Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise? Then you've come to the right place. We are here to help you in any way we can. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile...
This post is written to help young Aspergers (high functioning autism) adults make the most of their abilities and increase their self-reliance and self-confidence.
Yes, you can take control of your life and live independently while fulfilling your dreams and enjoying each day, one day at a time.
1. Always look for the bright spot in everything. But be careful though, because staying positive isn’t the same as settling for whatever comes your way and not aspiring for more. Your happiness and optimism can be both a blessing and a curse. Although you can remain happy despite most of your problems, sometimes you may adapt too much! Adapting as a form of “giving up” is NOT a good thing.
2. Be dependable and punctual. Dependability and punctuality are skills that are learned through trial and error. Aspies who learn to be dependable make their employers happy and get raises and promotions.
3. Be open to new experiences and opportunities. While living alone, you may find yourself complaining that you come face-to-face with major life-changing decisions too frequently (e.g., where to go to school, how to find a better job, when to ask that special person out for a date, etc.). But you won’t accomplish all that you are able to if you are closed to all these experiences. You may have many “firsts” (e.g., first time living alone, your first bank account, your first time spending your birthday away from home, etc.), but all of these experiences are helping you to develop emotional muscles that you would never develop otherwise. And with stronger emotional muscles, confidence and an enjoyment for life begin to grow.
4. Be respectful to others. This is a tough skill for some Aspies to learn. Often they feel that those who deserve respect are those people they like - and no one else. They need to learn that although you may not like someone, that someone deserves your respectful attitude just for the sake of their being and the place that someone has in your life. When you learn to have a respectful attitude towards all others, it becomes easier for you when you work with those who may have different values.
5. Have a positive attitude. It is not possible to truly remain positive all of the time. But if one learns to look for the positive when faced with adversity, instead of wallowing in the negative, one is more likely to find a way to be as positive as possible. You can learn to look for - and strive to achieve - positive outcomes. Then you can use this skill to help you find and keep a job you enjoy.
6. Have a solid work ethic. Working is just that, getting a task completed. When you learn to see a job through until it is done - and done well - you build more confidence and are better able to handle the next task given to you. This skill leads to positive outcomes in the workplace and at home.
7. Keep your faith. When life knocks you down to your knees, remember you’re in the perfect position to pray! During difficult times, you will become more attune to your relationship with God. Every day, wake up and thank Him that you are still alive and doing well. When everything else seems bleak, your faith will keep you strong.
8. Keep yourself busy! Loneliness will get to you, eventually. Coping with loneliness is a very important skill on your list of needed independent living skills, because every Aspie I've ever known has needed it. Aspies who know how to recognize loneliness as the temporary feeling it is (a) use their support system, (b) work through their loneliness, and (c) do just fine in the long run.
9. Know how to problem-solve. When faced with a problem, there are people who ignore them, people who fall apart, and then there are people who look for and find solutions. An Aspie who learns to be the type who looks for solutions will be happier with their chosen career and place of employment.
10. Learn to deal and get along with all kinds of people. Living alone can get you in all different kinds of situations, and in those adventures, you will encounter people from all walks of life. Be interested in them – and learn from them
11. Make yourself happy by doing what you love. If your personal life is messed up, and so is your family life, you might as well try to salvage it by having a good professional working life. At least this one, you have some sort of control over. Money is definitely a necessity, but find the time to do whatever makes you happy during weekends, holidays or after work!
12. Recognize that being alone does not equal being lonely. Being comfortable with being by yourself is part of having a healthy attitude. Have some positive “alone-time” activities. Reading, drawing, journaling, crafting and listening to music are activities that you can enjoy by yourself without feeling lonely.
Good jobs for grown-ups with Aspergers (high functioning autism) can vary depending on the person, but in general, careers where the individual can work alone are sometimes better.
Below are 7 careers that may be better suited for "Aspies" who don’t like to socialize:
1. Accountant: While just about any position will require some amount of face-time with co-workers and clients, accountants find themselves diving into a spreadsheet more often than reaching for a cell phone. With plenty of financial data and tax information to digest, chit-chat time is at a minimum. The U.S Department of Labor predicts a 22 percent increase in job opportunities for accountants and auditors through 2018.
