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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Depression. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Depression. Sort by date Show all posts

55 Ways to Beat Depression: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and HFA

Many, if not most, adults with Aspergers (or High Functioning Autism) will experience some significant bouts of depression from time to time. So if that has happened to you – you’re not alone. Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to do what you need to feel better.

But while overcoming bouts of depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t beat it through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent.

You can make a huge dent in your depression with simple lifestyle changes (e.g., exercising every day, avoiding the urge to isolate, challenging the negative voices in your head, eating healthy food instead of the junk you crave, carving out time for rest and relaxation, etc.). Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day and draw on the support of others.



Recovering from depression requires action. But taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better (e.g., going for a walk, spending time with friends, etc.) can be exhausting. It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery. The things that help the most are the things that are most difficult to do. But there’s a difference between difficult and impossible.

For all you Aspies out there, below are some very important tips for dealing with – and ridding yourself of – depression. Pick one or more (preferably several) of these techniques. Some will work – others won’t. So you can expect a short trial-and-error period until you find the right combination of techniques that work for you.

Let's go...

1. Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.

2. Aim for 8 hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.

3. Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking.

4. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.

5. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking: Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)

6. Avoid diminishing the positive: Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)

7. Avoid emotional reasoning: Believing that the way you feel reflects reality (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)

8. Avoid jumping to conclusions: Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic.”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead end job forever.”)

9. Avoid labeling: Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)

10. Avoid overgeneralization: Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever (“I can’t do anything right.”)

11. Avoid 'shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’: Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.

12. Avoid the mental filter: Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.

13. Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.

14. Call or email an old friend.

15. Challenge negative thinking. Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future. But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.

16. Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.

17. Consider taking a chromium supplement. Some depression studies show that chromium picolinate reduces carbohydrate cravings, eases mood swings, and boosts energy. Supplementing with chromium picolinate is especially effective for people who tend to overeat and oversleep when depressed.

18. Cultivate supportive relationships. Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression. But the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important. The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. You loved ones care about you and want to help.

19. Do something spontaneous.

20. Do things you enjoy (or used to). While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark. Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.

21. Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every 3-4 hours.

22. Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet. What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.

23. Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden.

24. Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas can boost serotonin levels without a crash.

25. Get regular exercise. When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue. Scientists haven’t figured out exactly why exercise is such a potent antidepressant, but evidence suggests that physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension—all things that can have a positive effect on depression.

26. Go for a walk with a workout buddy.

27. Have lunch or coffee with a friend.

28. Help someone else by volunteering.

29. Join a support group for depression. Being with others who are dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.

30. Keep a “negative thought log." Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. But maybe he’s just having a bad day.

31. Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that are stressing you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.

32. Know when to get additional help. If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better! Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.

33. List what you like about yourself.

34. Listen to music.

35. Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.

36. Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or french fries. But these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.

37. Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can give your mood a big boost. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements. Canned albacore tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed.

38. Pets can make you happier and healthier. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and you a sense of being needed—both powerful antidotes to depression. And the research backs it up. Studies show that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression or get overwhelmed by stress.

39. Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

40. Read a good book.

41. Schedule a weekly dinner date with someone special.

42. Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.

43. Spend some time in nature.

44. Start small and stay focused. The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one. Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up. And for all the energy you put in to your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return.

45. Take a long, hot bath.

46. Take care of a few small tasks.

47. Take care of yourself. In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.

48. Talk to one person about your feelings.

49. Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.

50. Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. When you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell. But being around other people will make you feel less depressed.

51. Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.

52. Watch a funny movie or TV show.

53. Write in your journal.

54. Pray (if you’re a spiritual person) for guidance, peace, joy and prosperity.

55. Be patient with yourself as you try these “depression-busting” techniques. Experiment. Dump the ones that don't work. Keep the ones that do!

Good Luck!

==> Living with an Aspergers Partner: Help for Struggling Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

Is it Sadness or Full-Blown Depression: Tips for Adults on the Spectrum

“How do I know if I'm merely sad, or if it’s full blown depression? Do any of you Aspies suffer from chronic depression – I mean each day pretty much all day long? What do you do to overcome it – or just to live with it?”

There is a clear difference between sadness and depression. Sadness is a temporary emotion that you overcome after a relatively short period of time (may take several hours or sometimes a few days), and you regain your normal mood at some point. But, depression lingers for weeks, months – and even years. It becomes a part of you and affects your day-to-day functioning.

You’ll know you’re depressed when you lack motivation, sleep constantly (or want to), rarely eat (or eat all the time), feel excessively lazy, and become extremely negative towards yourself. Also, you may find yourself crying, having thoughts of suicide, feeling lonely even when you’re surrounded by people, and feeling a general sense of “numbness.”

Depression is very common among people with Asperger’s (high-Functioning autism). Many of the same deficits that produce anxiety unite to produce depression. The relationship between serotonin functioning and depression has been researched heavily. Basic circuitry related to frontal lobe functions in depression is affected in people on the spectrum. Also, deficits in social relationships and responses that permit one to compensate for disappointment and frustration fuel a vulnerability to depression.



