Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise? Then you've come to the right place. We are here to help you in any way we can. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile...

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Understanding the Mind of Your ASD Mate

"My 29-year-old wife was recently diagnosed with autism [level 1]. This is all relatively new to me (although I have recognized some behavior that seemed rather odd to me over the 2 years we have been married). They say that autism is just 'a different way of thinking'. How can I understand the way she thinks? I love her dearly, but we are definitely not on the same page much of the time!"

People with ASD [High-Functioning Autism] have some deficits in the brain that cause problems in certain areas. For example, communication, focusing on “the real world” as opposed to becoming absorbed in their own thoughts and obsessions, learning appropriate social skills and responses, and understanding the thoughts and feelings of others. In addition, they are very literal in their interpretation of others’ conversations, and have difficulty recognizing differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of what others’ say.

Non-verbal communication is particularly problematic in that these individuals have difficulty understanding the appropriate distance to stand from another person when talking, how to tell when someone does not want to listen any longer, and how to interpret facial expressions. Also, they tend to be highly aware of right and wrong – and will bluntly announce what is wrong. They often recognize the shortcomings of others, but not their own. Thus, some of their behavior seems rude or inappropriate (through no fault of their own, in most cases).

Most people on the autism spectrum need routine and predictability, which gives them a sense of safety. Change often causes anxiety, and too much change can lead to a meltdown or shutdown. Routines and predictability help these individuals remain calm.

Other interesting (and sometimes problematic) features of ASD include the following:
  • They notice details, rather than the “whole” picture. The importance of the detail prevents them from understanding the bigger picture, so instructions may get lost in their focus on a single detail.
  • They are not able to access their frontal cortex or prefrontal lobe efficiently, so they must call on social skills from their memories. If a particular social skill was not taught when they were younger, they won’t have it. Thus, imagination, conversation, and other people’s points of view cause great difficulty. 
  • Anger often occurs due to over-stimulation of the senses or a change in routine. It is often the only response they know. Anger-control presents problems, because these individuals only see things in black and white, which can result in offensive behavior when they don’t get their own way or when they feel threatened or overwhelmed. Some bottle-up anger and turn it inward, never revealing where the trouble is. 
  • One of the most difficult thinking patterns for people with Asperger’s is mind-blindness, which is the lack of ability to understand the emotions, feelings, motivations, and logic of others – and not care that they don’t understand! Therefore, they sometimes behave without regard to the welfare of others. The only way some will ever change their thinking or behavior is if it is in their own interest to do so. Even then, convincing them to change their mind may turn out to be an uphill battle.

But, so much for the “bad” news. People on the spectrum also have many positive qualities, for example, most are:
  • smart
  • respect authority 
  • gentle and somewhat passive
  • especially talented in a particular area 
  • amazingly loyal friends 
  • able to adhere unvaryingly to routines
  • honest
  • perfectly capable of entertaining themselves
  • able to remember a lot of information and facts
  • able to notice fine details that others miss

…just to name a few.

Everyone has a mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses. People with ASD are different – but they are not flawed. We need all different kinds of minds – including the autistic mind. The way a person on the autism spectrum thinks should be viewed as a positive trait, which the rest of us can learn from. When our differences are embraced, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

One NT husband states, "All Aspies are different. If you want to understand the real person you are married to you must work together to identify the way you both interact and communicate the specifics of your mental functioning and hers. It is not a one way street. Her Aspie traits are highly individual as your non-Aspie traits. Lots of reading and help from counsellors can help both of you work this out."


Mood Swings in Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Mood swings can be described as “a mental health condition that results in significant emotional instability.” This can lead to a variety of other stressful mental and behavioral problems. 
With mood swings, a person may have a severely distorted self-image and feel worthless and fundamentally flawed. Anger, impulsiveness and frequent anxiety may push others away, even though the person may desire to have loving and lasting relationships.

If you have Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), and you experience frequent mood swings – don't get discouraged. Many adults on the autism spectrum have some degree of moodiness, but they get better with treatment and can live satisfying lives. Mood swings affect how you feel about yourself, how you relate to others, and how you behave.

