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...

Search This Blog

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

The Bullying of People with ASD: Long-Term Effects

Children don’t easily outgrow the agony of being bullied. There are some significant long-term effects on their risk for anxiety, depression, suicidality, and a whole host of outcomes that can wreak havoc on adult lives. Many – if not most – adults with ASD (high-functioning autism) were mistreated as children by some members of their peer-group.

They may have been teased, bullied or rejected due to their “odd” behavior and way of viewing the world. As a result, these adults bear the scars of those experiences today. And to matters even worse, many of them continue to be bullied in the workplace.



Social rejection occurs when a person is purposely excluded from a social relationship (e.g., a friend) or a social group (e.g., classmates). Rejection can be either “active” (e.g., bullying, teasing, ridiculing, etc.), or “passive” (e.g., ignoring the person, giving the "silent treatment," etc.).

Childhood peer-relations have been identified as one of the most powerful predictors of future mental health problems, including the development of psychiatric disorders. Social rejection is psychologically painful because of the social nature of human beings. The need for acceptance and belongingness is a fundamental motivation for ALL of us.

Everyone (even introverts) need to be able to give and receive affection to be emotionally healthy. We all need (a) stable relationships and (b) satisfying interactions with individuals in those relationships. If either of these two factors is missing, the person in question will begin to feel isolated and hopeless. In fact, the majority of human anxieties appear to be due to social exclusion, which may explain why so many Asperger’s adults have anxiety issues.

Due to the symptoms associated with ASD, many children with the disorder are unpopular with peers, easily provoked, have a poor understanding of social cues, and experience low self-esteem. Research reveals that such children often grow up to be 6 times more likely to have a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop a psychiatric disorder. By their mid-20s, these former bully-victims are more likely to leave school without qualifications, drift through jobs, be obese, and less likely to have friends.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Some level of rejection is an inevitable part of life for all of us, whether or not we behave “oddly.” However, rejection becomes a problem when the individual is highly sensitive to rejection, when it is prolonged or consistent, or when the relationship is important. Rejection by an entire group has especially negative effects, possibly resulting in a heightened sensitivity to future rejection, aggression, anxiety, depression, feelings of insecurity, a negative outlook on life in general, loneliness, low self-esteem, or social isolation.

As a therapist working with adults on the autism spectrum, it has often been difficult to differentiate between a client’s Asperger’s-related symptoms versus symptoms associated with being a social outcast of sorts. For example, many of these adults prefer to live alone, refusing to date or marry. Is this due to the fact that they are (a) “task-oriented” versus “people-oriented” and (b) more concerned with facts than feelings (both of which are Asperger’s traits) – or have they simply been rejected and ridiculed (not an Asperger’s trait) for so long that they have learned it’s much less painful to travel through life alone?

Some autistic individuals spend most of their time alone because being around other people is just too difficult. They may feel that others are judging them for their disorder. So, they may withdraw to avoid this stigmatization. However, this social withdrawal is psychologically very costly. But, this is a two-way street: the autistic withdraws from society, and society withdraws from the autistic.

When anyone – whether or not they are on the autism spectrum – does not have enough social contact with at least one “significant other,” it affects that person emotionally and physically. Social isolation is both a cause and an effect of mental anguish. When the ASD individual isolates more, he faces more mental anguish. With more mental anguish, he wants to isolate even more. No wonder why this vicious cycle relegates many adults on the spectrum to a life of depression, anxiety, and solitude.

Bullying Exerts Psychiatric Effects Into Adulthood:


We simply can’t continue to dismiss bullying as a harmless, almost inevitable, part of growing up. We should change this mindset and acknowledge that this as a serious problem.

Your comments (see below) would be greatly appreciated. Were you bullied as a child? How has that affected you throughout your life?

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

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

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

COMMENTS:

•    We are seeing this in my daughter. In middle school she began to be rejected by peers and by 8th grade was borderline suicidal and completely withdrawn. We pulled her out of the school and transferred her to another where she experienced much more social success - everyone there is an 'oddball' so she fits right in and has many friends. We are hoping that this will alleviate/reverse the cycle of low self esteem that she experienced. Have seen positive results already so far.

•    Yes, bullying did affect me when I was younger because I was an Aspie, and people don't like what's different. It was the start of a massive decline in mental health. Not only did the misunderstanding impact me in school, but the depression I developed from the bullying made me start using mental health services, where they continued to misunderstand me, which caused my mental health to plummet further, and then another "service" I used physically assaulted me, which scarred me for life. I was deeply suicidal, but upon distancing myself from those places, and dropping their drugs, I improved greatly, with the help of my lover. But when broke up with me, and my attempts to rekindle the relationship failed, and my attempts to have the love live on in others with new relationships failed. The weird part is that they were Aspies too, but they never told me specifically what went wrong. While I always have my family, I've given up on dating. Though I'll always have my dog, who is my child. I prefer to keep myself company with my family, including my parents, siblings, and non-human animals.

•    I'm late 50's now and likely outlive most HFA. You've discounted the impact of hypersensitivity to overstimulation. Aversion to normal social smells, tactile sensations, noise, drafts, clutter, gastric gas pains, too many types of foods, too many people, etc. all make for a chronically overly stressed condition. Add to that the social mis-cues then it's hard to put up with other people without self medication, masking defenses like stemming or fidgeting, or the higher noise environments that drown out sudden noises, along with filters like sun glasses and earplugs.That same hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli that others habituate to lends itself to detecting and remembering patterns that others miss. Hince task orientation. I've largely lived alone my adult life and quite happily since I can de-stress from work. And I've moved often enough and far enough to avoid longer term relationships including with siblings and their large families. It's been a blessing to discover late in life that my tendency to isolate myself is part of being mildly aspie. I truly hate typical situations like commercials on videos or radio and big box store music / kid noises, and driving. Driving is where I still encounter bullies all too often. I've progressively moved from larger urban to more rural areas. As for needing social interaction, it's obvious that as I've aged I'm losing abilities. In some cases that's a blessing such as losing much of my sense of smell, likely due to text neck and often drying out my sinuses while sleeping. As my vision clouds I'm less able to detect mosquitoes to kill or avoid with the complication of not getting enough fresh air. I most detest mosquito bites over all tactile events, but have found cellophane tape over a bite helps greatly. Same goes for covering over tags in clothing or small hairs that get trapped in clothing seems that poke like a goad....... 