Due to the fact that some features of depression and Asperger’s overlap, it is important to track that the changes in mood are a departure from baseline functioning. Therefore, the presence of social withdrawal in an individual with Asperger’s should not be considered a symptom of depression unless there is an acute decline from his or her baseline level of functioning.

The core symptoms of depression occur together. Therefore, the simultaneous appearance of certain symptoms (e.g., decreased energy, further withdrawal from social interactions, irritability, loss of pleasure in activities, self-deprecating statements, and sleep/appetite changes would point to depression.

Medications that are useful for treatment of depression are serotonin reuptake inhibitors. There also may be indications for considering tricyclic drugs with appropriate monitoring of ECG, pulse, and blood pressure. There are no drugs that have been shown to be particularly more beneficial for depressive symptoms in people with Asperger’s as compared to the general population. Therefore, the decision as to which drugs to use is determined by side effect profiles, previous experience, and responses to these medications in other family members.

Numerous self-help strategies to cope with depression can be helpful as well.  

CLICK HERE for more information on self-help methods for depression.   

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Avoiding the Holiday Blues: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests, stress and depression. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands, including parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress and depression that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past. Here’s how:

1. Don't “give in” to your depression, but do accept its presence in your life so you can work with it. If depression comes in part from rejecting our feelings, rejecting the depression will just make things worse.

2. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sad. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

3. Try your best to avoid toxic people. If you absolutely must see such individuals, then allow only enough time for food-digestion and gift-giving. Drink no more than one glass of wine in order to preserve your ability to think rationally. You don’t want to get confused and decide you really do love these people, only to hear them say something horribly offensive two minutes later.

4. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

5. Find some ‘extra’ social support through the holidays. If you attend Al-Anon once a week, go twice a week. If you attend a yoga class twice a week, try to fit in another. Schedule an extra therapy session as insurance against the potential meltdowns ahead of you.

6. Sadly, it's often easier for us to be nice to someone else than to ourselves. But we can use this tendency to help heal our depression. The great teachers tell us that when we do even a small act of kindness for someone else, at that moment we ourselves receive a blessing (perhaps because we come into healing contact with our own capacity to care). In the end, remember that, painful as it is, depression can lead us to explore healing approaches that we might otherwise never have tried.

7. Understand that you are not alone and that many of us experience depression around the holidays. Understand that sadness, loneliness, and anger do not indicate that something is wrong with you. Just the opposite! They show that you react to painful situations, that you feel, in short, that you're alive! This is healthy.

8. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Over-indulgence only adds to your stress and moodiness. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

9. Don't watch too much TV over the holidays. Most programs are not designed to make you a better person, or even feel better.

10. “Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods,” says a Japanese proverb. Research shows that laughing is good for your health. And, unlike exercise, it’s always enjoyable! Remember, with a funny bone in place - even if it’s in a cast - everything is tolerable.

11. Exercise, move, and do physical work. Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes four or five times a week, yoga, chi kung, and tai chi are all simple, safe, and effective anti-depressants.

12. Identify your triggers. Before you make too many plans this holiday season, list your triggers (i.e., people, places, and things that tend to trigger your anxiety and bring out your worst traits). Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

13. Learn to say ‘no’. Saying ‘yes’ when you should say ‘no’ can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and family will understand if you can't participate in every activity or family get-together over the holidays.

14. Since depression is often frozen grief or anger, if we can feel the warmth of the deeper feelings, we can sometimes begin to melt the ice of depression. Try this awareness meditation several times a week for 10 minutes: Sit with your eyes closed for five minutes and focus on your breathing. Then silently ask yourself, "What else am I feeling?" See if, along with the depression, there is any hurt, sadness, or anger. If so, open up to it and let yourself feel it more deeply. See what happens.

15. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

16. Pleasure and joy are the enemies of depression. Even when we're depressed, there may be some little thing that truly pleases us (e.g., a piece of chocolate, a hot bath, a favorite piece of music, an old movie, a poem, etc.). Even a small amount of pleasure can perk us up and remind us that “life is good.”

17. Much of the pain of depression comes from the harsh way we criticize ourselves. But we can learn and practice a different way. Try this meditation: Sit with your eyes closed and think of something about yourself that's hard to accept. Now, let come to your mind the image of someone you know who truly cares for you. Visualize or hear this person accepting and forgiving you for what you find hard to accept. Try this for five minutes a few times a week.

18. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

19. Practice “SEE,” which stands for Sleeping regularly, Eating well, and Exercising often. Without these three basics, you can forget about an enjoyable - or even tolerable - holiday.

20. A great acronym to remember during the holidays is HALT: don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

21. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

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

23. Before you go gift and/or food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend – then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

24. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm.

