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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Midlife Crisis in Men on the Autism Spectrum: Tips for NTs

“All of a sudden my husband (who has ASD) is telling me he is happier being alone. He is trying to find "HIMSELF" and says he loves me and is physically attracted to me but doesn't love me the way i love him. He says he needs space. He is very stressed about his current job and is looking for a new one. His father who he was extremely close to died a little over a yr ago, and he did tell me since his dad died his life has fell apart. He said he has lost enjoyment in things he used to do. We used to hang out and go everywhere together and had fun, but that hasn't happened for a quite a while and now says he needs to keep his distance from me to figure out what he wants. He suffers depression and anxiety. He is 42 yrs old and we have been married almost 23 yrs. Can you please help me …give me some insight …tell me how i should and should not approach this? Does this sound like a midlife crisis?”

Many men – with ASD or not – go through a phase when they take a hard look at the life they're living. They think they could be happier, and if they need to make a big change, they feel the urge to do it soon. These thoughts can trigger a midlife crisis.


Below are some of the symptoms of the “man-version” of a midlife crisis:
  • has little interest in spending time (or having sex) with his wife
  • displays the classic signs of depression (e.g., sleeping more, loss of appetite) 
  • drinks too much or abuses other substances
  • is overly nostalgic and constantly reminiscing about his youth or his first love
  • suddenly makes hasty decisions about money and/or his career
  • thinks about having an affair (or already has)
  • makes a dramatic change in his personal appearance
  • says life has become boring

If you believe your husband is indeed going through a midlife crisis, here are 20 crucial tips for helping him through it (however, keep in mind that it will probably get worse before it gets better):

1. Find support for yourself (e.g., through a trusted friend or colleague, therapist, clergy, support group, etc.). Taking care of yourself through these times will help you to stay physically and mentally healthy. Only then can you truly help your husband. Take care of you FIRST!

2. A physical checkup may be in order. For both men and women, the physical changes which occur in mid-life have a definite effect on behavior.

3. Don't start off with questions when trying to engage your husband in a conversation. Instead, share with him what you are seeing, that you understand he must be struggling, and that you want to support him.

4. Play some upbeat music that encourages your husband to dance, sing and laugh. Choose anything that reminds him of being young again.

5. Seek counseling if necessary, and be sure that your husband isn't turning to drugs or alcohol to deal with his problems.
 

6. Even if you think your husband is crazy, muster the desire to offer reassurance and validation.

7. Focus on conveying that you are not demanding answers from your husband, but that you want to understand what he is experiencing. Join him in being mystified and even curious about his dilemma.

8. It will always be helpful to stay positive and compliment your husband when possible. This may bolster his self-confidence and let him know that he is loved despite what he is going through.

9. Don't ask the "why" questions (e.g., “Why do you need so much time alone these days?” …or “What has happened between the two of us?”). These questions demand explanations and accountings. Your husband probably doesn't know the answers anyway. Probing questions only add fear and angst to the existing issue.

10. Be open to learning more about yourself, your husband – and how Asperger’s affects relationships. This information will improve your relationship after the crisis has passed (yes, it will pass).

11. In those rare moments when your husband wants to “open up,” listen – not just for what he is saying – but for what he is NOT saying. Listen to what is underneath what he is saying (e.g., feelings, values, fears, etc.).

12. Pay close attention to your husband's mood and behavior. Make sure he is not overloading himself with work or other things. Make sure he is taking breaks so he doesn’t feel stressed-out. Stress exacerbates a midlife crisis.

13. Sometimes a midlife crisis makes men very self-conscious of their bodies. Depending on the physical health of the both of you, you and your husband should consider adopting an exercise or health regimen. This will allow you to participate in activities together while giving your husband a boost of confidence.

14. Your husband might be feeling self-conscious or worried about growing old without having accomplished important goals. If you make an effort to understand these feelings, you can both go through this together. 
 

15. While there are many positive features associated with a midlife crisis, your husband is most likely experiencing the negative features more strongly. Mood swings are common and may range from mild to severe. Watch for signs of depression, rage, resentment or despondency in your husband, and try to talk about it if you feel that things are going too far.

16. Spend time with others who look at the lighter side of life. Look for every opportunity to laugh with them and embrace it.

17. Men in a midlife crisis feel the need to be young again and may develop new interests. Support your husband as best as you can in his new interests – and if possible, participate. Even if you don't have an interest, you should know that new activities will bring the two of you closer together.

18. When your husband initiates conversations with you, be sure to listen without passing judgment. He is probably experiencing doubt and confusion about what he is going through. Giving an opinion or judging how he is feeling or thinking should be kept to yourself.  Yes, your husband may say things that you feel are crazy, and a conversation with him may leave you dizzy in the head. Nonetheless, don't try to explain the error of his thinking no matter how irrational. Don't try to get him to see it from your perspective. He will have to figure it out on his own.

19. Your husband wants to feel validated in his efforts to recapture his youth, so focus on the positive parts of a midlife crisis (e.g., an increased fervor for life). If your husband wants to start going to the gym six times a week, look at it as a healthy endeavor rather than an attempt to stay away from family.

20. Lastly, know that as your Asperger's husband goes through this period of change in his life, you can count on him doing things that will make you pissed as hell. Lashing out at your husband may help you feel better for the moment, but it won't change his thinking or behavior and will only lead to more conflict in the relationship. Get rid of your anger and avoid engaging in conflict. No amount of “reasoning with,” yelling, cursing or crying is going to make any difference if your husband is truly going through a midlife crisis. This thing will simply have to run its course. So, “go with the flow” rather than trying to stop it.

