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

Why People on the Autism Spectrum Are Confused by Neurotypicals

Individuals with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) see the world from a different point of view. They think that NT or “neurotypical” people (i.e., those without an autism spectrum disorder) speak in riddles (e.g., Why use non-verbal signs like body language instead of just telling something like it is? Why don’t they say what they mean? Why are relationships so messy? How come they are not interested in details like me?).

People on the autism spectrum think their world is more logical then NT’s. They have to adjust to NT’s “strange” way of relating to each other and ways of communication. It’s very hard for them to adjust to something so far off from logic. Most of the time, they are truly unable to do so.

People with AS and HFA usually have three basic impairments: (1) communication (both verbal and non-verbal), (2) social imagination (combined with inflexible thinking and repetitive behavior), and (3) social interaction (e.g., being unable to make and keep friends).

These are the most obvious symptoms of the disorder, and they ALWAYS occur together. There is no random combination possible; one can’t be there without the others. These three impairments have a huge impact on every aspect of life when one is diagnosed with AS or HFA, and they all relate to an overly-logical brain (as opposed to a brain that is more in-tune with emotions and relationships).

The brain is not a single-working organism. It has different parts to it, with each part controlling different parts of the body, thought, and emotions. We have a higher thought plane than other animals due to the development of the “neocortex,” which is responsible for problem solving, conscious thought, and language. Before this area of the brain developed, we were like every other type of animal, acting mostly on instinct instead of logic.

Before the neocortex, there was the mammalian part of your brain, which acted on emotions, feelings, and instinct (i.e., the “emotional brain”). This part of the brain is responsible for attraction to beauty, preparing your body to deal with fears and dangers, etc.

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

Then there is the social brain. This part of the brain is responsible for the following:
  • evaluating human voices
  • assigning the emotional value of different stimuli (e.g., deciding when something is disgusting) 
  • attaching an incoming signal with an emotional value
  • deciding whether a social signal really matters
  • deciphering prosody, the additional tones and ways that people add layers of meaning to their spoken words
  • generating an initial emotional response to social stimuli (e.g., Should someone’s tone really impact me as much as it does? What does someone’s look really mean, and am I overreacting?)
  • generating reactions in response to different situations
  • helping control basic visual information
  • helping us notice where someone else is looking
  • selecting which of the myriad incoming social signals are the most important
  • allowing us to observe other human bodies
  • allowing us to know when incoming social signals are rewarding
  • helping us to not just listen to what people say, but HOW it is said
  • observing minute details of facial expression and body language
  • perceiving important social cues
  • regulating strong human emotions




In a way, you can say that people with AS and HFA have an overly-developed rational brain, and an under-developed social brain.

People with an overly-logical brain (think of Spock from Star Trek) often have the following traits:
  • appear to only be concerned with their own needs and wants
  • experience a delay in the development of the idea that the self is equal in importance to that of others
  • have difficulty understanding that others have their own mind, point of view, feelings, and priorities
  • problems attributing mental states to others or to be able to describe what others might be feeling in a given situation (the ability to guess others’ states of mind is related to one’s ability to effectively practice introspection on one’s own)
  • the inability to guess others’ mental states often results in (a) “social mistakes” (e.g., unintentionally saying something highly offensive), and (b) attributing negative intentions in others that aren’t there
  • a lack of developed private self-consciousness, which is a predictor of paranoia (the ability to know one’s self in some way relates to the skill in attributing feelings and motivations to others)
  • will take statements by others in a more concrete and literal fashion
  • they have to work harder than NTs at theorizing what others are experiencing
  • are more concerned with facts, figures, and data than relating to people
  • they need more time than others to understand social subtleties in language (e.g., irony, sarcasm, some forms of humor)
  • difficulty linking behavior of others to their inner feelings, and as a result, can’t understand or predict someone’s behavior 
  • difficulty linking their own behavior to the feelings of others, thus they are unable to anticipate or predict such a response

The overly-logical brain and the absence of the ability to intuit what others may think or feel, what motivates them, how they’re likely to respond in certain situations, etc. may be the root of most difficulties people with AS and HFA have in communication and social interaction.

When attempting to relate better to people with an AS or HFA brain:
  • put more weight on words or actions
  • put less weight on body language, facial expressions, and physical appearances
  • don’t put them in a position where they have to decipher hints, innuendos, subtext, or passive-aggressive behavior – instead, use plain speech
  • don’t assume that their lack of normal eye contact means that they are sneaky, lying, or undependable
  • talk about what you “think” about a particular topic, rather than how to “feel” about it (e.g., “I think a conservative political viewpoint contributes to the individual becoming more self-sufficient and less reliant on government” … instead of, “How do feel about conservatism”).

COMMENT: 

The NT world is actually perfectly logical, if you can accept that communication is not just I say something and you hear it. It is actually even more logical, like chess -- If I say this, you will hear it as this, so I should adjust and say this, so you will hear it better as this, and then you will react in this fashion, so I will feel this way... It's a dysfunction that they are blaming on other people. What aspies should be taught to understand is that complexity is a further exercise in logic. Understanding context and emotion and action-reaction are skills that underpin most normal human interaction, and if lacking in such skill, that's a dysfunction or underdevelopment of empathy. 

The Male Aspie Brain vs. The Female NT Brain

The differences between Aspergers (high functioning autism) men and neurotypical (NT) women (i.e., women without Aspergers) are not only well-documented, but frequently at the heart of troubled relationships. Experts have discovered that there are major differences in the way Aspergers men’s brains and NT women’s brains are structured and in the way they react to events and stimuli.

Below are the big differences between “male Aspie” and “female NT” brains. Some of these differences have more to do with male vs. female traits, while others have more to do with Aspergers vs. neurotypical traits.

1. Typically, Aspergers men’s brains are about 12% bigger than NT women’s brains. This size difference has nothing to do with IQ, but is explained by the difference in physical size between Aspergers men and NT women. Aspergers men need more neurons to control their greater muscle mass and larger body size, thus generally have a larger brain.