25. Take the SAMe supplement during the holidays. SAMe is derived from an amino acid that is a quick, natural anti-depressant. SAMe is available in health food stores (use only GNC, Naturemade, or Puritan's Pride brands, because research has shown these to be the only brands with reliable efficacy).




==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

Help for Anxiety & Depression: Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

When an individual with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) has depression and/or anxiety, high-intensity cardio may seem like the last thing anyone would want to do. But once the affected person gets motivated, high-intensity cardio can make a big difference. Research on anxiety, depression and high-intensity cardio shows that the psychological and physical benefits of this form of exercise help reduce anxiety and improve mood.



The links between anxiety, depression and high-intensity cardio aren't entirely clear — but it can definitely help you relax and make you feel better. High-intensity cardio may also help keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you're feeling better.

High-intensity cardio probably helps ease anxiety and depression in a number of ways, for example:
  • Doing something positive to manage depression and anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping depression and anxiety will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.
  • Meeting high-intensity cardio goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
  • High-intensity cardio may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you jog around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • High-intensity cardio increases body temperature, which may have calming effects.
  • High-intensity cardio reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen depression.
  • High-intensity cardio releases feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins).
  • High-intensity cardio helps you to take your mind off worries. It is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.

The term "high-intensity cardio" may make you think of running laps around the gym. But this form of exercise includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better. Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can less intense forms of cardio, such as gardening, washing your car, or walking around the block. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving is exercise that can help improve your mood.

You don't have to do all your cardio at once either. Broaden how you think of cardio and find ways to fit activity into your routine. Add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day (e.g., take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a little farther away from your work to fit in a short walk, consider biking to work, etc.).

Doing just 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio a day for three days a week can significantly improve depression and anxiety symptoms. But smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 minutes at a time — can make a difference too. However, bear in mind that it will take less time exercising to improve your mood when you do more vigorous forms of exercise, such as running or bicycling.

Starting and sticking with a high-intensity cardio routine can be a challenge. Below are some steps that can help. Check with your doctor before starting a new cardio program to make sure it's safe for you.
  1. Figure out what's stopping you from exercising. If you feel self-conscious, for example, you may want to do your workouts at home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with. If you don't have money to spend on expensive cardio equipment (e.g., a treadmill), do something that's virtually cost-free, such as walking. If you think about what's stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.
  2. If cardio exercise is just another "should" in your life that you don't think you're living up to, you'll associate it with failure. Instead, look at your cardio schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.
  3. Talk to your doctor or other mental health provider for guidance and support. Discuss concerns about a cardio program and how it fits into your overall treatment plan.
  4. Figure out what type of physical activities you're most likely to do, and think about when and how you'd be most likely to follow through. For example, would you be more likely to do some gardening in the evening or go for a jog in the pre-dawn hours? Go for a bike ride or play basketball with your kids after school? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it.
  5. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip a cardio workout one day, that doesn't mean you should just quite because you can't maintain your cardio routine. Just try again the next day.
  6. Your mission doesn't have to be jogging for an hour five days a week. Think realistically about what you may be able to do. Tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than trying to meet unrealistic guidelines that you're unlikely to meet.

==> 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.

As one man with Aspergers stated: "I have suffered from winter blues for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with depression and prescribed venlafaxine around 20 years ago. Since then in my late 50s I was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome. I am an artist and found that the high dose of venlafaxine was restricting my work as my emotions were being surprised. I decided to reduce the dose down to a minimum whilst still enabling myself to function and cope with my life. I do still use alcohol to cope with the boredom and 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

Asperger's Adults and Winter Depression

Winter depression affects many people, but for those with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism, this phenomenon can be even more pronounced. Winter depression is a mystery to researchers who study it. Many factors seem to be involved (e.g., brain chemicals, ions in the air, genetics, etc.). But scientists agree that individuals who suffer from winter depression have one very important thing in common: they're especially sensitive to light, or the lack of it.

Here are some quick tips for overcoming winter depression:

1. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is actually a depressant. Rather than improving your mood, it only makes it worse. Avoiding alcohol when you are already depressed is a good idea.

2. Burn some candles. If you don’t have a fireplace, do the next best thing and light some candles. Then sit and watch them burn, or read a good book beside them.

3. Do something challenging. Stretch yourself in some small way every winter (e.g., take a writing class, research the genetics of mood disorders, build a website, etc.). It keeps your brain from freezing like the rest of your body.

4. Dress in bright colors. There seems to be a link between feeling optimistic and sporting bright colors.

5. Eat healthy. Avoid refined and processed foods (e.g., white breads, rice, and sugar). These foods are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood—causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Depressives and addicts need to be especially careful with sweets, because the addiction to sugar and white-flour products is very real and physiological, affecting the same biochemical systems in your body as other drugs like heroin.