 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Sounds like he needs anti depressants.
•    Anonymous said... Ok...might not be what you want to hear but this sounds very familiar to me as my ex husband said the same...then went in to blame me for everything wrong in his life from getting migraines to losing his job due to his aspergers...we tried mediation, it was a nightmare, he went to see a counsellor whom he refused to talk to....he needed time to think, etc etc. Turned out he had met an old friend thru facebook and obviously it was far easier to talk to her online than to me face to face! Advice...try and be completely unemotional when talking to him, remember the world is black and white for him, try communicating thru email if he has left the house as he will find this easier as more distanced but be very very careful what and how you write things, applys to talking too! Try talking whilst going for a walk. Be careful how u give him space, expect everything u have said that he has taken badly but not shared to be regurgiated now... long memories! And good luck...deep breath. You will survive what ever happens by the way....you will find u have far more strength than u ever felt possible. Feel free to pm me...
•    Anonymous said... Don't be afraid to get him the help he needs. It sounds like the time to be alone more is a coping strategy of his. To some extent, it's definitely OK. But to some extent, that's a quality of life issue if he is in solitude so much. In my opinion, start exploring the possibility of psychologists, occupational therapist, or even an autism life coach. Psychologist is probably the best bet in terms of the type of person he should be talking to. OT is not so far behind, and in some cases better, if he/she specializes in mental health (I know it because I studied it.). Autism life coach can be hit or miss. You want to check the coach's educational background to see if he/she is equipped for the task.
•    Anonymous said... Be patient. Give him space. Be understanding. Listen when he talks (no need to try and "fix" anything....because you are already helping just by listening!). Know that his confusion right now is nothing to do with you. He needs to figure stuff out. He will respect you for allowing him to do these things....affairs NOT INCLUDED!!!! I highly recommend having him talk to a psychologist ....scary title ...for someone with great listening skills and therapeutic advice!! The brain is such a complex organ and needs to be taken care of when in turmoil. Talking to anyone (but preferably a medical person) is the best medicine. Good luck to both of you.

*  Anonymous said... Too late for me.... my now ex-wife knew I have Aspergers and did everything she could to trigger my meltdowns and forced me into situations with lots of new people until I isolated myself for my own peace of mind.
*  Anonymous said... My asperger partners behavior was so erratic I never knew which end was up or why. There was no real communication, explanation or taking responsibility for his behavior 
*   As an NT spouse, it can be incredibly lonely. Staying calm and non-judgemental in these kind of situations can be extremely challenging. I myself have been experiencing the same as my spouse’ behaviour has been incredibly erratic especially now, during the pandemic as he also has severe anxiety issues. I have and still am learning to assure my Aspie spouse that he has a safe place at home where he can be, and that I trust in his love for me - yes, he wanted time alone a few weeks ago. It is important not to react immediately, not to question/demand but choose to understand and accept even though it may be difficult. Lastly, I have a family that understands the situation and is supportive...it helps. My spouse has a couple of close friends who now are aware of this and continue to remain in touch. I have been keeping a daily routine of morning walks and yoga which he knows, is my me time and this has helped to bring some stability. 
 
Please post your comment below…


Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults: What Partners/Spouses Need to Know

Is it possible that your partner or spouse who has Asperger's (or high-functioning autism) also has Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)? The answer is: Yes!

As many parents can attest to, ODD is not an uncommon comorbid disorder in children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Most kids with ODD outgrow the disorder by age eight or nine. 
 
But, about half of them continue to experience symptoms into adulthood. These people report feeling angry most of the time, and about 40% of them become progressively worse and develop antisocial personality disorder.

Adults with ODD often feel mad at the world, and lose their temper regularly (e.g., verbal abuse, road rage.) Constant opposition to authority figures makes it difficult for them to keep jobs and to maintain relationships and marriages. They are particularly quick to anger, are impatient, and have a low tolerance for frustration. They usually feel misunderstood and disliked, hemmed in, and pushed around. Also, they often defend themselves relentlessly when someone says they’ve said or done something wrong.

Signs of ODD that may be apparent at work include:
  • Commonly feeling oppressed by office rules
  • Has meltdowns during meetings or annual reviews after receiving constructive criticism
  • Near constant arguments with a boss or coworkers
  • Previously fired for inappropriate behavior toward coworkers in heated moments
  • Purposely engaging in behaviors that irritate coworkers
  • Sanctioned by human resources for violating company policies
  • Passive-aggressive behaviors

Signs of ODD that may be apparent at home include:
  • Leaves his dirty clothes on the floor just because he knows it annoys his partner or spouse
  • Involved in physical altercations in public
  • Has a hair-trigger temper (the littlest thing can set him off)
  • Continues to fight against authority figures and society
  • Cited for disorderly conduct by police
  • Always needs to win the argument with a parent or spouse
  • Passive-aggressive behaviors

Are some ODD behaviors more serious or severe than others?

Any behaviors which would cause an adult to move from job to job or have serious difficulty in relationships with others (especially spouses) could have strong, negative consequences.

Are there any other conditions that can be associated with ODD?

Yes there are. Sometimes conditions like diabetes, ADD, serious health conditions or learning disabilities create a “hiding” place for oppositionality and defiance. In these cases, ODD behaviors “hide” behind the primary condition, which provides an “excuse” for noncompliance. (Example: an ODD spouse refuses to work, continually claiming he is being treated unfairly by his boss.)

Can an ODD adult be diagnosed as both ODD and ADHD?

Absolutely.

Exactly what is ODD?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a diagnosed condition of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior that includes symptoms of low frustration tolerance, argumentativeness, defiance, noncompliance, oppositionality, provocation, blaming, spitefulness, irritability, resentment, anger or vindictiveness. (Not all of these symptoms need to apply for a diagnosis to be made.)

How is ODD diagnosed?

ODD is diagnosed by an appropriately certified or licensed health service professional that assesses a client and makes the diagnosis as it pertains to established criteria. The most commonly used criteria are found in the most current edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

How much do external events and circumstances play into ODD?

They can easily make the ODD much better or much worse.

I find my husband is defiant toward some people, but not others. Why is this?

ODD behavior is highly reactive to the environmental situations and circumstances. This certainly includes differences in authority figures, how they relate to the ODD adult, and how they "package" their expectations.

My ODD husband went to a counselor and was told after one visit that there was nothing wrong with him. I was totally frustrated about the whole thing. Why would a counselor say this?

