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

Meltdowns in People with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Can an adult with high functioning autism [ASD level 1] have a meltdown just like a child with the same disorder? 

The answer is ‘yes’ – but the adult’s meltdown-behavior looks a bit different than a child’s. Under severe enough stress, any normally calm and collected individual may become “out-of-control” – even to the point of violence. But some individuals experience repeated meltdowns in which tension mounts until there is an explosive release.


The adult version of a meltdown may include any of the following (just to name a few):
  • aggressive behavior in which the individual reacts grossly out of proportion to the circumstance
  • angry outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects 
  • banging your head
  • crying
  • domestic abuse
  • pacing back and forth
  • quitting your job
  • road rage
  • talking to yourself
  • threatening others
  • walking out on your spouse or partner
  • yelling and screaming

On the mild end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may simply say some things that are overly critical and disrespectful, thus ultimately destroying the relationship with the other party (or parties) in many cases. On the more extreme end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. In both examples, the adult often later feels remorse, regret or embarrassment.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Meltdowns, usually lasting 5 to 20 minutes, may occur in clusters or be separated by weeks or months in which the ASD adult maintains his/her composure. Meltdown episodes may be preceded or accompanied by:
  • Chest tightness
  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Increased energy
  • Irritability
  • Palpitations
  • Paranoia
  • Rage
  • Tingling
  • Tremors

A number of factors increase the likelihood of experiencing a meltdown:
  • A history of physical abuse or bullying: People on the spectrum  who were abused as kids have an increased risk for frequent meltdowns as adults.
  • A history of substance abuse: Those who abuse drugs or alcohol have an increased risk for frequent meltdowns.
  • Age: Meltdowns are most common in ASD individuals in their late teens to mid 20s.
  • Being male: ASD men are far more likely to meltdown than women.
  • Having another mental health problem: Those with other mental illnesses (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders) are more likely to have meltdowns.



The meltdown is not always directed at others. ASD adults who experience meltdowns are also at significantly increased risk of harming themselves, either with intentional injuries or suicide attempts. Those who are also addicted to drugs or alcohol have a greatest risk of harming themselves.

ASD adults who experience meltdowns are often perceived by others as “always being angry.” Other complications may include job loss, school suspension, divorce, auto accidents, and even incarceration.

If you're concerned because you're having repeated meltdowns, talk with your doctor or make an appointment with someone who specializes in treating adults on the spectrum (e.g., a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc.).

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

Here's how to prepare for an appointment with a professional:
  1. Make a list of all medications as well as any vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  2. Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  3. Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  4. Write down questions to ask your doctor. Preparing a list of questions can help you make sure you cover everything that's important to you. 
  5. Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.

There's no one treatment that's best for adults with autism who experience meltdowns. Treatment generally includes medication and individual or group therapy. Individual or group therapy sessions can be very helpful. A commonly used type of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, helps these people identify which situations or behaviors may trigger a meltdown. 
 
In addition, this type of therapy teaches them how to manage their anger and control their typically inappropriate response using relaxation techniques. Cognitive behavioral therapy that combines cognitive restructuring, coping skills training, and relaxation training has the most promising results.

Unfortunately, many adults on the spectrum who experience meltdowns don't seek treatment. If you're involved in a relationship with an autistic person, it's important that you take steps to protect yourself and your kids. Any emotional and/or physical abuse that may be occurring is not your fault.  If you see that a situation is escalating, and you suspect your partner may be on the verge of a meltdown, try to safely remove yourself and your kids from the area. 
 
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Signs That Your ASD Partner is Approaching “Meltdown”

“My partner [with ASD] will periodically ‘meltdown’. And I would like to know what to look for ahead of time to possibly prevent these from happening, because once he starts ‘losing it’, it’s hard to put that Genie back in the bottle.”

 

A true meltdown is an intense emotional and behavioral response to “over-stimulation” (a form of distress for the individual). Meltdowns are triggered by a fight-or-flight response, which releases adrenaline into the blood stream, creating heightened anxiety and causing the person with autism spectrum disorder to switch to an instinctual survival mode.
 