6. Enjoy the season. Instead of avoiding the ice and snow, look for the best that winter has to offer (e.g., ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, sledding, etc.). Enjoy these activities while they last, because they’re only here a few months each year.

7. Find a hobby. Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of depression (e.g., play bridge, sing, knit, keep a journal, etc.). The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on.

8. Follow through with your New Year’s resolutions. There is a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. People who exhibit healthy behaviors (e.g., exercising, not smoking, etc.) have less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors are less than healthy.

9. Get a light lamp. Bright-light therapy, involving sitting in front of a fluorescent light box, can be as effect as antidepressant medication for mild and moderate depression.

10. Get plenty of sleep. Get 7-8 hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. That way, sleeping patterns will normalize and you’ll have more energy.

11. Get some social support. Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors. Find safe people you can turn to when you’re down and need a pick-me-up.

12. Go to counseling. Counseling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can help you cope with depression.

13. Perform daily small acts of kindness. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. A sense of purpose, committing oneself to a noble mission, and acts of altruism are strong antidotes to depression.

14. Treat yourself. Having something to look forward to can keep you motivated. Plan something that’s exciting to you (e.g., a weekend trip, a day at the spa, a party, a play, a sporting event, etc.).

15. Start and complete a project. Projects like organizing bookshelves, shredding old tax returns, and cleaning out the garage are perfect activities for the dreary months of the year.

16. Take Omega-3′s. Researchers have confirmed the positive effects of this natural, anti-inflammatory molecule on emotional health. One 500mg soft gel capsule meets the doctor-formulated 7:1 EPA to DHA ratio, needed to elevate and stabilize mood.

17. Get help if all else fails. If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your doctor for medical help. Some antidepressants like Paxil and Prozac work for many individuals who suffer from the winter blues.


==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

Why Your Spouse on the Autism Spectrum is Depressed


"Why is my husband [Asperger's] depressed all the time? Is depression part of the disorder? He doesn't talk much nowadays and seems to have very little quality of life in general. What can be done to help him? We haven't been getting along well for quite a while."

This is not surprising - and is a very common occurrence with people on the autism spectrum. My experience has been that these ASD individuals who are depressed a lot have been under pervasive, chronic stress over a long period of time.

Depression very rarely causes anxiety, but prolonged anxiety always causes depression. It's physically and emotionally draining to be under the influence of stress hormones 365 days-a-year ... a steady drip-drip-drip of adrenaline, noradrenalin, cortisol, Cortizone - all the stress chemicals wears-and-tears on them until it negatively affects their mood in the form of depression.

Feeling like a failure in the marriage is another major contributor to depression in males on the autism spectrum. They really want to please their wife (seriously, they do) but haven't figured out how to do this on a consistent basis. Being on the receiving end of what feels to him like chronic complaints about his "lack" slowly sucks a lot of self-esteem out of him, which reinforces his negative belief that he is indeed a social failure.

So, to work on the depression would be simply treating a symptom. It would be much better to treat the cause - which is anxiety! And the main cause of anxiety is the ASD individual's faulty belief system - and associated negative self-talk. 

So in treating people with depression, I’m looking at the thinking errors they have about themselves (and the world in general), along with the destructive  inner-monologue and commentary those thinking errors generate, AND the resultant self-fulfilling prophesies that often occur (i.e., believing in something negative for so long that it eventually becomes a reality).

The cycle often looks similar to this:
  • "I never get it right. So, I'm in a constant state of either trying harder or simply giving up"  [thinking error].
  •  "Trying harder and/or giving up doesn't fix my problems [anxiety], and is wearing me out" [depression].
  • "Things will just get worse from here on, I guess" [setting up a self-fulfilling prophesy].

On a related note, your Asperger's husband would benefit greatly from our ongoing men's group (diagnosed with ASD, or otherwise). In these groups, we take a deep dive into the issues of anxiety, depression, thinking errors, social skills, building self-esteem, and much more.

More resources:

 
==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples [eBook and Audio]
==> Videos to help you understand your partner on the autism spectrum...

25 Self-Help Tactics for Asperger’s Adults

“Any suggestions on what a person with AS can do to stop beating up on oneself. I berate myself often for not measuring up. I feel like I let people down a lot. I would also say I have a lot of anger built up inside (which I am forever trying to keep in check). Some of this can’t be helped, I know, based on AS (I’m on meds for anxiety and depression). But, I still feel like I should be doing better in my relationships with other people.”

So you frequently criticize yourself (internally)? If so, you're definitely not alone. As a man or woman with Asperger’s (high functioning autism), you've weathered a lot of storms in life. And as you dealt with all the difficulties that come with the disorder, your image of yourself changed. Lots of people on the spectrum have trouble coping, and this affects their sense of self-worth. Being bullied as a child, social problems on the job, relationship break-ups, anxiety, depression, and meltdowns – they all take a toll on a person over time.