The ODD adult, for awhile, can look perfectly fine in every regard. This is why a good therapist or counselor puts more stock in the “hard” facts about the client, not what the client is saying or doing in early visits.

If my ODD husband is depressed, what can be done to help him?

The depression needs to be evaluated and treated. It is common for oppositional and defiant behaviors to lessen as the depression is addressed. Sometimes medication helps.

Is lying a typical behavior of ODD?

It certainly can be. Usually, behaviors like lying differ from one individual to another as they become more severe in their behaviors. Many professionals believe that lying and stealing often go together.

Is ODD inherited?

Although there probably isn't an "ODD gene," characteristics like disposition and temperament can probably be inherited.

Is there any connection between ODD and the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol?

There probably is a connection, but not necessarily a direct one. ODD behaviors can occur in adults who are unhappy. Alcohol and drugs are one kind of "self" medication.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

I've heard that many ODD adults are depressed? Is this true?

Yes. About half of them also met the criteria for depression.

My husband walks half a block down the street to help a senior citizen bring in her groceries, but he won't ever take out the trash at OUR house? Why is this?

First of all, he wants to look like a good, kind and caring man. But consider that the job of helping the lady with her groceries is essentially a one-shot deal. Taking out the trash at home could last for years, not to mention the fact that we are much more direct in our behaviors of resistance and refusal with those who already know us well.

Sometimes it seems to me that my husband actually enjoys it when I become upset with him. Why is this?

He has gotten the satisfaction of knowing he has gotten to you. This “trap” is one of the toughest ones for spouses to deal with.

What about "passive-aggressive" behavior? Is that the same as oppositional defiant?

“Passive-aggressive” behavior is a term that was used to describe both children and adults before there ever was a classification of ODD. Specifically, passive-aggressive behavior is but one type of oppositional and defiant behavior. Persistent and problematic passive-aggressive behavior in adults is more properly diagnosed using adult classifications, often falling under the general category of "personality disorders."

What are some of the signs that a child might become Conduct Disordered?

Things like family history, especially parents and siblings having trouble with the law, the activities of a child's "friends," a history of abuse or severe neglect in the home, use of alcohol and drugs, and a youngster's level of regard for others could all be indications.

What happens when ODD children become adults?

They can take their problems with them, causing difficulty in their relationships, marriage and work. The divorce rate, employment difficulties, and the abuse of alcohol or drugs is usually higher in this population of young adults.

What is the difference between an ODD adult and one who is just stubborn?

Stubborn people know when to give it up. They don't continue with their stubbornness to the degree and point that it creates serious hardships for them. Stubbornness can even be an attribute, such as a resolve that can shine through in tough times. Not so with ODD, which, by nature of being a disorder, works against the person's best interest.

What is the difference between ODD and ADD?

ODD is a psychological condition that, favorably or not, is responsive to external situations and circumstances. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is brain-related, a neurological condition or immaturity that causes a person to have difficulty focusing on tasks. The condition of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) states that the person is additionally hyperactive and impulsive.

What is the likelihood that an ODD adult will become more severe in his or her behaviors (aggressive and anti-social)?

Here we're talking about serious, acting-out behaviors that could involve the law. Current data indicates about one in three ODD people will move on into a more serious disorder.

What would happen if an ODD adult is depressed, but the depression goes unaddressed or untreated?

Both the ODD and the depression will continue to worsen to the detriment of the individual. Self-injury or even suicidal attempts are a possibility.

Is there any hope if my husband has this disorder called ODD?

Most wives of ODD husbands find that the parenting strategies used with ODD children ALSO work with ODD husbands. Why? Because ODD adults are very immature for their age. You may have a husband who is chronologically 35-years-old, but emotionally more like a 21-year-old. So, yes there is hope!




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



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said...  I am also wondering this. Married 25 years and have had enough as it seems so much worse now such a rollercoaster. I dread waking up now as it all starts again day in day out. Tried a few times of asking him to leave but always feel so guilty so we are still carrying on. Friends say i have Stockholm :(
•    Anonymous said...  this sounds just like my AS husband. Only we're still married with a two yr old. I wish I could leave. I'm miserable.
•    Anonymous said... Hmm, I'm dealing with somebody like this. I was looking for how pyrroles treatment is tricky in people with Tourette's, and my eye was drawn to this term as one of the conditions often associated with pyrroles. Sure enough, it seems it applies to my freind. He is nearly 80 and since gotten more well is back to this stuff. Oppositional to reason when it doesn't suite him, and difficulties in accessing things. He opposes authority in a way he is not content unless he is expressing authority/superiority over other people. His history is like what has been described here. The thing about ODD ending abruptly when you are 18: As the term doesn't mention childhood, it should persist throughout life.
•    Anonymous said... I can't leave because I am on social security. Life is upsetting wirh him every minute if everyday. No cooperatiin the blaming nme fir stupid made up stuff in hus mind. Belittling me . I say blue he says green. Can't have an adult conversation discuss solutions to problems with him. He thinks he is right about everything.
•    Anonymous said... I have a boyfriend he has all the signs and symptoms of O.D.D. he told me he has ADHD. We were at a restaurant he got upset and started rage yelling the manager was going to call the cops.I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I have tried to end our relationship he always begs me not to leave. We love each other it's very exhausting. I told him he needs to get help If this relationship will work. He says he wants to change. He needs to show me. I've caught him in so many lies.
•    Anonymous said... I have an aspie husband I think has odd… my child has odd just diagnosed I'm about to throw in the towel I can't handle it double dosed. What support can I find for me to cope better and not get overwhelmed
•    Anonymous said... I have been living with an aspergers spouse with undiagnosed ODD for 26 yrs. Is it possible that the condition worsens with age?
•    Anonymous said... I have had enough of being an ODD parent to my husband - I am exhausted!
•    Anonymous said... I was told recently by my current mental health RNP that ODD is only a kid thing, and that I couldn't possibly have it because I am an adult. SO FRUSTRATING.
•    Anonymous said... last few days our class held a similar talk about this subject and you point out something we have not covered yet, thanks.
•    Anonymous said... My adult son has ODD. A Lifetime of struggles. Refuses therapy, self meditates with weed, unable and unwilling to live on any kind if budget, spends all his money on good times and weed, puts no priority into meeting his financial obligations first, always pressuring me into helping him financially. Always angry, emotional outbursts on a regular basis, he is a Terrible Son,also a terrible Father, drove wife away and 2 years later continues to obsess about her, refusing to accept it's over and blames everyone else for his plight. My feelings for him go from love to hate and wanting him to go away forever....but he won't, and no hope for change because he refuses to accept his condition or get any therapy. Went to family counseling for 8 years as a kid and never got help because HE REFUSED TO PARTICIPATE. Finally letting him move into a house I own 2000 miles away in hope that our relationship might improve. I'm over 60 years old and I'm exhausted with this.....dont I have a right to some peace and happiness without having some guilt trip put on me or some havoc being created to prevent me from living my life????? HELP!!!!!
•    Anonymous said... At what point do we say that this type of behavior is more likely trait(s) of personality disorder than O.D.D.? Esp in adult (62 yo) who grew up in a world that didnt recognize hfa until they were age 30
 