2. NT women typically have a larger deep limbic system than Aspergers men, which allows them to be more in touch with their feelings and better able to express them, which promotes bonding with others. Because of this ability to connect, more NT women serve as caregivers. In fact, often times the NT wife "takes care" of her Aspergers husband in the same way she does her children. The down side to this larger deep limbic system is that it also opens NT women up to depression, especially during times of hormonal shifts (e.g., after childbirth, during a menstrual cycle, etc.).

3. NT women tend to: (a) utilize non-verbal cues (e.g., tone, emotion, empathy, etc.), (b) talk through relationship issues, (c) intuit emotions and emotional cues, (d) focus on how to create a solution that works for the couple, and (e) communicate more effectively than Aspergers men. On the other hand, Aspergers men tend to: (a) be less talkative, (b) be more isolated, (c) be more task-oriented, and (d) have a more difficult time understanding emotions that are not explicitly verbalized. These differences explain why Aspergers men and NT women often times have difficulty communicating.



4. Two sections of the brain responsible for language are larger in NT women than in Aspergers men, indicating one reason why neurotypicals usually excel in language-based subjects and in language-associated thinking. In addition, Aspergers men typically only process language in their dominant hemisphere, whereas NT women process language in both hemispheres.

5. Aspergers men tend to process better in the left hemisphere of the brain, whereas NT women tend to process equally well between the two hemispheres. This difference explains why Aspergers men are generally stronger with left-brain activities and approach problem-solving from a task-oriented perspective, whereas NT women typically solve problems more creatively and are more aware of feelings while communicating.

6. Researchers hypothesize that Aspergers is associated with abnormalities in fronto‐striatal pathways resulting in defective sensorimotor gating, and consequently characteristic difficulties inhibiting repetitive thoughts, speech and actions. Neurotypicals tend not to experience such abnormalities. This might explain why Aspergers men tend to be more obsessive-compulsive than their NT counterparts.

7. An area of the brain called the inferior-parietal lobule (IPL) is typically larger in Aspergers men (especially on the left side) than in NT women. This section of the brain controls mental mathematical ability, and may explain why Aspergers men frequently perform higher in mathematical tasks than NT women.

8. Aspergers men tend to have a "fight or flight" response to stressful situations, whereas NT women seem to approach times of stress by taking care of themselves and their children and by forming strong group bonds. The reason for these different reactions to stress is rooted in hormones. The hormone oxytocin is released during stress in both males and females; however, estrogen tends to enhance oxytocin resulting in calming and nurturing feelings, whereas testosterone (which men produce in high levels during stress) reduces the effects of oxytocin.

9. Aspergers men typically have stronger spatial abilities (i.e., being able to mentally represent a shape and its dynamics), whereas NT women typically struggle in this area. Medical experts have discovered that females have a thicker parietal region of the brain, which hinders the ability to mentally rotate objects (an aspect of spatial ability).

10. Because of the way Aspergers men and NT women use the two hemispheres of the brain differently, there are some disorders that Aspergers men and NT women are susceptible to in different ways. Aspergers men are more apt to have dyslexia or other language problems, ADHD, and Tourette’s. NT women, on the other hand, are more susceptible to mood disorders (e.g., depression and anxiety).

Given these differences, it is easy to understand why Aspie male-NT female relationships take so many odd twists and turns, and why the divorce rate amongst these couples is disproportionately high.



BEST COMMENT:

Anonymous said... As most parents have at this point, I've seen Frozen roughly 1.4 million times. There is one song, "Fixer Upper" that has a line that really annoyed me for a while. "You can't really change him, because people don't really change." As a person who is working at managing my Asperger's and trying to improve my life, that really ticked me off for a while. If people don't really change, than why am I bothering? But in some ways, it is true. Who we are at our core doesn't really ever change. If we are kind, we aren't suddenly going to become cruel. If we are wise (different from smart), we aren't suddenly going to become foolish. At our core, our soul, or whatever you believe, we don't change. It is what we do, our actions based on our core that can change. Really, we all change little by little as we go through life, our experiences causing us to become more and more mature. I have come to believe that what can change is our strength, and that is what allows our behavior to change. Aspies tend to become trapped in familiar patterns and circular thinking. Breaking out of those patterns and thoughts is extremely difficult, and choosing to do so is a harder choice than NTs probably realize. It takes a great deal of strength and commitment to choose to change our aspie behaviors in such a way to improve our lives. I know from my experience, a lot of times it is easier and less anxiety ridden to stay with negative behaviors than to try to make something better, because my aspie brain doesn't like change. But if you can find something to be strong for, some reason to make your life better, you can also find the strength to make those changes. Trust in your self-worth, believe in yourself, know who you are, and you may be surprised at how much strength you really have.

MORE COMMENTS:

• Anonymous...Interesting. I'd love to see an article on Aspie women and NT men!
• Anonymous... Very interesting article, and one I will def sit down and read properly later. I'm NT and my husband is suspected AS, so this got my attention :-)
• Anonymous ...If I was married to someone like my aspie son, I would have divorced him years ago!
• Anonymous...I wish my aspie husband was like my aspie son! No one taught my husband empathy, or the need for it! Nor does he understand intimacy. Ever watch the movie, "Adam"? The scene when the girlfriend was on the phone telling someone that her aspie bf never says, "I love you", and he walks in and says something like I said that before (like saying it once was all that is required)? That is my husband.
• Anonymous...Hmm..I'm curious about the opposite. Aspie female brain vs NT male brain.
• Anonymous ...Very interesting article. My biggest complaint with my husband was lack of communication. When my son was diagnosed 5 years ago I realised that my husband was an undiagnosed aspie. Once I came to grips with that I adjusted my behaviour to suit. This really makes sense when I read the article and our relationship works well now that I have learnt not to take things personally.
• Anonymous...I wish my aspie husband was like my aspie son! No one taught my husband empathy, or the need for it! Nor does he understand intimacy. Ever watch the movie, "Adam"? The scene when the girlfriend was on the phone telling someone that her aspie bf never says, "I love you", and he walks in and says something like I said that before (like saying it once was all that is required)? That is my husband. Aspergers is more common in males rather than females and cause might be structure difference of brain of males and females. According to experts, cause of Aspergers is still a mystery so it is quite difficult to be confident with this fact.
• MrCombustion... My wife has an Asperger's sister and for a few years before her behaviors were described as Aspergers I'd always found her somewhat repellent, with no sense of receptivity or attractiveness, just nothing feminine about her at all, kind of bisexual as though 'she' had female reproductive organs but 'he' had a male brain. Then I noticed articles referring to how MRI studies had shown the Aspergers female brain was very similar to the neuro-typical male brain in terms of it's structure. In other words the hypothesis is that males are more readily identified as Aspergers because there behaviors are odd period, whereas female Aspergers exhibit normal behaviors, normal for an NT male and thus are not detected as being 'odd', especially in these politically correct times where to look into this issue would have one labelled as a misogynistic bigot.
• Anonymous ...i too have aspergers hubby and children,its hard to hear but probably the children will be same when they have an intimate relationship,my 2 daughters both divorced as their partners couls not put up with lack of affection and empathy,
.my hubby has empathy for injured animals ,and daughters the same,they realy dont mean it and cant help it,its why up to 80%of aspergers live alone,and to sarah,we have same ratio female /males in family with a/s,more of the women are alone than the aspie men,just guess N/T,men are not as compassionate as us wives
• Anonymous ... Married to ASD Husband for 34 years, 2 children with ASD. I get my emotional support from my NT son, my friends on social media and my Poodles. I really cannot have friendships. I am married and it would be with married couples but my ASD husband has no desire for real friendships. They stress him out, As he says, I only have so much EMO to go around and I guess he gets more than enough from me. It is a hard life but one I chose, unknowingly, but, nevertheless, one I will stay with. I am a hyper-mom, So yes, I am more of his mom than wife.

Post your comment below...

Help for Sleep-Deprived Adults with Asperger's and HFA

“I am a 29 year old male with asperger syndrome. I have had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep most of my life. It’s gotten to the point now where it is affecting my work and my marriage. Any help here is greatly appreciated. Thanks!”

Sleep difficulties are very common in people with Asperger's and High Functioning Autism. If sleep problems are a regular occurrence and interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders cause more than just sleepiness. The lack of quality sleep can have a negative impact on your energy, emotional balance, and health.

Here are some ideas that can help:

1. Avoid evening alcohol consumption. A few hours after drinking, alcohol levels in your blood start to drop, which signals your body to wake up. It takes an average person about an hour to metabolize one drink, so if you have two glasses of wine with dinner, finish your last sip at least 2 hours before bed.

2. Certain smells, such as lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang, activate the alpha wave activity in the back of your brain, which leads to relaxation and helps you sleep more soundly. Mix a few drops of essential oil and water in a spray bottle and give your pillowcase a spritz.

3. Check your meds. Beta-blockers (prescribed for high blood pressure) may cause insomnia …so can SSRIs (a class of antidepressants that includes Prozac and Zoloft). Write down every drug and supplement you take, and have your doctor evaluate how they may be affecting your sleep.

4. Deep breathing helps reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, releases endorphins, and relaxes your body, priming you for sleep. Inhale for 5 seconds, pause for 3, then exhale to a count of 5. Start with 8 repetitions; gradually increase to 15.

5. Don’t sleep with your pet. Cats can be active in the late-night and early morning hours, and dogs may scratch, sniff, and snore you awake. More than half of people who sleep with their pets say the animals disturb their sleep. On the other hand, if your pet is a sound sleeper and snuggling with him is comforting and soothing, let him stay put.

6. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning—even on weekends. A regular sleep routine keeps your biological clock steady so you rest better. Also, exposure to a regular pattern of light and dark helps, so stay in sync by opening the blinds or going outside right after you wake up.

7. If you fall awake but can't fall back to sleep within fifteen minutes, get out of bed. If lying in bed pushes your stress buttons, get up and do something quiet and relaxing (in dim light), such as gentle yoga or massaging your feet until you feel sleepy again.

8. If you're a stomach sleeper, consider using either no pillow or a very flat one to help keep your neck and spine straight.

9. Light is a powerful signal to your brain to be awake. Even the glow from your laptop, iPad, smart phone, or any other electronics on your nightstand may pass through your closed eyelids and retinas into your hypothalamus—the part of your brain that controls sleep. This delays your brain's release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Thus, the darker your room is, the more soundly you'll sleep.

10. Load a familiar audiobook on your iPod at bedtime—one that you know well, so it doesn't engage you but distracts your attention until you drift off to sleep. Relaxing music works well, too.

11. No coffee, tea or cola after 3:00 PM. Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your system for about 8 hours, so if you have a cappuccino after dinner, come bedtime, it'll either prevent your brain from entering deep sleep or stop you from falling asleep altogether.

12. Position your pillow correctly. The perfect prop for your head will keep your spine and neck in a straight line to avoid tension or cramps that can prevent you from falling asleep. If your neck is flexed back or raised, get a pillow that lets you sleep in a better-aligned position.

13. Set your bedroom thermostat between 65° and 70°F, but pay attention to how you actually feel under the covers. Slipping between cool sheets helps trigger a drop in your body temperature. That shift signals the body to produce melatonin, which induces sleep.

14. Sleep is not an on-off switch. It's more like slowly easing your foot off the gas. So give your body time to transition from your active day to bedtime drowsiness by setting a timer for an hour before bed and dividing up the time as follows: (a) first 20 minutes: prep for tomorrow (e.g., pack your bag, set out your clothes); (b) next 20: take care of personal hygiene (e.g., brush your teeth); and (c) last 20: relax in bed, reading with a small, low-wattage book light or practicing deep breathing.

15. Sound machines designed to help you sleep produce a low-level soothing noise. These can help you tune out barking dogs, the TV downstairs, or any other disturbances so you can fall asleep and stay asleep.

16. Take a warm bath or hot shower before going to bed. Both temporarily raise your body temperature, after which it gradually lowers in the cooler air, cueing your body to feel sleepy.

17. The ideal nighttime snack combines carbohydrates and either calcium or a protein that contains the amino acid tryptophan—studies show that both of these combos boost serotonin, a naturally occurring brain chemical that helps you feel calm. Enjoy your snack about an hour before bedtime so that the amino acids have time to reach your brain (e.g., a piece of whole grain toast with a slice of low-fat cheese or turkey, a banana with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter, some whole grain cereal and fat-free milk, or some fruit and low-fat yogurt).

18. The number one sleep complaint I hear from adults with Asperger’s is ‘I can't turn off my mind’. To quiet that wakeful worrying, every night jot down your top concern. Then write down the steps you can take to solve the problem. Once your concerns are converted into some kind of action plan, you'll rest easier.

19. To help you understand how your habits affect your rest, track your sleep every day for at least 2 weeks. Write down not only what's obviously sleep related (e.g., what time you go to bed, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up during the night, how you feel in the morning, etc.), but also factors like what you ate close to bedtime and what exercise you got. Comparing your daily activities with your nightly sleep patterns can show you where you need to make changes.

20. Try to quit smoking if you smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant, so it prevents you from falling asleep. Plus, many smokers experience withdrawal pangs at night. Smokers are 4 times more likely not to feel as well rested after a night's sleep than nonsmokers, studies show, and smoking exacerbates sleep apnea and other breathing disorders, which can also stop you from getting a good night's rest.

21. Working out—especially cardio—improves the length and quality of your sleep. 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise keeps your body temperature elevated for about 4 hours, inhibiting sleep. When your body begins to cool down, however, it signals your brain to release sleep-inducing melatonin, so then you'll get drowsy. Don’t exercise right before bedtime though.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


COMMENTS:

  • Jen... This issue has gotten worse for me as I got older. I fall asleep easily usually, as I am hypersomnolent. However, I have trouble staying asleep. I eventually started taking trazadone. It helps keep me asleep. Not perfectly, but it does help a lot. I also go to bed earlier, so all of the sleep added together is sufficient. There are heart watches that have sleep tracking also. It might be helpful to monitor how well you are doing with different approaches. Good luck! Jen
  • Kirsty... My son has Aspergers and PLM and RL. He has never slept normally although went from waking up 16 times a night to waking up 5 times a night and now only partially wakes 5 times during the night. I just found out that he has to share a room with 10 other boys for school camp. It is upsetting to realise that this is going to be an issue for him forever. Thanks for the tips. I guess he will never sleep in Youth Hostels when he gets older.
  • Kallya... Ok I will literally start awake for hours on end thinking of thing like, how would I survive in thrown back 20000 years in time. So yeah the i can't sleep so now my mind is running in weird circles, so I can't sleep cycle. Meditation seems to only make it worse. But something that does seem to help is an app call "mysleepbutton" stupid easy thing. It says some random word. You focus and picture to word in as much detail but before your brain takes off on some weird tangent the app says another unrelated random word and refocus on that word. I find with in 15 minutes in will fall asleep. And it works just as well if i wake up in the middle of the night.

8 Things Every NT Woman Should Know About Her Autistic Spouse’s Brain

An autistic man's brain varies tremendously over his life span, quickly contradicting the image of the emotionally-distant, self-absorbed “nerd” that circulates in mainstream consciousness. From his task-oriented personality to his “excessive” need for time alone, here's what women need to know about their partner's mind:

1. “Men with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are non-committal,” the refrain usually goes. But this may be one of the largest misconceptions about these men. The “fear of commitment” is most likely to occur before men hit 30. After that, most ASD men focus mostly on providing for their families (of course, some have a harder time with commitment than others – a problem that could be genetic).

2. “Autistic fathers don’t really bond with their children.”  This is another myth. While many of these fathers may occasionally (and unintentionally) give the impression that they are not very interested in “bonding” or spending quality time with their kids (which is due to mind-blindness issues), most will tell you – categorically – that they love their kids more than anything or anyone else. They just have difficulty conveying that love in a meaningful way.

3. “Men on the spectrum embrace chain of command.” True! An unstable hierarchy can cause these men considerable anxiety. An established chain of command (such as that practiced by the military and many work places) gives them a sense of control in an otherwise chaotic world.
 

4. “Men with ASD have no empathy and are more focused on solutions than feelings.” Yes and no! While many studies suggest that females are more empathetic than males, this is not entirely true. The empathy system of the autistic male brain DOES respond when someone is stressed or expressing a problem – but the task-oriented, "fix-it" region quickly takes over.  As a result, these men tend to be more concerned with fixing a problem than showing solidarity in feeling.


5. “These men are hard-wired to check-out other women.” Maybe. While often linked to aggression and hostility, testosterone is also the hormone of the libido. And ALL men (not just those on the autism spectrum) have six times the amount surging through their veins as women. Testosterone impairs the impulse-control region of the brain. While it has yet to be studied, this may explain why men ogle women as if on "auto-pilot." However, most ASD men forget about the woman once she is out of their visual field.

6. “The ASD man is immature for his age.” Of course! He has a “developmental disorder” after all. This simply means he is emotionally and socially lagging behind his peers. But even “late-bloomers” develop a significant element of experience and wisdom over time.

7. “Men with ASD don’t show their emotions.” False. While women are usually considered the more emotional gender, infant boys are more emotionally reactive and expressive than infant girls. Adult men have slightly stronger emotional reactions, too – BUT ONLY BEFORE THEY ARE AWARE OF THEIR FEELINGS. Once the emotion reaches consciousness, most men adopt a poker face. When young, males likely learn to hide emotions that culture considers "unmanly."

8. “These men are vulnerable to loneliness and anxiety.” Unfortunately, this is spot on. While loneliness, depression and anxiety can take a toll on everyone's health and brain, Men on the spectrum seem particularly vulnerable. These males tend to “reach out” less than neurotypical males, which exacerbates the emotional problems and the toll it takes on their brains' social circuits. Living with women is particularly helpful for autistic men. Men in stable relationships tend to be healthier, live longer, and have hormone levels that decrease anxiety. Having “time alone” to de-stress is also especially beneficial for men on the spectrum.

Chronic, Invasive Thinking-Patterns in People on the Autism Spectrum

☹️==> Audio Clip: Chronic, Invasive Thinking-Patterns in People on the Autism Spectrum

What I hear from a lot from clients with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: "I just want the thoughts to stop!"

In working with clients on the autism spectrum, what I see pretty much 100% of the time is the individual’s tendency to chronically get lost in thought - usually stressful thoughts. The autistic brain is very rarely paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment.

Oftentimes, they are either (a) ruminating about a past stressful event, or (b) worrying about the potentiality of a future stressful event, or (c) they are experiencing stress in the present moment - the event that’s occurring now.

The only reprieve they get from being lost in this rabbit hole of random stressful thinking is to get lost mentally in their special interest. They are rarely at peace in the present moment unless the present moment involves their mental engagement with a preferred activity.

We all have random unwanted thoughts that show up in our head without permission - automatic thoughts. But, I have a ton of anecdotal evidence that the autistic brain seems to run on auto-pilot without the user’s permission pretty much 24 seven. 

We don’t have to beat our heart, it beats without us putting forth any effort. In the same way, the autistic brain thinks without the individual putting any effort toward the thinking. In other words, the autistic individual is no longer in charge of his thoughts, rather his thoughts are in charge of him. He is literally a prisoner of chronic intrusive thinking patterns. 

It’s ASD [level 1]: Should You Share the News?

"I’ve got a question. Long story short. My wife (of 1 ½ years) and I were having some serious problems that resulted in us going to counseling. One of the things that came up was the counselor suggested I get tested for autism. I did. And I have it – Asperger syndrome that is. But I’m 38 years old and the diagnosis may change things (not necessarily in a positive way). I’m not sure how I feel about this or what to do about it if anything. This is my second marriage. My ex doesn’t know, neither do my kids (3). I’m self-employed so it obviously didn’t affect my work in any way. But my question is should I tell them about this new revelation or just keep it under wraps? So far the only person that knows is my wife."

Finding out that you have ASD (high-functioning autism or Asperger's) usually results in a mixed bag of emotions. You may feel relieved in a sense, because now there is a reasonable explanation for why your life has taken the twists and turns it has over the years. 
 
You could feel worried (e.g., “What are people going to think about me now?”). There might be feelings of sadness, because you hoped you were “normal.” Shame, anger, and a host of other emotions may be racing through your brain once you get “the news.” Through all of this may come the need for telling some “safe” people about your disorder and how it has affected you.

If you are faced with having to tell some important people in your life that you have an autism spectrum disorder, the first thing you need to do is educate yourself about the disorder so that you can answer questions. Start with those closest to you, beginning with trusted family members and close friends. 
 
These individuals may have already had their suspicions (i.e., they knew that something wasn’t quite right). So, advising them of your disorder may not be a shock at all. Instead, it saves them from filling in the blank with their own false assumptions regarding your past behaviors and attitude. Everybody is finally on the same page now. The confusion is lifted.

I recently counseled a father who was diagnosed later in life and divulged the diagnosis to his adult children. As it turned out, it was a very healing moment for them, because it gave them an explanation for why he was (in their words) “seemingly more interested in work than with the family.” They still harbor some resentment, but now they know it had more to do with the disorder rather than his “lack of love” for them.



Simply telling others that you have a brain problem that results in certain symptoms (e.g., problems relating to others, anxiety, obsessions, ritualistic behaviors, etc.) may be enough. Pick your top 3 to 5 symptoms (i.e., the ones you experience the most) to use in your descriptions, and just mention those. There’s no need to come up with a lengthy laundry list of symptoms – even if you experience all of them. This will just serve to increase – rather than diminish – the confusion.

After the people in your life that you trust become accustomed to the diagnosis, you may want to consider speaking to others about your disorder. There will probably be other people outside of your circle that will benefit from understanding Asperger’s and how it affects you (e.g., extended family, your employer, coworkers, etc.).

You don’t need to tell the entire world, especially if others don’t see much of a problem with your behavior. What you do eventually say can be as simple as “I have a brain disorder” or as complex as explaining the disorder to its fullest to those who are genuinely interested.

Certainly, the conversation needs to take place every time new and important people show up in your life (e.g., a boyfriend or girlfriend). Also, know that ASD is more well-known and more easily understandable than it once was, and there are a lot of people that have been diagnosed in recent years. So, there’s no need to feel reluctant or embarrassed about sharing with others what is already a fairly common issue.

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

 
WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ON THE MATTER:

•    Anonymous said… Any recommendations for a diagnosis in melbourne vic please Mr is a young man and i believe he is an aspie I am his mothee and he holds alot of grudges against me esp. Thanks
•    Anonymous said… For sure share all of your and her family. It will explain your life time of actions and behaviours that they probably triggered without knowing it. I'm 48 and was diagnosed 5-6 years ago. My Mother new something wasn't right but didn't make any efforts to find an answer. Although it was much harder diagnosis back then but impossible. Had a friend with Asperger. She made me stay away from him for five years until I was a teenager and started hanging out until many years later what he had. His parents new back when he was a child. I spent alot of my childhood being scolded for not making eye contact and told to let people see the hands a face moments. So I spent many hours a week in my bedroom trying desperately train myself to mask it. My meltdowns were just considered me just being a mean person by people who triggered it without knowing it. Luckily my wife stayed with me through it all and has lost most of her family because of it. Don't ever be ashamed of who you are! Hope my story helped at least some.
•    Anonymous said… Hi my partner and I have been going through the first steps towards a diagnosis for him we are at early days with the possibility he may be an Aspie but at 43 he now needs to know! Prior to this it's been hard on us both for the past two wks things have been calmer although he's apprehensive of getting a diagnosis! I can't say it will fix things but you will have answers as to why you are the way you are and I'm certainly more tolerant of the things he says and does now thank you for sharing this x
•    Anonymous said… I agree. Husband diagnosed after we had been married nearly 40 years. We are still processing the effects. Get comfortable in how it affects your life. Everyone is different in that. Once you discover that you will be more comfortable in explaining how you process every day events and how that translates to the people around you. You need to work on this together with your new spouse.
•    Anonymous said… I bet that the people around you already think that you are aspie anyway. It is so common these days.
•    Anonymous said… I should imagine this is why you excel at your job dear Kal xx
•    Anonymous said… I totally agree with this reply...felt like an elephant got off my back when I was diagnosed...I'm 68.
•    Anonymous said… I was diagnosed at age 44 during my 3rd marriage. I kept it to myself because I happen to be an autism specialist in a public school. But my co-workers already knew!
•    Anonymous said… Just do what feels right for you, if your still processing it all then wait till you are comfortable with telling people, no need to force it.
•    Anonymous said… My father was aspergers, his brother had aspergers. My 1st cousin on my dad's side has aspergers. My oldest daughter has aspergers. My son has, but refuses to speak about it. According to Dr. Tony Attwood, arguably the world's for most authority on autism, states that is is 90-95% Hereditable. That should be reason enough for you to be telling your kids; chances are it came to you from someone else in your genetics.
•    Anonymous said… Share after you, yourself, are comfortable with it. It took me about 3 years to really figure out what it meant to me. It was, however, a BIG relief because I could always "bear it in mind" and things made so much more sense. The release of pressure of "not understanding" why I was what I was actually helped me learn how to cope better and more effectively. BTW, welcome to the club - we're "not like the others" in both negative and positive ways.
•    Anonymous said… Well a late diagnosis is becoming more common. I was diagnosed in my 40s. I think you need to give yourself time to process it and what it means. A diagnosis for me means I can give my self permission to avoid things and places that stress me out. Not all family were supportive but that's ok. The main thing to remember is that this is nothing to be ashamed of. This is part of who you are but it's not all you are. Take time get comfortable with it and then see if you want to share or not.
•    Anonymous said… We're all different I've read a lot of books on the subject especially about adult males with it. I haven't been officially diagnosed but my daughter has and my wife knows that I am too. Probably most important is to to learn how to keep connected with your wife shes the glue that will hold you together generally aspies can come across as cold and uncaring (I do- cant get my head out of a computer) and I have had to work hard to try and see things as she does and really talk to her. Secondly to see if any of your kids are and decide whether you want an "official" diagnosis for them. Its tough on my wife having two of us in the household. My daughter and I understand each other in a non verbal way which drives my wife nuts but we also are both stubborn which leads to a lot of yelling when we both wont give way. Try not to regret too much as you learn about it the past lost opportunities or hurtful errors you may have caused I keep getting flash backs lately of things I know I screwed up 30 years ago and knowing now why doesn't help. Being self employed seems to be the only way many of us can make a living because we just cant go into work everyday and cope with other peoples.....sh*t. There are a lot of books on it out there but as I said it seems no two of us are alike. I can recomend "The journal of best practices" & "Odd girl out" which give two aspies different views on their worlds ( both are different to mine) also online "living with an Aspie partner". Finally repeating talk openly with your wife its tougher than you think.

Post your comment below...

Why Your Spouse with ASD is Afraid of You

Your spouse on the autism spectrum may be afraid to discuss relationship difficulties with you. Why?

As you know, high-functioning autism is a “developmental” disorder, which means that developmentally, your spouse on the spectrum has a social-emotional brain that is under-developed
 
In other words, he is low in the social and emotional intelligence. This also means that his social and emotional needs are significantly lower than his NT wife’s needs.

So, when she wants to discuss relationship issues with her ASD spouse, she is, of course, going to be using her highly developed social and emotional intelligence as she tries to make her points.

However, the ASD husband is listening with a highly logical brain that is also low in social and emotional competency. Therefore, he is not “tracking” her important message. It’s like she is very fluent in German, but he just speaks a tiny bit of German. So, as she is talking, he’s only understanding and retaining about 10% of the total information – and he knows it!

The typical partner on the autism spectrum knows that he is not fully understanding what his NT wife is thinking and feeling – and this makes him feel stupid. The NT wife eventually realizes that her husband does not “get it.” 
 
She feels as though she has wasted her time and energy in trying to make him understand what she needs. So, she understandably complains that he doesn’t “get it” - and may even accuse him of “not caring” and/or “not listening.”

This complaint downloads in the autistic brain as criticism, disrespect and ridicule. This is why the man with ASD hates having difficult conversations with his wife. Now he feels stupid AND chastised. He thinks, “I don’t understand what she is saying or feeling, which makes me feel dumb, and then I get in trouble for being dumb.”

So, you can see why difficult conversations about relationship problems would be something he dreads. And when she says something along the lines of “WE NEED TO TALK” - his anxiety instantly increases as he forecasts yet another bad outcome [i.e., a heated argument that yields no solution].
 
Many men on the autism spectrum have reported that they are afraid of their NT wife. They know that when there has to be a discussion on relationship problems, they are not going to grasp her perspective very well, and they also know they’re going to be in trouble for not being able to grasp it.

Thus, most often, the ASD man will try to avoid these difficult conversations - and if that’s not possible, he will hurry up and agree to whatever she says purely to get the conversation over with as soon as possible, which instantly reduces his fear and associated anxiety.

 

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


The "Winter Blues": Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Winter is coming. The days are growing shorter, colder and darker. This is rather depressing in some ways, wouldn’t you say? Cloudy, cold days run my emotional battery down! Plus, I’m not a big holiday person, so Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s do not inspire me much. I call this the “winter blues.” BUT, I have found some ways to get through these dark days in one piece (and yes, I’m already looking forward to spring).

The winter blues is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like many Aspies (i.e., people with Asperger’s or high functioning autism) with the winter blues, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.



Symptoms of the winter blues may include: 
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Oversleeping
  • School or work problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Weight gain

What gives you the winter blues? A few specific factors that may come into play include:
  • Family history. As with other types of depression, those with the winter blues may be more likely to have blood relatives with the condition.
  • Having clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
  • Living far from the equator. The winter blues appears to be more common among Aspies who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter, and longer days during the summer months.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in the winter blues. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body's internal clock, which lets you know when you should sleep or be awake. This disruption of your circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression.