........So I've adapted ways of dealing with my over-sensitivities and under- appreciation for social cueing and the drama of human-packs. Such as avoiding marriages, funerals, holidays etc. And yes that's come at the cost of never completing college degrees despite having 150+ semester hours of classes with high GPA.Frankly though I don't miss the human contract because of hyper awareness of the spiritual presence of Christ. I credit Him with getting me through depression and addiction including suicidal ideation in my 20's. It's the higher order spiritual connection as a result of acting in faith that has likely graced me with having survived and thrived professionally.So isolation in the natural is offset by enhanced connection in supernatural dimensions. I'll spare you the testimony unless interested. In sum then, I get that I'm much more able to detect some things and patterns than typicals. While also missing social cues that are the lubricant for human and animal packs / cliques. I think typicals have some brain areas over wired and others under wired too, just not as much as HFA's. Thanks for that! HFA is much less stigmatizing. We're just birds with different songs than the majority. Isolation has it's perks and offsetting penalties. Like with Temple Grandin. Just different, that's all. Children of a "Greater" God. (Please pardon my dumb phone typos.)

•    I am 27 years old and have recently found out I have aspergers syndrome, although obviously I have felt different all my life. I was bullied incredibly badly at school, and there were times when I had to leave for a month or so. I can't help but to see this as a very negative article, although I may just be an exception to the rule, and if so, please excuse me. Besides the bullying I had a very difficult upbringing with an alcoholic father who passed away when I was 21. Despite this I have a good job as a teacher and have dreams and aspirations of one say becoming a psychologist. Aspies find life difficult, overwhelming and stressful, and my struggle with all the symptoms is daily, but that doesn't mean we can't live a long, happy, successful and fulfilling life, which I 100% plan to do.

•    This was eye-opening. I was never actively bullied so I couldn't figure out why I felt like I'd been bullied my whole childhood. I didn't understand the ramifications of social exclusion as bullying. And while as an adult I have a good job and live in my own house ... I live with cats, not humans, and have very few friends, and a good majority of those are family. I hate social situations and am likely to isolate myself first so I can't be rejected.

•    Me too! I have had a lifetime of abuse that I have experienced in school and the workplace. I was excluded from parties but still told I had to help plan for them. Each time I said NO WAY I will NOT help plan for a party that I am not invited to. Even recently, I've given up on any and all planning committees because I, too, get rejected. I've faced a mental health system that was chock full of quacks and other so-called "professionals" who would pump me with drugs and guilt. My therapist and I had screaming matches in his office so much that I finally fired him and found someone new. Rejection still happens to me this day. Guess I'm a very slow learner lol

•    Wow - my entire life suddenly makes sense. I always assumed that I was just born mentally ill, even though the rest of my family are fine. Now I understand the correlation between how family and schoolmates treated me and how I've felt about myself most of my life.

Post your comment below…

Should You Seek a Formal Diagnosis for ASD?

"What if I think my husband has ASD, but he is hesitant to go get an assessment for fear the information will be used against him somehow?"
 
After the question of ASD [High-Functioning Autism] is initially raised, many men and women wonder, “Should I get an official diagnosis?” For some, doing their own research through books, on the Internet, through support groups and information organizations provides enough answers and the best explanation regarding challenges that one faces as well as the strengths that one possesses. Others want validation from a therapist.

Getting a diagnosis as a grown man or women isn't easy, especially since ASD [level 1] isn't widely heard of among some medical professionals. The typical route for getting diagnosed is to visit a physician and ask for a referral to a therapist, preferably one with experience of diagnosing autism. If you are already seeing a professional for other reasons (e.g., a therapist because you suffer from anxiety), then you might wish to ask him or her about a referral instead.

It might be difficult to convince your physician that a diagnosis would be either relevant or necessary. So, it’s important to know how to present your case so that your doctor can see (a) why you might have ASD and (b) why having a diagnosis could be helpful.
 
==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

Make sure the diagnosis is the only thing you are seeing your physician for. If you try to turn it into a consultation about another issue, he or she may not address it fully. A good way to bring up the subject is to mention that you have been reading about High-Functioning Autism.

Next, explain why this is relevant to you. ASD is characterized by something known as the triad of impairments. Individuals with the disorder will be affected in some way by each of these impairments. The  Autism Spectrum is very broad, and any two individuals with the condition may present very differently. No one individual will have all the traits, but by-and-large, most individuals with High-Functioning Autism will have problems in several important areas.

Individuals on the spectrum may be very good at basic communication and letting others know what they think and feel. Their difficulties lie in the social aspects of communication. For example, they may not have many friends and may choose not to socialize much, they may not be socially motivated because they find communication difficult, they may not be aware of what is socially appropriate and have difficulty choosing topics to talk about, or they may have difficulty understanding gestures, body language and facial expressions.

Some of these problems can be seen in the way individuals with ASD present themselves. For example classic traits include anxiety in social situations and resultant nervous tics, difficulties expressing themselves (especially when talking about emotions), difficulty making eye contact, and repetitive speech.

Typical examples of difficulties with social understanding include taking what others say very literally, problems understanding double meanings (e.g., not knowing when others are teasing you), not choosing appropriate topics to talk about, finding “small talk” very difficult, and difficulties in group situations (e.g., going to the bar with a group of buddies). 
 