 

Shutdowns in Spouses/Partners with ASD

“How do I communicate with a husband (has Asperger syndrome) who won’t talk? He tells me whatever I want to hear so that I’ll stop talking as soon as possible. If I bring up a topic that he finds stressful, he immediately stonewalls me. It’s impossible to get him to talk about his emotions. It’s like talking to a brick wall. If I really push it and go after him, sometimes he’ll respond and we’ll finally address something. But it’s like I have to freak out to get him to open up and discuss the issue at hand. It’s so maddening. I don’t want to be a ‘bitch’ - but I feel that it’s the only way to get him to engage.”

What you’re referring to here is a “shutdown” (the opposite of a meltdown). You mentioned that this happens when you are trying to discuss a matter that your husband finds stressful. When he withdraws from the interaction, this may be more of a coping mechanism he uses to deal with stress rather than his lack of interest in what you are trying to convey.



When a listener withdraws from an interaction by shutting down, it is usually a sign that he or she is becoming anxious. Oftentimes, people with Asperger’s emotionally or physically withdraw because they’re psychologically or physiologically overwhelmed. They are trying to avoid conflict – or escape from conflict – in order to calm themselves. For example, your husband may refuse to discuss certain topics or feelings, struggling to endure the approaching anxiety. He may turn away, stop making eye contact, cross his arms, or leave the room. As a result, you may label this behavior as rude, insensitive, and uncaring.

People on the autism spectrum shut down for numerous reasons. Shutdowns can result from extreme events (e.g., losing a job, marital conflict, etc.), but they can also have very small triggers, which simply remind the “Aspie” of a larger pain (e.g., a small incident at work can provoke some long-term insecurities and cause a retreat).

A shutdown will move some form of emotional pain to the center of the Aspie’s focus, and he may start contemplating "what if" and "if only" scenarios. These thoughts are always counter-productive, because we can't change the past, and they usually only make the Aspie feel entrapped by events.

Not surprisingly, shutdowns can be damaging to relationships. The person who shuts down is no longer participating in open communication, problem-solving, or bonding with his spouse/partner. Rather than contributing to the well-being of the relationship, shutdowns stifle conflict resolution. The recipient of the shutdown feels invalidated, ignored, and misunderstood. When your husband shuts down, you may feel so unimportant that you don’t even deserve a response.





So, what can be done about shutdowns?

Advice for your Asperger’s husband:

•    When you feel like shutting down, take several deep breaths and communicate what you need to stay productive. If you need some reassurance or a timeout, ask for that. Talk to your wife ahead of time about the best way to communicate with you.

•    Find other ways to soothe yourself rather than shutting down. It’s your responsibility to calm yourself so you’re able to respond — not react. Even if she wants to, your wife may not be able to soothe you, fix your emotions, or make things better. YOU must do your own emotional work (e.g., being honest and clear with yourself and your wife about what feelings are arising). Self-soothing is a very individual thing. Consider the activities that are genuinely calming for you.

•    Recognize when you’re shutting down. Tune in to what’s going on internally. For example, pay attention to your bodily sensations, which are connected to your emotions (e.g., a lump in the throat could mean sadness, a burning in the chest could mean anger, a fluttering in the stomach may mean anxiety, etc.). Tuning in helps you figure out what you need and prevents you from doing or saying something that may damage the relationship with your wife.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Advice for you, the wife:

•    When you notice that your Asperger’s husband is beginning to shut down, you can choose to lovingly detach and not perpetuate an unhealthy dynamic. If you keep trying to get your husband to engage with you when he doesn’t want to, you convey that you’ll tolerate this kind of behavior. Thus, there’s no motivation on his part to change. By removing yourself from the situation, your husband is left with no one to focus on but himself.

•    A shutdown is not about you. This is the way your husband has learned to manage his uncomfortable emotions. Trying to get him to “open up” will only lead to resentment on both sides. To think that you have the power to make your husband behave in a particular manner if you simply “freak out” is dangerous. It will lead to you taking on more responsibility than is yours in the relationship, which will leave you feeling stressed-out, angry, and resentful.

•    It's generally helpful to talk in a soothing voice during a shutdown. Just make sure that you're careful what you say - and keep things positive. The only thing to remember when soothing your Aspie during a shutdown is that you're still dealing with someone on the autism spectrum. Don't try to force eye contact, and don't touch your husband without either being invited to do so - or being cautious to see the reaction first.

•    When the two of you are calm, talk to your husband about the best way to communicate with him when he’s shutting down. Is there a way for you to talk to him when he’s starting to withdraw from the conversation? Discuss this with him, and do some trial-and-error attempts to see what works and what doesn’t.