Common Features of Meltdowns—

  • transitions may trigger a meltdown
  • novel situations or sudden change can elicit a meltdown
  • meltdowns are time-limited
  • meltdowns are due to overwhelming stimulation
  • meltdowns are caused by sensory or mental overload, sometime in conjunction with each other
  • meltdowns are a reaction to severe stress, although the stress may not be readily apparent to an observer
  • cognitive dysfunction, perceptual distortion, and narrowing of sensory experience are associated with meltdowns
  • people in the middle of a meltdown will likely become hypo-sensitive or hyper-sensitive to pain
  • after the meltdown, there may be intense feelings of shame, remorse or humiliation, and a fear that relationships have been harmed beyond repair


Causes of Meltdown—

  • the individual does not receive understandable answers to questions
  • he or she is taken by surprise
  • is given too many choices
  • is given open-ended or vaguely defined tasks
  • has a sensory overload
  • does not understand the reason for sudden change


Warning Signs of Meltdowns—

  • stuttering or showing pressured speech
  • repeating words or phrases over and over
  • perseverating on one topic
  • pacing back in forth or in circles
  • increasing self-stimulatory behaviors (e.g., wringing of hands)
  • extreme resistance to disengaging from a ritual or routine
  • experiencing difficulty answering questions (cognitive breakdown)
  • becoming mute
  • becoming very quiet and shutting down
  • becoming defensive, argumentative, blaming, critical, etc.
  • yelling, cussing



It's important for NT partners to realize that the level of stress in the ASD individual is directly correlated with the amount of data that needs to be processed – and the amount of data that needs to be processed is directly correlated to how much sensory data is picked up and the complexity of the person's personal planning. A logical and consistent structure often helps these individuals.

 

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

Anger to Meltdown to Guilt to Self-Punishment: The ASD Dilemma


In working with adults on the autism spectrum over the years, I have noticed a prominent theme that I will refer to as AMGS, which stands for Anxiety - Meltdown - Guilt - Self-punishment. This is a cycle that many adults with Asperger's [or high functioning autism] have experienced since childhood. 
 
In a nutshell, the cycle starts with anxiety, which in turn leads to a meltdown, which then leads to the individual feeling guilty for acting-out his or her anxiety in the form of anger and/or rage, and ends up with the person punishing himself or herself due to repeated relationship failures that result from this destructive cycle.

Let's look at each of the steps in the cycle:

ANXIETY

Unfortunately, it is very common for adults with  ASD to experience more than their fair share of stress – and to make matters worse – many of these people also lack the ability to manage their stress effectively.



Individuals on the spectrum  are particularly prone to anxiety disorders as a consequence of the social demands made upon them. Any social contact can generate anxiety as to how to start, maintain, and end the activity or conversation. Changes to daily routine can exacerbate the anxiety, as can certain sensory experiences.

Many of my clients have reported feeling anxious for no apparent reason at all. Some of these individuals tend to take life too seriously, take others' behavior and comments to personally, and generally consider themselves to be “worrywarts” (i.e., chronically worrying that something bad will happen, or something good won't happen). 
 

MELTDOWN

As this anxiety, whatever its cause, builds up and builds up, eventually the dam breaks so to speak, usually over something very small. It's the straw that breaks the camel's back. This is called a meltdown.

Under severe enough stress, any normally calm and collected individual may become “out-of-control” – even to the point of violence. But Asperger's individuals experience repeated meltdowns in which tension mounts until there is an explosive release.

The adult version of a meltdown may include any of the following:
  • yelling and screaming
  • walking out on your spouse or partner
  • threatening others
  • talking to yourself
  • road rage
  • quitting your job
  • pacing back and forth
  • domestic abuse
  • crying
  • banging your head
  • angry outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects 
  • aggressive behavior in which the individual reacts grossly out of proportion to the circumstance

The meltdown is not always directed at others. ASD adults who experience meltdowns are also at significantly increased risk of harming themselves, either with intentional injuries or suicide attempts. Those who are also addicted to drugs or alcohol have a greatest risk of harming themselves.

Those who experience meltdowns are often perceived by others as “always being angry.” Other complications may include job loss, school suspension, divorce, auto accidents, and even incarceration.

Rage may be a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in employment, relationships, friendships and other areas in life affected by autism spectrum disorders. There is often an “on-off” quality to this rage, where the person may be calm minutes later after a meltdown, while people around are stunned and may feel hurt. 
 
Neurotypical spouses (i.e., people not on the autism spectrum) often struggle to understand these meltdowns, with resentment and bitterness often building up over time. In some cases, the individual on the spectrum may not acknowledge he has trouble with rage, and will blame others for provoking him. This can create a lot of conflict in a marriage.

There are hundreds of examples of how meltdowns can play out, but for the sake of this discussion, we will use the following example throughout:

The autistic individual has had a rough day at work, but was able to maintain his composure for the most part. But, when he arrives home, his wife makes a comment that hits him wrong for some reason, and he explodes. In other words, he takes his stressful day out on his wife, unintentionally!