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

What can you do to beat the winter blues? Here are some ideas:

1. Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase the winter blues symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.

2. Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.

3. Try light therapy. In light therapy, also called phototherapy, you sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box so that you're exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.  Light therapy is one of the first line treatments for the winter blues. It generally starts working in two to four days and causes few side effects. Research on light therapy is limited, but it appears to be effective for most Aspies in relieving the winter blues symptoms. Before you purchase a light therapy box or consider light therapy, talk to your physician or mental health provider to make sure it's a good idea and to make sure you're getting a high-quality light therapy box.

4. Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.

5. Try mind-body therapies. Mind-body therapies that may help relieve depression symptoms include Yoga, Meditation, Massage therapy, Guided imagery, and Acupuncture.

6. Practice stress management. Learn techniques to manage your stress better. Unmanaged stress can lead to depression, overeating, or other unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

7. Psychotherapy is another option to treat the winter blues. Although the winter blues is thought to be related to brain chemistry, your mood and behavior also can add to symptoms. Psychotherapy can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. You can also learn healthy ways to cope with the winter blues and manage stress.

8. Several herbal remedies, supplements and mind-body techniques are commonly used to relieve depression symptoms. It's not clear how effective these treatments are for the winter blues, but there are several that may help. Keep in mind, alternative treatments alone may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. Some alternative treatments may not be safe if you have other health conditions or take certain medications. Supplements used to treat depression include Melatonin, Omega-3 fatty acids, SAMe, and St. John's wort.

9. Socialize. When you're feeling down, it can be hard to be social. Make an effort to connect with family and friends you enjoy being around. They can offer support, a shoulder to cry on, or a joke to give you a little boost.

10. Some Aspies with the winter blues benefit from antidepressant treatment, especially if symptoms are severe. Antidepressants commonly used to treat the winter blues include paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and venlafaxine (Effexor). An extended-release version of the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin XL) may help prevent depressive episodes in Aspies with a history of the winter blues. Your physician may recommend starting treatment with an antidepressant before your symptoms typically begin each year. He or she may also recommend that you continue to take antidepressant medication beyond the time your symptoms normally go away. Keep in mind that it may take several weeks to notice full benefits from an antidepressant. In addition, you may have to try different medications before you find one that works well for you and has the fewest side effects. Stick to your treatment plan. Take medications as directed, and attend therapy appointments as scheduled.

11. Take a trip. If possible, take winter vacations in sunny, warm locations if you have winter the winter blues or to cooler locations if you have summer the winter blues.

12. Take care of yourself. Get enough rest and take time to relax. Participate in a regular exercise program. Eat regular, healthy meals. Don't turn to alcohol or illegal drugs for relief.

If you take steps early on to manage the symptoms of winter blues, you may be able to prevent them from getting worse over time. Some Aspies find it helpful to begin treatment before symptoms would normally start in the fall or winter, and then continue treatment past the time symptoms would normally go away. If you can get control of your symptoms before they get worse, you may be able to head off serious changes in mood, appetite and energy levels.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Adults on the Autism Spectrum and Generalized Anxiety Disorder

ASD adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed when an individual worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months. Adult on the spectrum with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include:
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fatigue
  • feeling out of breath
  • having to go to the bathroom frequently
  • headaches
  • hot flashes
  • irritability
  • lightheadedness
  • muscle aches
  • muscle tension
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • twitching

When their anxiety level is mild, adults with ASD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder can function socially and hold down a job. Although they don’t avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder, they can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities if their anxiety is severe.

Other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse often accompany Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which rarely occurs alone. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is commonly treated with medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy, but co-occurring conditions must also be treated using the appropriate therapies.
 

Treatment—

In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Treatment choices depend on the problem and the individual’s preference. Before treatment begins, a physician must conduct a careful diagnostic evaluation to determine whether an individual’s symptoms are caused by an anxiety disorder or a physical problem. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, the type of disorder or the combination of disorders that are present must be identified, as well as any coexisting conditions, such as depression or substance abuse. Sometimes alcoholism, depression, or other coexisting conditions have such a strong effect on the person that treating the anxiety disorder must wait until the coexisting conditions are brought under control.

People with anxiety disorders who have already received treatment should tell their current physician about that treatment in detail. If they received medication, they should tell their physician what medication was used, what the dosage was at the beginning of treatment, whether the dosage was increased or decreased while they were under treatment, what side effects occurred, and whether the treatment helped them become less anxious. If they received psychotherapy, they should describe the type of therapy, how often they attended sessions, and whether the therapy was useful.

Often these individuals believe that they have “failed” at treatment or that the treatment didn’t work for them when, in fact, it was not given for an adequate length of time or was administered incorrectly. Sometimes people must try several different treatments or combinations of treatment before they find the one that works for them.

Medication—

Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while the individual receives psychotherapy. Medication must be prescribed by physicians, usually psychiatrists, who can either offer psychotherapy themselves or work as a team with psychologists, social workers, or counselors who provide psychotherapy. The principal medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers to control some of the physical symptoms. With proper treatment, many Aspies with anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives.

Anti-Anxiety Drugs: High-potency benzodiazepines combat anxiety and have few side effects other than drowsiness. Because people can get used to them and may need higher and higher doses to get the same effect, benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short periods of time, especially for people who have abused drugs or alcohol and who become dependent on medication easily. One exception to this rule is people with panic disorder, who can take benzodiazepines for up to a year without harm. Clonazepam (Klonopin®) is used for social phobia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, lorazepam (Ativan®) is helpful for panic disorder, and alprazolam (Xanax®) is useful for both panic disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking benzodiazepines abruptly instead of tapering off, and anxiety can return once the medication is stopped. These potential problems have led some physicians to shy away from using these drugs or to use them in inadequate doses. Buspirone (Buspar®), an azapirone, is a newer anti-anxiety medication used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Possible side effects include dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone must be taken consistently for at least 2 weeks to achieve an anti-anxiety effect.

