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Paranoia in the Asperger's Mind

Help for adults with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism who struggle in relationships:

The Paranoid Aspie

The paranoid Aspie is often hypersensitive and easily slighted. He often thinks he is in danger and looks for threats of that danger, not appreciating other evidence. He tends to be guarded and suspicious and has quite a constricted emotional life. His reduced capacity for meaningful emotional involvement and the general pattern of withdrawal often lend a quality of isolation to his life experience.

Other characteristics of the paranoid Aspie include:
  • a combative and tenacious sense of personal rights and “the truth” 
  • excessive sensitivity to setbacks and rebuffs 
  • preoccupation with unsubstantiated "conspiratorial" explanations of events
  • refusal to forgive insults and injuries
  • suspiciousness and a pervasive tendency to distort experience by misconstruing the neutral or friendly actions of others as hostile or contemptuous
  • tendency to bear grudges persistently
  • tendency to experience excessive self-importance, manifest in a persistent self-referential attitude

One man with Aspergers describes his Aspergers-related paranoia as "Assholeperger's Syndrome." He states:

"You made an excellent illustration of what I call my 'Assholeperger's Syndrome'. Usually I can realize that I have made a big mistake but it may be long after everyone involved has moved on. It is really hard for me to know what to do when this happens so I usually find myself just avoiding that person."

While it is fairly normal for everyone to have some degree of paranoia about certain situations in their lives (e.g., worry about an impending set of layoffs at work), the paranoid Aspie takes this to an extreme. It pervades nearly every professional and personal relationship she has.

The Aspie who is prone to paranoid thinking is generally difficult to get along with and often has problems with close relationships. Her excessive suspiciousness and hostility may be expressed in argumentativeness, recurrent complaining, or by quiet yet hostile aloofness. Because she is usually expecting to be slighted by others, she may act in a guarded, secretive, or devious manner and appear to be "cold" and lacking in tender feelings. Although she may appear to be objective, rational, and unemotional, she more often displays a hostile, stubborn, and sarcastic attitude. Her combative and suspicious nature often elicits a hostile response in others, which then serves to confirm her original expectations.

Because the paranoid Aspie lacks trust in others, he has an excessive need to have a high degree of control over his environment and those around him. He is often rigid, critical of others, and unable to collaborate, and he has great difficulty accepting constructive criticism.

Because of reduced levels of trust, there can be challenges in treating this Aspergers adult. However, psychotherapy, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications can play a role when the man or woman is receptive to intervention. If suspicions are interfering with your relationships or work, please watch the video above.

==> Relationship Skills for Couples Affected by Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Financial Problems: 21 Tips for Aspergers Couples

Financial problems can start even before the wedding vows are said, from the expenses of courtship to the high cost of the wedding. Couples who have money issues should take a deep breath and have a serious conversation about finances:

1. Acknowledge that one partner may be a saver and one a spender, understanding that there are benefits to both, and agreeing to learn from each other's tendencies.

2. Allow each person to have independence by setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.

3. Be honest about your current financial situation. If things have gone south, continuing the same lifestyle that was possible before the loss of income is simply unrealistic.

4. Construct a joint budget that includes savings.

5. Decide how much you can save each month, and then save an additional 20 percent.

6. Decide upon short-term and long-term goals. It's OK to have individual goals, but you should have family goals, too.

7. Decide which person will be responsible for paying the monthly bills.

8. Don't approach the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside a time that is convenient and non-threatening for both parties.

9. Don't blame each other for the money problems.

10. Don't hide income or debt. Bring financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, debts, and investments to the table.

11. Don't panic when the market goes down. The most important thing you can do in a bad economy is to stay calm.

12. If possible, pay more than the minimum every month on your credit cards.

13. Keep investing monthly in your 401(k) or IRA. 

14. Line up your credit cards from the highest interest rates to the lowest. Pay the minimum on every single card to stay current. When the card with the highest interest rate is paid off, put the amount you had been paying on it toward the next card in line. Keep repeating this process until each credit card has been paid off.

15. Never close down a credit card since it will hurt your credit score.

16. Never go over your credit limit.

17. Pay your bills on time.

18. Search for the savings account with the highest interest rate.

19. Sit down with your expenses and separate wants and needs. Circle all expenses that are wants. If you have debt or no savings, eliminate the wants.

20. Talk about caring for your mother and father as they age, and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs, if necessary.

21. Try to save enough to cover eight months of expenses.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Sexual Issues: 12 Tips for Aspergers Husbands

Even couples who love each other can be incompatible sexually. Compounding these problems is the fact that Aspergers men (and some women) are lacking in both sex education and sexual self-awareness. Yet, having sex is one of the last things the Aspie should be giving up. Sex brings couples closer together, releases hormones that helps their bodies both physically and mentally, and keeps the chemistry of a healthy relationship intact.

How to fix sexual problems with your neurotypical spouse:

1. First of all, if your sexual relationship problems can't be resolved by using the suggestions below, consult a qualified sex therapist that can help you both address and resolve this issue.