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Lack of imagination in people with ASD can include difficulty imagining alternative outcomes and finding it hard to predict what will happen next. This frequently leads to anxiety. This can present as problems with sequencing tasks so that preparing to go out can be difficult because you can't always remember what to take with you, problems with making plans for the future, having difficulties organizing your life, and an obsession with rigid routines and severe distress when routines are disrupted. Some individuals with ASD over-compensate for this by being extremely meticulous in their planning and having extensive written or mental checklists.

Besides the triad of impairments, individuals on the spectrum tend to have difficulties which relate to the triad – but are not included within it. These can include:
  • acute anxiety, which can lead to panic attacks and a rigid following of routines
  • clumsiness often linked to a condition known as dyspraxia (this includes difficulties with fine motor coordination such as difficulties writing neatly, and problems with gross motor coordination such as ungainly movements, tripping, and falling frequently)
  • depression and social isolation
  • obsessive compulsive behaviors, often severe enough to be diagnosed as OCD 
  • obsessive interests in just one topic (e.g., they might have one subject about which they are extremely knowledgeable which they want to talk about with everyone they meet)
  • phobias (sometimes individuals with High-Functioning Autism are described as having a social phobia, but they may also be affected by other common fears such as claustrophobia and agoraphobia)

Not having these associated issues doesn’t mean you don’t have ASD, but if you have any of them, you might want to describe them to the doctor in order to back up your case. However, you don't need to describe every single trait you have. Your physician may be more likely to respond if you give one good example. Once you have explained why you think you have ASD, you could also show him/her this article. If your physician disagrees with your argument, ask for the reasons why. If you don't feel comfortable discussing his/her decision, then ask for a second appointment to talk it through.

Diagnosis as an adult can be a mixed blessing. Some individuals decide they are O.K. with being self-diagnosed and decide not to ask for a formal diagnosis. However, for those who DO want a formal diagnosis, there are a variety of benefits:

1. Many individuals suffer the consequences of being constantly misunderstood. Often the fact that someone has ASD can lead to teasing, bullying and social isolation. When the individuals close to you are able to understand that there is a reason for your quirks and difficulties, it is much easier for them to empathize with your dilemma.

2. It can be fun to meet up with others who have the disorder in order to learn about their experiences and share your own. There are many support groups available. Check with your nearest Autism association. Also, you can contact others with the disorder through the internet. You don’t have to have a formal diagnosis in order to access this support. 
 
==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

3. Men and women with ASD may need support with day-to-day living. If they are having these needs met, it may be by individuals who don’t understand the disorder and the specific difficulties associated with it. With a diagnosis, you may be able to access specific services (if they exist in your area).

4. Many people won the spectrum have suffered from mental health problems or have been misdiagnosed as having mental health problems (e.g., bipolar, schizophrenia). They have known that they have specific difficulties for a long time without being able to explain them. A formal diagnosis can be a relief because it allows them to learn about their disorder and understand where and why they have difficulties.

5. Additionally, one may use the information derived from a formal diagnosis to:
  • Consider disclosure to family, friends and co-workers
  • Customize one's environment to be more comfortable and accommodating to the strengths and challenges of ASD
  • Do a life review
  • Understand why careers and relationships have - or have not - been successful
  • Find other people with ASD with whom to compare notes 
  • Find people who share similar interests
  • Improve on relationships and pursue better matches
  • Plot a career that matches interests and abilities
  • Plot a course through college
  • Renew or repair relationships that have been negatively affected by ASD
  • Request reasonable accommodations at school or work
  • Take classes part time in order to account for executive functioning and organizational deficits
  • Work differently with helping professionals with an emphasis on concrete coaching help and building of life skills rather than “insight-oriented” therapy

The bottom line is this: If you have ASD and don’t know, it affects you anyway. But, if you do know, you can minimize the negative impact and leverage the positive. Without the knowledge that one has the disorder, one often fills that void with other, more damaging explanations like failure, odd, disappointment, not living up to one’s potential, etc.

Why Your Partner with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism is So Reluctant to Change/Cooperate


“I’ve been reading a lot on this site. I have to ask, why does it seem that men with Asperger syndrome are so unwilling to change or compromise in their relationships?”

Well, there are two kinds of obstacles that hinder change – those that are outside of you (e.g., the environment), and those that are inside (e.g., anxiety).

Some of the common reasons that people on the autism spectrum don’t – or won’t – change include the following:

1.  Not cooperating is less painful than trying to cooperate (the path of least resistance). In many cases, people with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism have legitimately tried to “please” their neurotypical partner – but to them, it seems that “no matter how hard I try, it’s never good enough” (a direct quote I hear often from married men with AS). So, in their way of thinking, “no attempt at change” is not as bad as “a botched attempt at change” (this is usually a self-esteem problem due to repeated “social blunders”).

2.  Their environment is holding them back (largely a sensory-sensitivity problem - as well as a social-skills deficit issue when relating to others around them at home, work, etc.).

3.  Their NT partner or spouse has not set relationship-boundaries (i.e., what is - and is not - acceptable) that are attainable and understandable for the person with AS (e.g., when bringing up a critical issue, the NT has had a poor delivery, bad timing, wording things in ways that increase anxiety, etc.).

4.  Partners with AS have problems with their own mistakes (i.e., they tend to be perfectionistic and OCD in certain areas - and hate feeling like a “failure”). In other words, if they try something new, and it doesn’t yield the desired results QUICKLY, they give up easily and view the attempt as “a total catastrophe” (i.e., classic black-and-white thinking that is common in Asperger’s).

5.  They lack confidence that they will be successful with something outside their comfort zone (mostly an anxiety issue). Change is scary to them. Doing things for the first time or stepping into the unknown can be overwhelming.

6.  They simply don’t want to change, because they don’t see any need for it (often a mind-blindness issue). If they don’t really want to make the change deep down, then it will be very hard to go the distance. And once their mind has decided on a particular course or action (or inaction, in this case) - they are immovable!

7.  In those cases where they actually are open to change, they don’t know how to do it in a practical sense (largely an executive-function deficit issues).

Above, I have mentioned (directly or indirectly) the following issues (click on the issue for more information):

1.    Self-esteem issues
2.    Sensory sensitivities and associated frustrations
3.    Communication problems
4.    OCD, perfectionism and associated inflexibility
5.    Strong need for routine and structure
6.    Executive-function deficits
7.    Anxiety



The Link Between Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder

"Why does it seem that most people with ASD also have a great deal of anxiety?"

One explanation (among several) may have to do with abnormal levels of cortisol. Cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) may be a key component to understanding ASD, according to researchers.

It is one of a family of stress hormones that acts like a ‘red alert’ that is triggered by stressful situations, allowing a person to react quickly to changes around him or her.

In “typical” people, there is a 2-fold increase in levels of this hormone within 30 minutes of waking up, with levels gradually declining during the day as part of the internal body clock. One study found that people with ASD don’t have this peak.

This difference in stress hormone levels may be very significant in explaining why the “autistic” is less able to react and cope with unexpected change. These findings are crucial, as they give us a better understanding about how some of the symptoms we see in ASD are linked to how the individual adapts to change at a chemical level.

The study suggests that a person with the disorder may not adjust normally to the challenge of a new environment on waking, and this may affect the way he or she subsequently engages with the world as the day wears on.

The researchers hope that by understanding the symptoms of ASD as a stress response (rather than a social-skills deficit or some type of behavioral problem), it could help therapists develop strategies for avoiding situations that can cause anxiety in people with the disorder.

The next step in the research will be to look at whether people with other types of autism also lack a peak of cortisol after waking.

Craig sates, "I can really relate to this. By 4 pm, my anxiety is usually off the charts with no direct correlation to any particular event. That was when I would start thinking of going to Happy Hour or something to stop that internal suffocating feeling. Hard to describe." 

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

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

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

Why Your ASD Partner Has Difficulty Understanding How the Social World Works


Your Asperger's or high-functioning autistic partner has a neuro-cognitive disorder that affects many areas of functioning. This includes a difficulty with the basic understanding of the hidden (i.e., unspoken) rules of social behavior – especially if they are not obvious. Life has many of these rules. Some are written, some are spoken, and some are learned through observation and intuition (and intuition is not a strong point for people on the autism spectrum).

In trying to understand how the social world works, your AS or HFA partner will try to make sense of your explanations, but sometimes is not able to do this. As a result, your efforts at trying to “fix” the relationship difficulties will often fall short. This occurs because your “reasoning” has no meaning. He can usually only understand things for which he has a frame of reference (i.e., a picture or idea about this from other sources or from prior discussions).

For example, your partner is not able to sit in a room, observe what is happening, and understand social cues, implied directions, or how to "read between the lines." Instead, he learns facts. He does not "take in" what is happening around him that involves the rest of the social world, only what directly impacts him. And you have probably had the thought that he is “overly-logical,” only living in his head with few true expressions coming from the heart.


Many of the conversations you have had with your AS partner or spouse have generally been about knowledge and facts – not about feelings, opinions, and interactions. This occurs because he does not really know how the social world works and what one is supposed to do in various situations. This can apply to even the smallest situations you might take for granted. Not knowing the unspoken rules of situations causes anxiety and confusion. This leads to many of the behavioral issues that appear as he tries to impose his own sense of order on a “mysterious” world he doesn't fully understand.

Thus, your partner creates his own set of rules for everyday functioning to keep things from changing - and thereby minimize his anxiety. Sometimes, he may even make up some rules when it is convenient. Other times, he may attempt to make them up by looking for patterns, rules, or the logic of a situation to make it less chaotic for him and more predictable and understandable.

If there are no rules for an event or situation, he may create them from his own experiences based on what he has read, seen, or heard. He will usually have a great deal of information to use in reaching his conclusions and forming his opinions. As a result, some of his conclusions are correct - and some are incorrect. And we will likely argue with you until the cows come home if you disagree with him or have a different point of view.

He will rarely consider your point of view if he does not consider you to be an "expert." The more he views you as an illogical and overly-emotional “amateur” on the topic in question – the more stubbornness you will see. He will argue with you about your opinions if different from his own, because he views his truth as THE truth!

He thinks that his opinion is as good as yours, so he chooses his. This represents his rigid thinking. He finds it difficult to be flexible and consider alternate views, especially if he has already reached a conclusion. New ideas can be difficult to accept ("I'd rather do it the way I've always done it"). Being forced to think differently causes a lot of anxiety. And the more anxious he becomes, the more he tries to squelch this uncomfortable emotion by “resisting change” even more – sometimes resulting in a meltdown or shutdown.

NOTE: The above statements are in no way intended to be criticisms, rather to simply explain why it is often difficult for NT spouses/partners to work on the relationship problems. Living in - and trying to cope with - a very confusing social world of results in rigid behavior that can look like insensitivity, narcissism,  and even cruel disregard for others.





Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living with ASD: eBook and Audio Instruction for Neurodiverse Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

==> ASD Men's MasterClass: Social-Skills Training and Emotional-Literacy Development

How to Avoid Meltdowns and Shutdowns in Conversations with Your NT Spouse


Your NT spouse has always wanted “intimacy,” and she got it from you in the early part of the relationship. What you needed more than anything was to be “appreciated” in the early going of the relationship. She appreciated you - and she showed it.

Neither one of you had the thought of this intimacy and appreciation business, but that's what was going on. She got her intimacy in the early days when you first got together. You got your appreciation.

What happens most often in the early going of the relationship: The NT spouse IS his special interest, but after the newness of the relationship wears off, he often reverts back to his original special interest. And she notices that he is slowly detaching [but this occurs at an unconscious level for both parties, initially].

He's not purposely trying to do this, but he's disengaging from the intimacy that was established in the beginning; he separates somewhat, and she notices that - and she starts becoming the “pursuer.” But, the more she pursues, the more he distances himself, because her effort to get him to reconnect [even though her intentions are pure] downloads in his mind as criticism [e.g., I’m not good enough. I’m not measuring up. I’m not meeting her expectations.].

