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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Correcting Social Deficits: Tips for Aspergers Adults

One of the most characteristic symptoms of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism is a deficit in social behavior. Many reports written by researchers have described this problem, and it is thought by many to be the key defining feature of Aspergers. The social problems can be classified into three categories: socially indifferent, socially awkward, and socially avoidant.

1. The socially indifferent Aspie:
  • does not seem to mind being with people – but at the same time – does not mind being by himself
  • does not seek social interaction with others (unless he wants something), nor does he actively avoid social situations

It is thought that this type of social behavior is common in the majority of Aspergers adults. One theory is that they do not obtain 'biochemical' pleasure from being with others. Beta-endorphins (an endogenous opiate-like substance in the brain) are released in the brain during social behavior. There is evidence that the beta-endorphin levels in people with Aspergers are elevated, so they do not need to rely on social interaction for pleasure. Some research on the drug called “Naltrexone” (which blocks the action of beta-endorphins) has shown to increase social behavior.

2. The socially awkward Aspie:
  • desires romantic relationships, but does not have the skills to find and keep a partner
  • does not learn social skills and social taboos by observing others
  • is self-centered
  • lacks common sense when making social decisions
  • lacks reciprocity in interactions, since conversations often revolve around self
  • may try very hard to have friends, but can’t keep them

3. The socially avoidant Aspie:
  • avoids virtually all forms of social interaction

In childhood, the most common response in the socially avoidant individual is having a tantrum or running away when someone tries to interact with him or her. As infants, some are described as arching their back from a parent to avoid contact. For many years, it was thought that this type of reaction to their social environment indicated that the person with Aspergers did not like - or was afraid of - people. Another theory (which is based on interviews with Aspergers adults) suggests that the problem may be due to hypersensitivity to certain sensory stimuli (e.g., some said that a parent's voice hurt their ears, some describe the smell of their parents' perfume or cologne as offensive, some describe pain when being touched or held, etc.).

In addition to the above three types of social deficits, the social cognition of adults with Aspergers may be lacking. Recent research has shown that many Aspies do not realize that other individuals have their own thoughts, plans, and points of view. They also appear to have difficulty understanding other people's beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. As a result, they may not be able to anticipate what others will say or do in various social situations. This has been termed “mind-blindness.”


1. Biomedical: Naltrexone is usually not prescribed to improve social interaction; however, research studies and reports have often indicated improved social skills when given Vitamin B6 and magnesium, and/or dimethylglycine (DMG).

2. Sensory: If the problem appears to be due to hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli, sensory-based interventions may be helpful (e.g., auditory integration training, sensory integration, visual training, and Irlen lenses). Another strategy would be to remove these sensory intrusions from the person's environment.

3. Social-Skills Training: A major goal of social skills training is teaching Aspergers adults about the verbal and nonverbal behaviors involved in social interactions. There are many Aspies who have never been taught such interpersonal skills (e.g., making "small talk" in social settings, the importance of good eye contact during a conversation, etc.). In addition, many of these individuals have not learned to "read" the many subtle cues contained in social interactions (e.g., how to tell when someone wants to change the topic of conversation or shift to another activity). Social skills training helps a person with Aspergers to learn to interpret these and other social signals, so that he or she can determine how to act appropriately in the company of other people in a variety of different situations.

Social skills training makes the assumption that when individuals improve their social skills or change selected behaviors, they will raise their self-esteem and increase the likelihood that others will respond favorably to them. Aspies learn to change their social behavior patterns by practicing selected behaviors in individual or group therapy sessions. Another goal of social skills training is improving the person’s ability to function in everyday social situations. Social skills training can help the person to work on specific issues (e.g., improving one's telephone manners) that may interfere with his or her job or daily life. 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How Alexithymia Affects Relationships: Tips for People with ASD

“Could you please go into greater detail regarding Alexithymia? I’m diagnosed with ASD and believe that I also have this comorbid condition.”

Alexithymia can be described as a deficit in understanding, processing, or describing emotions - and is defined by: (a) difficulty identifying emotions and distinguishing between emotions and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal; (b) difficulty describing emotions to other people; (c) constricted imaginal processes: and (d) a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style.

There are two kinds of alexithymia: (a) primary alexithymia, which is an enduring psychological trait that does not alter over time; and (b) secondary alexithymia, which is state-dependent and disappears after the evoking stressful situation has changed.

