It is common for people with autism spectrum disorder to exhibit mood swings. (i.e., an emotional response that is poorly modulated and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive response). Overwhelming emotions can take over, and the affected individual will use some type of coping mechanism (at an unconscious level) to deal with them.
The trigger for a mood swing might be the result of a very minor incident (e.g., sensory sensitivity) or something much more upsetting (e.g., an argument with you). Also, many mood swings last until the person is completely drained of his negative emotions (in worst case scenarios, this could last for days in the form of a shutdown).
In my practice, one frequently asked question by NT partners is: “What do I do when my ASD partner can’t control his emotions?” When severe mood swings occur, the first response is to ensure the safety of all concerned.
Of course, mood swings are not planned, but instead are most often caused by elusive and puzzling environmental triggers. When the “shift in mood” happens, everyone in its path feels pain – including the ASD partner.
Let’s look at just three:
1. Don’t throw gas on the fire: Avoid confronting your boyfriend in the heat of the moment. The moment you attempt to control him with hopes of getting him to calm down quickly, you are raising his anxiety – not lowering it.
2. Give a signal: Ask him if he would be willing to respond to your "signal" (e.g., a hand motion) to stay composed. Give that signal as soon as he starts "fuming " about something.
3. This is not about you (the NT): As difficult as it may be in the heat of the moment, don’t take your boyfriend’s strong feelings personally. You may justifiably feel aggravated and personally attacked when he explodes. But, save discussion about your feelings on the matter for later (when he has calmed down).
More resources for Neurodiverse Couples: