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

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…

Helping Your ASD Spouse with Anger-Control: Tips for Neurotypical Partners

All of us exhibit some "signs" just as we begin to act-out in the form of anger. Thus, it is possible to identify the anger signs in your ASD spouse. For example, you may detect a certain look in the eye, the tone of voice, or the tightness in the body. NT partners can help their spouse observe these signs right at the onset of anger. Once he can identify the early signs, he can also learn to diffuse it.

Anger has 3 components—

1. The Emotional State of Anger: The first component is the emotion itself, defined as an affective or arousal state, or a feeling experienced when a goal is blocked or needs are frustrated.


2. Expression of Anger: The second component of anger is its expression. Some people on the spectrum are known to express anger through “shutting down” - but do little to try to solve a problem or constructively confront the NT. Others actively resist by verbally defending their positions – and may retaliate against the NT. 


3. An Understanding of Anger: The third component of the anger experience is understanding (i.e., interpreting and evaluating the emotion). Because the ability to self-regulate the expression of anger is linked to an understanding of the emotion – and because the ability to reflect on anger is somewhat limited in ASD – they may need guidance from their NT spouse in totally understanding and managing their feelings.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
 
Tips for NTs—

1.    Ask your ASD spouse if you can give him a "signal" (e.g., a hand motion) when he is starting to get “wound-up.” Give that signal as soon as he starts "stewing" about something.

2.    How about YOUR own anger in response to your ASD spouse's anger? You can set an example of “anger control” for him. No coaching technique is as effective as "modeling" with your own example.

3.    Some people on the autism spectrum get upset when they know they made a mistake. Instead of admitting their mistake, they act-out in anger to deflect the attention off them. If you realize that this may be the case, it's helpful to say to your ASD partner, "Everyone makes mistakes. Can we just focus on a possible solution for now?"

4.    The thought "you’re disrespecting me" …or “you’re treating me like a child” is a big anger-arouser for many people on the autism spectrum. If that is the case, ask him or her, "Do you feel you are being treated unfairly?" When your spouse answers the question, listen and don't rush to negate his/her feelings.

People on the spectrum guided toward responsible anger-management are more likely to understand and manage angry feelings directly and non-aggressively - and to avoid the anxiety that often accompanies poor anger-control. 

 



Some NT spouses will view "helping with anger-control" as micro-managing, and may even resent the notion - which is unfortunate! But if you are willing, you can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing anger by working WITH your ASD spouse (e.g., providing signals, modeling anger-control, being-solution focused, validating, etc.) rather than AGAINST him (e.g., getting angry with him for being angry).

 

==> Additional articles on anger-control problems can be found here.

The 3 Anger Styles of Adults with Asperger’s and HFA

“I never know what to expect from my Asperger's partner. Sometimes she's as cool as a cucumber. Other times, she’s the devil incarnate. Her anger button is either full tilt boogie – or virtually non-existent. It’s one hell of an ‘on-again off-again’ emotional rollercoaster ride at times (she either launches into a rage, or is totally silent - and even somewhat submissive/apologetic).”

Many adults with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism have reported anger-control problems. They may become hostile, or may withdraw into themselves and become very quiet, silently stubborn, and depressed. Others fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

The anger styles for these individuals tend to fall into three main categories: aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive.

Anger Turned to Aggression—

The “aggressors” are easy to recognize. They can be hostile and antagonistic. Common signs of anger-control problems for “Aspies” that are aggressors include:
  • Destroys property
  • Frequently vocalizes anger
  • Furious temper
  • Loud voice and yelling
  • Blames others for the relationship difficulties
  • Makes threats
  • Verbally abusive
  • Often demeans or swears directly to others
  • Excessive complaining
  • Uncontrollable fits of rage 
  • Meltdowns

The aggressors create an unsafe situation for themselves, for others, or for property around them. If spouses or partners are the focus of physical aggression, the problem is extremely crucial to address.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


Anger Turned to Passivity—

The passive individual can also be fairly simple to recognize. They are somewhat submissive. They do not argue or fight back when confronted – rather, they “shutdown.” This person’s traits may coincide with the diagnosis of depression. Some of the warning signs below are taken from the diagnosis for depression, and others are additional common signs of shutdowns:
  • Deals with difficult emotions by “cutting” them off
  • Isolates when upset
  • May be extremely passive to the point of getting “walked on” by others
  • Has difficulty expressing emotions
  • Holds anger in, then “blows up” suddenly
  • May be seen as a “loner”
  • May blame self unnecessarily
  • May have few friends
  • May simply “go along” with whatever - even when it is a poor decision
  • Often has an upset stomach, muscle aches, backaches, headaches, or other physical symptoms from “holding it in”
  • Appears depressed
  • Seems to have very little emotion
  • Appears withdrawn

Passive individuals are in danger of destroying themselves emotionally from within. They have no emotional release valve. When they blow up, they can become violent, which can result in harm to themselves, others, or property. Internalized anger is as destructive to the passive person as aggression is to the aggressor.

Anger Silently Planning Revenge—

Perhaps the most difficult to detect, passive-aggressive individuals engage in an anger style that appears calm on the surface, but is fuming, scheming, and plotting underneath. They give the appearance of a passive person, and do not directly confront the anger as an aggressor would do. They are docile and appear to accept what is said, but then will ignore what is said to do their own thing. They can be devious, and oftentimes go unnoticed by others.

Unlike the aggressors, they lack the courage to be direct, and instead perfect the skills to be sneaky. They seem to know where the “back door” to revenge is – and use it often. The list of passive traits also applies to them, but here are a few additional traits to look for with passive-aggressive Aspies:
  • Inconsistency between what is said and what is done
  • May be very good at blaming others
  • May not admit mistakes
  • Often gets caught in a lie
  • Sneaky behaviors
  • Tries to avoid direct conflict while creating problems in other areas
  • Tends to sabotage

People with Asperger’s who try to manage their anger through the passive-aggressive style are as potentially dangerous to others and themselves as the other styles. Spouses and partners tend to underestimate this anger style, because the danger does not seem to be as bad as the aggressive style.

Lastly, it is not uncommon for some adults on the autism spectrum to vacillate between two - or even all three - of the anger styles depending on the situation.





==> Click here for more information on anger and mood swings in adults on the autism spectrum...


==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Self-Management of Angry Outbursts for Men with Asperger’s

"Mark, Would you have any advice re: how to control anger when you have AS ?"

Some men with Asperger’s (AS) have significant anger-control issues. Anger may be a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in relationships, employment, and other areas in life affected by AS.

