Blog for Individuals and Neurodiverse Couples Affected by ASD
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...
"Why does it seem that most people with ASD also have a great deal of anxiety?"
One explanation (among several) may have to do with abnormal levels of cortisol. Cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) may be a key component to understanding ASD, according to researchers.
It is one of a family of stress hormones that acts like a ‘red alert’ that is triggered by stressful situations, allowing a person to react quickly to changes around him or her.
In “typical” people, there is a 2-fold increase in levels of this hormone within 30 minutes of waking up, with levels gradually declining during the day as part of the internal body clock. One study found that people with ASD don’t have this peak.
This difference in stress hormone levels may be very significant in explaining why the “autistic” is less able to react and cope with unexpected change. These findings are crucial, as they give us a better understanding about how some of the symptoms we see in ASD are linked to how the individual adapts to change at a chemical level.
The study suggests that a person with the disorder may not adjust normally to the challenge of a new environment on waking, and this may affect the way he or she subsequently engages with the world as the day wears on.
The researchers hope that by understanding the symptoms of ASD as a stress response (rather than a social-skills deficit or some type of behavioral problem), it could help therapists develop strategies for avoiding situations that can cause anxiety in people with the disorder.
The next step in the research will be to look at whether people with other types of autism also lack a peak of cortisol after waking.
Craig sates, "I can really relate to this. By 4 pm, my anxiety is usually off the charts with no direct correlation to any particular event. That was when I would start thinking of going to Happy Hour or something to stop that internal suffocating feeling. Hard to describe."
Over the years, I have had many adults with Asperger’s report that they drink alcohol on a regular basis to alleviate stress and boredom. Also, many use alcohol as their main coping mechanism for socializing and to feel less disconnected or awkward.
But, have you considered all the benefits to stopping drinking? By not drinking alcohol, you are able to improve your life in all kinds of ways. The advantages of quitting FAR outweigh the advantages of drinking.
Here’s a partial list of benefits worth looking at:
1. After you stop drinking, your damaged liver will begin to regenerate itself.
2. Stopping helps you look younger. Alcohol is bad for the skin, because it dehydrates the body and causes inflammation. Constant inflammation will damage your skin (it dries out and becomes less elastic). Also, alcohol lowers “collagen” levels, which is a protein that connects the skin cells and strengthens the tissue. When collagen breaks down, the skin sags and becomes loose.
3. Your body won’t be required to work overtime to process the toxins in the alcohol, freeing up energy for more constructive activities.
4. No more “moral hang-overs” (i.e., engaging in undesirable and regrettable behavior or decision-making that causes feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment the next day).
5. No more hang-overs, which translates into having more time to get shit done.
6. Your brain won’t have to go haywire trying to recalibrate itself.
7. No more heightened anxiety the following day due to psychological withdrawal.
8. No more reduction in the lifespan of the cells in your heart, liver, pancreas, and other organs.
9. Your heart and lungs won’t have to pump at irregular speeds.
10. Stopping drinking saves you a bunch of money. Over time, those $5 mixed drinks at the bar really add up. Even if you only go to the bar once a week and have only two drinks, you will end up spending more than $500 per year.
11. Those who quit drinking reap the benefit of living a longer and healthier life.
12. Your liver won’t have to go into overdrive to metabolize the alcohol, which means it can spend its resources metabolizing macro and micro- nutrients.
13. When others see you making an effort to stop drinking, a few of them will forgive you for the past shit you said or did to them while under the influence. One of the greatest advantages of sobriety is being able to start fresh with some family members and friends.
14. You’ll be consuming way fewer calories, which translates into a huge fat loss.
15. Your quality of sleep will improve dramatically.
The bottom line is this: Sobriety offers you a second chance at life. With the constant burdens of exhaustion, hangovers, and illness, you never have time to focus on your goals. What are some of your goals? Whatever they are, the best way to achieve them is to stop drinking alcohol. Sobriety opens up all kinds of physical, emotional, and financial doors that will NEVER exist otherwise.
A lack of “demonstrated empathy” may be the most problematic ASD trait that seriously affects social interactions.
I use the term “demonstrated” empathy, because each person with the disorder certainly has empathy, but it is not conveyed to others through his or her words and expression of emotions to the degree that is “typical” or socially acceptable. This, in turn, often gives others the impression that the autistic individual is insensitive, uncaring or selfish.
This empathy deficit can’t be “fixed” – and is not an intentional or malicious method of relating to others. Unfortunately, many “neurotypicals” believe that if the person with ASD would just “try harder” or “do better,” then there wouldn’t be a problem. This is like saying to someone with dyslexia, “If you would just pay attention to what you’re reading, you would be able to read better” (and then get upset when they don’t). In fact, you could think of Asperger's as a form of social dyslexia.
In fact, sometimes “trying harder” makes a bad problem worse. For example, the more the person on the spectrum tries to “fit in,” the more his or her anxiety rises, which in turn makes it even more difficult to have a relaxed, spontaneous conversation.
Due to high levels of anxiety in social interactions, a person with ASD may engage in a one-sided, long-winded monologue about his or her favorite subject, while not recognizing the listener's reactions (e.g., a desire to change the topic or end the conversation). Such failures to react appropriately in social exchanges can appear as disregard for other's feelings and may be perceived as egoistical or self-centered.
The reality is that the cognitive ability of people with ASD (high-functioning autism) often allows them to articulate social norms in a laboratory context, in which they may be able to show a theoretical understanding of other's emotions – but have difficulty acting on this knowledge in fluid, real-life situations.
People with the disorder often analyze and distill their observations of social interaction into rigid behavioral guidelines and apply these rules in odd ways (e.g., forced eye contact), resulting in behavior that may seem rigid or socially naïve.
Furthermore, due to a history of failed social encounters, the ASD person's desire for companionship can become numbed, causing damage to self-esteem and a strong desire to isolate from society in general.