Antidepressants: Antidepressants were developed to treat depression but are also effective for anxiety disorders. Although these medications begin to alter brain chemistry after the very first dose, their full effect requires a series of changes to occur; it is usually about 4 to 6 weeks before symptoms start to fade. It is important to continue taking these medications long enough to let them work.

Beta-Blockers: Beta-blockers, such as propranolol (Inderal®), which is used to treat heart conditions, can prevent the physical symptoms that accompany certain anxiety disorders, particularly social phobia. When a feared situation can be predicted (such as giving a speech), a physician may prescribe a beta-blocker to keep physical symptoms of anxiety under control.

MAOIs: Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the oldest class of antidepressant medications. The MAOIs most commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders are phenelzine (Nardil®), followed by tranylcypromine (Parnate®), and isocarboxazid (Marplan®), which are useful in treating panic disorder and social phobia. People who take MAOIs cannot eat a variety of foods and beverages (including cheese and red wine) that contain tyramine or take certain medications, including some types of birth control pills, pain relievers (such as Advil®, Motrin®, or Tylenol®), cold and allergy medications, and herbal supplements; these substances can interact with MAOIs to cause dangerous increases in blood pressure. The development of a new MAOI skin patch may help lessen these risks. MAOIs can also react with SSRIs to produce a serious condition called “serotonin syndrome,” which can cause confusion, hallucinations, increased sweating, muscle stiffness, seizures, changes in blood pressure or heart rhythm, and other potentially life-threatening conditions.

SSRIs: Some of the newest antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. SSRIs alter the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which, like other neurotransmitters, helps brain cells communicate with one another. Fluoxetine (Prozac®), sertraline (Zoloft®), escitalopram (Lexapro®), paroxetine (Paxil®), and citalopram (Celexa®) are some of the SSRIs commonly prescribed for panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, and social phobia. SSRIs are also used to treat panic disorder when it occurs in combination with OCD, social phobia, or depression. Venlafaxine (Effexor®), a drug closely related to the SSRIs, is used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder. These medications are started at low doses and gradually increased until they have a beneficial effect. SSRIs have fewer side effects than older antidepressants, but they sometimes produce slight nausea or jitters when people first start to take them. These symptoms fade with time. Some people also experience sexual dysfunction with SSRIs, which may be helped by adjusting the dosage or switching to another SSRI.

Tricyclics: Tricyclics are older than SSRIs and work as well as SSRIs for anxiety disorders other than OCD. They are also started at low doses that are gradually increased. They sometimes cause dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, and weight gain, which can usually be corrected by changing the dosage or switching to another tricyclic medication. Tricyclics include imipramine (Tofranil®), which is prescribed for panic disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and clomipramine (Anafranil®), which is the only tricyclic antidepressant useful for treating OCD.
 

Taking Medications—

Before taking medication for an anxiety disorder:
  • Ask your physician to tell you about the effects and side effects of the drug.
  • Ask your physician when and how the medication should be stopped. Some drugs can’t be stopped abruptly but must be tapered off slowly under a physician’s supervision.
  • Be aware that some medications are effective only if they are taken regularly and that symptoms may recur if the medication is stopped.
  • Tell your physician about any alternative therapies or over-the-counter medications you are using.
  • Work with your physician to determine which medication is right for you and what dosage is best.

Psychotherapy—

Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor, to discover what caused an anxiety disorder and how to deal with its symptoms.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very useful in treating anxiety disorders. The cognitive part helps people on the spectrum change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.

For example, CBT can help these individuals with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them. When people are ready to confront their fears, they are shown how to use exposure techniques to desensitize themselves to situations that trigger their anxieties.

People with OCD who fear dirt and germs are encouraged to get their hands dirty and wait increasing amounts of time before washing them. The therapist helps the person cope with the anxiety that waiting produces; after the exercise has been repeated a number of times, the anxiety diminishes. People with social phobia may be encouraged to spend time in feared social situations without giving in to the temptation to flee and to make small social blunders and observe how people respond to them. Since the response is usually far less harsh than the person fears, these anxieties are lessened. People with PTSD may be supported through recalling their traumatic event in a safe situation, which helps reduce the fear it produces. CBT therapists also teach deep breathing and other types of exercises to relieve anxiety and encourage relaxation.

Exposure-based behavioral therapy has been used for many years to treat specific phobias. The person gradually encounters the object or situation that is feared, perhaps at first only through pictures or tapes, then later face-to-face. Often the therapist will accompany the person to a feared situation to provide support and guidance.

CBT is undertaken when people with ASD decide they are ready for it and with their permission and cooperation. To be effective, the therapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and must be tailored to his or her needs. There are no side effects other than the discomfort of temporarily increased anxiety.

CBT or behavioral therapy often lasts about 12 weeks. It may be conducted individually or with a group of people who have similar problems. Group therapy is particularly effective for social phobia. Often “homework” is assigned for participants to complete between sessions. There is some evidence that the benefits of CBT last longer than those of medication for people with panic disorder, and the same may be true for OCD, PTSD, and social phobia. If a disorder recurs at a later date, the same therapy can be used to treat it successfully a second time.
 
 


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Struggle with that daily diagnosed
•    Anonymous said... Remember that everyone doesn't fit every profile of aspergers syndrome....some have some characteristics and others may have different ones....
•    Anonymous said... My son who is 11 was diagnosed with Aspergers and I am without doubt that my partner also does although he has not been diagnosed. I however was diagnosed with GAD, it doesn't take much to cause an anxiety attack, some days it is unbearable from the moment I wake!
•    Anonymous said... I have it.
•    Anonymous said... I don't think I ever had GAD. It was certainly never diagnosed. Is it common in people with ASD?
*   Anonymous said... I am a GADS lady and Asperger's .. Diagnosed at age 45 now 52.. My whole life makes sense now!

•    Anonymous said...I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and depression and panic attacks. My first reaction to my anxiety was to drink alcohol. Since alcohol is a depressant, that made everything worse.
*    Anonymous said...Have you ever been nervous before making an important presentation? Has "presentation anxiety" ever gotten in the way of presentation success? Would you like to know how the control your anxiety?

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