2. Actuary: Risk assessment is the name of the game for actuaries, who spend their days analyzing the habits of people and companies. Instead of talking with people, though, their work is based on statistics. Employment of actuaries is expected to jump 21 percent through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
3. Budget Analyst: Similar to accountants, budget analysts help organizations increase profits by improving efficiency. But the bulk of their time is often spent working independently while compiling and crunching numbers. Budget analysts are projected to enjoy a 15 percent increase in jobs through 2018, according to the Department of Labor.
4. Computer Programmer: It's not uncommon to see computer programmers listening to music while coding. Telecommuting is also an option at some companies. If you can write the code (which isn't easy) many tech managers might be happy to leave you alone. Job opportunities are expected to soar 22 percent for computer programmers and software engineers through 2018, according to the Department of Labor.
5. Forensic Science Technician: Although crime scene investigators have to deal with people, it's often just dealing with their hair, tissue, or DNA samples. When not collecting evidence, working in a laboratory setting is most common for forensic scientists. Jobs for forensic science technicians are expected to grow 20 percent through 2018, according to the Department of Labor.
6. Medical Transcriptionist: Petty office politics and gossip don't easily reach the ears of medical transcriptionists, who wear headphones while transcribing dictated recordings from doctors and other health care pros. A no-nonsense, buttoned-up approach can help since you'll be editing reports for grammar and clarity. Many MT's work at home or off-site from their clients.
7. Writer: Writing is a solitary process. The ability to block out distractions and stay focused is essential in this career. Marketing is one industry where writers and copywriters are in demand. The Department of Labor expects salaried writing positions to increase as the economy strengthens. Online media outlets are driving many of these writing opportunities.
- Adrian siad... You might consider adding Private Investigator to that list..
- Anonymous said... I work as a medical transcriptionist but I have suffered major discrimination while working in that role, at least when working in a team of other medical transcriptionists. It is okay when you are by yourself though.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), also called social phobia, is diagnosed when individuals become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. Aspergers (high functioning autism) adults with SAD have an intense, persistent fear of interacting with others (especially in groups). They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation. This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.
It's normal to feel nervous in some social situations. For example, going on a date or giving a presentation may cause that feeling of butterflies in your stomach. But in SAD, everyday interactions cause irrational anxiety and self-consciousness.
While many Aspergers adults with SAD realize that their fears about being with others are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to confront their fears and be around others, they are usually very anxious beforehand, are intensely uncomfortable throughout the encounter, and worry about how they were judged for hours afterward.
SAD can be limited to one situation (e.g., talking to others, eating or drinking, writing on a blackboard in front of others, etc.) or may be so broad that the individual experiences anxiety around almost anyone other than close family members.
Emotional and behavioral SAD signs and symptoms include:
- Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
- Avoiding doing things or speaking to others out of fear of embarrassment
- Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Difficulty talking
- Fear of situations in which you may be judged
- Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
- Intense fear of interacting with strangers
- Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
Physical SAD signs and symptoms include:
- Cold, clammy hands
- Fast heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Shaky voice
- Trembling or shaking
- Upset stomach
Worrying about having symptoms:
When Aspergers adults have SAD, they realize that their anxiety or fear is out of proportion to the situation. Yet they’re so worried about developing SAD symptoms that they avoid situations that may trigger them. This type of worrying creates a vicious cycle that can make symptoms worse.
When to see a doctor:
See your doctor or mental health provider if you fear and avoid normal social situations because they cause embarrassment, worry or panic. If this type of anxiety disrupts your life, causes severe stress and affects your daily activities, you may have SAD or another mental health condition that requires treatment to get better.
Feelings of shyness or discomfort in certain situations aren't necessarily signs of SAD, particularly in kids. Comfort levels in social situations vary from individual to individual due to personality traits and life experiences. Some people are naturally reserved and others are more outgoing. What sets SAD apart from everyday nervousness is that its symptoms are much more severe, causing the Aspergers adult to avoid normal social situations.