GUILT

If this particular scenario plays itself out numerous times over the months or years, the autistic individual may come to believe that he is a victim of his emotions -- in this case, work-related stress expressed in the form of misplaced anger toward his wife and other family members. 
 
But, not only does he feel like a victim of circumstances, he also feels an element of guilt and remorse for hurting the people that he loves. He may have tried numerous times to avoid repeating this scenario, but to no avail, because he still has work-related stress, and has not figured out a way to deal with this stress in a functional, non-destructive way.

On the mild end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may simply say some things that are overly critical and disrespectful, thus ultimately destroying the relationship with the other party (or parties) in many cases. On the more extreme end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. In both examples, the adult often later feels remorse, regret or embarrassment.
 

SELF-PUNISHMENT

As a result of repeated social failures (in our example, numerous negative encounters with his wife), the ASD individual may come to the conclusion that he doesn't deserve love, compassion, or a peaceful lifestyle. Thus, he may do destructive things to punish himself. For example, beating up on himself with negative self-talk, drinking or drug use, overeating, isolation, and possibly even separation or divorce.

The use of self-punishment to reduce feelings of guilt has been well documented in many studies. Guilt is suppose to be a "pro-social emotion," (i.e., functions to preserve important relationships). But, many Asperger's individuals who experience repeated exposure to the AMGS cycle have "unresolved guilt," which prevents them from enjoying life and thriving emotionally.

Self-punishment tends to serve a dual purpose: (1) it relieves internal feelings of guilt, and (2) it impacts how others perceive us.  By engaging in self-punishment or costly apologies, the individual demonstrates that he is willing to harm himself in some way to “even the score” with those he has wronged, thereby restoring his reputation as a "fair person."

ANXIETY (again)

And now we go full circle. The AMGS cycle can feel like being stuck in a perpetual nightmare if it continues long enough. Months – or even years – of experiencing a plethora of negative emotions (e.g., stress, frustration, anger, rage, guilt, etc.) can make relationships so problematic that the better option becomes living alone and avoiding human contact as much as possible. But, unfortunately, ALL of us are social creatures by nature. Thus, living a life of solitude carries its own element of anxiety. People need other people.

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:

•    Anonymous said… I have the meltdowns but not necessarily anxiety...
•    Anonymous said… I thought it was part of my Aspergers that I never feel guilt for anything, no matter how badly I behave.
•    Anonymous said… Meltdowns and guilt, I always seem to blame myself. I always say it must be great being other people because it is never their fault.
•    Anonymous said… My son has done this I have worried it could turn into self harming at some point if he forces himself not to act out his anger..by trying to conform... at some point that emotion has to exit him somewhere and I have worried he'll turn it inwards on himself
•    Anonymous said… So true! This is the best explanation I've seen yet.
•    Anonymous said… Stress, anxiety, meltdowns, but not only anger meltdowns, depression meltdowns too  😬 😬
•    Anonymous said… tell me about it! Especially when the meltdown's to do with sexual needs and horrid NT women getting the man you'd die for.
•    Anonymous said… This is definitely my son, how do we break the cycle though?
•    Anonymous said… This is so my daughter. How do we help them??
•    Anonymous said… VERY true!!!!!!
•    Anonymous said… Yes I live alone as much as anyone can with 7 dogs and 2 cats and I love it. At 60 I realise that just because they tell you you should be social, doesn't mean its true. Soon as other folks enter the scenario, the chaos starts.
•    Anonymous said… Yes, I relate to this rotation
•    Does anyone have any resources to share in how to break this cycle or give the person tools to self regulate?
•    Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group RE: "How to break the cycle..." -- The core issue here is "anxiety." If that can be circumvented, then the cycle never starts. Here are some ideas: http://www.adultaspergerschat.com/.../anxiety-reduction...
•    This is a great break-down of the how/why this cycle repeats. Is there a follow-up or another article that deals more with helping break this cycle (for the individual with Aspergers or those that love them)? Great article, as understanding is half the battle.
•    Does anyone know who to brake this cycle? My 12 year is showing these symptoms and we are trying to tech him cope skills but is there a way to stop the cycle (rather then try to prevent it).
•    Have him write affirmations... and seriously consider speaking to an expert (and by expert I mean a child/adolescent psychiatrist who does talk therapy) about what you can model for him, what he can do, and maybe see if he has OCD as well. A part of this cycle, the anxiety and guilt, can be obsessive thoughts. Maybe a psychiatrist could help with that.
•    I had broken the cycle for a decade. One meltdown in 10 years and now I feel the cycle emerging again. My best friend thought HFA was all me just being absent minded and quirky. Now they are afraid and don't want to be friends. This hurts just as much as an adult as it did as child. I wasn't violent in my meltdown. Just shaking, crying and some yelling out, but not accusative at them specifically. Just makes me feel sad and awful.
 