 ==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The more that she pushes to get him back into the relationship, the more that causes anxiety for him, and he continues to distance and distance - and she continues to pursue and pursue. Finally, she gets tired of pursuing - and may become resentful for “wasting” so many years.

So, she's no longer getting her intimacy needs met, and you certainly are not getting your appreciation needs met. But the marriage difficulties affect her more profoundly, because one of her main passions is social and emotional things. So, when you disconnected, she lost one of her main interests. You didn't lose much though! You still have your main interest, whether that's a hobby, your work, or whatever.

When this disengagement occurred, she lost more than you did, and so that's why she is the one that's more distraught - and therefore the one that's more resentful …the one that's angrier and more verbal about the “disconnect” than you. You were more connected with her back in the day, but that has disappeared.

She might say something like, “When we first started dating, things were pretty good. He was sweet and nice and affectionate, but he changed. He changed, and it's not like it used to be anymore.”  In a nutshell, she needs you to give her more of a sense that she's getting some of her intimacy needs met - and in return, you will get more of your appreciation needs met. There are many ways to get intimacy needs met, and one of the main ways is through effective communication.

When she has broached some difficult topics, what typically happens? Your anxiety comes up, of course, because now she's talking about a heavy topic, and you may tend to either meltdown or shutdown, or just stand there and act as if you’re listening and agree with her [e.g., “Yeah, sure, okay, I’ll do it. Whatever you say.”] – just to hurry up and get the conversation over with.

The ASD man’s typical reaction [when his NT wife is trying to talk about some heavy topics about relationship problems] is to either do some version of a shutdown or some version of a meltdown. This is what we want to get rid of guys! We want to stop the propensity to react with meltdowns and shutdowns [i.e., a response that has been either aggressive or passive]. We want to avoid those two ends of the extreme, and what would be in the middle is “assertiveness.”

Passivity could be: “I’m afraid that I’m going to say or do something wrong. So, I try to say and do as little as possible - anything to keep the peace” [an example of when he just avoids the conversations entirely]. Aggressiveness could be: “She has made me very anxious when she talks about these relationship problems, and my anxiety sometimes expresses itself as anger and rage.” So, we're trying to avoid those two extremes and come into the middle, which is assertiveness. 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

She wants you to be more empathic, but empathy is going to be incompatible with passivity or aggressiveness. You can't be empathic and passive. At the same time, you can't be empathic and aggressive. So, we must learn assertiveness before we can practice empathy, and what we're ultimately trying to achieve here is the business of getting some of her intimacies needs met.

One version of assertiveness would be to face the music when she wants to talk about heavy topics - and to sit there and practice dealing with uncomfortable emotions in the moment. For example: As she is talking, I'm going to look in her direction. I’m going to nod while she's talking. I’m not defending myself, and I’m not leaving. I’m staying right there and facing the issue in question.

Her message may not necessarily be the way that I see things, but I’m not here to defend my perspective or to offer my opinion. I’m here to listen to her opinion. So, the goal here guys is listen to understand rather than listen to “mount a defense” - and that sounds like a tall order, and some of you guys will be thinking, “I don't know how the hell I’m going to tolerate that.”

I know it's going to feel very uncomfortable at first, and your anxiety is going to come up, especially if she's complaining - yet again - about what you're doing wrong …or what you're not doing right …or things that you're saying that are upsetting …or things that you're not saying that you're supposed to be saying, etc.

I’m sure you've been in the “dog house” so much that you've taken up residence in there, because it's safer to be in in the doghouse than to face the music and have her talking to you about difficult problems. So, let me remind us of what we're doing here. My goal is to help you reduce your relationship stress, and one of the ways that I can approach that goal is to help you guys avoid taking either the passive reaction or the aggressive reaction to her difficult conversations.

How do we do that? We get to assertiveness rather than being passive or aggressive. What does that look like? We stay right there when she's talking, rather than talking over her or getting angry with her - or leaving. You say, “I’m here to understand your point of view, rather than listen to defend myself.”

So in this scenario, there's no defense …you're not going to feed your pride or ego. If you make the mistake of trying to squeeze-in your defense or try to prove her wrong – you've just SCREWED yourself out of a golden opportunity to give her some display of empathy.

In this instance, it's active listening, which will directly give her the impression that she's finally getting some understanding from you. That’s the whole goal here. When she's wanting to talk to me, I’m not going to leave …I’m not going to get mad. Instead, I’m going to listen, and I’m going to paraphrase what I heard, and I’m going to validate that she just spoke “her truth” to me. That is a form of assertiveness!


More resources:

 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

How the Symptoms of ASD [level 1] Differ in Women Compared to Men

RE: "How are the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder different in women as compared to men?"

The symptoms of ASD in ladies are not hugely different from those in guys. However, females on the autism spectrum are more likely to camouflage their symptoms. 
 
Common forms of camouflaging include preparing jokes or phrases ahead of time to use in conversation, mimicking the social behavior of others, imitating expressions and gestures, and forcing themselves to make eye contact during conversations.

While both men and women with ASD can camouflage their symptoms, it appears to be more common with the ladies. This could explain why they’re less likely to be diagnosed. Studies suggests that, compared to guys, ladies with ASD have less of a tendency to become hyper-focused on a subject or activity, but have more emotional problems (e.g., depression, anxiety).

Generally speaking, females who have ASD are different, not in the core traits of the disorder, but in how they react to the disorder. They tend to mask their social and communication problems in specific ways that are different from the guys on the spectrum. As a result, ladies are often under-diagnosed, or diagnosed with a different disorder. In either case, many of them struggle to cope with their symptoms without the benefit of needed resources and support.

Studies show that ladies with ASD are different from female NTs in how their brains analyze social information. Amazingly, the brain of a woman with ASD is more like the brain of an NT male than that of an autistic male.