Signs and symptoms of excessive moodiness may include:
  • Awareness of destructive behavior (e.g., self-injury), but sometimes feeling unable to change it
  • Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses
  • Fear of being around crowds
  • Feeling misunderstood, neglected, empty or hopeless
  • Feelings of self-hate and self-loathing
  • Inappropriate anger and antagonistic behavior (sometimes escalating into physical fights)
  • Short but intense episodes of anxiety or depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

When AS and HFA adults have severe mood swings, they often have an insecure sense of who they are. Their self-image or self-identity often changes rapidly. They may view themselves as “bad,” and sometimes they may feel as if they don't exist at all. An unstable self-image often leads to frequent changes in jobs, friendships, goals and values.

When AS and HFA adults experience frequent and severe mood swings, their relationships are usually in turmoil. They may idealize their spouse or partner one moment, and then quickly shift to anger and resentment over perceived slights (or even minor misunderstandings). This is because people on the autism spectrum often have difficulty accepting gray areas. In other words, things seem to be either black or white.

Wild mood swings (which some people call ‘meltdowns’) can damage many areas of a person’s life. It can negatively affect intimate relationships, jobs, school, social activities and self-image. Repeated job losses and broken marriages are common. Self-injury (e.g., cutting, burning) and suicidal thoughts can occur. Also, the individual may have other mental health disorders (e.g., alcohol or substance abuse and dependency, anxiety disorder, depression, and eating disorders).

Treatment for mood swings may include psychotherapy and/or medications:

1. Psychotherapy is a fundamental treatment approach for mood swings. Types of psychotherapy that may be effective include:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). With CBT, you work with a mental health counselor to (a) become aware of inaccurate, negative or ineffective thinking; (b) view challenging situations more clearly and objectively; and (c) search for and put into practice alternative solution strategies.
  • Mentalization-based therapy (MBT). MBT is a type of therapy that helps you identify and separate your own thoughts and feelings from those of people around you. MBT emphasizes thinking before reacting.
  • Schema-focused therapy (SFT). SFT combines therapy approaches to help you evaluate repetitive life patterns and life themes (schema) so that you can identify positive patterns and change negative ones.
  • Transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP). TFP aims to help you understand your emotions and interpersonal difficulties through the developing relationship between you and your therapist. You then apply these insights to ongoing situations.
2. Medication can help with co-occurring clinical problems, such as depression, impulsiveness and anxiety. Medications may include antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs.

Living with frequent and severe mood swings is difficult. You may realize your behaviors and thoughts are self-destructive or damaging, yet you feel unable to control them. Treatment can help you learn skills to manage and cope with your moods.

You can help manage your moods and feel better about yourself if you do the following:
  • Attend all therapy sessions if you are in counseling
  • Don't blame yourself for being chronically “moody,” but do recognize your responsibility to get it treated
  • Get treatment for related problems (e.g., substance abuse)
  • Keep up a healthy lifestyle (e.g., eating a healthy diet, being physically active, engaging in social activities)
  • Learn about mood disorders so that you understand their causes and treatments
  • Learn what may trigger angry outbursts or impulsive behavior
  • Practice healthy ways to ease painful emotions and prevent impulsive behaviors (e.g., self-inflicted injuries)
  • Reach out to other AS and HFA adults to share insights and experiences
  • Stick to your treatment plan if attending counseling
  • If you are on medication, take it as directed and report to your doctor the benefits and side-effects that you experience

Remember, there's no one right path to recovery from wild mood swings. Usually, the best results come from a combination of treatment strategies. Excessive moodiness seems to be worse in older adolescence and young adulthood, and may gradually get better with age. 
Many AS and HFA adults with this condition find greater stability in their lives during their 30s and 40s. As the individual’s inner distress and sense of misery decreases, he or she can go on to maintain loving relationships and enjoy meaningful careers.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Dealing with Your Aspergers Husband: Tips for Spouses

“I am married to a man with Aspergers. I must say this has been the biggest challenge in my entire life. Although I do love my husband dearly, I am finding myself slipping into feelings of resentment quite often. What advice would you have for a couple that is experiencing marital problems due to the fact that one partner’s brain is wired differently?”