Please post your comment below…

How to Tell the Difference Between a Meltdown and an Adult Tantrum: Tips for NT Spouses

“I know that people with autism spectrum disorder have their meltdowns, but I’m having a hard time distinguishing the difference between my ASD husband’s meltdowns versus the adult version of a tantrum. These two look the same to me, but I don’t want to confront him if he is legitimately having a ‘meltdown’ because I know that he’s not able to control some of that.”


A key difference to remember is that tantrums usually have a purpose. The person who is "acting out" in the moment is looking for a certain reaction from you (e.g., to push YOUR anger button in order to piss you off). On the other hand, a meltdown is a reaction to something that short circuits the reasoning part of the brain (e.g., sensory overload, anxiety overload, unexpected and troubling change in the person's routine or structure, feeling overwhelmed by one's emotions, etc.), and has nothing to do with your response to it.

ASD is often referred to as the "invisible disorder" because of the internal struggles these individuals have without outwardly demonstrating any real noticeable symptoms (when they are calm anyway). People with this disorder struggle with a stressful problem, but “internalize” their feelings until their emotions boil over, leading to a complete meltdown. These outbursts are not a typical tantrum.

Some meltdowns are worse than others, but all leave both spouses exhausted. Unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over a day – or more. When it ends, both partners are emotionally drained. But, don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day, and sometimes into the next, the meltdown can return full force.

Meltdowns are overwhelming emotions and quite common in people on the spectrum. They can be caused by a very minor incident to something more traumatic. They last until the individual with ASD is either completely exhausted, or he gains control of his emotions (which is not easy for him to do). Most autistics have “emotional-regulation” difficulties!

Your spouse with ASD may experience both minor and major meltdowns over incidents that are part of daily life. He may have a major meltdown over something that you view as a very small incident, or he may have absolutely NO REACTION to something that you view as a very troubling incident.

When your husband is calm and relaxed, talk to him about his meltdowns. Then, tell him that sometimes he “reacts” to (i.e., is startled by) certain problems in a way that is disproportionate to the actual severity of the problem. Have him talk to you about a sign you can give him to let him know when he is starting to get revved-up.  Overwhelming emotions are part of the traits associated with the disorder, but if you work with your spouse, he will eventually learn to control them somewhat (try to catch them in the “escalation phase” rather than after that bomb has already ignited).

People with ASD usually like to be left alone to cope with negative emotions. If your husband says something like, “I just want to be left alone,” respect his wishes for at least a while. You can always go back in 30 minutes and ask if you can help. Do not be hurt if he refuses.

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

 


 

Why Adults with Asperger’s Are Prone to "Meltdowns"

“I’m in a relationship with a man who has Asperger syndrome. I’m familiar with the disorder and have worked hard at changing my expectations for the relationship. The one thing however that I still struggle with is his anger issues. I guess people refer to it as a meltdown. So, my question is how can I tell whether he is simply coping with his symptoms versus just plain ol’ being pissed off?”

First of all, a meltdown is not the same thing as “acting-out in anger” (having an adult version of a temper tantrum). Meltdowns are more complicated than that. An adult with Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) is prone to meltdowns when he finds himself trapped in circumstances that are difficult to deal with, especially those which involve frustration, sensory overload, and confusion.



Meltdowns tend to happen more frequently for those who experience sensory integration dysfunctions, rigid or inflexible thinking, resistance to change, low-frustration tolerance, hypersensitivity to sensory input, executive functioning disruption, difficulty with social comprehension, difficulty understanding cause-and-effect, difficulty identifying and controlling emotions, and communication challenges.

Think of a meltdown as an “escape mechanism.” If adults on the autism spectrum have the means to get themselves out of stressful situations before they become overwhelming, cognitive and emotional pressures recede. Without these means of escape, anxiety will escalate, and these individuals may begin to panic, setting them on a course towards neurological meltdown.

Escape routes that are difficult for the “Aspie” to utilize include the ability to prevent or remove himself from uncomfortable situations, understanding others and making himself understood, the ability to act on decisions, and being able to soothe himself under stress.

