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The Misdiagnosis and Non-Diagnosis of Females with Asperger’s

Many, if not most, females with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism “slip through the net” (i.e., go undiagnosed) because they camouflage their symptoms quite well. Often times, their difficulties are ignored and misunderstood. 

In addition, many of these women report having experienced one or more mental health issues (e.g., anxiety, depression, eating disorder) and have stated that mental health professionals treating them had not noticed that their symptoms could be related to Asperger’s or HFA.

Here are direct quotes from a few women on the autism spectrum:

• 5 years of depression and anxiety treatment, years of talk therapy, and not once did any therapist suggest I had anything other than depression.

• I went to my doctor for depression and got diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, which is completely opposite to what I am. 

• The reward for trying hard to be ‘normal’ was to be ignored. I read stories of children who are going off the rails, and I think: ‘I should have been more of a trouble-maker’. 

• Had I known about Asperger’s, I think I would have known that I’m more gullible - and I might not have ended up in the circumstances that I did. 

• A lot of my problems came about with my friends having other friends that I didn’t like or I didn’t get on with. I didn’t really want to share my friends.

• I don’t sense danger. Me not reading people to be able to tell if they’re being creepy, I was so desperate for friends and relationships that if someone showed an interest in me, I kind of went with it and tended not to learn from others’ safety skills.

• I feel pressured by society to have sex with my boyfriend because you get told this is what is expected of you to make to be a good girlfriend - and you think, ‘if I don’t do it, then I am not fulfilling my duties’.

• I robotically mimic what other people are doing, what they are saying, how they say things. Once I went to Girl Scout camp, and I would come back with strong accents. But I can’t consciously adopt an accent. My way of coping is that I mimic.

• I practiced something of a persona which was kind of cheerful and vivacious, because I had nothing to say other than adult novels. So, I cultivated a fake image.

• I honestly didn’t know I was doing ‘social mimicry’ until I was diagnosed. But when I read about it, it made perfect sense. I copy certain body language and speech patterns.

• I just feel so much more comfortable with men because they’re more, you can take them

• When you’re a child with AS, you don’t realize that you’re anxious and depressed. It feels familiar. If my parents had helped me from earlier on, then life would’ve been a whole lot easier - but they had no idea what was going on because I hid my feelings.

• I was often accused of being rude when I had absolutely no intention of being so. My 5th grade teacher told me I wasn’t trying and that I was a waste of her time.

•  I was very defiant with my mom, but had perfect conduct at school.

• I’ll always remember my teacher saying, “You’re too good at Math to be autistic.”

• I’ll mask if I act weird, which is typical of AS. I’ll make a joke about it.

• It’s very exhausting trying to figure out everything all the time. Everything is more like on a manual – you’ve got to use one of those computers where you have to type every command in.

•  Not knowing what was expected of me, not being able to pick up on when to provide support or how often to get in touch, this was my greatest source of stress.

• When I was being bullied, I was told not to antagonize these girls - and actually I was only antagonizing them by being myself.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Aspergers Men and Intimacy Issues

"I hope this isn't a stupid question, but can men with Asperger's or HFA have normal intimate relationships? I want to know because I'm currently dating one and I'm wondering how far to let this relationship develop."

That would depend on one's definition of "normal." What's normal for one couple may be quite abnormal to another. In any event, it is very possible for men and women with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism to develop an intimate relationship WITH THE RIGHT PERSON (i.e., someone who will learn about the disorder and make any necessary adjustments in relating to the Asperger's partner).

In some cases, that “right person” may be another individual with the same disorder who understands and has the ability to cope with the idiosyncrasies of another person on the autism spectrum.

Some of the barriers to relationships include a sort of “extended adolescence” or maturity issue in adults with Asperger's. This can mean that the individual marries later in life and lacks the ability to have solid relationships until they are older.

One of my Asperger's clients recently stated that he feels that the relationship with his wife is challenging, in part due to his overwhelming need to focus on his obsession of choice. He feels that he lacks a strong interpersonal connection and has to make a conscious choice to put his focus on his wife, to the exclusion of his desired focus of choice. He is accustomed to being solitary, and he finds it difficult to concentrate with others around him, including his wife.

Relationships do take a lot of work when one partner is on the spectrum. The social skills required make relationships challenging for adults with Asperger's, particularly if diagnosed with it in adulthood.

Unfortunately, the divorce rate among couples affected by Asperger's (i.e., one partner is on the spectrum, and the other is not) is higher than in other groups of people. However, interventions (e.g., marital counseling) can work well if the therapist understands the unique features of Asperger's as it affects relationships.

We don't know statistically how many Asperger's men develop "normal" relationships or how many find themselves unable to relate to a partner in an interpersonal and intimate way, but we do know that those with good communication and social skills have a better chance to succeed in a relationship than others.

 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

   
 

COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... as in most relationships, you have to express your needs. but you also have to explain how those needs can be satisfied. you will need lots of initiative, and teach him how to take initiative.
•    Anonymous said... For 15 years I have an intimate relationship with a wonderful man, he got only a few years ago his diagnosis Asperger. We don't live together in the same flat or village, only every second night he stays in my place with me. He did not agree to marry or even have children with me. This was very hard for me, by now I can cope with this. I can understand now he needs to withdraw into his own walls, where he can "recover from my emotions" and the intimacy/closeness. This enables him, to cope with the relationship. Meanwhile I know of many As/Nt couples and with most of them I observe difficulties. The stress of unplanned or chaotic (from the view of the AS) situations especially with kids, which can't be avoided, enhances the troubles. So I realised after some difficult years, our way of living allows him, to be a loving and caring partner I keep forgetting he's on the spectrum. Also of other AS/NT couples I know, only in finding an unusual way of living together, they manage to be a couple.
•    Anonymous said... I have autism and am married and trying for a baby. Why would it be any different for a male?
•    Anonymous said... In reality I cannot answer this question with any great certainty, as it is dangerous to generalize with anything to do with autism. However like NTs some HFA/Aspergers are quite capable of maintaining close relationships with other people on the spectrum or even with NTs. Just like NTs some are better suited to this than others. People on the spectrum can vary enormously and some may have a higher emotional intelligence than others and allow for socializing and forming closer bonds. Others may just prefer to be alone and there is nothing wrong with that. I myself have two boys on the spectrum and of course am a fully fledged aspie, lol I have been married for 30 years to an NT. Like any other marriage we have had times when we have had to work hard, but generally we understand each other and support each other. I do know other autistic people who have children and have good, warm and loving relationships. Remember that autism does not define us, condemn or damage us and we are not diseased. So there is hope for many and especially for those who have a diagnosis and develop a sense of self awareness and acceptance. My advice to anyone in these mixed relationships of autistic/NT to be patient, accepting of each other and make adjustments if possible. Maybe it will be hard sometimes, but like with our kids, always rewarding in the long run. Good luck! Brian
•    Anonymous said... My husband has Aspergers and we have a great and intimate relationship. There are some differences: I typically drive, I typically talk to waiters, he often doesn't look me in the eyes, and sometimes I have to pose an important question to him and then walk away so he has time to think about it. He can't always just respond on the spot for important and/embarrassing topics. We'll have been married for five years this May!
•    Anonymous said… Of course they can develop an intimate relationship. Just know that there is no "normal" - for anyone! But it won't be bizarre or outrageous. My husband gets it (me being an aspie) and I'm mature enough to step out of my comfort zone to meet his needs when he gives me gentle reminders.
•    Anonymous said… I really like these articles. I'm fairly certain both me and my husband exhibit aspie like characteristics. We have worked hard to get to the level of intimacy that we have. I do have feeling of dread and worry about my Aspie son sometimes. He is so smart and funny. I hope he finds lasting relationship that builds him up and helps him succeed.
•    Anonymous said… There is nothing "normal". Everyone has some type of issues or needs. It is all about learning different tools and having patience. I really struggle with my husband sometimes and I constantly have to remind myself that his process isn't going to be the same as mine.
•    Anonymous said… I have AS and I was married for 13 years before getting the diagnosis. We have a happy marriage although it has become easier now that there are explanations for my sometimes eccentric behavior or unusual mood swings. However my non-AS hubby has many issues of his own. I know there are loads of undiagnosed AS people out there who are in relationships and I think they have the same chance of success as NT relationships provided you are with the right person.
•    Anonymous said… An article I wrote a while ago on the topic of Aspergers and marriage received a number of heated comments from people on the spectrum who felt that I focused too much on some of the challenges Aspergers presents in the relationship. It's important for anyone who is 'neurotypical' to be sensitive to how difficult it is for the person with AS to accept neurotypical thinking. Both partners have to study each other and be sensitive to each others' differences.
 