Common, everyday experiences that may be difficult to endure when the Aspergers adult has SAD include:
- Being introduced to strangers
- Entering a room in which individuals are already seated
- Initiating conversations
- Interacting with strangers
- Making eye contact
- Ordering food in a restaurant
- Returning items to a store
- Using a public restroom or telephone
- Writing in front of others
SAD symptoms can change over time. They may flare up if you're facing a lot of stress or demands, or if you completely avoid situations that would usually make you anxious, you may not have symptoms. Although avoidance may allow you to feel better in the short term, your anxiety is likely to persist over the long term if you don't get treatment.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
Like many other mental health conditions, SAD likely arises from a complex interaction of environment and genes. Possible causes include:
- Brain chemistry: Natural chemicals in your body may play a role in SAD. For instance, an imbalance in the brain chemical serotonin may be a factor. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and emotions, among other things. Individuals with SAD may be extra-sensitive to the effects of serotonin.
- Brain structure: A structure in the brain called the amygdale may play a role in controlling the fear response. Individuals who have an overactive amygdala may have a heightened fear response, causing increased anxiety in social situations.
- Inherited traits: Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. However, it isn't entirely clear how much of this may be due to genetics and how much is due to learned behavior.
- Negative experiences: Kids who experience teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule or humiliation may be more prone to SAD. In addition, other negative events in life, such as family conflict or sexual abuse, may be associated with SAD.
SAD is one of the most common mental disorders. It usually begins in the early to mid-teens, although it can sometimes begin earlier in childhood or in adulthood. A number of factors can increase the risk of developing SAD, including:
- Environment: SAD may be a learned behavior. That is, the Aspergers adult may develop the condition after witnessing the anxious behavior of others. In addition, there may be an association between SAD and moms and dads who are more controlling or protective of their kids.
- Family history: You're more likely to develop SAD if your biological moms and dads or siblings have the condition.
- Having a health condition that draws attention: Facial disfigurement, stuttering, Parkinson's disease and other health conditions can increase feelings of self-consciousness and may trigger SAD in some individuals.
- New social or work demands: Meeting new individuals, giving a speech in public or making an important work presentation may trigger SAD symptoms for the first time. These symptoms usually have their roots in adolescence, however.
- Temperament: Kids who are shy, timid, withdrawn or restrained when facing new situations or individuals may be at greater risk.
Left untreated, SAD can be debilitating. Your anxieties may run your life. They can interfere with work, school, relationships or enjoyment of life. You may be considered an "underachiever," when in reality it's your fears holding you back, not your ability or motivation. In severe cases, you may drop out of school, quit work or lose friendships. SAD can cause:
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
- Low self-esteem
- Negative self-talk
- Poor social skills
- Trouble being assertive
SAD can also result in:
- Excessive drinking, particularly in men
- Isolation and difficult social relationships
- Low academic achievement
- Poor work record
- Substance abuse
Preparing for a doctor’s appointment—
You may start by seeing your family doctor. After your initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider who can help make a firm diagnosis and create the right treatment plan for you.
What you can do:
- Ask a trusted family member or friend to be present for your appointment, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down all of your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed. Also write down the names of any medications you're taking.
- Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long. SAD often first appears in your teens. Your doctor will be interested to hear how your symptoms may have waxed or waned since they began.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
- Write down your key personal information, especially any significant events or changes in your life shortly before your symptoms appeared. For example, your doctor will want to know if your social anxiety seemed to be triggered by a promotion, meeting new individuals, or another new work or social demand.
Questions to ask your doctor at your initial appointment may include:
- Are there any other possible causes?
- How will you determine my diagnosis?
- Should I see a mental health specialist?
- What do you believe is causing my symptoms?
Questions to ask if you are referred to a mental health provider include:
- Am I at increased risk of other mental health problems?
- Are effective treatments available for this condition?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- With treatment, could I eventually be comfortable in the situations that make me so anxious now?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared in advance, don't hesitate to ask questions at any time during your appointment.
A doctor or mental health provider who sees the Aspergers adult for possible SAD may ask:
- Do you avoid activities in which you are the center of attention?
- Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs? If so, how often?
- Do you ever have symptoms when you're not being observed by others?
- Does anything seem to make your symptoms better or worse?
- Does fear of embarrassment cause you to avoid doing things or speaking to individuals?
- Have any of your close relatives had similar symptoms?
- Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions?
- Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most beneficial?
- Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?
- How are your symptoms affecting your life, including your work and personal relationships?