Here are some facts about adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism that neurotypical (non-Aspergers) spouses need to understand:
  • A person with Aspergers has challenges understanding or predicting the consequences of his/her behavior on others.  Therefore, the Aspergers spouse may see the neurotypical spouse as irrational or illogical.
  • Aspergers adults, because they have a hard time separating boundaries at times, may hear criticism of a family member (e.g., father, mother, sibling) as a criticism of them, and they likely will not be willing to tolerate it.
  • Aspergers men in particular may find conflict almost intolerable.  They may hear a difference of opinion or an attempt to explain a different perspective about a situation as conflict or a criticism of who they are.
  • Neurotypical women especially tend to want their spouse to understand them and their feelings.  However, they need to realize that this is something they may not be able to get from their Aspergers spouse.  Some change may be possible, but the neurotypical spouse may need to adjust his/her expectation, and find other places for support without being unrealistic about what they expect from their Aspergers spouse.
  • The most basic elements of speaking and hearing are the most important issues that the Aspergers-Neurotypical couples may have.  Aspies often have a very difficult time hearing negative emotions expressed by their spouse.  They may refuse to communicate, but then end up lashing-out in a very hurtful way later on.

So what can Aspergers-Neurotypical partners do to maintain their relationship. Here are some important tips:
  1. Both spouses must make a serious commitment to making the relationship work. However, the neurotypical partner is going to have to understand that it will feel to them that they are the party making more accommodations.  Even if the Aspie accepts and understands their diagnosis, the truth is that your brains are wired differently.  As a neurotypical partner, you will need to shift from "what is wrong" about your spouse and the relationship, to "what is right."  You will need to build on the strengths, and value the differences, versus seeing your spouse as insensitive and uncaring. 
  1. Both spouses need to have an in-depth understanding of Aspergers and how marital relationships are affected. 
  1. Conflict is normal, even healthy. Differences between you mean that there are things you can learn from each other. Often conflict shows us where we can or need to grow. 
  1. Couples often derail a resolution when they try to acknowledge the other spouse's position, but then add a "but" in their next breath and reaffirm their position (e.g., “I can understand why you didn't pick up the dishes in the family room, but why do you think I'm the maid?”). 
  1. Defending yourself, whether by vehemently protesting your innocence or rightness or by turning the tables and attacking, escalates the fight. Instead of upping the ante, ask for more information, details, and examples. There is usually some basis for the other person’s complaint. When you meet a complaint with curiosity, you make room for understanding. 
  1. Develop the self-discipline to set limits on your anger and your behavior. If either of you resort to physical force and violence in your relationship, seek professional help. Acting out your anger in aggressive ways violates the other person’s boundaries and sense of safety. Each of us has a right to be safe and free of abuse or physical danger in our relationships. 
  1. Fighting ends when cooperation begins. Asking politely for suggestions or alternatives invites collaboration. Careful consideration of options shows respect. Offering alternatives of your own shows that you also are willing to try something new. 
  1. For both “neurotypicals” and “Aspies”: Become students of each other's culture. Pretend that you are learning a new language from a new country.  If you are an Aspie, remember that, in many ways, your spouse is from another planet, the neurotypical planet.  And if you are a neurotypical, remember that your Aspergers spouse is from the Aspergers planet.  Celebrate the diversity and the differences. 
  1. For the Aspergers partner, reconsider your perception of your spouse and of yourself.  Consider that, because of the differences in the way your brain works, a lot of what your spouse is telling you about your role in problems is probably right. 
  1. For the neurotypical partner, shift your focus from what you are not getting from your Aspergers spouse to see and value the strengths he or she brings to the relationship. 
  1. Forget that adage about always resolving anger before going to bed -- and let someone sleep on the couch. Going to bed angry is often the best choice. It allows spouses to clear their thoughts, get some sleep, and make a date to resume the fight (which might seem less important in the light of day). 
  1. Friendly fighting sticks with the issue. Neither party resorts to name calling or character assassination. It’s enough to deal with the problem without adding the new problem of hurting each other’s feelings. 