Please post your comment below… 

Why Some NT Women Refuse to Date Men with Asperger’s

There's nothing wrong with getting rejected by a woman you have an eye out for. It happens all the time. But some guys with Asperger’s seem to have a lot of difficulty in this area (i.e., winning and keeping a girlfriend).

Here are the top 15 reasons NT women turn down Aspie men:

1.  Due to a series of bad childhood experiences, many men with Asperger’s have very low self-esteem. As a result, their “relationship-building” confidence level is a 1 on a scale of 1 – 10, and the perceptive woman picks up on this.

2.  Due to past social failures, some of these men have an attitude towards dating that is generally very negative. This attitude gets conveyed at an almost unconscious level - and is a turn-off.

3.  Their approach throws the women off-guard (e.g., either came on too passively or too aggressively).

4.  Their conversational skills, displays of empathy, and eye-contact are lacking (in her estimation).

5.  Their looks don’t match the woman’s standards (e.g., too casual of clothing, disheveled hair, etc.).

6.  They (falsely) pretend to not to be interested in sex.

7.  They come off as either too independent or too needy.

8.  Some Asperger’s men don’t put themselves out there enough – not by a longshot. In other words, they’re impatient because the whole process is taking too long, and therefore, do not give the “law of averages” enough time to work.

9.  They have an attachment to being rejected. That is, they identify themselves with disappointment, disapproval, and rejection because it has happened so many times before (e.g., a self-fulling prophecy becomes manifest).

10.  They present themselves as “too nice,” which comes off as fake and disingenuous.

11.  They push for a “one-night stand.” This conveys that you are not really the committed type.

12.  Some Aspie men think that all they have to do to win her over is to be a gentleman. Unfortunately, it takes MUCH MORE than that.

13.  They try to be “friend.” She already has friends – she’s probably looking for a “lover.”

14.  The Aspie tries to get the woman to like him before she is attracted to him.

15.  Many of these men wait too long to “make a move.” So, she gets bored and bails out.

Here are some resources that may benefit the chronically rejected male Aspie:





















Raising an Adult Child: The NT Woman's Dilemma

The problem that some NT women encounter with their Aspergers (AS) man is that they find themselves raising an adult child rather than being in an equal relationship with a mutually-responsive partner. What has happened in these cases is the result of the following scenario, or scenarios similar to this:

As a child, the AS individual struggled in general, as many kids on the autism spectrum do. This hypothetical child was perhaps bullied at school, had few if any friends, was anxious about many things, and experienced meltdowns and shutdowns from time to time. He may have struggled in school academically and socially. And in too many cases, this child was ostracized from his peer group.

Long story short, the parents (who had good intentions) frequently made special accommodations for their “special needs” child. For example, allowing endless hours of video game-play, perhaps working with the schools to set up a deal where the child didn’t have to do homework, overlooking certain misbehavior in order to "keep the peace," etc. As an older teenager, this individual was still more concerned about isolating and playing video games than finding a part-time job.



He may have gone on to college, but after only one semester, he returned home and resumed life as a child due to the fact that he has very few emotional muscles to function out in the real world. This is the result of the parents’ over-assistance throughout the years. In many cases, this individual has lived with mom and dad well into his 20's, 30's, and even 40's.

Then when he does get in a romantic relationship, he is used to being taken care of. In the early stages of the relationship, the woman may be OK with that, and may even view it as a somewhat charming trait. But she soon comes to realize that she is taking on the lion’s share of responsibility - financially, emotionally, with chores around the house, etc. In many cases, the man seems indifferent to his partner’s concerns in this area.

The AS man is often so engulfed in his special interest, that the girlfriend or wife begins to feel like she is basically just living with him, but not in a mutually-responsive relationship. Over time, this creates a lot of hurt, confusion, and even resentment in the woman.

It is true that people with AS are emotionally immature compared to their peer group. For example, a man may be 35-years-old, but emotionally more like an18-year-old. After all, AS is a "developmental" disorder. Their chronological age never matches up with their emotional age no matter how old the individual is. And of course, this creates problems in the relationship with his NT partner because she wants a relationship with someone who takes equal responsibility. I have heard many NT women claim that, for example, if she has two kids and one husband, she feels like she’s raising three kids.