Typical aspects that result from Alexithymia can include:

  • very logical and realistic dreams
  • problems identifying, describing, and working with one's own emotions
  • oriented toward things rather than people
  • may treat themselves as robots
  • few dreams or fantasies due to restricted imagination
  • difficulty distinguishing between emotions and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
  • confusion of physical sensations often associated with emotions
  • concrete, realistic, logical thinking, often to the exclusion of emotional responses to problems
  • lack of understanding of the emotions of others
  • lack intuition and empathy

Alexithymia creates interpersonal problems because the affected individual avoids emotionally close relationships, or if he does form relationships with others, he tends to position himself as either dependent, dominant, or “impersonal” (i.e., the relationship remains superficial).

Another issue related to Alexithymia involves the inability to identify and control strong emotions (e.g., sadness or anger), which leaves people with ASD prone to sudden emotional outbursts (e.g., rage, meltdowns). The inability to express emotions using a “feelings vocabulary” predisposes them to use physical acts to articulate the mood and release negative pent-up emotional energy.

Many people on the autism spectrum report a feeling of being unwillingly detached from the world around them. The affected individual may have difficulty finding a life partner or getting married due to low emotional intelligence and weak social skills. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world poses an extreme challenge, but the good news is that emotional competencies can be increased - and social skills can be learned. Finding a therapist who specializes in ASD can be helpful.


Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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



Strategies to Address Low-Frustration Tolerance in Adults with ASD

Strategies designed to address the autistic adult's difficulty in handling day-to-day frustrations have been developed along with comparable interventions for emotional problems relating to anxiety and depression. 
Here are the “big three”:

1. Self-control techniques have been used in the treatment of both aggressive and anxious adults on the spectrum, and given the difficulty that some have controlling these emotions, it may be advisable to make this deficit a key target of interventions for these individuals.

These individuals develop better self-control over their emotions by learning to recognize the physical signs of anxiety or anger (e.g., heart pounding, muscle tension, etc.), by practicing positive self-talk (e.g., “I’m upset right now, but I need to stop and think before I open my mouth”), and the utilization of relaxation techniques (e.g., muscle relaxation, deep breathing, etc.) to reduce emotional arousal and delay an immediate response to a stressful situation. This will permit careful reflection (e.g., problem solving, cognitive restructuring, etc.) prior to taking action.

2. Problem-solving skills are common to cognitive-behavioral treatment targeting behavioral or emotional problems. Adults with ASD are helped to think of several possible solutions to a given problem, and to reflect on the positive and negative consequences of each in order to choose the strategy that will maximize positive consequences in both the short and long term. These individuals who get frustrated easily rely too heavily on aggressive solutions, whereas depressed adults often default to avoiding their difficulties.

Problem-solving skills can be used in either case to broaden the repertoire of constructive coping strategies and enhance decision-making. Decreasing depression and anxiety related to low-frustration tolerance would be beneficial in itself for the adult with ASD, but it may have the added benefit of reducing negative moods that render the individual vulnerable to engaging in explosive, emotional and reactive aggression.

3. Reframing techniques have been used to deal with aggression, anxiety, and depression. The central feature of reframing is to identify thoughts that increase anger, anxiety or sadness, challenge their accuracy, and replace them with interpretations that are more realistic and less harmful. 
With regard to anxiety, a person on the spectrum may learn to recognize that her anxiety levels rise when she assumes that all of her coworkers would “think she is stupid” if she made a few typos in a business letter. Instead, she may be encouraged to take a more realistic view, recognizing that everyone makes mistakes, and that when other people make mistakes, she does not usually think badly of them.

To reinforce this perspective, the adult might use some encouraging self-talk (e.g., “It’s alright to make mistakes from time to time …that’s how I learn to avoid making the same mistakes in the future”). Applied to address emotional difficulties, reframing techniques are often used to emphasize that there is more than one way to explain the actions of other people.

Autistic adults who are easily frustrated over things both big and small face a complicated array of social and emotional challenges, and it is imperative that they recognize the full extent of their difficulties and tailor interventions to match their complex needs. More research is urgently needed to create and evaluate treatment strategies that integrate cognitive-behavioral strategies for the therapeutic intervention of both behavioral and emotional problems.

In the meantime, therapists who work with these adults may broaden the focus of existing clinic-based interventions by flexibly applying techniques such as cognitive restructuring, problem-solving skills training and self-control skills, along the lines described above. 

Parents may play a key role in advocating for their older teens and adult children with low-frustration tolerance, seeking referrals where appropriate to mental health centers where individual therapy may be provided, as this may be a particularly appropriate context to tailor interventions to the specific needs of the adult on the autism spectrum.