Sometimes there is an ‘on-off’ quality to the anger in which the individual is calm minutes later after an outburst – sometimes leaving his partner in shock. She may feel hurt or stunned for hours, if not days, afterward. NT partners often struggle to understand such angry outbursts, with resentment often building up over time.

In some cases, the man with AS may not acknowledge he has anger-control issues, and will blame his partner for provoking him. Again, this can create major conflict within the relationship.



Some common causes of angry outbursts in men with AS include:
  • Other’s behavior (e.g., insensitive comments, being ignored)
  • Intolerance of imperfections in others
  • Having routines and order disrupted
  • Difficulties with employment despite being intelligent in many areas
  • A build-up of anxiety
  • Being swamped by multiple tasks
  • Sensory over-stimulation
  • Relationship conflict

Identifying the cause of anger in your AS partner can be a challenge.  It is important to consider all possible influences relating to:
  • His physical state (e.g., pain, tiredness)
  • His mental state (e.g., existing frustration, confusion)
  • The environment (e.g., too much stimulation, major changes of routine)
  • How well (or poorly) he is being treated by co-workers
Steps to successful self-management of angry outbursts include the following: 

1. Plan ways to become distracted from the stressful situation (e.g., carry your cell phone and play a game on it).

2. Focus on self-awareness. This is where you become more aware of your personal thoughts, behaviors and physical states which are associated with acting-out in anger. This awareness is important because it helps you to notice the early signs of becoming upset. Write down a list of mental and physical changes you notice as you begin to get mad.

3. Make changes to routines and surroundings (e.g., if possible, avoid driving in peak hour traffic).

4. Keep a record. As you become more aware of situations associated with angry outbursts, you can keep a record of events, triggers and associated levels of anger. Explore the different levels of anger (e.g. slightly annoyed, frustrated, highly irritated, royally pissed, feelings of rage, and so on). In your record of situations that trigger anger, list the situation, the level of anger on a scale of 1 to 10, and the coping strategies that help you overcome or reduce angry feelings.

5. Explain to your partner how she can be of help to solve the problem in question.




6. What’s the big goal? Identify why you would like to manage your anger more successfully. Identify what benefits you expect in everyday living from improving your anger-control skills.

7. Avoid situations which are associated with a high-risk of getting you upset.

8. Get feedback. Ask other people who know you well to describe situations and behaviors they have noticed that seem to trigger your anger.

9. Use a 3-step method called “Stop-Think”:
  • Stop and think before reacting to the situation (e.g., “My goal right now is to improve my ability to cope with anger when I am waiting in long lines”).
  • Challenge your inaccurate or negative thoughts (e.g., “The service here is so inefficient. Why can’t they hurry up? I'm going to get pissed any moment now. WAIT. Stop thinking this!”). 
  • Create your new thought (e.g., “Everyone is probably aggravated by this long line – even the cashier serving us. I can either come back later, or I can wait here and think of something pleasant”).

10. Try meditation. Most people won’t even consider this one, but I know of many people who have found more benefit in this technique than any other – by far. When a stressful situation arises - with practice - you can immediately "train" your mind to focus on a pleasant and calming memory or image, rather than hyper-focusing on the current problem.

==> Relationship Skills for Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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

Anger-Control Problems in Adults on the Autism Spectrum

“My Asperger’s boyfriend has a lot of anger issues. I don’t know too much about how he was brought up or how his parents treated him. I’m guessing this is something that came from childhood. Or maybe anger is prevalent among people with Asperger’s in general. I don’t know. But he is very sensitive about certain things and I never know for sure what is going to set him off. He’s never violent with me or anything close to that, just his bad mood, gets frustrated easily, etc. Ideas?”

Many adults with Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) will admit that they have an anger-control problem. It’s not uncommon for them to experience an array of negative emotions (e.g., anger, anxiety, depression). There are many possible causes for this. It may be due to genetics, environmental issues, childhood-related issues, personal choice, low-frustration tolerance – and of course, due to the disorder itself. Most likely, negative emotions are the result of a combination of these factors.

Here are some examples of things that may contribute to anger-control problems in the adult on the autism spectrum:

1. “Aspies” can be extremely sensitive to loud noise, strong smells, bright lights, and other troubling environmental stimuli. This can be a challenge in relationships, because they may be limited in where they can go, how well they can tolerate the environment, and how receptive they are to interpersonal interactions.

2. Frustration and anger is prevalent in Aspies when rituals can't get accomplished or when their need for order and symmetry can't be met. Aggravation (usually over little things that don't bother others) may lead to a “meltdown” – and even physical violence on rare occasion.

3. Many adults on the spectrum were physically and socially awkward during adolescence, which made them the frequent target of school bullies. Low self-esteem caused by being rejected and teased by their friends and classmates often made them susceptible to anger, depression, and anxiety –  and they may carry the scars of that past abuse into adulthood.



4. Most adults on the spectrum develop a special interest that may be unusual in focus or intensity. They may become so obsessed with their particular area of interest that they may get upset and angry when something or someone interrupts their activity.

5. Poor “adaptability-skills” is yet another issue. When structure and consistency are disrupted in the Aspie’s life, the world becomes confusing and overwhelming – thus launching him into a less than optimal response. The disruption of structure can be obvious (e.g., having to get up at an unusual hour, not being able to engage in a favorite activity, being made to go a different way to work due to a traffic jam, etc.) …or it may be hidden (e.g., sensory sensitivities, subtle changes in the environment which the person is used to, etc.). Many of these “triggers” may be out of the control of the Aspie. Thus, it’s important to remember that low-frustration tolerance and similar behaviors are not cases of “rude behavior” necessarily, rather they may simply be natural reactions to various unwanted stimuli.

6. Most of these adults suffer from “mindblindness,” which means they have difficulty understanding the emotions others are trying to convey through facial expressions and body language. The problem isn’t that they can’t feel emotions, but that they have trouble expressing their emotions, as well as understanding the emotions of others. “Mindblindness” often gives their partner or spouse the impression that they are insensitive, selfish or uncaring.

7. Part of the problem stems from a conflict between longings for social contact and an inability to be social in ways that attract friendships and romantic relationships. Many Aspie men, for example, have a desire to date and procure a steady girlfriend, but their “odd” attitudes and behaviors prevent them from doing so. This, of course, is both frustrating and disheartening for the Aspie such that he often stops trying to establish romantic relationships in order to avoid disappointment.

8. Social conventions are a confusing maze for adults on the spectrum. They may take jokes and exaggerations literally, struggle to interpret figures of speech and tones of voice that “typical” people naturally pick up on, or have difficulty engaging in a two-way conversation. As a result, they may end up fixating on their own interests and ignoring the interests and opinions of others.