  1. Global statements that include the words “always” and “never” almost always get you nowhere and never are true. When your spouse has complaints, ask to move from global comments of exasperation to specific examples so you can understand exactly what he/she is talking about. When you have complaints, do your best to give your spouse examples to work with. 
  1.  In the heat of an argument, threatening to leave the relationship is manipulative and hurtful. It creates anxiety about being abandoned and undermines your ability to resolve your issues. It quickly erodes your spouse’s confidence in your commitment to the relationship. Trust is not easily restored once it is broken in this way. It makes the problems in your relationship seem much bigger than they need to be. 
  1. It is best if the diagnosis of Aspergers is made and accepted by the Aspergers spouse. One of the best things that can happen is for the couple to seek help from a therapist or marriage coach who understands the unique differences between Aspies and neurotypicals.  If the therapist does not understand the unique differences, all that will happen is the couple going back and forth, arguing for their own view of the situation.  And the Aspie will have a hard time understanding his/her impact on the neurotypical. 
  1. It’s pointless to blame each other. Blaming your partner distracts you from solving the problem at hand. It invites your partner to be defensive, and it escalates the argument.  
  1. Putting your spouse down or criticizing your spouse’s character shows disrespect for his/her dignity. In sports there are many rules that prevent one player from intentionally injuring another. In marriage and relationships, similar rules must apply. When you intentionally injure your spouse, it’s like saying, “You are not safe with me. I will do whatever it takes to protect myself or to win.” 
  1. Small concessions can turn the situation around. If you give a little, it makes room for the other person to make concessions too. Small concessions lead to larger compromises. Compromise doesn’t have to mean that you’re meeting each other exactly 50-50. Sometimes it’s a 60-40 or even 80-20 agreement. This isn’t about score-keeping. It’s about finding a solution that is workable for both of you. 
  1. Stay in the present and resist the temptation to use the situation as an occasion to bring up other issues from the past. It’s discouraging to keep bringing up the past. You can’t change the past. You can only change today. You can look forward to a better future. Try to keep your focus on what can be done today to resolve the issue at hand and go forward from there. If you get off-topic, on to other issues, stop yourselves and agree to get back on track. You can always come back to other issues later.  
  1. Taking a 1-minute break can help a couple push the reset button on a fight. Stop, step out of the room, and reconnect when everyone's a little calmer. 

  1. The louder someone yells, the less likely they are to be heard. Even if your spouse yells, there’s no need to yell back. Taking the volume down makes it possible for people to start focusing on the issues instead of reacting to the noise
  1. There almost always are parts of a conflict that can be points of agreement. Finding common ground, even if it’s agreeing that there is a problem, is an important start to finding a common solution. 
  1. There are two things that derail intense fights: (1) admitting what you did to get your spouse ticked off, and (2) expressing empathy toward your spouse. This can be difficult, but typically is extremely successful. Letting down our defenses in the heat of battle seems counter-intuitive, but is actually very effective with couples. 
  1. There comes a point where discussing the matter doesn't help. So couples need to just hold each other when nothing else seems to be working. Reconnecting through touch is very important. 
  1. Use words that describe how you feel, and what you want and need, not what your spouse feels, wants, or believes. It may seem easier to analyze your spouse than to analyze yourself, but interpreting your spouse’s thoughts, feelings and motives will distract you from identifying your own underlying issues, and will likely invite defensiveness from your partner. More importantly, telling your partner what he/she thinks, believes or wants is controlling and presumptuous. It is saying that you know your partner’s inner world better than your partner does. Instead, work on identifying your own unmet needs, feelings, and ways of thinking and describe these needs and feelings to your partner. 
  1. When one speaks, the other should be really listening, not just planning their rebuttal. Take turns speaking and listening so that you both have a chance to say what you need. Have you ever tried to work through a difficult issue when your partner was talking over top of you and interrupting you? How did you feel? Consciously remind yourself about this when you feel an overwhelming urge to interrupt or speak your mind.
  1. When people feel strongly about something, it’s only fair to hear them out. Respectful listening means acknowledging their feelings, either verbally or through focused attention. It means never telling someone that he/she “shouldn’t” feel that way. It means saving your point of view until after you’ve let the other person know you understand that they feel intensely about the subject, even if you don’t quite get it.