- When are your symptoms most likely to occur?
- When did you first notice these symptoms?
- Would you say that being embarrassed or looking stupid is among your worst fears?
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
Tests and diagnosis—
Tests and diagnosis—
When you decide to seek treatment for SAD symptoms, you may have a physical exam and your doctor will ask a number of questions. The physical exam can determine if there may be any physical causes triggering your symptoms. Answering questions will help your doctor or mental health provider find out about your psychological state.
There's no laboratory test to diagnose SAD, however. Your doctor or mental health provider will ask you to describe your signs and symptoms, how often they occur and in what situations. He or she may review a list of situations to see if they make you anxious or have you fill out psychological questionnaires to help pinpoint a diagnosis.
To be diagnosed with SAD, an individual must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
Criteria for SAD to be diagnosed include:
- Persistent fear of social situations in which the Aspergers adult believes he/she may be scrutinized or act in a way that's embarrassing or humiliating.
- These social situations cause you a great deal of anxiety.
- You avoid anxiety-producing social situations.
- You recognize that your anxiety level is excessive or out of proportion for the situation.
- Your anxiety or distress interferes with your daily living.
SAD shares symptoms with other psychological disorders, including other anxiety disorders. Your mental health provider will want to determine whether one of these other conditions may be causing your social anxiety, or if you have SAD along with another mental health disorder. Often, social anxiety occurs along with other mental health conditions, such as substance abuse problems, depression and body dysmorphic disorder.
Treatments and drugs—
The two most common types of treatment for SAD are medications and psychotherapy. These two approaches may be used in combination.
Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) improves symptoms in most individuals with SAD. In therapy, you learn how to recognize and change negative thoughts about yourself. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common type of counseling for anxiety. This type of therapy is based on the idea that your own thoughts — not other individuals or situations — determine how you behave or react. Even if an unwanted situation won't change, you can change the way you think and behave.
Cognitive behavioral therapy may also include exposure therapy. In this type of therapy, you gradually work up to facing the situations you fear most. This allows you to become better skilled at coping with these anxiety-inducing situations and to develop the confidence to face them. You may also participate in skills training or role-playing to practice your social skills and gain comfort and confidence relating to others. Your mental health professional may help you develop relaxation or stress management techniques.
First choices in medications:
Several types of medications are used to treat SAD. However, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often the first type of medication tried for persistent symptoms of social anxiety. SSRIs your doctor may prescribe include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, others)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
The serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) venlafaxine (Effexor) also may be an option for SAD.
To reduce the risk of side effects, your doctor will start you at a low dose of medication and gradually increase your prescription to a full dose. It may take up to three months of treatment for your symptoms to noticeably improve.
Other medication options:
Your doctor or mental health provider may also prescribe other medications for symptoms of social anxiety.
- Anti-anxiety medications: A type of anti-anxiety medication called benzodiazepines may reduce your level of anxiety. Although they often work quickly, they can be habit-forming. Because of that, they're often prescribed for only short-term use. They may also be sedating. If your doctor does prescribe anti-anxiety medications, make sure you try taking them before you're in a social situation so that you know how they will affect you.
- Beta blockers: These medications work by blocking the stimulating effect of epinephrine (adrenaline). They may reduce heart rate, blood pressure, pounding of the heart, and shaking voice and limbs. Because of that, they may work best when used infrequently to control symptoms for a particular situation, such as giving a speech. They're not recommended for general treatment of SAD. As with anti-anxiety medications, try taking them before you need them to see how they affect you.
- Other antidepressants: The Aspergers adult may have to try several different antidepressants to find which one is the most effective and has the fewest unpleasant side effects.
Don't give up if treatment doesn't work quickly. The Aspergers adult can continue to make strides in psychotherapy over several weeks or months. And finding the right medication for your situation can take some trial and error. For some individuals, the symptoms of SAD may fade over time, and medication can be discontinued. Others may need to take medication for years to prevent a relapse. To make the most of treatment, keep your medical or therapy appointments, take medications as directed, and talk to your doctor about any changes in your condition.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
Lifestyle and home remedies—
Although SAD generally requires help from a medical expert or qualified psychotherapist, the Aspergers adult can try some self-help techniques to handle situations likely to trigger symptoms.