9. Some adults on the spectrum have what is referred to as “low-frustration tolerance.” In other words, they have a short fuse, are easily irritated, and do not tolerate even the most minor frustrations well. When the frustrating event occurs, they may have a thought or some belief that increases their frustration level (e.g., "This is too much" …  "Things must go my way, and I can’t stand it when they don't" … "My partner/spouse should stop doing things that annoy me" … "It shouldn't be this way" … "It shouldn't be this difficult" … "I can't wait that long" … "I can't take this" … "I can't stand being frustrated, so I must avoid it at all costs").

10. The typical Aspie tends to rely on routine to provide a sense of control and predictability in his life. When there is an unwanted change to his routine, he may become anxious and upset.

Some adults with Asperger’s have been misunderstood and/or mistreated to one degree or another throughout their life. The mistreatment started as bullying in school, and continued in the workplace. So, their anger is understandable (but doesn’t give them license to be abusive to others in return).

Anger is triggered by people, events, or circumstances that make the Aspie feel vulnerable in some way. He may lash out in anger to prevent others from becoming aware of his vulnerabilities. But, once his anger has run its course and he returns to his rational state of mind, he is left to deal with the repercussions of whatever situation triggered his anger. In the world of Asperger’s, sometimes these repercussions are grim and life-changing (e.g., job loss, separation, divorce, jail, etc.).

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Will Your ASD Partner's Anger-Control Issues Be a Life-Long Problem?

 “Are people on the autism spectrum usually prone to angry outbursts? I recently discovered that my boyfriend has traits of ASD and need to know if his ‘anger control’ issue is going to be an ongoing problem for us.”

 


People with ASD are prone to anger, which can be made worse by difficulty in communicating feelings of anxiety. Anger is often a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in relationships (i.e., things that occur that raise the ASD individual’s stress level).

There can be an ‘on-off’ quality to this anger where the individual is calm minutes later after an angry outburst (e.g., meltdown), while those around are stunned and may feel hurt or shocked for hours, if not days, afterward.

The NT partner often struggles to understand these angry outbursts, with resentment and bitterness building up over time. Once the NT understands that her ASD partner has trouble controlling his anger - or understanding its effects on others - she can learn ways to respond that will help to manage these outbursts (i.e., to keep them from escalating).

In some cases, the person on the spectrum may not acknowledge that he has trouble with his anger - and will blame his NT partner for provoking him. Again, this can create enormous conflict within the relationship. It will take carefully phrased feedback and plenty of time for the ASD partner to gradually realize he has a problem with how he expresses his anger and frustration.

A good place to start is identifying a pattern in how the outbursts are related to specific frustrations. Such triggers may originate from the environment, specific individuals, or internal thoughts. Common causes of anger in people with ASD include: other people’s behavior (e.g., critical comments); intolerance of imperfections in others; having routines and order disrupted; anxiety; being swamped by multiple tasks or sensory stimulation.

Identifying the cause of anger can be a challenge.  It is important to consider all possible influences relating to one’s physical state (e.g., pain, tiredness), mental state (e.g., existing frustration, confusion), the environment (e.g., too much stimulation, lack of structure, change of routine), and how well the ASD individual can regulate difficult emotions. Life-coaching and Neurodiverse Couples Counseling can help in this area.

 

 


More resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

The Wounded Aspie

This post describes an unfortunate phenomenon involving individuals who think and behave differently (i.e., people with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism), and as a result, have been misunderstood and mistreated to one degree or another throughout their life. 
 
The mistreatment started as bullying in school, and continues in the workplace (perhaps to a lesser degree). Through years of perceived rejection and ridicule, the Aspergers adult may now feel permanently damaged - psychologically, socially, emotionally and spiritually (which is not the case at all).

Evidence of Being Wounded—

Traits of Aspergers adults who have been wounded by past experiences include the following:
  • acting or feeling as if the abuse is happening all over again
  • angry outbursts
  • decreased interest or participation in certain activities
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
  • avoiding activities, places, or people that might be emotionally threatening
  • avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with past abuse
  • feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • inability to have certain feelings
  • intense distress related to internal or external events that remind one of the perceived abuse
  • meltdowns
  • persistent recollections of past abuse
  • recurrent dreams of past abuse
  • thinking that time is short and there is no future

Traits of the Wounded Aspie—

The wounded Aspie:
  • believes that he is misunderstood and unappreciated, a view that is exacerbated by the negative responses he receives from others for his consistent defeatist stance
  • believes that other people interfere with his freedom
  • expects the worst in most things, even situations that are going well
  • experiences control by others as intolerable
  • has a basic conflict concerning his self-worth
  • has to do things his own way
  • is inclined toward anger and irritability
  • is often disgruntled and declares that he is not treated as he should be, yet he is just as likely to express feeling unworthy of good fortune
  • oscillates between self-loathing and entitlement or moral superiority; either side of this oscillation can be projected onto the environment, and the chaotic nature of this experience of self and others often leads other people to avoid or minimize contact with the Aspie
  • views himself as self-sufficient, but feels vulnerable to control and interference from others
  • views others as intrusive, demanding, interfering, controlling, and dominating

How Relationships Go For the Wounded Aspie—

The wounded Aspie is ambivalent within his relationships and conflicted between his dependency needs and his desire for self-assertion. He wavers between expressing hostile defiance toward people he views as causing his problems and attempting to mollify these people by asking forgiveness or promising to do better in the future.

The wounded Aspie is noted for the stormy nature of his interpersonal relationships. He engages in a combination of quarrelsomeness and submissiveness. His affect is sullen, and he engages in both unintentional – and intentional – rudeness. He is resentfully quarrelsome and irritable. He often feels like a victim. 
 

Wounded Aspies inflict a great deal of discomfort on others through the use of their anxiety and emotional symptoms. They can become so destructive in their attitudes and so unable to provide rewards to others that they become socially isolated.

These individuals struggle between their desire to act out defiantly and their awareness that they must curtail their resentment. They engage in grumbling, moody complaints, and sour pessimism. These behaviors serve as both a vehicle for tension discharge (i.e., relieving them of mounting anger) and as a means of intimidating others and inducing guilt (i.e., providing them with a sense of retribution for the wrongs they believe they have experienced). These socially maladaptive behaviors result in inevitable interpersonal conflict and frustration. After a time, the sullen moodiness and complaining alienates others. These individuals are able to sense the exasperation and growing animosity that others feel toward them, and they use their awareness to become even more aggrieved (without corresponding acceptance that their behavior has contributed to the situation).