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


•    Anonymous said... Great article.
•    Anonymous said... I know EXACTLY how you feel. This is my life in a nutshell. One thing that helps me is to write my thoughts and feelings down, then have him read them. This gives me time to calm down and think about how I want to say something. Also, you need to give logistical reasons for things, at least I do. "I need you to take out the trash because I'm cooking dinner." "It upsets me when you ignore me for video games because it makes me feel like you'd rather play games than be married to me. I'm asking for help because I can't do everything myself." "You cook, I clean. This is our agreement." "You can't be around chemicals, so you have to sweep, vacuum, and do the laundry." Getting emotional usually frustrates and/or shuts my husband down. Once I learned to take a step back, breathe, and think of a reasonable argument in a calm, low tone, things got SO much better. I'm a hot-tempered Texan, so it's not 100%. Ask him what he needs. That really changed my relationship. Also, try reading "Five Love Languages". There's a quiz you can both take that will tell you your love language, which was crazy eye-opening for me and my husband.
•    Anonymous said... Just try to hang in there.
•    Anonymous said... Read everything about it, have someone to talk to, have your OWN free time and try to be as rational as you can when you talk to him which you have to do when you know he is in the "listening mode". I'm married to adhd and asperger for 13 years Not easy but very possible!

*   Anonymous said... My husband says I am his dream girl and he wouldnt change a thing about me. Sure we didnt know I had as when we got married or for years but it sure helps to know and learn how to communicate better.
*   Anonymous said... I'll talk from your hubsnd's perspective, if you'll permit. Although a person with AS can tell they've angered or disappointed you, they rarely understand why. I'll assume that your husband has the normal high IQ common amongst folks with AS, and if so you can use that to your benefit to help him learn how to relate to you and "behave" in a more neuro-typical way. No one with AS wants conflict or strife, as it only serves to worsen the anxiety and depression that is so common in this disorder. Take the time to explain how his behavior made you feel, and most importantly tell him EXACTLY what you want him to do differently. Try to do so calmly, and at a time that both of you agree is appropriate to discuss the concern. Right when he gets home from work, or just before bed, would not be ideal.
•    Anonymous said…  "am finding myself slipping into feelings of resentment quite often" if you love him.. This comment wouldn't bother you or even spew out your mouth or even come as a thought in your head... that's what true love is.
•    Anonymous said… Everyone's wired differently and marriage is a journey, a struggle and hard work but also a fantastic experience. The key is two people who want to keep trying.
•    Anonymous said… Find a support group. It's easy for people to say "everyone is wired differently" but let's be honest - that puts the burden on the non-aspie partner to figure out how to deal because the aspie really cannot contribute to resolving the language barrier that happens in this situation. And there is a significant amount that is lost in translation leaving the non- aspire partner feeling not understood, not cared for and even unloved. My support group was the best thing that ever happened to me. Women who understand what it's like to be married to someone with Aspergers - no one else can even begin to understand the challenge. Many of the people at the adult Asperger's support groups I go to comment that their diagnosis made their marriages to their NT partner much happier. I think the linked article is pretty balanced. It points out that both people in the relationship need to work at understanding the other. The challenges are not because ONE partner "is wired differently", it's because TWO people have brains wired differently to each other. BOTH people in the relationship need to be willing to understand and adapt to each other's outlook.
•    Anonymous said… I completely understand the feelings. She is asking for advice. She didnt just up and leave. This is an example of true love. She is trying to understand and reach out for help. I agree with David Iverson.
•    Anonymous said… In my case my wife died before I got my diagnosis. We managed OK for 16 years but a lot of things fell into place in hindsight once I had the diagnosis. There were some arguments that I now understand were down to mutual misunderstanding from our brains being "wired differently" . Or times when we both felt a little unloved or uncared for because we didn't recognise the way the other was expressing their love. I can collate some of those things and ask the guys at the support group for their experiences to get something together.
•    Anonymous said… It also means being willings to understand what each person needs. That should be made very clear at the outset. This is not about right or wrong....just differences ....and what you can live with and what you can't.
•    Anonymous said… My partner has aspergers and honestly its not much of a relationship. Its a struggle & he doesn't care.