Early in life, females with ASD show a greater desire to connect with others. Their interests are more similar to those of NTs. They are more likely to engage in pretend play (characteristic of girls, in general). Also, they are less drawn to repetitive behaviors. Even though they may not be as socially active as NT girls, they often have intense friendships with girls who provide compassion and guidance in social situations.

Girls, and later grown women, often develop coping strategies that cover-up the trouble they have “fitting-in.” They often use imitation or imagination, identifying with other female role-models in an effort to learn how to “act” socially. They figure out the best way to remain undetected by studying social situations and practicing appropriate ways of behaving.

Being well behaved and compliant at school furthers the development and refinement of social skills for these young girls. As a result, they stand out less than boys with ASD. Girls on the spectrum tend to overcome or hide their deficits. As they develop and mature, such deficits appear less pronounced and cause less difficulty for them, in general.

Unlike many autistic guys, ladies with ASD tend to prefer one-on-one social interactions and single friendships (often close and intimate). Although they may have difficulty in group situations, they can be very good at relating directly to one person. They tend to be less solitary than guys with ASD, and are more likely to seek out relationships with the opposite sex, moving towards long-term romantic relationships.

Women on the autism spectrum are more sensitive to emotions in others than guys with ASD. Ironically, the desire in autistic ladies to connect is frequently painful as they encounter ASD-related social and communication problems. 

Loneliness is a common complaint amongst these women. More than 65% of adults with ASD report suicidal thoughts - of this percentage, 77% are females. Clearly, ladies on the spectrum think, feel and act differently than their male counterparts. But it’s different - not necessarily better.

Women are often under-represented in individuals who have a diagnosis of ASD when higher IQ is factored in. This means that of those with a higher intelligence level, women are less likely to be given a diagnosis of ASD. This may be because women with higher intelligence can use their intelligence to develop coping strategies and to learn ways to navigate their life experiences despite their ASD symptoms.

Even within the range of average intelligence, autistic women are often able to display more socially acceptable and functional skills in their social interactions as compared to autistic men. This may be due to how these women can learn to imitate those around them - even when social skills don’t come naturally.

One theory of the differences between autistic men and women (related to restrictive and repetitive behaviors) is that women often have “fewer” of these types of behaviors – and they have “different” types of these behaviors. The restrictive or repetitive behaviors of women may not be noticed as much – and may appear more “socially appropriate.” Autistic women also have limited interests, but these interests appear to be socially acceptable, and therefore are less noticed as a symptom of ASD.

In summary, men and women on the autism spectrum differ in the following areas:

  • as IQ increases, women are less likely to be diagnosed with ASD, which may have to do with their ability to develop coping strategies to manage their life experiences despite having the disorder 
  • at a young age, women on the spectrum seem to have more motor deficits, but fewer communication deficits 
  • men are diagnosed at a 4:1 ratio when compared to women 
  • autistic women often display fewer - and different - types of restrictive or repetitive behaviors as compared to men, and these behaviors are less noticeable to others

 
Emotional, Social, Physical, Behavioral, and Cognitive Traits that Women with ASD May Exhibit:


1.    Abused or taken advantage of as a little girl, but didn’t think to tell anyone
2.    Allergies and food sensitivities
3.    An emotional incident can determine the mood for the day
4.    Analyze existence and the meaning of life
5.    Appearance of hearing problems, but hearing has been checked and is fine
6.    As a little girl, it was hard to know when it was her turn to talk
7.    Aversion to answering questions about themselves
8.    Becomes overwhelmed with too much verbal direction
9.    Calmed by external stimulation (e.g., soothing sound, brushing, rotating object, constant pressure)
10.    Can’t relax or rest without many thoughts

11.    Chronic fatigue
12.    Come across at times as narcissistic
13.    Confused by tone of voice, proximity of body, body stance, the rules of accurate eye contact, posture in conversation, etc.
14.    Constipation
15.    Conversations are often exhausting
16.    Daydream a lot
17.    Deep thinkers
18.    Desires comfort items (e.g., blankets, teddy, rock, string)
19.    Diagnosed with a mental illness
20.    Didn’t participate in class

21.    Difficulty:
•    filtering out background noise when talking to others
•    making and keeping friends
•    transitioning from one activity to another   
•    understanding directional terms (e.g., north, south)   
•    understanding group interactions
•    with fine motor activities (e.g., coloring, printing, using scissors, gluing)
•    with loud or sudden sounds

22.    Dislike being in a crowded mall, crowded gym, and/or crowded theater
23.    Don’t simplify
24.    Don’t take things for granted
25.    Dreams are anxiety-ridden and vivid
26.    Easily fooled and conned
27.    Eating disorders
28.    Emotions can pass very suddenly or are drawn out for a long period of time

29.    Escape:
•    by playing the same music over and over
•    into other rooms at parties
•    regularly through fixations and obsessions
•    routinely through imagination, fantasy
•    through a relationship (imagined or real)
•    through counting, categorizing, organizing, etc.
•    through mental processing
•    through the rhythm of words

30.    Everything has a purpose
31.    Everything is complex
32.    Excellent rote memory
33.    Exceptionally high skills in some areas and very low in others
34.    Experience multiple physical symptoms
35.    Experience trouble with lying
36.    Extreme anxiety for no apparent reason
37.    Feel as if missing a thought-filter
38.    Feel extreme relief when they don’t have to go anywhere or talk to anyone

39.    Feelings:
•    of being misplaced and/or from another planet
•    of confusion and being overwhelmed
•    of dread about upcoming events and appointments
•    of isolation
•    of polar extremes (e.g., sad/happy)

40.    Feels the need to fix or rearrange things
41.    Find it difficult to understand manipulation and disloyalty
42.    Find it difficult to understand vindictive behavior and retaliation
43.    Find norms of conversation confusing
44.    Find unwritten and unspoken rules difficult to grasp, remember, and apply
45.    Food obsessions
46.    Frustration is expressed in unusual ways
47.    Generalized Anxiety
48.    Had imaginary friends as a little girl
49.    Have a continuous dialogue in mind that tells them what to say and how to act when in a social situation