For these individuals, being difficult, unpredictable, and discontent produces certain rewards and avoids certain discomforts. They can control others by forcing them into an uncomfortable anticipatory stance. People in relationships with wounded Aspies are perpetually waiting for the next struggle, the next grievance, the next round of volatility and carping criticism. Wounded Aspies are able, within their relationships, to trap people into situations wherein whatever they do is wrong. Relating to Aspergers adults who are “wounded” becomes a tense, edgy experience where great caution must be employed to avoid precipitating an angry incident.

Ambivalence in the Wounded Aspie—

Ambivalence is expressed behaviorally by vacillation between negativism/autonomy and dependency/conformity. However, even when conforming, the wounded Aspie tends to be contrary, unaccommodating, sulking, pessimistic, and complaining. Aspies who are wounded will behave obediently one time – and defiantly the next. They will be self-deprecating and express guilt for failing to meet expectations in one situation – and express stubborn negativism and resistance in another. They fluctuate between deference and defiance, between obedience and an aggressive negative attitude. Their behavior will go from explosive anger or stubbornness to periods of guilt and shame.

Anger in the Wounded Aspie—

Anger may be expressed directly or indirectly. Indirect expression of anger can take the form of chronic, seething hostility or sadistic carping criticism. Irritating, oppositional, and resentful behavior can be demonstrative of a pervasive pattern of passive resistance. If there is a pattern of chronic hostility and resistance, no situational provocation may be needed for these individuals to engage in preaching behavior, excusing self by accusing others, bumbling behaviors when competence is actually possible, and using a positive gesture as a vehicle for a negative message (e.g., including relationship grievances in a birthday card).

Anger expressed by commission is usually justified by laudable motives (e.g., concern for the well-being of the victim). The expression of the anger is dictated by the desire to wound while concealing the intention to wound – and even the existence of anger. This is not to spare the feelings of the victim, but to wound them more effectively. The intent is to provoke counter-anger with such subtlety that the victim blames herself and believes her anger is not justified. That way, the wounded Aspie can assume the role of innocent victim.

Affective Issues in the Wounded Aspie—

The wounded Aspie is vulnerable to anxiety, somatoform disorders, and depression. Major depressive episodes are not uncommon. In depressive cycles, there is evidence of a tendency to blame others, a demanding and complaining attitude, and low self-confidence.

Wounded Aspies experience an undercurrent of perpetual inner turmoil and anxiety. They appear unable to manage their moods, thoughts and needs internally, which results in emotional instability. They suffer a range of intense and conflicting emotions that surge quickly to the surface due to weak controls and lack of self-discipline.

Co-occurring Substance Abuse in the Wounded Aspie—

The incidence of co-occurring substance abuse with the wounded Aspie is high. He is prone to use drugs to regulate mood states. It is consistent with his general attitude and belief that he views himself as entitled to an external solution to problems. The drug of choice is a pharmacologic defense mechanism chosen by how well it fits with the Aspie’s usual style of coping and how effectively it bolsters already established patterns for managing psychological threat. Prescribed pain killers, anti-anxiety agents, marijuana, and alcohol are the most commonly used drugs by these individuals.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in the Wounded Aspie—

Due to mind-blindness, the Aspergers adult does not always understand the motives of others. Unfortunately, when he is impacted negatively by another person’s words or actions (and doesn’t understand why that person would say or do such a thing), he tends to fill in the void with a “negative” (e.g., “she said that to hurt me” …or “he did that because he doesn’t like me”).

Thus, since the Aspie is pretty much in a constant state of “misunderstanding others motives” and subsequently “filling in the void with a negative,” he often perceives himself as being on the receiving end of criticism, disrespect, and downright emotional abuse.

Now that the wounded Aspie feels like a victim, he responds at times with retaliatory techniques, and at other times with isolation and avoidance – both of which often elicit a negative response from others. This negative feedback from others serves to provide proof (in the Aspie’s mind) that “others are out to get me.”

Treatment for the Wounded Aspie—

There are two major ways for the wounded Aspie to enter treatment. The first is externally leveraged treatment for those Aspies who do not see themselves as having a problem. Someone forced them into treatment (e.g., parent, spouse, employer, the legal system). These clients have minimal insight and often fail to admit that they are a major factor in the problems they have.

The second method is to enter treatment via self-referral for vague complaints (e.g., "I'm just not getting anywhere").

When assessing Aspergers adults who are psychologically injured, the following areas should be explored:
  • coexisting anxiety disorders
  • medication evaluations for antidepressants
  • mental status
  • psychosocial and AOD history
  • self-care skills
  • social skills
  • survival skills
  • use of illegal drugs
  • use of OTC drugs

Treatment for these individuals involves openly exploring the ways they express aggression and neediness toward others by being contrary. Understanding this aggression can allow discovery of the depressive and invalidating experiences underneath, which lead to a fear of loss of autonomy when others want to be close and a fear of loss of connectedness when others want to be alone. 
 

Determine which situations or experiences are most difficult for these individuals in the direct expression of their feelings or beliefs. Identify all avoidance and anxiety-arousing situations. Address these issues with anxiety-management behavioral intervention techniques. Cognitive therapy can help these individuals understand that they expect the worst from others and then proceed to behave in such a way that brings out the worst from these same people.

Group therapy provides an opportunity to learn how to manage their hostility. When their hostility emerges, group leaders can comment on hostile behavior and encourage other group members to respond. The group leader can assist these individuals to process what it is they want or need at that moment and to rehearse appropriate behavior within the group context. However, these clients will not do well in group if they refuse to accept responsibility for their hostility and alienate the other group members. When that happens, these individuals often leave or become isolated within the group.

Whether the client is in group or individual treatment, it is important to identify and highlight examples of destructive behavior. Reflect on how the behavior is more maladaptive than adaptive. Give examples of how it creates more problems than it solves. Use illustrations from within the immediate treatment process as these individuals will use oppositional techniques and devalue treatment providers in response to real or perceived criticism.

Self-Healing for the Wounded Aspie—

Psychological healing refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. These sets of circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the Aspie, and pose significant challenges to his way of understanding the world and his place in it.

The general understanding that suffering and distress can potentially yield positive change is thousands of years old. For example, some of the early ideas and writing of the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and early Christians, as well as some of the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam contain elements of the potentially "transformative" power of suffering.

