet you feel unable to control them. Treatment can help you learn skills to manage and cope with your moods.

You can help manage your moods and feel better about yourself if you do the following:
  • Attend all therapy sessions if you are in counseling
  • Don't blame yourself for being chronically “moody,” but do recognize your responsibility to get it treated
  • Get treatment for related problems (e.g., substance abuse)
  • Keep up a healthy lifestyle (e.g., eating a healthy diet, being physically active, engaging in social activities)
  • Learn about mood disorders so that you understand their causes and treatments
  • Learn what may trigger angry outbursts or impulsive behavior
  • Practice healthy ways to ease painful emotions and prevent impulsive behaviors (e.g., self-inflicted injuries)
  • Reach out to other AS and HFA adults to share insights and experiences
  • Stick to your treatment plan if attending counseling
  • If you are on medication, take it as directed and report to your doctor the benefits and side-effects that you experience

Remember, there's no one right path to recovery from wild mood swings. Usually, the best results come from a combination of treatment strategies. Excessive moodiness seems to be worse in older adolescence and young adulthood, and may gradually get better with age. Many AS and HFA adults with this condition find greater stability in their lives during their 30s and 40s. As the individual’s inner distress and sense of misery decreases, he or she can go on to maintain loving relationships and enjoy meaningful careers.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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