Men with ASD Who Are Highly Sexual - But Lack "Emotional Intimacy"

"Do you have any tips for dealing with a partner with Asperger who has a higher than average desire for physical intimacy and sex - and no problems with touch etc., but who doesn't understand the link between emotional and physical intimacy?"

One of the biggest differences between NT woman and Asperger's men (who are highly sexual) is the fact that they experiences sex as a valid physical need. Just as a person's body tells her when she is hungry, thirsty, or tired, your partner's body tells him when he needs a sexual release. His sexual desire is impacted by what's around him, but is ultimately determined by biological factors (e.g., the presence of testosterone). 

The same would be true for most men, whether or not they have Asperger's. But, men with the disorder may come across as particularly cold or emotionally distant due to their deficit in reciprocity (more on that topic can be found here).

Immediately after sexual release, your partner is probably physically satisfied. But as his 'sexual clock' ticks on, erotic thoughts become more prevalent, and he is more easily aroused. The physical need for sexual release increases as sperm builds-up in the testicles. The body continues to manufacture and store sperm, even though sperm production changes based on levels of testosterone and the frequency of sexual release.

The best way for you to understand this issue is to relate it to another physiological need. When a woman has a baby, she may have experienced breast milk building-up in her breasts a few days after giving birth. The build-up of milk can be irritating - and even painful - until the milk is discharged. She may have even had the uncomfortable experience of leaking milk when it was not discharged. 

The man's semen build-up is sometimes released through night-time emissions if it is not otherwise discharged. Just as with breast milk, sperm production keeps up with demand. The more often your partner has sex, the more semen his body will produce.

As a female, you don't experience the physiological drive for sex in this way. There is no build-up that demands discharge. Instead, hormonal fluctuations drive your sexuality. Your sexual hormones are largely determined by 2 factors: (a) the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, and (b) the female reproductive cycle (e.g., menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, menopause, etc.).

Your sexual desire is far more connected to emotions than your partner's sex drive is. He is able to experience sexual arousal apart from any emotional attachment. For example, he may look at a naked woman and feel intense physical desire for her, but at the same time be completely devoted to - and in love with - you. For most females, this just doesn't make sense. 

A basic difference in the wiring of male and female sexuality is that males can separate sex from a relationship - while for a females, the two are usually closely connected (i.e., your desire for sex is linked to an emotional or relational need). 

Don't make the assumption that because sex is a physical need for your partner, it doesn't have an emotional or relational impact. This is simply not true. His sexuality has a tremendous impact on his emotional and spiritual well-being.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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


•    Anonymous said… This helps so much. My sex drive is pretty high, but his never seems to come off it’s peak. This makes so much sense now. Thank you
•    Anonymous said… Totally this. Kind of a relief to see
•    Anonymous said… No intimacy for over 2 years now. It would be nice to have had at least a middle ground instead of complete lack of it.
•    Anonymous said… This is MY experience. Every time I try to get help for it those who have no physical intimacy comment. It’s not v nice the other side either and it does exist and it’s validating just to have an article that says this. But I agree it doesn’t give any advice and does seem to justify it which is a shame.
•    Anonymous said… My guy is almost like this... but he is able to hug, kiss me etc
•    Anonymous said… No physical intimacy for 7.5 years.he switched it off when our child was born. I called him out recently and sggested that i was easy to switch off as the feelings he portrayed for me before our child was born were never really there in the first place. He agreed! All very sad but at least i no longer blame myself for not being thin/attractive enough/possible affairs/ homosexuality / narcassism on his part anymore. I am a means to an end for him and always was.
•    Anonymous said… total relate to this article
•    Anonymous said… I’d wonder about their porn use and an actual sexual dysfunction. Porn induced erectile dysfunction is rampant in men these days. Pornography use isn’t helpful at all. It’s likely hindering intimacy.
•    Anonymous said… My ex who had aspergers was asexual. I’m sure either way it’s hard but I was so frustrated.
•    Anonymous said… I've been wondering myself lately if my sex drive is affected by my diagnosis or not. I havent noticed any issues with understanding or showing intimacy with my past relationships. (I enjoy simple things like cuddling and holding someone very much)
•    Anonymous said… I'v managed to determine that ladies that wanna actually bang are never going to want to be with me, and that "getting ladies to wanna bang by winning their hearts first" is a hopeless case, as they always have No Interest in me....

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Help for Adults with Asperger's (high-functioning autism) and Their Partners/Spouses

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