Sometimes, no matter how kind and gentle you are with your Asperger’s husband, he will still shut down or avoid engaging in a “stressful” conversation. It may also be the case that your husband is engaging in old, entrenched ways of coping with anxiety that existed long before you came along. If either of these things are happening, it would be prudent to get the advice of a good marriage counselor or relationship coach who can help you untangle the impact of past relationship patterns, and concentrate on how to relate in an advantageous way going forward.

FOOTNOTE: Tone of voice in itself can be a major trigger for this shutdown business! Some Aspies feel it easier to communicate through text. If you find it difficult to talk, try notes, letters, blog, facebook... But make it private. As one NT wife stated, "My husband has aspergers and 2 shutdowns in 2 years. He was completely unable to speak for 20+ minutes even though he tried. He could text much better but still had trouble spelling until it began to wear off. We learned this time that he can begin to speak again quicker if i get him talking about a totally objective, non-emotional, even mechanical subject."







MORE 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


ASD and that Damn Anxiety Problem

"Why is it that people with autism spectrum disorder seem to have more than their fair share of anxiety? I have suffered with this damn thing my entire life – as far back as I can remember. And it doesn’t get any better with age by the way. Suggestions!?"

People with ASD (high-functioning autism) are particularly vulnerable to anxiety. This vulnerability is a basic trait of the disorder due to (a) the breakdown in circuitry related to extinguishing fear responses, (b) social skills deficits, and (c) specific neurotransmitter system defects.

Reasons for anxiety include the following:
  • Lack of displayed empathy (another Asperger’s trait) significantly limits skills for self-directed social problem solving.
  • Limitations in generalizing from one situation to another contributes to repeating the same social errors.
  • Social skills deficits related to Asperger’s make it difficult for “Aspies” to develop coping techniques for calming themselves and containing difficult emotions. 
  • Their inability to grasp social cues and their highly rigid style act together to create repeated social mistakes (e.g., saying the wrong thing at the wrong time). 
  • In the workplace, it is not uncommon for the Aspie to be bullied and teased by his coworkers, yet he can’t mount effective socially adaptive responses, which often results in both anxiety and learned helplessness.



Several medications have been tried for treatment of anxiety. SRIs, buspirone, and alpha-adrenergic agonist medications (e.g., clonidine or guanfacine) have been tried. The best evidence to date supports use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. One relatively new drug that seems to be having remarkable success in alleviating anxiety is Fetzima.

As a side note, people on the autism spectrum may be more vulnerable to side effects – and may exhibit unusual side effects. For example, disinhibition (i.e., a temporary loss of inhibition) is particularly prominent and can be seen with any of the serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Also, excessive doses may produce “amotivational syndrome” (i.e., a psychological condition associated with diminished inspiration to participate in social situations and activities).

Self-help strategies to reduce anxiety include the following:
  • avoid “what if” thinking (e.g., ‘What if I fail?’ … ‘What if I get sick?’)
  • avoid black-and-white (all-or-nothing) thinking 
  • avoid talking in absolutes (i.e., using words such as always, never, should, must, no one and everyone)
  • develop a daily log to plan out your days (include healthy activities)
  • develop a sense of self-trust (i.e., the ability to believe that you can handle what life throws at you)
  • don’t be a “people-pleaser” (e.g., when do you say ‘yes’ to someone when you really want to say ‘no’)
  • practice yoga
  • realize and accept that you can’t control life, you can only control yourself
  • realize that you’re responsible for your happiness and your life
  • reduce your perfectionistic tendencies
  • stop relying on others for approval

Lastly, but most importantly, distinguish fact from fiction. Fear is being afraid of something, and you know exactly what it is that you’re afraid of (e.g., heights). Anxiety is being afraid of something, but you’re NOT sure what it is. Anxiety is fiction. It’s an anticipation of things going wrong in the future. But since the future doesn’t exist (except as a mental construct), then anxiety about a future event is fiction.
 
 

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… All part of autism? Get used to it and fight it best you can! This is where the tiredness and long sleeps are relevant!
Anonymous said… as long as autistics are perceived and treated as diseased toys, they`re going to have a much higher rate of mental health issues. as long as autistics try to live like people who aren`t autistic, they`re going to have a higher rate of mental health issues. it`s really pretty simple. the solutions are more complex, however.
Anonymous said… Easier said than done. The adult Asperger want to achieve some balance and sometimes accumulative PTSD feeds into the situation, too, with triggers that appear out of left field. Overwhelming.
Anonymous said… I can only speak for myself, but my anxiety is "out there" so fast, I can never "control" it; it's too dam quick, damage done, and I'm already in wtf-mode before realizing I'm palpitating and acting like an idiot. Which makes me more anxious! I don't know how to forewarn myself to try to stop it; it just happens
Anonymous said… I love how when I went to a doctor all they wanted to do was treat the anxiety and when I asked "what about the other symptoms like innattention and sensory issues and social issues" they just ignored even trying to get me a diagnoses suggesting that anti anxiety meds would be "the cure" instead of what it really did - make me suicidal
Anonymous said… It is a hard question to answer,, but the best thing is to try and find an outlet.. to not let the anxiety spiral and take hold.
Anonymous said… Ive warned all of people around me to get away when i get angry because i really cant stop my rage 
Anonymous said… Meditation helps
Anonymous said… right it's like a nightmare coming true times 100.
Anonymous said… Why do we have anxiety? Because from birth we have been being told we aren't normal. Don't do that, dont say that, look here, go there, sound like this, look like that. When you have to think about everything just to comprehend what's going on around you, and then add in being the best actor/actress everyone has seen, because otherwise you make them uncomfortable, go figure we have anxiety!
•    Anonymous said… as long as autistics are perceived and treated as diseased toys, they`re going to have a much higher rate of mental health issues. as long as autistics try to live like people who aren`t autistic, they`re going to have a higher rate of mental health issues. it`s really pretty simple. the solutions are more complex, however.
•    Anonymous said… Have any of y'all tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? I'm looking into it for my 22 years old son. His meltdowns are so violent and I'm terrified he's going to end up in jail one day. Any thoughts?
•    Anonymous said… it might help, if the therapist is experienced and knowledgeable enough about autistics. but his meltdowns at this point are probably ptsd. that`s very hard to recover from. i have a similar issue myself. what he needs to learn are appropriate personal and social boundaries for himself, and how to live like an autistic. cbt might help with boundaries. it won`t help much with living like an autistic.
•    Anonymous said… My anxiety is off the hook! My doc put me on some med that I will need to purge off of but it isn't helping me stop biting my nails and having bad dreams...is anyone here having the same symptoms?
•    Anonymous said… The push for uniformity of human beings in our world is most disturbing. The simple frustration of growing up with people always trying to change your fundamental personality and the stress of trying to fit in ... and failing ...