2. Flirt with her. Make a habit of sending playful, sexy messages to her throughout the day.

3. Give her some space. It seems counter-intuitive, but letting your wife have some time to herself can help her recharge. Offer to watch the children for a few hours so she can relax in a bubble bath. This "time out" lets her wind down so that later she’ll be ready to heat up.

4. Just kiss. Agree to place a ban on sex for a certain length of time and just kiss and focus on foreplay. Abstaining from sex has the added benefit of charging up your sex-drive.

5. Learn what truly turns your wife on by asking her to come up with a personal "arousal list." You create a list as well. What do each of you truly find sexually exciting? The answers may delight you. Swap the lists and use them to create more “bedroom events” that turn you both on.

6. Make an appointment – but not necessarily at night when the both of you are tired (e.g., during your toddler’s Sunday afternoon nap, a "before-breakfast” quickie, or ask your parents to take your children every other Saturday night for a sleepover). When a sexual encounter is on the calendar, it increases the anticipation.

7. Mixing things up a bit can increase sexual enjoyment. Why not have sex by the fire place? Standing up in the hallway? In the kitchen?

8. Play an adult board game.

9. Set the mood. Don't underestimate the power of lighting a few candles. Make sure your bedroom is sexy and doesn't have toys littering it – and turn off the T.V.

10. Talk and Listen. Spending 15 minutes connecting with your wife and listening to her talk can help her feel appreciated. Avoid stressful topics like the children and work, and stick to larger issues like current events and the world around you. Respond with full sentences, not grunts. If you can remember and repeat something she said 8 hours later, she’ll be impressed—and you’ll be one step closer to intimacy.

11. Try just hugging or kissing her. Hold and squeeze her hand. Unload the dishwasher yourself. Women want to feel connected to their husbands in ways that don’t always involve sex.

12. Watch an erotic film together. It doesn't have to be porn for it to be sexy.

Meltdowns in Adults with Aspergers & High-Functioning Autism

Can an adult with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism have a meltdown just like a child with the same disorder? 

The answer is ‘yes’ – but the adult’s meltdown-behavior looks a bit different than a child’s. Under severe enough stress, any normally calm and collected individual may become “out-of-control” – even to the point of violence. But some individuals experience repeated meltdowns in which tension mounts until there is an explosive release.

The adult version of a meltdown may include any of the following (just to name a few):
  • aggressive behavior in which the individual reacts grossly out of proportion to the circumstance
  • angry outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects 
  • banging your head
  • crying
  • domestic abuse
  • pacing back and forth
  • quitting your job
  • road rage
  • talking to yourself
  • threatening others
  • walking out on your spouse or partner
  • yelling and screaming

On the mild end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may simply say some things that are overly critical and disrespectful, thus ultimately destroying the relationship with the other party (or parties) in many cases. On the more extreme end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. In both examples, the adult often later feels remorse, regret or embarrassment.

Meltdowns, usually lasting 5 to 20 minutes, may occur in clusters or be separated by weeks or months in which the Aspergers adult maintains his/her composure. Meltdown episodes may be preceded or accompanied by:
  • Chest tightness
  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Increased energy
  • Irritability
  • Palpitations
  • Paranoia
  • Rage
  • Tingling
  • Tremors

A number of factors increase the likelihood of experiencing a meltdown:
  • A history of physical abuse or bullying: “Aspies” who were abused as kids have an increased risk for frequent meltdowns as adults.
  • A history of substance abuse: Aspies who abuse drugs or alcohol have an increased risk for frequent meltdowns.
  • Age: Meltdowns are most common in Aspies in their late teens to mid 20s.
  • Being male: Aspergers men are far more likely to meltdown than women.
  • Having another mental health problem: Aspies with other mental illnesses (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders) are more likely to have meltdowns.

The meltdown is not always directed at others. Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns are also at significantly increased risk of harming themselves, either with intentional injuries or suicide attempts. Those who are also addicted to drugs or alcohol have a greatest risk of harming themselves.

Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns are often perceived by others as “always being angry.” Other complications may include job loss, school suspension, divorce, auto accidents, and even incarceration.

If you're concerned because you're having repeated meltdowns, talk with your doctor or make an appointment with someone who specializes in treating adults on the spectrum (e.g., a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc.).

Here's how to prepare for an appointment with a professional:
  1. Make a list of all medications as well as any vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  2. Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  3. Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  4. Write down questions to ask your doctor. Preparing a list of questions can help you make sure you cover everything that's important to you. 
  5. Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.

There's no one treatment that's best for Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns. Treatment generally includes medication and individual or group therapy. Individual or group therapy sessions can be very helpful. A commonly used type of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, helps Aspergers adults identify which situations or behaviors may trigger a meltdown. In addition, this type of therapy teaches Aspies how to manage their anger and control their typically inappropriate response using relaxation techniques. Cognitive behavioral therapy that combines cognitive restructuring, coping skills training, and relaxation training has the most promising results.

Unfortunately, many Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns don't seek treatment. If you're involved in a relationship with an Aspie, it's important that you take steps to protect yourself and your kids. Any emotional and/or physical abuse that may be occurring is not your fault.  If you see that a situation is escalating, and you suspect your partner may be on the verge of a meltdown, try to safely remove yourself and your kids from the area. 

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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