Psychological healing occurs with the attempts to adapt to highly negative sets of circumstances that can engender high levels of psychological distress, which typically engender unpleasant psychological reactions. Healing does not occur as a direct result of past abuse, rather it is the individual’s struggle with the new reality in the aftermath of the abuse that is crucial in determining the extent to which healing occurs.

People who can heal past wounds, either through formal treatment or self-help strategies, often experience the following:
  • changed sense of priorities
  • greater appreciation of life
  • greater sense of personal strength
  • recognition of new possibilities or paths for one’s life and spiritual development
  • warmer, more intimate relationships

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... My son is experiencing this at 12 and I am doing everything I can to make things better for him. School does not seem to be doing enough or even understand. He complains of being bullied daily (part is him not understanding when kids joke with him and feels bullied). He states he has no friends and upset often, hates school wants to be home schooled. I am looking into trying to get him in autism school. Any suggestions from anyone?

•    Anonymous said... I too have been exploring various schooling options for my 11 year old with AS. I can tell you that multiple sources within the AS support community have told me to try to keep him integrated within a mainstream school population if at all possible rather than moving him to a special needs school. Their rationale was that the real world...college and beyond...is not insulated like these specialized schools, so the transition is that much more difficult. I get the logic...but allowing my child to be bullied and have his self-esteem suffer as a result is not an option. We are currently trying a small private (regular Ed) school...and so far so good. No IEPs...but a kind, tolerant, creative environment. This decision/dilemma is a complicated thing for sure.

• Anonymous...Wow, this article describes one of my Aspies to a "T", and she is only 11 years old. We have struggled for 2 years to get her out of this hole she is in, even with professional help. It is almost like she has PTSD. Any advice for treating a child?

• Anonymous...This article sounds a lot like my 20-year-old Aspie son. We have been trying to teach him to be more independent for the past two years. He simultaneously fights us tooth & nail, refusing to work toward independence, while declaring that he already knows all this stuff and accuses us of thinking he is stupid for thinking he needs to learn it. He is brilliant, but very naive and awkward socially. Despite his declarations to the contrary, he could not take care of himself if he were on his own. He doesn't want a job because "stupid people" with "stupid policies" are everywhere, and he doesn't think he could take working with either. He sees a counselor twice a month and works (begrudgingly) with a state agency to find employment. They have suggested that we should look into applying for SSI for him. I don't want to throw in the towel, but he could get into an independent living program if he had their funding. His father & I are in our fifties and won't be around forever to support him. The longer we wait, the harder the transition will be for him. We ultimately don't want him to arrive at fifty years old, having never left his parents home and having never learned to live without us, and suddenly we are gone and he is left to fend for himself. We wouldn't really be good parents if we let that happen. Any advice from parents who've been through this transition to adulthood with their Aspie children, or from others who have helped Aspies make this transition would be greatly appreciated.

• Anonymous...There is a great deal of overlap between the Wounded Aspie and the narcissist.

• Anonymous...This is has made my jaw drop..its my husband. I've forwarded it to his/our psychologist, my famuly that are personally impacted and worried for me. Thank you so much.
 
*  Anonymous ...This is an absolutely spot on description of our future daughter-in-law and future mother to our grandchild. Our son's 1st wife passed away. She has painted my wife and I as monsters and is causing a lot of division in our family. We don't get to see our grandchild and we hear from others that he is showing signs of depression and that he is even malnourished. Our son just doesn't want to lose another companion. We feel completely helpless.

*   Anonymous... My partner is like what is said here but I do not believe it is because he was wounded. I believe it is because he has autism and they are traits of having autism and NOT from being wounded. I think the person that wrote this has autism. 

Post your comment below…

How Aspie Husbands Can Avoid Arguments With NT Wives

Given an Aspergers man’s social skills deficits, arguments with his wife may be fairly frequent and intense (as compared to that of “typical” marriages). Aspie males fight with their women for many reasons, but the most prominent ones tend to be due to (a) mind-blindness and (b) difficulty with empathizing.

If you seem to always end up in a fight with your NT (i.e., neurotypical) spouse - seemingly over the most ridiculous and irrational things - then you may want to take some action before the marital bond is damaged beyond repair.



Here are a few ideas to implement that may keep arguments from starting (or from repeating):

1. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Frustrated Aspies often fall into passive-aggressive behaviors, because it is one way to avoid expressing true anger. You may think of anger as a “negative,” so instead of being honest and saying something like, "Your comment is upsetting to me," you might withdraw, become silent, engage in your “special interest” as a way to avoid discussing the issue at hand, sulk, or demean your wife by “correcting” her as if she were a child. There is always a way to express anger in a healthy way. Thus, explain that you are upset and why, using "I" statements to highlight your emotions over objective facts.

2. Use little white lies every now and then. Do you want to be rude to your wife for the sake of brutal honesty (e.g., “Dinner was terrible!”)? Then you will have another fight on your hands. Dinner may have very well tasted like crap, but you’ve got nothing to gain by saying so. And honestly, nobody cares about your opinion on the matter anyway. Keep it to yourself. Smile and tell her dinner was appetizing. Be a peace-maker rather than a trouble-maker.

3. Compliment your spouse every day. One of the major reasons for fights between spouses is that they don't feel acknowledged. Compliment your spouse regularly, and she will feel appreciated. Wives who feel appreciated are less likely to fight.

4. Create a process for resolving fights without anger. Anger often makes it hard to respond to a situation rationally. A good way to keep anger out of the equation is to take a few minutes to express your emotions when you have a misunderstanding, rather than immediately trying to “change” your wife’s viewpoint.

5. Take your spouse out on dates. A lot of disagreements result from issues that haven't been fully explored. It's very important to have a way to stay up to date and to create some kind of ritual that has the two of you talking on a regular basis. In this way, you may catch problems early BEFORE they become unmanageable.

6. Swallow your pride and learn to keep your mouth shut. There will be many opportunities for you to respond to a comment your spouse has made that will be an invitation to fight. When this happens, bite your tongue, take a hard swallow, and change the subject. Just do it!

7. Discuss new issues immediately. When you notice an issue is building up to a boiling point, do not sweep it under the rug. Rather, discuss the problem while it is still small. In this way, you can prevent a future explosion. Keeping issues bottled up means when the next disagreement occurs, you run the risk of bringing up the past, in which case, you will be fighting several battles at one time. This will make your wife feel attacked. Even small problems can lead couples to build resentment over time.

8. Know your specific triggers around fighting. Take an inventory so that you can discover what comments and situations elicit anger and quarrelsome behavior in you. List them – write them down. Then come up with an action plan so you won’t get trapped by them in the future.