First, consider your fears to identify what situations cause the most anxiety. Then gradually practice these activities until they cause you less anxiety. Begin with small steps in situations that aren't overwhelming.
Situations to practice may include:
- Asking a retail clerk to help you find an item
- Calling a friend to make plans
- Eating with a close relative, friend or acquaintance in a public setting.
- Getting directions from a stranger
- Giving someone a compliment
- Making eye contact and returning greetings from others, or being the first to say hello
- Showing an interest in others — ask about their homes, kids, grandkids, hobbies or travels, etc.
At first, being social when you're feeling anxious is challenging. As difficult or painful as it may seem initially, don't avoid situations that trigger your symptoms. By regularly facing these kinds of situations, you'll continue to build and reinforce your coping skills. The following techniques can help the Aspergers adult begin to face situations that make him/her nervous:
- Adopt stress management techniques.
- Focus on personal qualities you like about yourself.
- Pay attention to how often the embarrassing situations you're afraid of actually take place. You may notice that the scenarios you fear usually don't come to pass.
- Practice relaxation exercises.
- Prepare for conversation. For instance, read the newspaper to identify an interesting story you can talk about.
- Set realistic goals.
- When embarrassing situations do happen, remind yourself that your feelings will pass, and you can handle them until they do.
Avoid using alcohol to calm your nerves. It may seem like it helps, but in the long run it can make you feel more anxious.
Certain supplements may help relieve anxiety, although it isn't clear about how much they help or what possible side effects they might have. Some supplements used to treat anxiety include:
- Vitamin B and folic acid: These nutrients may relieve anxiety by affecting the production of chemicals needed for your brain to function (neurotransmitters).
- Valerian: Most commonly used as a sleep aid, valerian has a sedative effect and may also relieve anxiety.
- Kava: This herb is reported to relax you without making you feel sedated. Some studies have linked kava to liver problems, so it isn't a good idea to take it if you have a liver condition, drink alcohol daily or take medications that affect your liver.
Talk to your doctor before taking herbal remedies or supplements to make sure they're safe for you and won't interact with any medications you take.
Coping and support—
Some coping methods that may help ease your anxiety include:
- Doing pleasurable activities, such as exercise or hobbies, when you feel anxious
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Joining a group that offers opportunities to improve communication and public speaking skills, such as Toastmasters International
- Joining a local or Internet-based support group
- Reaching out to others with whom you feel comfortable
Over time, these coping methods can help control your symptoms and prevent a relapse. Remind yourself that you can get through anxious moments, that your anxiety is short-lived, and that the negative consequences you worry about so much rarely come to pass.
There's no way to predict for certain what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder in the first place, but the Aspergers adult can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if anxious:
- Avoid unhealthy substance use. Alcohol and drug use and even caffeine or nicotine use can cause or worsen anxiety. If you're addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make you anxious. If you can't quit on your own, see your doctor or find a support group to help you.
- Get help early. Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
- Keep a journal. Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health provider identify what's causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
- Prioritize your life. You can reduce anxiety by carefully managing your time and energy.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
This is very true, other people can't see that it's a constant battle before, during and after. THis is totally draining. However I think it's vital that Aspergers be diagnosed for a person first before SAD can be addressed. I was treated for SAD which made it worse because they made out I was behaving irrationally, had I known I had Aspergers it would have been OBVIOUS why I feel and act like I do. The reason we suffer from SAD is because of people who don't accept us and don't tune in to our needs.
Aspergers adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed when an individual worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months. Adult Aspies with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include:
- difficulty swallowing
- feeling out of breath
- having to go to the bathroom frequently
- hot flashes
- muscle aches
- muscle tension
When their anxiety level is mild, adult Aspies with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can function socially and hold down a job. Although they don’t avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder, Aspies with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities if their anxiety is severe.
Other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse often accompany Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which rarely occurs alone. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is commonly treated with medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy, but co-occurring conditions must also be treated using the appropriate therapies.