Please post your comment below…

The Angry ASD Spouse: Tips for Husbands on the Autism Spectrum

Many adults with ASD [High-Functioning Autism], by self-admission, have an anger-management problem. Also, in my years of counseling couples affected by ASD (usually in the cases where the husband has autism and the wife does not), I have received literally hundreds of emails from neurotypical [NT] wives describing horrific outbursts and meltdowns exhibited by their husbands on the spectrum.

Anger is triggered by people, events, or circumstances that make us feel vulnerable in some way. However, anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, your anger distracts you from other emotions that you are feeling. You can also think of anger as a surface emotion. In other words, it is the emotion that people see, but the anger exhibited is really a cover-up for a primary emotion. 
 
Anxiety, depression, grief, guilt, helplessness, powerlessness, shame, uselessness, and worthlessness are all very common primary emotions that hide behind anger. These are also very common emotions found in people on the autism spectrum – especially anxiety and depression.

You lash out in anger to prevent others from becoming aware of these vulnerabilities. But, once your anger has run its course and you return to your rational state of mind, you are left to deal with the repercussions of whatever situation triggered your anger. In the world of the autistic, sometimes these repercussions are grim and life-changing (e.g., job loss, separation, divorce, etc.).



What’s really behind your anger? Let’s take a look:

1. Anger hides anxiety: Our bodies interpret anger as a threat to survival, and as a result, will release adrenalin and nor-adrenalin to help us cope. These hormones act as an analgesic. In effect, anger makes us feel better in the short-term – it numbs our emotional and physical discomfort. But, this is not a healthy long-term solution. We, as adults on the autism spectrum, should not allow ourselves to get addicted to this kind of painkiller. If we do, then outbursts of anger may become a way of life. And sad to say, for too many of us, it has already become a way of life!

2. Anger hides emotional vulnerability: Some people with ASD use anger as a way of distancing themselves from their spouse (partner). Perhaps we feel safer if our spouse is held at arm’s length. Maybe we find it hard to express our true personal needs and desires. Learning to relate positively to your spouse, to allow yourself to be vulnerable to her – and to trust her to respect your feelings – are key steps you can take to a healthier relationship.
 

3. Anger hides grief and depression: Some people on the spectrum respond to grief and/or depression by getting angry. This can be our way of coping with the pain we are feeling. We yell and lash-out verbally instead of seeking comfort, or instead of offering comfort if our anger is on behalf of someone else.

4. Anger hides hurt: Admitting that we feel hurt is too much for some of us. Better to explode in rage than to show we care or that we are upset by whatever has happened. Hurt hides behind anger when you feel unloved, rejected, or criticized (remember the high school days and all the teasing, harassment, and bullying?).  If we think our anger is hiding hurt, we should focus on learning to love and accept ourselves.

5. Anger hides low self-esteem: An guy on the autism spectrum who has been experiencing anger-control issues for many years may admit (to himself if not to others) that he sometimes struggles with self-esteem issues. He may have internal dialogues that revolve around themes such as, “Any minute now, somebody will see that I’m useless/stupid/a complete fraud/not good enough/etc.” These internal dialogues can occur even in someone who leads an outwardly successful life. Sometimes those dialogues are what drives the person to achieve; anger for him is an indication of the stress he experiences as a result of the gap between his internal and external life.

6. Anger hides powerlessness: If we go through life feeling weak, hopeless, helpless, overlooked or undervalued, anger often hides these feelings of powerlessness.

7. Anger hides fear: The most common feeling that hides behind anger is fear. But, unless we are developing a habit of “mindfulness” (i.e., making ourselves aware of our emotions as they arise), it can be difficult to identify the emotions lurking beneath our anger. Our best indication of what those emotions may be is to consider how we feel about ourselves at the times when we are not feeling angry.

We should find ways to ask for what we want (or don’t want) instead of acting-out in anger and rage. Some of us have sought assertiveness training and/or worked with a counselor or psychotherapist to help us learn to appreciate our own worth and manage our anger. Maybe you should consider following our lead.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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


Comments:

•    I hide most of my anger within usually until i am alone then I explode like a nuke , this article helps me a lot Thanks.
•    I'm the spouse that's experienced many angry outbursts and other demonstrations of my husbands anger. I think this article does a great job illustrating the effects of Anger on the Person who's angry, their marriage, & their family life. Very insightful ~ I've already referred friends & family to this page. Emotional Safety is critical to healing.
•    Emotions are irrational and therefore illogical. I have no need for emotions
•    Sure emotions can be secondary, and the seven points are relevant. However, it seems a bit sought to say that "anger is a secondary emotion" and a "surface emotion", whereas "anxiety is a primary emotion".  Anger is the "Fight" option of the "Fight/Flight" response; the brain's reflective reaction to perceived threatening situations. Anxiety is the "Flight" option. There are sure situations where anger covers up different emotions eg. anxiety, but there are also likely situations where other emotions cover anger, eg anxiety where the underlying emotion is anger.  That is highly likely the case, since anger is one of the least socially acceptable emotions, and people tend to deny/cover unacceptable emotions when they are able to.
•    Once I was diagnosed, I made the decision to change direction in business (no more deadlines — way too stressful) and to refuse to accept stress from anyone else. That was 15 years ago and I rarely experience anger, anxiety or other forms of stress. As an added benefit, it's helped me to become a very effective negotiator. :)
•    I have learned to express myself and then I get angry when the person isn't understanding or taking what I say serious.