Post your comment below… 

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

Dealing with Irritating Neurotypicals: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

We’re all familiar with irritating, frustrating and annoying people. Learning how to deal with them is an art-form, because what works for others, may not work for you. There are a lot of facets that come into play when someone is annoying you. For example, are they bothering you because you genuinely don’t think they ‘vibe’ with you …or is the universe sending someone to show you what you have to work on?

If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this: honesty always works. The longer you try to be nice to someone, the more you’re making other people believe that you actually enjoying hanging out with them. There’s no need to be unnecessarily blunt about it, but if someone becomes too pushy, you have to be honest about what’s going on and let them know. It stinks, but if you value your time, it has to be done, and it doesn’t have to be done in a harsh manner.

Tips for dealing with irritating neurotypicals:

1. A lot of conflict is based in misunderstandings, so always make sure you’re getting all the information. It can be easy enough to tune someone out when they irritate you. The trick is to use careful questioning to focus the other person on the topic at hand so they give you what you need and avoid straying too far. Poor listening leads to misunderstandings that need clarification – which means more time spent with someone you’d really rather not be around.

2. Accept that which you can’t change. You can change yourself – but not someone else. Also, you can’t feel comfortable if you constantly wish the world were as you think it ought to be. If you find yourself getting irritated at someone who bothers you because they're letting their personality shine forth, realize that there is not much you can do – and that you will gain very little by such irritation. You can’t change someone's personality because you don't get along with them or because you've chosen to find them irritating.

3. Anything that helps you to grow and mature will tend to dampen irritation with others. The more that you learn about the world, and the more understanding you are of people's motivations, you'll expect less of others and let them just be. In turn, you'll be less irritated by the things people do.

4. Ask yourself, “How is this individual reflecting my shadow?” People who get on our nerves are often simply reflecting a part of ourselves we don’t want to see. If someone irritates you, ask yourself: Have I ever demonstrated this irritating quality in the past? Do I demonstrate this quality in my life now? Am I capable of demonstrating this quality under different circumstances in the future? Chances are the answer is yes. If you can find a way to accept the irritating quality in yourself, you are much more likely to accept it in others.

5. Ask yourself, “How do I benefit by continuing to be so irritated?” Despite how bad it feels emotionally to be angry, mad, or irritated, we often cling to the emotion. We hold grudges, become passive aggressive, get into arguments, or ruminate about a person for days in our own minds. For what? The ego just LOVES to be right. Ask yourself, “What do I gain by being right?” Would you rather be right, or would you rather be free?

6. Much irritation comes about when we take the path of least resistance – not saying anything but fuming all the same. Irritation caused by placing yourself into a position of powerlessness because of the things another person does is self-destructive. A far more constructive approach is to speak up when you'd like to see something changed around you.

7. Assertiveness is about standing up for yourself politely but firmly. It is not something to be afraid of, and you don't need to attend a course to master it. It's as simple as responding to the irritating behavior promptly and with a pointed request.

8. Avoid generalizing. Saying things like "I only care about my immediate friends and family. All other people are so stupid and such time-wasters" says more about you than about these "other people." You're shutting off the opportunity to meet lots of new people when you label them irritating. Also, you are acting defensively to try and ward off anyone who might cause you to have to think, respond, or feel differently about the things you're used to.