9. Have a sense of humor about conflict, without discounting your wife’s viewpoint on the matter in question. Laughter can help lighten the mood in a heated situation. Spouses tend to bond over shared comical moments. Laughter can help remind you both of your shared love and passion. So, when the argument begins to dissipate, try finding some humor in the situation, which will help return a sense of normalcy to the state of affairs.

10.  Lastly, summarize what was discussed to make sure you understand. How are you both willing to work on the issue to make sure it doesn’t happen again? How does your wife feel? How do you feel? Taking a few minutes to summarize the situation after a fight can prevent it from reoccurring.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Why Adults with Asperger’s Are Prone to "Meltdowns"

“I’m in a relationship with a man who has Asperger syndrome. I’m familiar with the disorder and have worked hard at changing my expectations for the relationship. The one thing however that I still struggle with is his anger issues. I guess people refer to it as a meltdown. So, my question is how can I tell whether he is simply coping with his symptoms versus just plain ol’ being pissed off?”

First of all, a meltdown is not the same thing as “acting-out in anger” (having an adult version of a temper tantrum). Meltdowns are more complicated than that. An adult with Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) is prone to meltdowns when he finds himself trapped in circumstances that are difficult to deal with, especially those which involve frustration, sensory overload, and confusion.



Meltdowns tend to happen more frequently for those who experience sensory integration dysfunctions, rigid or inflexible thinking, resistance to change, low-frustration tolerance, hypersensitivity to sensory input, executive functioning disruption, difficulty with social comprehension, difficulty understanding cause-and-effect, difficulty identifying and controlling emotions, and communication challenges.

Think of a meltdown as an “escape mechanism.” If adults on the autism spectrum have the means to get themselves out of stressful situations before they become overwhelming, cognitive and emotional pressures recede. Without these means of escape, anxiety will escalate, and these individuals may begin to panic, setting them on a course towards neurological meltdown.

Escape routes that are difficult for the “Aspie” to utilize include the ability to prevent or remove himself from uncomfortable situations, understanding others and making himself understood, the ability to act on decisions, and being able to soothe himself under stress.

The typical individual without Asperger’s has a functional set of escape routes. For example, he understands that most people don't deliberately try to hurt him, knows what it feels like when he is getting upset, has the freedom to leave when a stressful situation becomes too much to handle, can regulate the extra sensory input, can communicate his needs and emotions, and can calm himself down relatively quickly in most cases. In other words, he has coping strategies that allow emotional and cognitive stress to decrease - or disappear entirely. But, this is not the case for the individual on the spectrum. When he finds himself in a stressful situation from which he can’t easily escape, his brain becomes flooded with emotional, sensory or cognitive input, which jams the circuits and initiates a “fight-or-flight” response.

During a meltdown, executive functions (e.g., memory, planning, reasoning, decision-making) start to short-circuit, which makes it even more difficult for the Aspie to find a way out of the distressing circumstance. Eventually, neurological pressure builds to the point where it is released externally as a surge of physical energy (e.g., yelling profanities). Although the volatile reaction resembles a tantrum and seems to come from nowhere, it's part of the “meltdown cycle.”

Meltdowns and anger-control problems often look the same on the outside, but that’s where the resemblance ends. “Going off” on someone is a voluntary “battle of wills” to try and gain control over a situation. Anger is designed to draw attention for the sole purpose of satisfying a want, or avoiding something that is unwanted, So, once that goal has been met, the eruption quickly resolves itself.

On the other hand, meltdowns are the complete opposite. They are involuntary physical and emotional reactions to being placed in an overwhelming situation from which there is no quick escape. The Aspie isn’t in control or trying to get attention, in fact he may be unaware of things happening around him.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

•    Anonymous said… As an Asperger's person myself, i really understand anger and I have melted down more than I would wish to. But no matter where upu are, in spectrum or off, you dont jave a "get out of jail free" card that entitles you to be nasty to people around you and then blame Asperger's for it and then do it again... or just let yourself be an asshat... so sit him down and talk about this amd about techniques for dealing with it. Meditation works very well but takes practice. A good book on how to do this esoecially for anger is "don't bite the hook" by pema chodron. Meditation is a good practice for both of you, especially gratitude and acceptance, i would recommend reading various writers, although Thich Nhat Hahn has a kot if very simple effective practices for daily life. Ps, this has nothing to do with religious belief, its retraining one's neurological responses to be better under one's control and management.
•    Anonymous said… As someone on the spectrum, I would suggest that a melt-down arises from being overwhelmed by too much information and sensory input to effectively process, but anger arises from either disappointed expectations or an awareness of injustice.
•    Anonymous said… As to your question how to tell an temper tantrum from a meltdown if someone angry it can last for days and usually won't feel guilty for their behaviour as they feel it was provoked where as with a meltdown it's a spontanious release of stress built up due to triggers which during it we can't control and often feel guilty and ashamed after likely not even remebering what we did. This of course can be avoided if you learn to calm this stress or more ideally release it before it builds up to the level of a meltdown. Unfortunately we are not always aware we are building up to a meltdown and we need to learn to spot it building in ourselves and fine a safe way to release this stress or remove ourselves from what ever is causing it. With me I either find a game or something to take my aggression out on or runaway for the day if it's seriously stressing me to get away from it to calm down. Your partner needs help in spotting when his triggers are causing a meltdown to build up inside him and help finding another way to deal with besides an explosive outburst!
•    Anonymous said… Best advice I can give is do not have any expectations in the relationship. You have to go with the flow. Yes at first it is hard but in the end its worth it.
•    Anonymous said… Either way the best advice I can give is when you notice he's upset give him space, don't try to talk to him about it just give him time to cool off.
•    Anonymous said… I don't understand why you don't just ask your husband. He would be able to explain it best.
•    Anonymous said… I'm NT my partner is an Aspie too. Same issues here love, we are going on 4yrs together and he learns very slow but he has learned. Meltdowns used to bee twice a week. Big humdingers! On occasion I rang police to come talk to him & on one occasion they put him in hospital 2 nights. Long story short, he's not had a major meltdown since early December. I don't react much anymore as this can spike his reactions. I've learned he's learned & he's a genius who has gotten better and who does try hard daily. His struggles with his gut, sounds, smells and loudness is hard on him. I make an environment that suits him to the best I can as well as having an environment I accept too.
•    Anonymous said… In my 20 year marriage to my aspie husband, this is the single toughest issue. The anger is embarrassing and devastating in the moment, and it ruins relationships with family members.
•    Anonymous said… My wife saying "you're having a meltdown" is all it takes to get me to take a break. But it took two years to get to this point. Wish my ex had understood though.
•    Anonymous said… No, as an aspie, sometimes it's hard for us to explain our selfs the way we want to or need to and as a outcome, we become very angered
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like my partner!
•    Anonymous said… They also never do anything wrong in their mind and never apologise for anything that they do that is wrong. In the end I didn't know who or what I was to him but all I felt was that I was only there when needed  🙁. I kind of feel like I was an experiment to him to find out whether being in a relationship was for him. They have trouble doing anything that most people can.
•    Anonymous said… With me it is one big smash it is like I'm watching myself do these things but have no control to stop them. I have learned control over the last 4 or 5 years and have only had a few.
•    Anonymous said… yep my ex partner was exactly like that and when she had her meltdown im still to blame, why cant i understand how she was feeling, those memories have sure scared deep in me
•   Anonymous said...  Interesting. My aspergers ex wasn't bothered with bright light, in fact he went through a phase of lighting my house up like a Christmas tree with party lights. Crowds didn't bother him and he always wanted to be the centre of attention. He got angry if there was background noise while he was talking though. He also went into melt down if I expressed emotions. He basically had a melt down every time something didn't go his way or as he planned.
*   Anonymous said... I am a 54 year old woman with Aspergers. I don't remember any time that I had a "meltdown" but once, since being diagnosed. There is a woman at my office who seems very hyper and I was tasked to help her with a project and she came to me with complaints about something. She was very annoying to me and I just "went off" on her...mildly though, not so that I would get fired or anything but I know what it feels like to let go of my composure. I try really hard to avoid these emotional moments. It's hard, but we can do it.