Here are some self-help tactics to help you rid yourself of disapproving, defeating self-talk:

1. You would be surprised at how many “Aspies” suffer from anxiety and depression. You are in good company, and your discouraging, negative emotions are not a hopeless case. Even though it can feel like your unwanted feelings will never leave, they eventually will when you learn to talk to yourself (about yourself) differently.

2. Avoid 'should' and ‘should not’ statements. If you find that your thoughts are full of “I should do this” … or “I should not do that” … then you are putting unreasonable demands on yourself — or on others. Getting rid of these kinds of statement from your thoughts will lead to more realistic expectations.

3. Many Aspies are tempted to drink or use drugs in an effort to escape negative feelings and get a "mood boost" – even if just for a short time. But, chemical abuse not only makes anxiety and depression worse, it causes you to become even more anxious and depressed over time. Substance abuse can also increase suicidal feelings. Look diligently for another source to boost your mood!



4. Aspies can create change in their life just like anyone else. Change for some people on the spectrum means personal growth and evolution in understanding and learning. For others, it may be more about finding productive and workable “compensatory strategies.”

5. When you hear a destructive comment coming from within yourself, tell yourself to stop. Then immediately replace it with 3 compliments about yourself (e.g., “I’m smart” … “I’m strong” … “I’m a hard worker”). While you're at it, think of 3 things that really give you pleasure (e.g., the way the sun felt on your shoulders, the taste of your favorite food, the way you laughed at that joke you heard earlier, etc.). By focusing on the positive things you do and the good aspects of your life, you WILL change how you feel about yourself.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

6. Reassure yourself. Give yourself credit for the positive changes you have already made (e.g., "My presentation wasn’t perfect, but my associates asked questions and remained engaged, which means that I accomplished what I set out to do").

7. What “typical” people call “dysfunction” can be turned into your own understanding of numerous ways that you actually DO function.

8. Understand that self-worth is all about how much you value yourself, the pride you feel in yourself, and how worthwhile you feel. Self-worth is important, because feeling good about you affects how you act. An individual who has high self-worth will make friends easily, is more in control of his or her emotions and behavior, and will enjoy life more.

9. Always remember that you are NOT disabled – you are “differently abled.” The key is changing the way you think about difference and being the one that is different.

10. Stay optimistic. Think about the good things that are going on in your life. Remind yourself of the things that have turned out O.K. recently. Consider the talents you've used to cope with demanding circumstances.



11. Anxiety and depression can take a big toll – even leading to suicidal thoughts. Talk to a counselor if life becomes too overwhelming.

12. Spend time with a friend who is active, upbeat, and makes you feel good about yourself. Avoid hanging out with those who make you feel insecure.

13. Try to limit the time you spend playing video games or surfing online. Instead, seek real-life, face-to-face connections with trusted individuals.

14. Many people with Asperger’s possess extensive knowledge of a specific interest, and therefore are capable of major accomplishments. Consider taking your area of expertise to a new level (e.g., sharing your knowledge on a blog, writing a book, uploading informative YouTube videos, etc.).

15. Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, and mistakes are not permanent reflections on you as an individual. They are simply isolated moments in time. When you make a mistake, say to yourself, "Yes, I made a mistake, but that doesn't make me a failure."

16. Making healthy lifestyle choices does wonders for your mood. For example, diet and exercise have been shown to help anxiety and depression. You actually get a rush of endorphins from aerobics or lifting weights, which makes you feel instantly happier. Exercise can be as effective as medications or therapy for anxiety and depression. Any physical activity helps – even a short walk.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

17. Knowing what brings you happiness and how to meet your goals will help you feel adept, resilient, and in control of your life. A positive frame-of-mind and a healthy lifestyle (e.g., exercising and eating right) are a great combination for building good self-worth.

18. Relabel troubling thoughts. You don't need to react negatively to troubling thoughts. Rather, think of these thoughts as signals to try new, healthy patterns. Ask yourself, "What can I think and do to make this situation less nerve-racking?"

19. Remember that a lot of what people on the spectrum do differently – or the ways in which they think differently – can be positively framed in realizing their ability to function in - and through - what is a different capability.

20. If your emotions are overwhelming, tell yourself to wait 24 hours before you take any course of action. This will give you time to really think things through and give yourself some distance from the intense feelings that are troubling you. During this 24-hour period, talk to someone—anyone (e.g., a parent or a friend).

21. When you’re depressed, you probably don’t feel like seeing anyone or doing anything. Just getting out of bed in the morning is a problem, but isolating yourself will make depression even worse. Stay social – even if that’s the last thing you want to do. As you get out into the community, you may find yourself feeling better.

22. If there are aspects about yourself that you want to change, make goals for yourself. For instance, if you want to get in great shape, make a plan to exercise every day and eat healthy foods. Then track your progress until you reach your goal. Meeting a challenge you set for yourself is perhaps the best method for boosting self-worth!