In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Treatment choices depend on the problem and the individual’s preference. Before treatment begins, a physician must conduct a careful diagnostic evaluation to determine whether an individual’s symptoms are caused by an anxiety disorder or a physical problem. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, the type of disorder or the combination of disorders that are present must be identified, as well as any coexisting conditions, such as depression or substance abuse. Sometimes alcoholism, depression, or other coexisting conditions have such a strong effect on the person that treating the anxiety disorder must wait until the coexisting conditions are brought under control.
Adult Aspies with anxiety disorders who have already received treatment should tell their current physician about that treatment in detail. If they received medication, they should tell their physician what medication was used, what the dosage was at the beginning of treatment, whether the dosage was increased or decreased while they were under treatment, what side effects occurred, and whether the treatment helped them become less anxious. If they received psychotherapy, they should describe the type of therapy, how often they attended sessions, and whether the therapy was useful.
Often Aspies believe that they have “failed” at treatment or that the treatment didn’t work for them when, in fact, it was not given for an adequate length of time or was administered incorrectly. Sometimes people must try several different treatments or combinations of treatment before they find the one that works for them.
Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while the individual receives psychotherapy. Medication must be prescribed by physicians, usually psychiatrists, who can either offer psychotherapy themselves or work as a team with psychologists, social workers, or counselors who provide psychotherapy. The principal medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers to control some of the physical symptoms. With proper treatment, many Aspies with anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives.
Anti-Anxiety Drugs: High-potency benzodiazepines combat anxiety and have few side effects other than drowsiness. Because people can get used to them and may need higher and higher doses to get the same effect, benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short periods of time, especially for people who have abused drugs or alcohol and who become dependent on medication easily. One exception to this rule is people with panic disorder, who can take benzodiazepines for up to a year without harm. Clonazepam (Klonopin®) is used for social phobia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, lorazepam (Ativan®) is helpful for panic disorder, and alprazolam (Xanax®) is useful for both panic disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking benzodiazepines abruptly instead of tapering off, and anxiety can return once the medication is stopped. These potential problems have led some physicians to shy away from using these drugs or to use them in inadequate doses. Buspirone (Buspar®), an azapirone, is a newer anti-anxiety medication used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Possible side effects include dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone must be taken consistently for at least 2 weeks to achieve an anti-anxiety effect.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants were developed to treat depression but are also effective for anxiety disorders. Although these medications begin to alter brain chemistry after the very first dose, their full effect requires a series of changes to occur; it is usually about 4 to 6 weeks before symptoms start to fade. It is important to continue taking these medications long enough to let them work.
Beta-Blockers: Beta-blockers, such as propranolol (Inderal®), which is used to treat heart conditions, can prevent the physical symptoms that accompany certain anxiety disorders, particularly social phobia. When a feared situation can be predicted (such as giving a speech), a physician may prescribe a beta-blocker to keep physical symptoms of anxiety under control.
MAOIs: Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the oldest class of antidepressant medications. The MAOIs most commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders are phenelzine (Nardil®), followed by tranylcypromine (Parnate®), and isocarboxazid (Marplan®), which are useful in treating panic disorder and social phobia. People who take MAOIs cannot eat a variety of foods and beverages (including cheese and red wine) that contain tyramine or take certain medications, including some types of birth control pills, pain relievers (such as Advil®, Motrin®, or Tylenol®), cold and allergy medications, and herbal supplements; these substances can interact with MAOIs to cause dangerous increases in blood pressure. The development of a new MAOI skin patch may help lessen these risks. MAOIs can also react with SSRIs to produce a serious condition called “serotonin syndrome,” which can cause confusion, hallucinations, increased sweating, muscle stiffness, seizures, changes in blood pressure or heart rhythm, and other potentially life-threatening conditions.
SSRIs: Some of the newest antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. SSRIs alter the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which, like other neurotransmitters, helps brain cells communicate with one another. Fluoxetine (Prozac®), sertraline (Zoloft®), escitalopram (Lexapro®), paroxetine (Paxil®), and citalopram (Celexa®) are some of the SSRIs commonly prescribed for panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, and social phobia. SSRIs are also used to treat panic disorder when it occurs in combination with OCD, social phobia, or depression. Venlafaxine (Effexor®), a drug closely related to the SSRIs, is used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder. These medications are started at low doses and gradually increased until they have a beneficial effect. SSRIs have fewer side effects than older antidepressants, but they sometimes produce slight nausea or jitters when people first start to take them. These symptoms fade with time. Some people also experience sexual dysfunction with SSRIs, which may be helped by adjusting the dosage or switching to another SSRI.