50.    Have had bouts of depression
51.    Highly intelligent
52.    Hold a lot of thoughts, ideas, and feelings inside
53.    Honest
54.    Imitate friends or peers in style, dress, attitude, etc.
55.    Imitate people on television or in movies
56.    Immune challenges
57.    Intolerance to certain food textures, colors or the way they are presented on the plate (e.g., one food can’t touch another)
58.    Irregular sleep patterns
59.    Irritable bowel

60.    Knowing they have to leave the house causes anxiety
61.    Lack in coordination
62.    Little impulse control with speaking
63.    Make friends with older or younger females
64.    Many and varied collections
65.    Mastered imitation
66.    May have a very high vocabulary
67.    May need to be left alone to release tension and frustration
68.    Misdiagnosed
69.    Monopolize conversations

70.    Na├»ve
71.    Numbers are calming (e.g., numbers associated with patterns, calculations, lists, etc.)
72.    Obsess about the potentiality of a relationship with someone
73.    Obsessively collect and organize objects
74.    OCD
75.    Often drop small objects
76.    Often get lost in their own thoughts and “checks out”
77.    Often sound eager and over-zealous or apathetic and disinterested
78.    Often harbor guilt for “hibernating” and not doing “what everyone else is doing”
79.    Over-interest in certain subjects

80.    Perfectionism in certain areas
81.    Philosophize
82.    Poor muscle tone, double-jointed
83.    Practice/rehearse in mind what they will say to another before entering the room
84.    Prepares themselves mentally for outings and appointments, often days before a scheduled event
85.    Prolific writers drawn to poetry
86.    Question place in the world
87.    Question the actions and behaviors of themselves and others
88.    Reveals intimate details to strangers
89.    Search for right and wrong

90.    See things at multiple levels, including their own thinking processes
91.    Sense of humor sometimes seems quirky, odd, or inappropriate
92.    Sense of pending danger or doom
93.    Sensory Issues
94.    Serious and matter-of-fact in nature
95.    Share in order to reach out
96.    Survive overwhelming emotions and senses by escaping in thought or action
97.    Tendency to overshare
98.    Tends to either tune out or break down when being criticized
99.    Tics

100.    Trained themselves in social interactions through readings and studying of others
101.    Transitioning from one activity to another is difficult
102.    Uncomfortable in public bathrooms
103.    Unusually high or low pain tolerance
104.    Visualize and practice how they will act around others
105.    Walks without swinging arms freely
106.    Wonder who they are and what is expected of them
107.    Worry about what is eaten

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

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

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

Tics in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

“My husband [high functioning autistic] makes this kind of snorting noise all evening (I don’t really know how to describe it) which is so annoying and distracting. He does this while were watching TV, in the car, and it’s embarrassing to me when we have company over. No amount of pointing this out to him while he’s doing it gets him to stop (for very long anyway). He will make softer snorts for a few moments, but then starts snorting loudly again – and doesn’t even know he’s doing it until I tell him so. It seems to happen unconsciously. Is this part of his ASD? Is it a separate issue? Am I making too much of this? Is there anything I can do to help him? Sorry for all the questions, but I need some solutions – please! It’s driving me nuts!!! It’s got to the point now where I have to go into the other room if I want to watch a movie or read a book. Otherwise, there’s no point in trying to focus on anything.”



ASD can have many symptoms, such as tics. Tics are rapid, sudden movements of muscles in the body. Tics can be vocal as well. Vocal Tic Disorder (VTD) is characterized by sudden, rapid, recurrent vocal sounds (e.g., constant clearing of the throat, humming, grunting, saying curse words, sniffing, snorting, squealing, etc.). If a person has both motor and vocal tics, he is diagnosed with Tourette’s. If he has only vocal tics, he is diagnosed with VTD.

Vocal tics can be moderately controlled, usually for a short period of time during which the person makes a major effort to control them. However, the vocal tic usually reoccurs – and may be even stronger due to the compensation attempt. Vocal tics often worsen as a result of stress, anxiety, or fatigue. They may also worsen due to positive feelings (e.g., excitement or anticipation). Whenever the person focuses his attention on something else (e.g., surfing the Internet), the tics often decrease due to distraction and relaxation.

There are a variety of medications that are prescribed to help control the symptoms of VTD. However, the best-known treatment is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called “habit reversal training.” If a person gets “the urge” before the oncoming vocal tic, he is taught to recognize it and identify the circumstances that trigger it. The person with ASD and the therapist develop a “competing response” (i.e., an action the person performs when he feels the urge that is incompatible with the vocal tic and less noticeable to others).

One of my male clients with ASD level 1 had a tic that involved sniffling his nose. So, I had him perform a breathing exercise as the “tic substitute.” In this way, he was actually still doing a tic, but in a less socially unacceptable way. This method – in combination with teaching him some relaxation techniques – decreased the frequency of the vocal tics significantly. One of my other clients was able to suppress a vocal tic by chewing gum (because it was “hard to chew and tic at the same time”).

Self-help strategies can help diminish vocal tics as well, for example:
  • Give yourself permission to tic. Holding back a vocal tic can turn it into a ticking bomb (no pun intended) waiting to explode. Have you ever felt a sneeze coming on and tried to avoid it? Didn't work out so well, did it? Chances are it was much worse. Vocal tics are very similar.
  • Get enough rest. Being drowsy throughout the day makes vocal tics worse. So make sure to get 8 hours of sleep every night (if possible).
  • Don't focus on the tic. If you know you have vocal tics, try to forget about it. Focusing on it just makes it worse.
  • Avoid anxiety-filled situations as much as possible. Anxiety only makes vocal tics worse. 
  • Don't let something as harmless as a vocal tic dictate who you are or how you behave. Sometimes, simply learning to live with – and not pay attention to – the tic is the best you can do.