Post your comment below…

How to Stop Crossing the “F*%@ It” Line: 10 Tips for Rage-oholics

Despite your good intentions, as a partner or spouse with Asperger’s (high-functioning autism), you may turn into an asshole from time to time (at least according to your significant other). There may have been many occasions where you lost all patience/composure and thought, “Fuck It! I’m sick of being treated like shit, and I’m going to go off!” You lashed out like a frenzied crazy-ass. Then, after the dust had settled, you regretted everything you said and did.

When you find yourself infuriated and unable to calm down, you need to have a plan in place. Haven’t you burned enough bridges already?! If you want to improve the relationship with your partner or spouse, then use some of the simple, yet highly effective tips listed below.



10 tips for the Aspie with rage-control problems:

1. Do a “personal status check” to see how your body is responding to an anger-provoking situation. Are you clenching your teeth? Is your blood pressure rising? Are you getting hot? These are physical signs of impending rage that you can have some control over – IF YOU CATCH IT EARLY. Thus, in these times, immediately go into prevention mode (“intervention mode” will be too late at this point):
  • Breathe
  • Consciously attempt to relax your neck muscles
  • Slow down your rate of speech
  • Artificially lower your voice

This not only has the effect of slowing down your rage response, it also has the potential side effect of having your partner lower his or her voice since that is the only way that they can hear you.

2. In the early stages of getting agitated, try to shift your attention to something else and don’t stew in anger and resentment. Don’t look at your partner, and don’t field any questions or comments he/she makes. Tell your partner that you will discuss the matter when you have calmed down. 

3. If you fear a rage attack, remember this one word: Disengage. If you can’t use your anger constructively, then you shouldn’t use it at all. Having a little anger now and then is o.k. – and even can be a good thing. But, you have to gain the right focus and stop letting your emotions yank you around. That’s what a good warrior has to do, even if the fight exists solely in his or her mind.

4. In the “heat of the moment,” put physical distance between you and your partner. In the typical case of a person with Asperger’s, “where there’s heat, an explosion is not far behind.” You’re about to be emotionally hijacked by your rage, and words will not be enough to prevent any hasty behaviors on your part.

5. In the event you can’t leave an argument or hostile situation (e.g., the two of you are in the car), you can still squeeze your fists and breathe. Important point here: Practice this during controlled moments of anger or when you’re by yourself and feeling calm! If you make this technique a habit, you’ll have an easier time utilizing it subtly in any situation. This is called “prevention.”




6. Know that hazardous situations usually end up being about “having the fight” instead of about what led up to it. If your true goal is to fight, then by all means, go ahead and knock yourself out. If your goal is to avoid a fight, then keep your mouth shut. Bite that damn tongue until it hurts, because if you allow your current state of mind to go one more second, you will probably not be able to control your words or behavior from that point forward. Don’t add to your long list of regrets.

7. Let’s be realistic. You will get into arguments from time to time – there’s no way around it in relationships that you truly care about. But you can argue without losing your freakin’ mind. You can never escape confrontation 100% of the time -- but you can’t resort to handling it like a bouncer at a nightclub. Constructive conflict is a varsity-level skill in the game of anger-control, but one you must learn. Create a set of "diplomacy strategies," write them down, and use the often!

8. When you are getting upset, “appeal” to your partner so that he or she can “run interference” for you. Tell him/her that you’re about to “lose it” and need help to cool off. How can your partner help? By allowing you to take a time-out for starters.

9. When you start to get livid over something that is relatively minor, it’s a good idea to tell your partner that you (a) don’t want to get any angrier than you already are, (b) want to slow the pace of the conversation, (c) need to focus on the problem in question, and (d) want to recognize how your partner feels without judging him or her.

10. Lastly, you may have experienced numerous occasions where you “threw gas on the fire” during a heated argument. This is because you think less and feel more during those times. STOP and ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way, and what kind of resolution am I looking for?” And you can do the same thing with your partner (i.e., ask, “Why do YOU feel this way, and what kind of resolution are YOU looking for?”).

This will get him or her to think about their response. In addition, it makes you a thoughtful listener and gives you more time to create a calm response. This can help defuse angry outbursts – and even allow your partner to realize that he or she is an equally contributing member to the problem in question.


==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
 

Anger to Meltdown to Guilt to Self-Punishment: An Asperger’s Dilemma


In working with adults on the autism spectrum over the years, I have noticed a prominent theme that I will refer to as AMGS, which stands for Anxiety - Meltdown - Guilt - Self-punishment. This is a cycle that many adults with Asperger's [or high functioning autism] have experienced since childhood. In a nutshell, the cycle starts with anxiety, which in turn leads to a meltdown, which then leads to the individual feeling guilty for acting-out his or her anxiety in the form of anger and/or rage, and ends up with the person punishing himself or herself due to repeated relationship failures that result from this destructive cycle.

Let's look at each of the steps in the cycle:

ANXIETY

Unfortunately, it is very common for adults with Asperger’s 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.