The typical individual without Asperger’s has a functional set of escape routes. For example, he understands that most people don't deliberately try to hurt him, knows what it feels like when he is getting upset, has the freedom to leave when a stressful situation becomes too much to handle, can regulate the extra sensory input, can communicate his needs and emotions, and can calm himself down relatively quickly in most cases. In other words, he has coping strategies that allow emotional and cognitive stress to decrease - or disappear entirely. But, this is not the case for the individual on the spectrum. When he finds himself in a stressful situation from which he can’t easily escape, his brain becomes flooded with emotional, sensory or cognitive input, which jams the circuits and initiates a “fight-or-flight” response.

During a meltdown, executive functions (e.g., memory, planning, reasoning, decision-making) start to short-circuit, which makes it even more difficult for the Aspie to find a way out of the distressing circumstance. Eventually, neurological pressure builds to the point where it is released externally as a surge of physical energy (e.g., yelling profanities). Although the volatile reaction resembles a tantrum and seems to come from nowhere, it's part of the “meltdown cycle.”

Meltdowns and anger-control problems often look the same on the outside, but that’s where the resemblance ends. “Going off” on someone is a voluntary “battle of wills” to try and gain control over a situation. Anger is designed to draw attention for the sole purpose of satisfying a want, or avoiding something that is unwanted, So, once that goal has been met, the eruption quickly resolves itself.

On the other hand, meltdowns are the complete opposite. They are involuntary physical and emotional reactions to being placed in an overwhelming situation from which there is no quick escape. The Aspie isn’t in control or trying to get attention, in fact he may be unaware of things happening around him.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

•    Anonymous said… As an Asperger's person myself, i really understand anger and I have melted down more than I would wish to. But no matter where upu are, in spectrum or off, you dont jave a "get out of jail free" card that entitles you to be nasty to people around you and then blame Asperger's for it and then do it again... or just let yourself be an asshat... so sit him down and talk about this amd about techniques for dealing with it. Meditation works very well but takes practice. A good book on how to do this esoecially for anger is "don't bite the hook" by pema chodron. Meditation is a good practice for both of you, especially gratitude and acceptance, i would recommend reading various writers, although Thich Nhat Hahn has a kot if very simple effective practices for daily life. Ps, this has nothing to do with religious belief, its retraining one's neurological responses to be better under one's control and management.
•    Anonymous said… As someone on the spectrum, I would suggest that a melt-down arises from being overwhelmed by too much information and sensory input to effectively process, but anger arises from either disappointed expectations or an awareness of injustice.
•    Anonymous said… As to your question how to tell an temper tantrum from a meltdown if someone angry it can last for days and usually won't feel guilty for their behaviour as they feel it was provoked where as with a meltdown it's a spontanious release of stress built up due to triggers which during it we can't control and often feel guilty and ashamed after likely not even remebering what we did. This of course can be avoided if you learn to calm this stress or more ideally release it before it builds up to the level of a meltdown. Unfortunately we are not always aware we are building up to a meltdown and we need to learn to spot it building in ourselves and fine a safe way to release this stress or remove ourselves from what ever is causing it. With me I either find a game or something to take my aggression out on or runaway for the day if it's seriously stressing me to get away from it to calm down. Your partner needs help in spotting when his triggers are causing a meltdown to build up inside him and help finding another way to deal with besides an explosive outburst!
•    Anonymous said… Best advice I can give is do not have any expectations in the relationship. You have to go with the flow. Yes at first it is hard but in the end its worth it.
•    Anonymous said… Either way the best advice I can give is when you notice he's upset give him space, don't try to talk to him about it just give him time to cool off.
•    Anonymous said… I don't understand why you don't just ask your husband. He would be able to explain it best.
•    Anonymous said… I'm NT my partner is an Aspie too. Same issues here love, we are going on 4yrs together and he learns very slow but he has learned. Meltdowns used to bee twice a week. Big humdingers! On occasion I rang police to come talk to him & on one occasion they put him in hospital 2 nights. Long story short, he's not had a major meltdown since early December. I don't react much anymore as this can spike his reactions. I've learned he's learned & he's a genius who has gotten better and who does try hard daily. His struggles with his gut, sounds, smells and loudness is hard on him. I make an environment that suits him to the best I can as well as having an environment I accept too.
•    Anonymous said… In my 20 year marriage to my aspie husband, this is the single toughest issue. The anger is embarrassing and devastating in the moment, and it ruins relationships with family members.
•    Anonymous said… My wife saying "you're having a meltdown" is all it takes to get me to take a break. But it took two years to get to this point. Wish my ex had understood though.
•    Anonymous said… No, as an aspie, sometimes it's hard for us to explain our selfs the way we want to or need to and as a outcome, we become very angered
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like my partner!
•    Anonymous said… They also never do anything wrong in their mind and never apologise for anything that they do that is wrong. In the end I didn't know who or what I was to him but all I felt was that I was only there when needed  🙁. I kind of feel like I was an experiment to him to find out whether being in a relationship was for him. They have trouble doing anything that most people can.
•    Anonymous said… With me it is one big smash it is like I'm watching myself do these things but have no control to stop them. I have learned control over the last 4 or 5 years and have only had a few.
•    Anonymous said… yep my ex partner was exactly like that and when she had her meltdown im still to blame, why cant i understand how she was feeling, those memories have sure scared deep in me
•   Anonymous said...  Interesting. My aspergers ex wasn't bothered with bright light, in fact he went through a phase of lighting my house up like a Christmas tree with party lights. Crowds didn't bother him and he always wanted to be the centre of attention. He got angry if there was background noise while he was talking though. He also went into melt down if I expressed emotions. He basically had a melt down every time something didn't go his way or as he planned.
*   Anonymous said... I am a 54 year old woman with Aspergers. I don't remember any time that I had a "meltdown" but once, since being diagnosed. There is a woman at my office who seems very hyper and I was tasked to help her with a project and she came to me with complaints about something. She was very annoying to me and I just "went off" on her...mildly though, not so that I would get fired or anything but I know what it feels like to let go of my composure. I try really hard to avoid these emotional moments. It's hard, but we can do it.

Post your comment below…

How to Identify Your "Meltdown Triggers": Tips for People on the Autism Spectrum

"Is it possible to learn my 'triggers' that may cause meltdowns, and is there a way to intervene before the meltdowns happen?"

People with ASD tend to “act out” their uncomfortable emotions. This is how they communicate their discomfort. The message of a meltdown is: “I’m frustrated and upset, and I don’t know what lead up to it - or what to do about it.”

If you are prone to the periodic meltdown, know that it is very possible to find a way to understand your frustrations – and change the inappropriate expression of them!

 
 

 
Here are some important tips that will help you recognize your “meltdown triggers” so you can prevent the meltdown from happening in the first place:

1. Transitional experiences: When you move from a “desired” activity to one that is NOT desired – especially when the transition is unexpected (e.g., from playing a computer game to running an unexpected errand for your spouse), it’s a prime opportunity for a meltdown. Many transitional experiences can erupt into meltdowns, because you probably don’t like change. You find the transition difficult. It may not be that you don’t want to run an errand for your spouse, rather it could be that you are protesting at having to “switch gears”!

So, when possible, give yourself time to adjust when change occurs. Of course, this is easier said than done when we live in a rush. But you do need more time than “neurotypicals” (e.g., in the morning, you may need to stay in his pajamas for a little while before getting dressed). Also, ask your spouse to “prepare” you for transitions as often as possible. For example, she could say, “I may need you to run an errand for me later today around 3 PM.”
 
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

2. Tiredness, hunger and sickness: When you are tired, hungry or sick, you are running on lower emotional resources to cope with normal expectations. This means that if tired or hungry or sick, where you would normally be happy to meet your spouse’s requests, you will likely be short-tempered. Thus, do what you can to deal with the primary issue – get some sleep, eat a meal, see the doctor etc. Try not to get hooked into power struggles when you are low on emotional resources.

3. Implement self-observation: When you are calm, ask your spouse to let you know what she observes regarding the connection between your triggers and your meltdowns. For example, she might say, “I’ve noticed that when you think something is unfair, you get upset and start yelling”). By using your spouse to help you to “connect the dots,” you are learning to identify your triggers. This technique should be part of a problem-solving discussion (that includes you and your spouse) for coming up with a plan for what you will do differently the next time you are in this dilemma.

4. Signaling: Signaling is a common behavior modification strategy for people on the autism spectrum. Choose one specific trigger to work on, and then come up with a phrase or hand signal that your spouse can use as an alert to you that the trigger is present. This allows your spouse to make you aware of the trigger subtly in social situations. Once she has alerted you, you will have the chance to self-correct.

5. Reliance on routine: People with ASD tend to rely heavily on routines to keep them comfortable and content. In fact, most are dependent on routines, because too much activity and change can overwhelm them. A change in routine is a major meltdown trigger that can easily set you off.

Thus, try sticking to daily routines as precisely as possible. If you do have to change the routine, make sure you are well-rested and content. If you notice you are starting to exhibit signs of a meltdown, try to find a quiet place to calm down.
 