Tricyclics: Tricyclics are older than SSRIs and work as well as SSRIs for anxiety disorders other than OCD. They are also started at low doses that are gradually increased. They sometimes cause dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, and weight gain, which can usually be corrected by changing the dosage or switching to another tricyclic medication. Tricyclics include imipramine (Tofranil®), which is prescribed for panic disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and clomipramine (Anafranil®), which is the only tricyclic antidepressant useful for treating OCD.
Before taking medication for an anxiety disorder:
- Ask your physician to tell you about the effects and side effects of the drug.
- Ask your physician when and how the medication should be stopped. Some drugs can’t be stopped abruptly but must be tapered off slowly under a physician’s supervision.
- Be aware that some medications are effective only if they are taken regularly and that symptoms may recur if the medication is stopped.
- Tell your physician about any alternative therapies or over-the-counter medications you are using.
- Work with your physician to determine which medication is right for you and what dosage is best.
Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor, to discover what caused an anxiety disorder and how to deal with its symptoms.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very useful in treating anxiety disorders. The cognitive part helps Aspies change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.
For example, CBT can help Aspies with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them. When people are ready to confront their fears, they are shown how to use exposure techniques to desensitize themselves to situations that trigger their anxieties.
Aspies with OCD who fear dirt and germs are encouraged to get their hands dirty and wait increasing amounts of time before washing them. The therapist helps the person cope with the anxiety that waiting produces; after the exercise has been repeated a number of times, the anxiety diminishes. People with social phobia may be encouraged to spend time in feared social situations without giving in to the temptation to flee and to make small social blunders and observe how people respond to them. Since the response is usually far less harsh than the person fears, these anxieties are lessened. People with PTSD may be supported through recalling their traumatic event in a safe situation, which helps reduce the fear it produces. CBT therapists also teach deep breathing and other types of exercises to relieve anxiety and encourage relaxation.
Exposure-based behavioral therapy has been used for many years to treat specific phobias. The person gradually encounters the object or situation that is feared, perhaps at first only through pictures or tapes, then later face-to-face. Often the therapist will accompany the person to a feared situation to provide support and guidance.
CBT is undertaken when Aspies decide they are ready for it and with their permission and cooperation. To be effective, the therapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and must be tailored to his or her needs. There are no side effects other than the discomfort of temporarily increased anxiety.
CBT or behavioral therapy often lasts about 12 weeks. It may be conducted individually or with a group of people who have similar problems. Group therapy is particularly effective for social phobia. Often “homework” is assigned for participants to complete between sessions. There is some evidence that the benefits of CBT last longer than those of medication for people with panic disorder, and the same may be true for OCD, PTSD, and social phobia. If a disorder recurs at a later date, the same therapy can be used to treat it successfully a second time.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
• Anonymous said... Struggle with that daily diagnosed
• Anonymous said... Remember that everyone doesn't fit every profile of aspergers syndrome....some have some characteristics and others may have different ones....
• Anonymous said... My son who is 11 was diagnosed with Aspergers and I am without doubt that my partner also does although he has not been diagnosed. I however was diagnosed with GAD, it doesn't take much to cause an anxiety attack, some days it is unbearable from the moment I wake!
• Anonymous said... I have it.
• Anonymous said... I don't think I ever had GAD. It was certainly never diagnosed. Is it common in people with ASD?
* Anonymous said... I am a GADS lady and Asperger's .. Diagnosed at age 45 now 52.. My whole life makes sense now!
• Anonymous said...I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and depression and panic attacks. My first reaction to my anxiety was to drink alcohol. Since alcohol is a depressant, that made everything worse.
* Anonymous said...Have you ever been nervous before making an important presentation? Has "presentation anxiety" ever gotten in the way of presentation success? Would you like to know how the control your anxiety?
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Although most "Aspies" can hold a conversation, only a few are smooth and charismatic when they talk. Working as a “life coach” for teens and adults with Aspergers, I have explored and tested many techniques for improving their conversation skills. Here are 15 simple ways to be a good conversationalist.
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==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
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