Individuals with Asperger's are particularly prone to anxiety disorders as a consequence of the social demands made upon them. Any social contact can generate anxiety as to how to start, maintain, and end the activity or conversation. Changes to daily routine can exacerbate the anxiety, as can certain sensory experiences.

Many of my clients have reported feeling anxious for no apparent reason at all. Some of these individuals tend to take life too seriously, take others' behavior and comments to personally, and generally consider themselves to be “worrywarts” (i.e., chronically worrying that something bad will happen, or something good won't happen).

MELTDOWN

As this anxiety, whatever its cause, builds up and builds up, eventually the dam breaks so to speak, usually over something very small. It's the straw that breaks the camel's back. This is called a meltdown.

Under severe enough stress, any normally calm and collected individual may become “out-of-control” – even to the point of violence. But Asperger's 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:
  • yelling and screaming
  • walking out on your spouse or partner
  • threatening others
  • talking to yourself
  • road rage
  • quitting your job
  • pacing back and forth
  • domestic abuse
  • crying
  • banging your head
  • angry outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects 
  • aggressive behavior in which the individual reacts grossly out of proportion to the circumstance

The meltdown is not always directed at others. Asperger's 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.

Asperger's 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.

Rage may be a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in employment, relationships, friendships and other areas in life affected by autism spectrum disorders. There is often an “on-off” quality to this rage, where the person may be calm minutes later after a meltdown, while people around are stunned and may feel hurt. Neurotypical spouses (i.e., people not on the autism spectrum) often struggle to understand these meltdowns, with resentment and bitterness often building up over time. In some cases, the Asperger's individual may not acknowledge he has trouble with rage, and will blame others for provoking him. This can create a lot of conflict in a marriage.

There are hundreds of examples of how meltdowns can play out, but for the sake of this discussion, we will use the following example throughout:

The Asperger’s individual has had a rough day at work, but was able to maintain his composure for the most part. But, when he arrives home, his wife makes a comment that hits him wrong for some reason, and he explodes. In other words, he takes his stressful day out on his wife, unintentionally!

GUILT

If this particular scenario plays itself out numerous times over the months or years, the Asperger's individual may come to believe that he is a victim of his emotions -- in this case, work-related stress expressed in the form of misplaced anger toward his wife and other family members. But, not only does he feel like a victim of circumstances, he also feels an element of guilt and remorse for hurting the people that he loves. He may have tried numerous times to avoid repeating this scenario, but to no avail, because he still has work-related stress, and has not figured out a way to deal with this stress in a functional, non-destructive way.

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.

SELF-PUNISHMENT

As a result of repeated social failures (in our example, numerous negative encounters with his wife), the Asperger's individual may come to the conclusion that he doesn't deserve love, compassion, or a peaceful lifestyle. Thus, he may do destructive things to punish himself. For example, beating up on himself with negative self-talk, drinking or drug use, overeating, isolation, and possibly even separation or divorce.

The use of self-punishment to reduce feelings of guilt has been well documented in many studies. Guilt is suppose to be a "pro-social emotion," (i.e., functions to preserve important relationships). But, many Asperger's individuals who experience repeated exposure to the AMGS cycle have "unresolved guilt," which prevents them from enjoying life and thriving emotionally.

Self-punishment tends to serve a dual purpose: (1) it relieves internal feelings of guilt, and (2) it impacts how others perceive us.  By engaging in self-punishment or costly apologies, the Asperger's individual demonstrates that he is willing to harm himself in some way to “even the score” with those he has wronged, thereby restoring his reputation as a "fair person."

ANXIETY (again)

And now we go full circle. The AMGS cycle can feel like being stuck in a perpetual nightmare if it continues long enough. Months – or even years – of experiencing a plethora of negative emotions (e.g., stress, frustration, anger, rage, guilt, etc.) can make relationships so problematic that the better option becomes living alone and avoiding human contact as much as possible. But, unfortunately, ALL of us are social creatures by nature. Thus, living a life of solitude carries its own element of anxiety. People need other people.

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COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… I have the meltdowns but not necessarily anxiety...
•    Anonymous said… I thought it was part of my Aspergers that I never feel guilt for anything, no matter how badly I behave.
•    Anonymous said… Meltdowns and guilt, I always seem to blame myself. I always say it must be great being other people because it is never their fault.
•    Anonymous said… My son has done this I have worried it could turn into self harming at some point if he forces himself not to act out his anger..by trying to conform... at some point that emotion has to exit him somewhere and I have worried he'll turn it inwards on himself
•    Anonymous said… So true! This is the best explanation I've seen yet.
•    Anonymous said… Stress, anxiety, meltdowns, but not only anger meltdowns, depression meltdowns too  😬 😬
•    Anonymous said… tell me about it! Especially when the meltdown's to do with sexual needs and horrid NT women getting the man you'd die for.
•    Anonymous said… This is definitely my son, how do we break the cycle though?
•    Anonymous said… This is so my daughter. How do we help them??
•    Anonymous said… VERY true!!!!!!
•    Anonymous said… Yes I live alone as much as anyone can with 7 dogs and 2 cats and I love it. At 60 I realise that just because they tell you you should be social, doesn't mean its true. Soon as other folks enter the scenario, the chaos starts.
•    Anonymous said… Yes, I relate to this rotation
•    Does anyone have any resources to share in how to break this cycle or give the person tools to self regulate?
•    Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group RE: "How to break the cycle..." -- The core issue here is "anxiety." If that can be circumvented, then the cycle never starts. Here are some ideas: http://www.adultaspergerschat.com/.../anxiety-reduction...
•    This is a great break-down of the how/why this cycle repeats. Is there a follow-up or another article that deals more with helping break this cycle (for the individual with Aspergers or those that love them)? Great article, as understanding is half the battle.
•    Does anyone know who to brake this cycle? My 12 year is showing these symptoms and we are trying to tech him cope skills but is there a way to stop the cycle (rather then try to prevent it).
•    Have him write affirmations... and seriously consider speaking to an expert (and by expert I mean a child/adolescent psychiatrist who does talk therapy) about what you can model for him, what he can do, and maybe see if he has OCD as well. A part of this cycle, the anxiety and guilt, can be obsessive thoughts. Maybe a psychiatrist could help with that.
•    I had broken the cycle for a decade. One meltdown in 10 years and now I feel the cycle emerging again. My best friend thought HFA was all me just being absent minded and quirky. Now they are afraid and don't want to be friends. This hurts just as much as an adult as it did as child. I wasn't violent in my meltdown. Just shaking, crying and some yelling out, but not accusative at them specifically. Just makes me feel sad and awful.
 
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