9. Be careful if you're the sort of person who loudly proclaims, "I don't tolerate fools." Such broad assumptions about people you've grouped together by characteristics that you dislike will always give you cause for irritation, because you've chosen to treat anyone in your grouping with contempt.

10. Everyone gets irritated sometimes, which means people will be irritated with you sometimes too. We're all in a position to do or say irritating things now and then. Try to focus on what you can do to adopt a more compassionate, guiding approach to an irritating behavior or action. Consider the ways in which you can provide constructive feedback to try and alleviate the irritating behavior or activities rather than blowing your top or creating a negative atmosphere. As part of this, be interested in the other person. If that sounds difficult, then there is all the more reason to put your compassionate self into action.

11. Be aware that being irritated by other’s traits can be based in your own lack of patience or understanding. In some cases, irritation is driven by a sense of superiority, as when we state, "How stupid those people are!" …or… "Does he have to be such an idiot?" We automatically assume we're smarter without ever knowing the full story or the personal issues that drive the person to act the way he/she does.

12. Besides the tendency to tune-out people you’d rather avoid, our feelings about another person can color our perception of what they’re saying. To avoid this, repeat back any instructions, questions, or other problems they pose to you to make sure you absolutely understand what they’re saying. Give them a chance to correct you before you go off half-cocked.

13. When you are about to go-off on the irritating person, breathe deeply and shut your eyes briefly. Calmly count to ten, slowly. Imagine yourself on the beach. Let the internal sound of waves and seagulls wash over you. Feel the mist of the seawater on your face and let it calm you.

14. Check your facial and body language. Frowns, glaring, and other unpleasant body language convey anger and contempt – and it's contagious. So, if it's targeted at the person who is irritating you, he/she is likely to feel angry too, and things can escalate. Try to maintain a calm and collected demeanor without facial expressions that suggest you're irritated or displeased.

15. Consider shaking your life up a bit. Being irritated can be a sign that you're too deeply entrenched in your comfort zone. Try shaking things up a bit to expand your comfort zone now and then. Rearrange your bedroom furniture, read books by authors who challenge you, start new hobbies, take a trip, start volunteering, or get a new job. Changing something in your life that shifts you out of your comfort zone and into new territory can reduce your levels of irritation and beef-up your compassion for others.

16. Focus on the humor in the situation. Laugh-off whatever has caused you to feel so irritated, and try to imagine the irritating behavior or situation in a more humorous light, along with how you might just have the totally wrong end of the stick.

17. Know what sets you off and learn how to not react. It's usually obvious who is bothering you – the noisy chatterbox, the bragging backstabber, or the constant complainer who follows your every error and turns a molehill into a mountain. It's also important to identify the “what” that is bothering you (i.e., what precisely about their behavior is causing you to feel so irritated that you feel ready to explode or snap at them). Working out the real reason underlying the irritation will enable you to target responses that will be effective in both solving the problem that irritates you and causes you to find that particular person so irritating.

18. Identify when the irritation reflects a deeper conflict. Sometimes this is easier to see a few hours later when you're not with that irritating person. Small things can mount up into a pattern that can guide you to understand why you need to be more patient. For example, if you work with someone who is bigoted against you for an unstated reason, you may be hearing constant borderline insults in everything from their anecdotes about others to the differences in the way they treat you and other people.

19. If you’ve found yourself in a position where you are obligated for some reason to spend time with someone you dislike, remember that most likely, they are in the same position – and it’s you they dislike. But you wouldn’t be in that situation if you didn’t provide something of value – whether that’s a work skill or talent, specialized knowledge, even things as abstract as emotional support or solidarity. You have a mission, so to speak, and everything that distracts you from that mission reduces your value.

20. If you're irritated because you view other people as rivals and enemies, you're on a slippery slope. Remove the competitive aspect from your work, study, or social relations by realizing that there is more than enough praise, pay, accolades, and recognition for everyone.