==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

6. Over-stimulation: Although many people on the spectrum enjoy going out to eat, going to malls, attending parties, etc. – it can get quite overwhelming for them to the point they start reacting to these unfamiliar surroundings and faces. Many will exhibit frustration simply because “the unfamiliar” gets to them, especially if there are a lot of foreign noises and smells. Thus, if the environment seems too “sensory-unfriendly,” you may simply want to “bail out” and return home for a time out.

7. Internal frustration: Some people with autism tend to be perfectionistic and obsessive. The inability to do something right after several attempts, or the lack of conversational skills to get your point across can get the “meltdown engine” revving.


Observations from your spouse is the best tool for identifying “low frustration-tolerance” in yourself. Ask your spouse to pay attention and be aware of the warning signs. She can keep her eyes and ears open, and can help you to look for patterns and connections.

8.  Identifying physical symptoms: Often there are physical symptoms that go along with impending meltdowns. Your nervous system kicks into high gear when a trigger is present - and can cause several identifiable sensations (e.g., rapid heartbeat, flushed cheeks, rapid breathing, cold hands, muscle tension, etc.).

What do you feel in your body when the trigger you are experiencing is present? When you are aware of the warning signs your body gives you, it can serve as a natural cue to put the new plan you came up with during your problem-solving discussions into action.

9. Dealing with anger: Since “meltdown triggers” and “angry feelings” are directly related, having discussions with your spouse about anger (during those times when you are calm) can help you establish a foundation to build on when identifying your triggers. Ask yourself some important questions about emotions (e.g., what makes me angry, happy, sad, etc.).

The purpose of this is to learn how to identify various feelings, to learn what it means to feel angry, happy, sad, disappointed, etc. - but not to give you an excuse for “acting-out” behavior.  This also helps you to communicate your feelings to your spouse clearly so that she is in the best position to help you cope in high-anxiety situations.



Meltdowns in Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Grown-ups with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) may be prone to rage (sometimes referred to as a “meltdown”), which can be made worse by difficulty in communicating feelings of disturbance, anxiety or distress.

Rage may be a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in employment, relationships, friendships and other areas in life affected by autism spectrum disorders. There is often an “on-off” quality to this rage, where the person may be calm minutes later after a meltdown, while people around are stunned and may feel hurt. 
 
Neurotypical spouses (i.e., not on the spectrum) often struggle to understand these meltdowns, with resentment and bitterness often building up over time. Once they understand that their AS or HFA partner has trouble controlling rage, they can often begin to respond in ways that will help to manage these meltdowns.
 

In some cases, the “Aspie” may not acknowledge he has trouble with rage, and will blame others for provoking him. This can create a lot of conflict in a marriage. It may take carefully phrased feedback and plenty of time for the AS or HFA individual to gradually realize he has a problem with how he expresses his frustration.

A good place to start in controlling meltdowns is to identify a pattern in how the rage-attacks are related to specific frustrations. Such triggers may originate from the environment, specific people, or internal thoughts. Identifying the cause of rage can be a challenge. It is important to consider all possible influences relating to (a) how well you are treated by those around you, (b) the environment (e.g., too much stimulation, lack of structure, change of routine, etc.), (c) your mental state (e.g., existing frustration, confusion, etc.), and (d) your physical state (e.g., pain, tiredness, etc.).

Common causes of rage incidents among AS and HFA adults may include the following:
  • Other people’s behavior (e.g., insensitive comments)
  • Intolerance of imperfections in others
  • Having routines and order disrupted
  • Difficulties with employment despite being intelligent in many areas
  • Difficulties with relationships 
  • Build-up of stress
  • Being swamped by multiple tasks 
  • Being overwhelmed by sensory stimulation

Steps to managing rage:

1. Avoid situations which are associated with a high risk of becoming outraged.

2. Be aware of situations. Become more aware of the situations which are associated with you becoming outraged. Ask other people who know you to describe situations and behaviors they have noticed.

3. Become motivated. Identify why you would like to manage rage more successfully. Identify what benefits you expect in everyday living from eliminating rage incidents from your life.

4. Become self-aware. Become more aware of personal thoughts, behaviors and physical states which are associated with rage. This awareness is important in order for you to notice the early signs of becoming outraged. Write down a list of changes you notice as you begin to “meltdown.”


6. Develop a “rage-management” record. Keep a diary or chart of situations that trigger rage. List the situation, the level of rage on a scale of 1 to 10 – and the coping strategies that help you to overcome or reduce feelings of rage.