Post your comment below…

ASD Traits That Contribute to Relationship Difficulties in Adulthood

We took a poll of 86 women who are in relationships with men on the autism spectrum (level 1). The question was: “What is the #1 trait that your Asperger's partner or spouse exhibits that seems to be the most problematic to the relationship?” Here are their responses:

  1. A sing-song "ohhhHHHhhh" is all I get and that's ONLY because in marital counseling she told him he needs to acknowledge when I'm speaking even if he won't look up from what he's doing. I get the same response for "I like this song on the radio" as I do for "my dad took his life eight weeks ago and I am absolutely distraught."  😢
  2. Although him and I are not married he is the same way. Not with the lack of touch, but in his mind if he has already told me he cares or how he feels (which is never upfront, he beats around the bush and I have to figure it out) he feels like he shouldn't have to say it anymore. Once it’s said, it’s done and time to move on.


  3. Always the same face expression, no emotions, no need for body contact, no sex, extremely stressed when something unplanned happens, he comes first and he always think that everyone works and think like him everyone else are idiots. No friends and always in conflicts without seeing he made something wrong.
  4. Before kids I would have probably answered inflexibility. Once he sees or does things a certain way it is a real struggle to get him to change it. After having two children it is definitely him not automatically putting his children's needs over his own. Parenting is full of self-sacrifice, and he doesn't really have any of that.
  5. Black and white thinking
  6. blaming, he's never wrong, no empathy
  7. Bottling up his emotions until he erupts. His "meltdowns" include irrational thinking, self-sabotage, and verbal insults. They affect the entire family.
  8. Communication
  9. communication and others …also having to be careful what I say (walking on eggshells) in case it's misinterpreted and causes an argument as he's on such a short fuse most of the time.
  10. Communication and special interests!
  11. Communication by far, it goes hand in hand with not expressing any emotions.
  12. Communication issues as well: if he is right, he is right and he will talk my ear off until I agree
  13. Communication, moods, lack of coping skills, lack of empathy, inconsiderate. Sorry that's more than 1!
  14. Completely self-absorbed. I am at the point where I do not know if I can commit to being his "seeing eye dog" anymore. This is unbearable.
  15. Communication and his inability. To respond to urgent important issues.
  16. Constant struggle with depression but refusal to discuss meds.... he’s always right...
  17. Definitely the focus problem. If he's interested in something, it's to the exclusion of EVERYTHING else -- doctor's appointment, bills, promises ... Everything.
  18. denying that I said things to him. So hard to get him to register anything!
  19. Does he always appear rude? Mine does and when I tell him he is being rude he denies it.
  20. Emotional distance and celibacy is going to definitely be my chief concern. It's taking its toll and my fear is that this will be what kills my love for him someday soon. I have always been absolutely, madly in love with this man… But I feel it's slipping away and I am less and less interested every day. As I begin to learn to cope without him, I'm beginning to appreciate the time without him more than with him.
  21. Empathy, lack of support
  22. Foreign communication skills. It's like we speak different languages when we communicate. We truly do not understand each other.
  23. Grumpy/moody!
  24. He doesn't want me to go, and I don't want to. It's just unfolding in front of me. The longer I am ignored and pushed away, the less I find I want to be in a place where I feel ignored and pushed.
  25. he has done so much damage with the things he’s said. things I would never say or type just too vile to repeat. the threat, he’s never touched me but I don't know honestly if that would always remain that way. he pulled a knife on his mother at age 10… 
  26. He is most recently spending hours on coin collection. Hours. Lonely
  27. Hiding and lying.
  28. His defensiveness about everything I say and always needing to be right, so fragile
  29. His lack of desire to socialize. He never wants to go out anywhere. Part of it I think is because it doesn't interest him and it's a point of anxiety also I think. It can be very frustrating. Also, communication!
  30. His not acknowledging or caring about others' emotional needs (or at least not showing that he cares whatsoever).
  31. His reactions on the outside not matching the inside & not matching the situation. Ambivalence. Nothing is certain. Nothing is for sure. I'm so busy being baffled not able to process his words or behaviour or being in shock by it that there's no time for life.
  32. I agree about the lack of communication which leads to a myriad of other problems. I finally gave up.
  33. I dunno is the response to everything… and " I forgot!".
  34. I feel totally unloved, not cherished and so unimportant in his life. Not anywhere on his priority list which is a very different thing from the first 2 years together. Pulled me in, fell in love married had kids now lives like a hermit. Totally shut me out!
  35. I get 'yep' and 'ok'. That's about it. Usually punctuating my sentence after every word. Every. Single. Word.
  36. I have a rule now. 2 comments and it is over. The constant comments are defeating for everyone.
  37. I have that rule as well in texting. We also won't text each other in arguments. (Or try to but we are long distance) Doesn't help when we are in person, I’m a sucker for just shutting down and giving in. It's okay to agree to disagree but he sees conflicts as needing to be solved now!
  38. I make more money than him so financially he’s a joke he spends everything he makes
  39. I think loneliness is a major common issue for all of us. Right?
  40. I totally get this. He has used me as a scapegoat for the last few years and had almost ruined my relationship with my mum and his parents because he was so good at hiding/pretending. 
  41. I would say irritability/mood swings tied with unsaid expectations I'm supposed to follow
  42. I wrote a letter to my mum recently explaining everything and she now gets it. Such a relief! I'm at the point where I need to decide, knowing that it's not going to change unless he acknowledges stuff, whether I can stay, or if I need more. Take care x
  43. I'm just so done and I only suspect that this is the problem. But he has almost all of the traits.
  44. in the midst of nastiness toward me, he can turn to a child and speak kindly so I KNOW he has a choice in how he speaks.
  45. Inability to accept the situation if he thinks it should be a certain way, stays fixated and festering it which I call spiraling which leads to inappropriate behavior towards me such as name calling, sulking, anger outbursts, silence, melt downs etc.
  46. Inability to communicate on even a basic level about anything.