Making those vocal sounds is comforting to your husband in some way (though I can see why it would be irritating to you). Aside from learning to ignore it or simply going into the other room, I suggest that you call your physician and see if she/he has an idea. Generally, a distraction of some kind will help (e.g., massaging his shoulders), but this will likely just be a temporary fix. So, you really do need some outside assistance – especially if this problem is affecting your marriage.

By the way, you’re not the only one dealing with this issue. I have had similar complaints from many “neurotypical” wives over the years. It’s just one of those quirky things that comes with the ASD package.

 

COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Adjustment and acceptance in any relationship can be challenging and a daily effort. Sensory behaviors that are done to maintain (mental) arousal or to calm are not always conscious. I don't think women feel that their spouses are freaks, but idiosycrasies can be hard to live with, especially when your emotional/intimacy needs are not being met by the relationship over time. You can't solve the "problem" and that can be maddening. Scab picking, nose picking, nail biting, verbal tics, throat clearing, snorting, coughing, constant debating, excessive talking, not talking, etc., etc. are functions which draw attention and are also hard to overlook in social situations. Frustration comes, but it doesn't mean that there isn't deep love between those two people. If you didn't love that person, you wouldn't stay. The site is an excellent resource. I hope you find this to be true in your situation.
•    Anonymous said… Asperger folks are highly sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, light. They often have repetitive behaviors that some may find unusual or even offensive.....it goes with the territory. But for me, all the good traits make up for the ones you don't like. Of course, I'm biased because I live with one I love dearly.
•    Anonymous said… Film it on your I device and show it to him.
•    Anonymous said… Its anxiety. You get trapped into a stim behavior. Almost impossible to stop until you break the cycle. Possible medication?
•    Anonymous said… Maybe he's just allergic to the family pet or your new perfume.
•    Anonymous said… Question?.is this apart of touretts syndrome. I have a family member (teenager) that has Adhd. He was also diagnosed with a mild form of touretts. When he was younger he constantly blinked his eyes. On meds now. Under control.
•    Anonymous said… Some of the questions you get make me wonder how long these couples knew each other before getting married. Like the question yesterday about how the girlfriend was just diagnosed, and it's putting a strain on their relationship. Hi, let's explain something, just because you now have a word for how she is different, doesn't suddenly mean she is acting any different than she did before the diagnosis. And for this one.... No, there is no way to make that noise stop, it's an unconscious stimming mechanism. One that you had to have known about before marriage, unless you never spent any real time together before now.
•    Anonymous said… Sometimes my sinuses are so sensory distracting I can't help but snort. Gross, I know, but blowing your nose only goes so far

Post your comment below…

Why Your Partner with ASD is So Inflexible

Neurotypical individuals often don’t understand what their partners with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (ASD level 1) are thinking, how they interpret what is going on, and how their deficits cause relationship problems.

In these cases, it’s best to collect information and analyze what’s going on (i.e., do an investigation). Without investigating the reasons behind the relationship difficulties, NTs may very likely do something that backfires. But, if they know what is really going on, they can make a positive change in how the relationship operates.

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Because a situation was one way the first time, does my spouse feel it has to be that way always (i.e., being rule-bound)?
  2. Does my spouse see only two choices to a situation rather than many options (i.e., black-and-white thinking)?
  3. Has my spouse created a rule that can't be followed (i.e., he/she sees only one way to solve a problem; he/she can’t see alternatives)?
  4. Is my spouse blaming me for something that is beyond my control (i.e., he/she feels that I must solve the problem for him/her, even when it involves issues that I have no control over)?
  5. Is my spouse exaggerating the importance of an event? 
  6. Is it the case that there are no “small” events in his/her mind, and everything that goes wrong is a “catastrophe” (i.e., black-and-white thinking)?
  7. Is my spouse expecting perfection in him/herself (i.e., black-and-white thinking)?
  8. Is my spouse misunderstanding what is happening and assuming something that isn't true (i.e., a misinterpretation brought about by mind-blindness issues)?
  9. Is my spouse stuck on an idea and can't let it go (i.e., he/she does not know how to move on when there is a problem)?

Realizing that people with AS and HFA will NOT be  good observers of their behavior is your first step. This is where you, the NT partner, may be able to provide some insight. Not knowing what to do results in anxiety that leads to the AS/HFA individual taking ineffective and inappropriate actions. Inflexibility is usually a result of this anxiety, which leads to difficulty moving on and letting go of an issue and "getting stuck" on something.


Understanding your AS or HFA partner involves knowing the autistic traits and how they manifest themselves in everyday situations. How does he/she see the world, think about matters, and react to what is going on?  Below are a few reasons that will help you understand why people on the autism spectrum act the way they do.

Reasons for inflexibility:

  • misunderstanding or misinterpretation of your motives or actions
  • violation of a rule or ritual (i.e., changing something from the way it is “supposed” to be)
  • anxiety about a current or upcoming event, no matter how trivial it may appear to you
  • lack of knowledge about the “hidden rules” of social engagement
  • sensory sensitivities, inattention (ADD), OCD, or other psychiatric issues
  • need to avoid or escape from a non-preferred activity, often something difficult or undesirable (often, if he can’t be perfect, he does not want to engage in the activity)
  • need to control a situation
  • need to engage in -or continue- a preferred activity (usually an obsessive interest)
  • transitioning from one activity to another (usually a problem because it may mean ending an activity before he/she is finished with it)

Never over-estimate your AS or HFA partner’s understanding of a situation because of his “high intellectual” capability or his/her other strong points. People on the spectrum often need a road map and a set of instructions, one example at a time.

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living with ASD: eBook and Audio Instruction for Neurodiverse Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

==> ASD Men's MasterClass: Social-Skills Training and Emotional-Literacy Development 

Popular Posts

Chat for Adults with HFA and Aspergers