23. For many Asperger’s adults, common assets include high intelligence and a robust interest in at least one area of narrow focus. While this narrow focus can have its downsides, it can also be harnessed as a strength in many ways (e.g., a lover of gardening may write a “best-selling” eBook on the subject someday).

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

24. Married life can sometimes influence self-worth. For example, your spouse/partner may spend more time criticizing you and the way you behave (possibly through no fault of your own due to the symptoms of Asperger’s) than complementing you, which can reduce your ability to develop a healthy sense of self-worth. So, if your spouse/partner is overly critical, tell them that you need some encouragement from time to time. They may not realize they have been coming down hard on you. As one Aspie husband stated, "My wife just doesn’t understand. She thinks I should ‘try harder’. But trying harder to re-wire my brain hasn’t worked so far.”

It may seem like there’s no way your spouse/partner will be able to help, especially if they are always nagging you or getting hurt over your behavior. The truth is that they hate to see their “significant other” suffering. They may feel frustrated, because they don’t understand what is going on with you or know how to help. Some don’t know enough about Asperger’s to know how to deal with it. Thus, it’s up to you to educate them.

25.    Employ hopeful statements in your self-talk. Treat yourself with compassion and encouragement. Negativity can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance, if you think your presentation is going to suck, you may indeed fumble through it and fall flat on your face. Tell yourself things like, "Even though it's rough, I can handle this issue."

People who think negatively of themselves tend to view the world as a hostile place and themselves as its victim. Therefore, they are hesitant to express and assert themselves, miss out on experiences and opportunities, and feel incapable of changing things. All this creates even more negative self-talk, pulling them into a downward spiral.

If you feel that you are overly critical of yourself, use the suggestions listed above so that you can boost yourself and, hopefully, break out of the downward spiral. You may already be using some of these ideas, and you definitely don’t need to be doing them all. Simply do those that you feel most comfortable with.

==> Need some crucial self-help strategies for reducing and eliminating anxiety? You'll find them here...

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

I think my boyfriend may have Asperger's...

“I’m currently dating a guy who is a very quiet and gentle person, but a bit odd in some ways. I’ve told some of my friends about how he acts, and a couple have suggested he has Asperger syndrome. What are some of the traits? How does it affect relationships? I would like to make this work, so I want to learn more about what to expect (and not expect). Thanks in advance!”

Although there are many possible symptoms related to Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism in adulthood, the main symptom is usually “difficulty with social situations” regardless of the age of the individual. The individual may have mild to severe symptoms, or have a few or many symptoms. Because of the wide variety of symptoms, no two people with the disorder are alike.

Symptoms in adulthood may include the following:
  • sometimes have an inability to see another person's point of view
  • often lack of emotional control, particularly with anger, depression, and anxiety
  • often excel because of being very detail-oriented
  • may have problems engaging in "small talk"
  • may find it frustrating and emotionally draining to try to socialize
  • may feel "different" from others
  • may be naive and too trusting, which can lead to workplace teasing/bullying
  • may appear immature for their age
  • have difficulty with high-level language skills (e.g., reasoning, problem solving, being too literal, etc.)
  • are typically uninterested in following social norms, fads, or conventional thinking, allowing creative thinking and the pursuit of original interests and goals
  • are focused and goal-driven
  • have a preference for rules and honesty may lead them to excel in their job
  • talk a lot about a favorite subject
  • speech may be flat and difficult to understand because it lacks tone, pitch, and accent
  • one-sided conversations are common
  • most are very honest, sometimes to the point of rudeness
  • may not understand a joke or may take a sarcastic comment literally
  • may have an awkward walk
  • are unable to recognize subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech
  • are preoccupied with only one or few interests, which he or she may be very knowledgeable about
  • are overly interested in parts of a whole or in unusual activities (e.g., designing houses, drawing highly detailed scenes, studying astronomy, etc.)
  • internal thoughts are often verbalized
  • may have an unusual facial expression or posture
  • have heightened sensitivity and becomes over-stimulated by loud noises, lights, strong tastes, certain textures, etc.
  • have a formal style of speaking (e.g., may use the word "beckon" instead of "call" or the word "return" instead of "come back")
  • do not pick up on social cues (e.g., being able to read others' body language, start or maintain a conversation, taking turns talking, etc.)
  • dislikes any changes in routines
  • have difficulty with transitions
  • difficulty regulating social/emotional responses involving anger, or excessive anxiety
  • difficulties associated with this disorder can cause them to become withdrawn and socially isolated and to have depression or anxiety
  • may avoid eye contact or stare at others
  • may appear to lack empathy
  • may appear to be "in his/her own world"

Many of these individuals find their way to psychiatrists and other mental health providers where the true, developmental nature of their problems may go unrecognized or misdiagnosed (30-50% of all adults with Asperger’s are never evaluated or correctly diagnosed).