21. You may need to unlearn anger habits, as irritation is often sourced in unresolved anger. A course in anger management might be extremely helpful if you're finding almost everyone irritates you.

22. It’s tempting to want to argue with people who rub you the wrong way, or to lose it and start pointing out their faults. Don’t do that! Unless they’re wrong about something that directly and materially affects you, don’t bother. Starting a debate or an argument will only prolong your agony, and neither of you is likely to change your mind. Save the debates for when you’re with friends whose opinions matter to you.

23. It's important to cope when you're irritated with another person so that you don't let your sour face or sarcastic comments alert them to your irritation. After you've coped will come the time for reflection on the irritation and what it means for you and your approach to others.

24. No matter who you are, someone hates you for race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference or social class and finds it very hard to see you as a human being in your own right. Understand that it is possible for someone to learn to overcome prejudice, but it rarely happens fast. They may become aware of it in a moment and be shocked, but they will probably not be able to completely overcome it without compassionate, gradual education and personal support.

25. People that are irritating are that way for a reason that has nothing to do with you – it’s not your job to fix it. Don’t worry about figuring them out or correcting them, worry instead about how you’re going to manage their irritations without letting it hinder your ability to achieve your own goals.

26. Realize that when you are irritated – and voice that irritation – you are also irritating. You’re doing the same thing to others that you don’t want done to you.

27. Remember that most people are not trying to irritate you. They probably don't realize that what they are doing is irritating. In other words, they are probably in their "own world" and are not even aware of you (e.g., someone talking on their cell phone and engrossed in their own conversation while totally irritating the rest of the people within earshot).

28. If you find yourself getting irritated when other people aren’t meeting your needs, let them off the hook and ask for what you want instead of resenting what you didn’t get it because you didn’t ask.

29. Sometimes irritation with other people can be sourced from an illness or disorder and turns into an ongoing, long-term problem. If you're in frequent pain or you're depressed, anxious, prone to panic attacks, etc., you may find yourself easily (and constantly) irritated by other people because you're so busy coping with your pain and disability that you cannot bear it when people make things harder for you. If you're easily irritated and feel anxious, down, and worried over a period of more than a week or two, go and see your doctor to discuss what might be happening.

30. When someone gets angry at us, we sense it and instinctively throw it back at them. When this happens, we “hook” into their energy. Try to give yourself some space before reacting to someone else’s behavior. Most of the time your negative emotion will pass, and you’ll be able to deal with the situation with much more composure and grace.

31. Many times I notice I get irritated with other people when they don’t do what I expect. How often do you make your happiness dependent on the actions of others? It’s like you’re writing them a script, and if they don’t follow it to the letter, you can’t be happy. Stop giving your happiness away.

32. Talk to the other person when you feel calmed or less irritable. If you find that this person is continuing to irritate you, figure out whether it's a good idea to ask them to stop doing whatever they're doing that's bothering you, or whether you just need a temporary break. Either way, you'll need to talk, even if it's just to excuse yourself.

33. The worst thing you can do with an irritating person is engage him. In the heat of battle, any word or action interpreted as “aggressive” in response will only trigger more aggression. As hard as it might seem to do, the best thing is to sit quietly and let them spend themselves ranting and raving, and then ask if they’d like to schedule a time to discuss the matter more calmly and return to whatever you were doing. If this sets off another round of yelling, simply wait it out and repeat.

34. Try meditation. It may help to reground you and open your mind up to peaceful ways of approaching challenging situations and difficult people.

35. While you may have to interact with people you don’t care for in any number of situations, remember that your time is your own and don’t let other people, especially ones you’d rather not interact with, take control of your time.

36. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, which means you don’t have to do favors for everyone who asks. If someone’s encroaching on your time, simply tell them, “I’m sure this is important to you but it simply isn’t a priority for me right now. I really need to work on x and not y.” Again, there’s no need to be mean, just redirect the conversations whenever conversation drifts into areas that aren’t relevant and where you know you’ll be irritated.

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