As one wife of an AS husband stated: “My soul has withered living in an NT-AS marriage for 24 years. I am drained of all life from within. I am exhausted (to say the least) from trying to figure out my husband, from being the social-interpreter for him (because he can be clueless here), from constantly protecting him from everyone who misunderstands his communications and facial expressions, from coaching him for 'normal' (neurotypical) behavior and interactions. I was literally losing my mind. It is somewhat a relief to know that experiences like mine are documented and studied and that help is available.”

This is a perfect example of the wife assuming a care-taking role. Of course, this is not the case with every AS man in a relationship. But this scenario does play out quite often (or scenarios similar to this).

NOTE: We would be interested in your experience with an AS man. Please use the comments section below. Does this somewhat describe your relationship? If so, what have you done to cope? 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The Deceptiveness of Anxiety

The reason that most people with Aspergers (AS) have chronic anxiety is because anxiety can be so deceptive. If you are the type of person with high-anxiety, you are constantly getting fooled into believing that there’s something to be afraid of in the absence of real danger. Fear is when you’re afraid of something and you know what it is, anxiety is when you’re afraid of something but you don’t know what it is.

A lot of people with AS have panic disorder, social phobia, a specific phobia, OCD, or generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Those who have generalized anxiety disorder get deceived into thinking they are about to be driven mad by constant worrying.
  • Those with OCD get deceived into believing that a terrible calamity is in the near future. 
  • Those with a specific phobia (e.g., the fear of elevators) get deceived into believing that they’re going to be trapped. 
  • For those with social phobia, they get deceived into thinking that other people are looking down on them and will humiliate them. 
  • Panic disorder causes people with AS to get deceived into thinking that they’re about to die or go crazy.



Anxiety is deceiving because when we feel discomfort we get tricked into treating it like a real threat. But as the rational part of your mind knows, discomfort is not dangerous. When there is true danger at hand, we either freeze up, run, or fight back. If the threat looks faster and stronger than you, you may freeze up. If the threat looks stronger than you - but slower - you may run away from it. If the threat looks weaker than you, you may fight back. If people are your source of major “discomfort” - but your body gets tricked into believing that certain individuals are truly “dangerous,” you will either argue with them (fight), avoid them (flight), or be intimidated by them (freeze).

Your natural instinct to protect yourself is what leads you to get deceived by anxiety. So, why haven’t you been able to see the pattern of repeated episodes of anxiety that never actually lead to the feared outcome? Since your worst-case scenarios never come to fruition, why don’t you gradually lose your unreasonable anxiety around those scenarios? There’s several reasons why.

You took protective steps - and there was no disaster. Therefore, you started believing that these steps that you took “saved” you from disaster. But these steps that you take that save you from disaster also cause you to worry more about the next dangerous episode. It convinces you that you were very vulnerable and must always protect yourself.

The real reason you didn’t experience a disaster is that such disasters are not part of fear or phobia. We are talking about anxiety disorders, not disaster disorders. You get through the experience because the experience isn’t actually life-threatening. But, it’s justifiably hard for you to recognize that at the time. You may be more likely to think that you just had a “narrow escape.” And this leads you to redouble your self-protection steps.

It’s the self-protection steps that actually maintain and strengthen the deceptiveness of anxiety. If, for example, we think we just escaped a disaster because we went back and checked the stove 10 times, then we’re going to continue to feel vulnerable and continue to feel the need for self-protection. When this happens over and over, we are going to get stuck in the habit of protecting ourselves by certain means. This is when chronic anxiety gets in entrenched into your life.

We think we’re actually helping ourselves, but we’re actually getting tricked into making things worse. That’s how deceptive anxiety is.

For those of us who have chronic anxiety, we have noticed that the harder we try to escape the anxiety - the worse it gets. Thus, if the harder we try the worse it gets, then what we need to do is take another look at the protective steps we’ve been using. With high-anxiety, we’ve been deceived into trying to protect ourselves against something that isn’t dangerous, and this makes our anxiety worse over time.

Let me repeat: the harder you try, the worse it gets. Thus, it would make sense to NOT try so hard to avoid anxiety when it comes. Instead, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, as uncomfortable as it is. Know that this feeling of "uncomfortable-ness" will be short-lived -- and it will not be life-threatening! Simply allow yourself to feel that emotional pain. Because running from it makes it worse -- it will chase after you and bring out even more fear as you “run for your life.”

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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