Many adults with Asperger’s have been able to utilize their skills, often with support from loved ones, to achieve a high level of function, personally and professionally – and some represent a unique resource for society, having the single mindedness and consuming interest to advance our knowledge in various areas of science, math, etc.

Their rigidity of style and idiosyncratic perspective on the world can make interactions difficult, both in and out of the family. There is a risk for mood problems (e.g., depression, anxiety). They are often viewed by others as eccentric, and they can be challenged by the social and emotional demands of marriage (although many do marry). 

Many also have coexisting conditions, such as anxiety disorder, ADD or ADHD, depression, OCD, and social anxiety disorder.


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 an Aspergers Partner: Help for Struggling Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA
 

The Angry Aspie: Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Many adults with Asperger’s (Aspies) and High-Functioning Autism, by self-admission, have an anger-management problem. Also, in my years of counseling couples affected by Asperger’s (usually in the cases where the husband has AS and the wife does not), I have received literally hundreds of emails from neurotypical wives describing horrific outbursts and meltdowns exhibited by their AS husbands.

Anger is triggered by people, events, or circumstances that make us feel vulnerable in some way. However, anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, your anger distracts you from other emotions that you are feeling. You can also think of anger as a surface emotion. In other words, it is the emotion that people see, but the anger exhibited is really a cover-up for a primary emotion. Anxiety, depression, grief, guilt, helplessness, powerlessness, shame, uselessness, and worthlessness are all very common primary emotions that hide behind anger. These are also very common emotions found in people on the autism spectrum – especially anxiety and depression.

You lash out in anger to prevent others from becoming aware of these vulnerabilities. But, once your anger has run its course and you return to your rational state of mind, you are left to deal with the repercussions of whatever situation triggered your anger. In the world of the Aspie, sometimes these repercussions are grim and life-changing (e.g., job loss, separation, divorce, etc.).



What’s really behind your anger? Let’s take a look:

1. Anger hides anxiety: Our bodies interpret anger as a threat to survival, and as a result, will release adrenalin and nor-adrenalin to help us cope. These hormones act as an analgesic. In effect, anger makes us feel better in the short-term – it numbs our emotional and physical discomfort. But, this is not a healthy long-term solution. We, as adults on the autism spectrum, should not allow ourselves to get addicted to this kind of painkiller. If we do, then outbursts of anger may become a way of life. And sad to say, for too many of us, it has already become a way of life!

2. Anger hides emotional vulnerability: Some Aspies use anger as a way of distancing themselves from their spouse (partner). Perhaps we feel safer if our spouse is held at arm’s length. Maybe we find it hard to express our true personal needs and desires. Learning to relate positively to your spouse, to allow yourself to be vulnerable to her – and to trust her to respect your feelings – are key steps you can take to a healthier relationship.

3. Anger hides grief and depression: Some Aspies respond to grief and/or depression by getting angry. This can be our way of coping with the pain we are feeling. We yell and lash-out verbally instead of seeking comfort, or instead of offering comfort if our anger is on behalf of someone else.

4. Anger hides hurt: Admitting that we feel hurt is too much for some of us. Better to explode in rage than to show we care or that we are upset by whatever has happened. Hurt hides behind anger when you feel unloved, rejected, or criticized (remember the high school days and all the teasing, harassment, and bullying?).  If we think our anger is hiding hurt, we should focus on learning to love and accept ourselves.

5. Anger hides low self-esteem: An Aspie who has been experiencing anger-control issues for many years may admit (to himself if not to others) that he sometimes struggles with self-esteem issues. He may have internal dialogues that revolve around themes such as, “Any minute now, somebody will see that I’m useless/stupid/a complete fraud/not good enough/etc.” These internal dialogues can occur even in someone who leads an outwardly successful life. Sometimes those dialogues are what drives the person to achieve; anger for him is an indication of the stress he experiences as a result of the gap between his internal and external life.

6. Anger hides powerlessness: If we go through life feeling weak, hopeless, helpless, overlooked or undervalued, anger often hides these feelings of powerlessness.

7. Anger hides fear: The most common feeling that hides behind anger is fear. But, unless we are developing a habit of “mindfulness” (i.e., making ourselves aware of our emotions as they arise), it can be difficult to identify the emotions lurking beneath our anger. Our best indication of what those emotions may be is to consider how we feel about ourselves at the times when we are not feeling angry.