7. Explain to another person how they can be of help to solve the problem.

8. Explore the benefits of using medication with a doctor or psychiatrist.

9. Find anger-control classes in your area.

10. Keep a record. As you become more aware of situations associated with rage, you can keep a record of events, triggers and associated levels of rage. Different levels of rage can be explored (e.g., mildly annoyed, frustrated, irritated, higher levels of rage).

11. Leave the situation if possible.

12. Make changes to routines and surroundings (e.g., avoid driving in peak hour traffic).

13. Phone a friend or family member to talk about the cause of rage.

14. Plan ways to become distracted from the stressful situation (e.g., carry a magazine).

15. Reduce levels of rage by using the “Stop/Think strategy.” When you notice thoughts running through your mind: (a) stop and think before reacting to the situation (e.g., “are these thoughts accurate/helpful?”), (b) challenge the inaccurate or unhelpful thoughts, and (c) create a new thought.

16. Try relaxation strategies.

17. Try self-talk methods.

18. Use creative physical activity techniques to reduce rage.

19. Use visual imagery (e.g., jumping into a cool stream takes the heat of rage away).

20. Never give up. You can learn to “be at peace” with enough practice.

You can make use of these techniques when you notice yourself becoming outraged, and therefore avoid becoming extremely upset. But always keep in mind that this may not be possible 100% of the time. For situations where you feel you can’t control your rage – have a personal safety plan in place.



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Hard to say,, but if so, there is plenty of hell available... No need to have anxiety nowadays. it might not be,, I do not have Aspergus (my father does), but I have the exact same problems as you. Aspergus is more not being able to have Empathy, or seeing only one point of view. Also are you extremely clever and obsessed with the one thing.
•    Anonymous said... I really like this page. It has helped me with my anxiety as a person with aspergers.. Thanks
•    Anonymous said... So, I have a question about autism/aspergers. My difficulties/disabilities are having severe panic attacks, agoraphobia, and a VERY hard time having eye contact or maintaining eye contact with other people. Just the thought of crowded places or having a conversation with someone outside my family/social circle makes me anxious. Does this sound anything like aspergers, or no?
•    Anonymous said... What's the worst is when you clearly communicate what you need to people + they ignore it. Like if I need to leave because I'm overstimulated + the person I came with wants to stay. Or I'm riding with someone + need them to slow down or turn down the music but they disregard me. People can be so dismissive. I struggle with this one A LOT. I've mastered my emotions much better than I was young but it takes all my strength not to melt down sometimes.

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How to Avoid Meltdowns: Calming Strategies for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

“As a young adult with Asperger syndrome, I know what it feels like to have a meltdown. It’s no fun. It turns my emotions and day upside down. Before a meltdown, I start to feel like something is wrong. Then, I quickly get anxious, and I tense up. I get so overcome by the stress that sometimes when I respond, I sound outraged, aggravated, and a bit mean. But it's one of those things I sometimes can't control. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I get mad and throw something. After the meltdown passes, I usually do something to help me get my mind off of what just happened (for example play games on my phone), because if I keep thinking about it, it only gets worse. My question is: what can I do to help myself avoid meltdowns or at least make them less intense?”



In order to understand what calming strategies will work for you, you first need to determine what things stress you and have some understanding of the context in which you “melt down.”

Here's a basic plan:
  1.  Recognize the physical signs (e.g., muscle tension) and the environmental triggers (e.g., transitioning from one activity to the next) that indicate you are becoming distressed, and intervene immediately. Redirect yourself to an alternative activity, something that you enjoy.
  2. Remove yourself from the area where your meltdown is beginning to build-up steam and go to a “safe zone” (i.e., a place that feels calming to you). For example, if you begin tensing-up while sitting in the living room watching the news, go outside on the porch for a few minutes and breathe deeply 10 times while visualizing a pleasant scene or activity.

The main idea here is to:
  • (a) get your body in to a different location,
  • (b) get fresh oxygen to your brain (when we are anxious, our breathing becomes very shallow, which in turn sends a message to the brain that there really is something to be upset about),
  • and (c) get your mind on to pleasantly distracting thoughts (e.g., visualizing that Cancun vacation you took last year).

This may seem like an overly simple process in order to deal with what is a very challenging issue. The key is to be consistent so that you will always know what is coming. A meltdown usually takes several minutes to build-up. Use this to your advantage. You don’t want to wait more than a few seconds to start your plan of action. Waiting just 3 minutes before intervening may be too long. Once a meltdown is up and running, the only option then is to simply ride out the storm.

You can – and may have – developed a habit of melting down. You can also develop a habit of initiating a relaxation response.

==> More on meltdowns can be found here...

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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