  47. Increased (now daily) alcohol use and mixing with his other medications leading to constant "forgetfulness", spending 99% of free time with his buddies in our attic or backyard and neglecting the kids (and me too). No affection/ no or little sex.
  48. Inflexibility, there is only his way of doing things, I can say "there is more than one way to skin a deer" but it's his way or the highway. Also obsessed focus he becomes so involved with something and everything else is neglected.
  49. Irritability
  50. Lack of affection, communication.
  51. Lack of affection, empathy, motivation, sex and the fact that I come last all the time.... yep he is definitely aspie  :(
  52. Lack of cognitive empathy, but lots of affective empathy, so I get no validation and don't see myself reflected back accurately, but others think he's really helpful and lovely!
  53. lack of communication specifically when he gets so frustrated in an argument that he resorts to verbal attacks such as name-calling (b*tch c*nt stupid ignorant mentally unstable) and threatening (ill have someone cut you, I’ll have your mother deported (she’s been a citizen for 40 years). and it’s not just attacking me it’s my close family members.
  54. Lack of emotion, empathy, communication.
  55. Lack of emotional support, communication
  56. Lack of empathy and real remorse. He repeats the issues then apologizes (does not excuses himself any longer)) but then redoes it in a few days. I have tried making lists and put them on the fridge, we signed agreements in point form and made handshakes, but nothing has worked. Now he just says "I am sorry, I don't know what is wrong with me". Since he has found out he has Asperger he uses it as an excuse to be like a kid, but not in a funny kid way.
  57. Lack of empathy for emotional hurts
  58. Lack of physical intimacy and meltdowns.
  59. Lack of proper communication.
  60. Lack of touch/not realizing that I need to hear he loves me. He says that he married me so obviously he loves me, he shouldn't have to remind me he loves me.
  61. lack of uninitiated loving touch, "shoulding" me all the time and lack of ability to have appropriate, inoffensive social interaction with friends and family
  62. Loads! The one the one that drives me insane. How he can make ANYTHING turn around and to be my fault. Then totally believe it’s all me.
  63. Mine irritated me earlier. He is away working and called to talk to the kids. Youngest is almost 2. She kept saying "daddy" over and over again. He kept asking what and then told her " talk to me". Uhh she IS! That's appropriate for HER age however his response was very inappropriate for HIS age.
  64. Mine is so child-like at times. I long for a true adult relationship.
  65. Mine is the opposite of a lot of women on here I feel.... his unhealthy obsession with sex and seeing me as an object. Not supporting my emotional needs either and inability to hold conversation when it is regarding me and my interests
  66. Name calling is SO hurtful to me too.  😥 The threat to "cut you" worries me. Does he mean "cut you off" financially or have someone physically stab or sever off part of your body?
  67. No need for relationships or emotional connection
  68. No reciprocity so I don't receive stimulation the way I would in order to regulate myself when having regular reciprocated conversation.
  69. Not taking responsibility/blaming equally with not understanding (believing) me about my emotions and also just not getting or reading me and not listening and failing to live up to previous agreements and and and
  70. Oh geez! Your reference to "shoulding" made me smile a knowing smile. I tell my husband all the time "stop shoulding me!" He has stopped using that word but still says "you need to do xyz" and thinks it is not a should!
  71. Oh man, mine changes moods like he changes clothes. We will be having a great convo an hour before we get home. And as soon as we get home it turns into "don’t touch me, I don’t want to be bothered"
  72. Oooohhhh fun, a poll!! I would answer these all day for you if it means we might get you to do a workshop real soon!! Mine is the inability to feel loved through physical validation - holding me in public, caressing me like he feels it instead of it being on his check off list, genuine and sincere touch that is loving and not just a hand on your back sitting there. With this of course is my husband’s asexuality. Thanks for this!
  73. Parenting. Treating a child's inability to cope in a situation where attachment and support is called for as deliberate misbehaviour and handing out punishments.
  74. Playing the victim
  75. Refusing to acknowledge mood instability esp when depression sets in. He sleeps 16 to 20hrs a day and is very hurtful or neglectful when awake.
  76. Right this moment experiencing a meltdown he is refusing to stop and take the medication that helps him to at least stop spiraling  😟
  77. Same here. Why even say sorry when you repeat the same thing over & over again. I can see if the first time you don't understand but when we take time to explain it & you are logical then the next time seems intentional even if it isn't. Agreements just like on Big Bang Theory.
  78. Selfish, inflexible, always others fault, keeps on talking about topics of his interest and not able to understand others not interested in or Listening just for being polite, gets in conflict all the time with others and do not understand his role, communication problems and problems in understanding simple instructions or messages (but you would think he understood until you see he did the opposite of what you said or meant), not being able to understand how you feel or think, fails affection in the relation, quite boring, not being able to hold on schedules, ruining finances, not keeping promises, prioritizing problems (less important more than important), focusing on unimportant than important (Even if you point it), not understanding others body language or understanding things wrongly and wouldn’t get convinced if you try to explain him ( keeps on believing what he himself thinks, kind of paranoid)
  79. Several: 1. Inability to decipher tone in the intended and expressed way. Always assumes I'm being mean or hurtful which leads to shut down and his very hurtful explicit outbursts to hurt me. 2. Attachment to electronic devices. Can't go a second of the day without some device in his hand - which leads to isolation and lack of conversation. 3. Unhealthy addiction to sex and pornographic materials. He said that it’s his means of distraction. I get that - but there are so many other options (read a book, watch tv, talk to me)
  80. so very rigid takes an act of congress to get the slightest change, and he's always right, while I am apparently an emotional troublemaker who is so hard to read. I am by nature on the shy side and pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve
  81. Special interests/collecting/hoarding
  82. Task management difficulties. I worry about how this burden might fall unequally on me as we progress in the relationship.
  83. The inability to communicate.
  84. Tone of voice.
  85. Tough one...lack of communication I guess but there are so many! 😭
  86. Unwilling to take responsibility for behavior

 



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