We, as Aspies, should find ways to ask for what we want (or don’t want) instead of acting-out in anger and rage. Some of us have sought assertiveness training and/or worked with a counselor or psychotherapist to help us learn to appreciate our own worth and manage our anger. Maybe you should consider following our lead.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA


Comments:

•    I hide most of my anger within usually until i am alone then I explode like a nuke , this article helps me a lot Thanks.
•    I'm the spouse that's experienced many angry outbursts and other demonstrations of my husbands anger. I think this article does a great job illustrating the effects of Anger on the Person who's angry, their marriage, & their family life. Very insightful ~ I've already referred friends & family to this page. Emotional Safety is critical to healing.
•    Emotions are irrational and therefore illogical. I have no need for emotions
•    Sure emotions can be secondary, and the seven points are relevant. However, it seems a bit sought to say that "anger is a secondary emotion" and a "surface emotion", whereas "anxiety is a primary emotion".  Anger is the "Fight" option of the "Fight/Flight" response; the brain's reflective reaction to perceived threatening situations. Anxiety is the "Flight" option. There are sure situations where anger covers up different emotions eg. anxiety, but there are also likely situations where other emotions cover anger, eg anxiety where the underlying emotion is anger.  That is highly likely the case, since anger is one of the least socially acceptable emotions, and people tend to deny/cover unacceptable emotions when they are able to.
•    Once I was diagnosed, I made the decision to change direction in business (no more deadlines — way too stressful) and to refuse to accept stress from anyone else. That was 15 years ago and I rarely experience anger, anxiety or other forms of stress. As an added benefit, it's helped me to become a very effective negotiator. :)
•    I have learned to express myself and then I get angry when the person isn't understanding or taking what I say serious.

Post your comment below…

Poor Stress-Management in Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Unfortunately, it is very common for adults with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) to experience more than their fair share of stress – and to make matters worse – many of these people also lack the ability to manage their stress effectively.

Poor stress-management (PSM) occurs when the person is unable to cope with a particular stressor. Since individuals with PSM normally have symptoms that depressed individuals do (e.g., general loss of interest, feelings of hopelessness, crying, etc.), this condition is sometimes referred to as “situational depression.”

Unlike major depression, PSM is caused by an outside stressor and generally resolves once the person is able to adapt to the situation. PSM is different from anxiety disorder (which lacks the presence of a stressor), or post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder (which usually are associated with a more intense stressor).



Some emotional signs of poor stress-management are:
  • anxiety
  • crying spells
  • depression
  • desperation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • hopelessness
  • lack of enjoyment
  • nervousness
  • sadness
  • thoughts of suicide
  • trouble sleeping
  • worry

Some behavioral signs of PSM are:
  • reckless driving
  • performing poorly at school or work
  • ignoring important tasks (e.g., doing homework, paying bills)
  • hibernating in one’s bedroom or home
  • excessive time spent doing a particular "comfort activity" (e.g., playing computer games)
  • avoiding school or work
  • avoiding family or friends
  • arguing and fighting



 ==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The recommended treatment for poor stress-management is psychotherapy. The goal of psychotherapy is symptom relief and behavior change. Anxiety may be presented as "a signal from the body" that something in the persons’ life needs to change. Treatment allows the AS or HFA adult to put his/her anxiety and anger into words rather than into destructive actions. Therapy can help the person gain the support he/she needs, identify abnormal responses, and maximize the use of personal strengths.

Sometimes small doses of antidepressants and anxiolytics are used in addition to other forms of treatment. In people with severe life-stresses and a significant anxious component, benzodiazepines are used. Tianeptine, alprazolam, and mianserin were found to be equally effective in people with anxiety. Additionally, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and stimulants (for people who became extremely withdrawn) have been used in treatment plans.

In addition to professional help, moms and dads can help their AS/HFA teens and adult children with their distress by:
  • having them engage in a hobby or activity they enjoy
  • involving their educators to check on their progress in school/college
  • letting them make simple decisions at home (e.g., what to eat for dinner, what show to watch on TV)
  • offering encouragement to talk about their emotions
  • offering support and understanding
  • reassuring them that their reactions are normal



==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

=> Skype Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA


Comments:

•    I find this extremely helpful. I would love to talk to the person who wrote this or other people dealing with these issues themselves or with their adult Aspie child. We are trying to get some medication to help with this, but I would also like to help my child (age 21) learn some coping skills.
•    Im 25 and mostly everything on this page rings true. Ive never been diagnosed but recently a psychologist said I might have aspergers but that they dont officially diagnose that anymore.
•    As an Aspie, I lose it under stress. I resort to covering my ears and reciting "I'm sorry," over and over again. When someone screams at me, my palms sweat and my hands are clammy. I shake and I hyperventilate, my thoughts race into a garbled jumble, and I avoid communication altogether. I simply cannot think.
•    This is also me. Most of us, due to our condition, have anxiety/depression and all sorts of other nasties because we have had to work so hard at getting along with others, etc. I am currently hibernating to recover my equilibrium after what was a very pleasant time visiting family interstate. The cruel part is that even happy times are stressors to us! Anything which is out of the expected routine, unexpected outcomes, changes in plans, all stressful as we mentally work thru all the details of what will be NOW expected of us (to appear 'normal') It's a helluva situation, and I applaud you for your honesty and sharing. BTW I also say 'I'm sorry' way too much when not on top of things. We are so very used to being 'wrong' and 'odd' that our very existence seems some colossal reason to be apologetic to the world. Keep going,

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