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Aspergers Boyfriend Has a Computer Addiction?

“What can I do about my Aspergers boyfriend’s tendency to spend countless hours on the computer (researching this and that)? I don't usually care for labels, but I think it would be fair to call him a "computer addict." He is in his “home office” constantly and spends very little time with me or my son. Our relationship ALWAYS comes second. When I approach him about it, he just says, "I’ll be done in a bit… hold on!”  Do you have any ideas that can help us? We have talked about getting married someday, but we’re just not there yet. I really do love this man, but I have to wonder if he values being on the computer more than he does me.”



The first thing to do is to make an effort to get inside your boyfriend's mind. If you can understand his motivation and what makes him tick, you'll be in a better position to help him fully comprehend your concern. As you may already know, people with Aspergers are “wired” differently. One of the traits associated with the disorder is the fact that they give a lot of time and attention to just one or two “special interests.”

Give this a try: Plan a nice dinner out with your boyfriend on the weekend (without your son, if possible). Put aside your anger and disappointment and tell him how much you love him and appreciate him as a partner and a role model for your son. At the same time, be honest with him and let him know that his “computer time” seems to be taking precedence over the relationship. Tell him you value his input and involvement as a father-figure, and ask him if he would be willing to examine his schedule and make some changes.

If you can deliver this message in the spirit of love rather than resentment and frustration, you may be surprised at how positively your boyfriend responds. On the other hand, if he reacts defensively and denies there's a problem, it may be time for the two of you to consider couple’s counseling with someone who specializes in ASD. If he refuses to go to counseling, then you may need to either (a) learn to live with this situation, or (b) consider moving on.

If your boyfriend does express an openness to your concerns, then you've taken a huge step in the right direction. But you will want to have plenty of patience in store. If he truly has a computer addiction, he's not going to change overnight. If he's serious about making the changes you're requesting, he'll want to be held accountable by a therapist who specializes in addiction.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said…  So what is the sum total of all of this? My answer is this - ACCEPT PEOPLE AS THEY REALLY ARE.
•    Anonymous said… As to finding out what he needs, suggest you use a computer to interact with him.
•    Anonymous said… Best bet is to figure out why he feels he needs to spend that much time; if it is an escape what is he escaping from? Does he feel stressed/overwhelmed? But as states above setting concrete desires and plan of action; I need x # of hrs each day of personal interaction/Family time/etc and working that out; he may not realize or pick up that there is or that you have an issue with his actions.
•    Anonymous said… Don't use the word relationship it's meaningless..state what u want simply e.g. an ideal daily/weekly schedule then say please talk with me tomorrow night at...about this.he needs time alone with you too if poss..nothing improves unless you design it to
•    Anonymous said… I also have aspergrs and it is always helpful to have a schedule. Computer use from one time to another, family time from another time to another
•    Anonymous said… I am HFA and am 63 years old, am married. As a group ASDs generally tend towards empathy but away from overt displays of emotion. People tend to hide from things which bother them in some way. Perhaps he find emotions difficult or touching and being touched. Perhaps he cannot slow his thinking self down so as to hold a conversation. Perhaps his radius of privacy versus interaction is further away from himself than others' are aware. Also, be aware that ASDs may not be able to distinguish individual voices when more than one person speaks. Pushing emotional contact onto an ASD may result in a meltdown.
•    Anonymous said… I can pretty much guarantee your relationship comes first even though he doesn't show it. Aspies are highly loyal and dedicated. My husband is exactly the same way, video games and computers are his escape and relaxation. When our kids were younger we set it up that he doesn't play until after the kids go to bed (which was 8 for us). He also had to set an alarm for his phone or else he would play til all hours of the night. Also plan date nights where you can get out of the house. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said… I married late in life - after army service and after my 40th birthday - the 1 st marriage was not a success, though we struggled on for 11 years; I found her need for emotion and constant touching difficult to cope with and I escaped into books and hobbies.
•    Anonymous said… I reckon he loves you loads, personal space, my computer and other bits of nonsense represent safe haven for me, I use mobile devices to stay connected to that which allows me more time to venture out into the crazy world, I'm rubbish at peopling in general so not the best person to be giving relations advice, but when people say autistic folk don't feel stuff they are wrong, it is an overwhelming experience that creates my blank response to those deep situations not the fact that I'm not feeling anything, hope you can find some solutions.  😎 🎈
•    Anonymous said… I think you need to put very specific boundaries around your needs - ie I need to have an hour of time each day to catch up on life - etc
•    Anonymous said… In all of this I do not hear or see his voice nor what he wants - until you know what he honestly and truthfully wants, then you are whistling in the winds of uncertainty.
•    Anonymous said… My 3rd marriage happened late 2014 and we are both essentially loners who felt the need for companionship. M is severely disabled and I am her principle carer. Somewhat ironical because I wear a power chair. We annoy each other and then we laugh about it.
•    Anonymous said… My second marriage was to a lady I call the love of my life because she instinctively knew what she needed and when I needed to have separation because I was heading for a meltdown; we were really close - she was terminal when I met her and we had 8 years together. She died on the operating table on Jan 26th 2013. so just coming up to 4 years now.
•    Anonymous said… Nothing will change .. been there done that
•    Anonymous said… Now as to a non-ASD imposing rules or routines on an ASD - you are likely to find that he withdraws even more.
•    Anonymous said… now it sounds like your boyfriend is a typical Aspergic, let me tell you we love our patterns i have Aspergers my self, now i don't know him or you so i cant give direct advice but what i cab say is that yes he does love you, being and Aspergic we are drawn to certain things like technology, i my self love playing on my ps4 when i am at home. if i would give advice from an Aspergerics view point id say try to set up a time table of sorts a lot time for him to go on his pc and time rot you and your child.
•    Anonymous said… Yes He Probably Does value the time understanding and processing then with you. However that does not mean ur not valued. Tolerance levels of one on one and groups?
Asking for time in other activities is key for eveyone whos lives are online.
•    Anonymous said… Yes, this. 1. We need an exact, specific, literally-worded schedule, 2. Schedule ALL time, & 3. The hyperfocus on the computer/similar favorite activity is akin to what others do to relax and have fun. The computer stuff is simultaneously stimulating and relaxing. But it's also a need for us in this overwhelming world, not merely a hobby or escape.
•    Anonymous said… You need to be more concrete in your needs. People have mentioned a schedule for the computer but actually a schedule for family and couples time is probably s good idea too. Give him definites around the time and activities you expect him to do with you and his child. Now you may get tired of always doing the planning but getting him to plan things might be stage two. For now set up a schedule for the evenings. Including playtime for your son and time for just the two of you. It may be a good idea to schedule his computer time for the very last thing in the evening when you are having your own chill out time or going to bed. If he has met his commitments then don't complain about his computer time. If it cuts into his sleep time that's his issue. Not yours. Giving him very concrete plans is best. Saying vague things like you want him to spent time with you may get through to him as he won't understand what you want or what you are saying. Learn to speak his language and see how it goes. It's all about compromise and it may seem like it's you doing all the compromising but it won't be. Escaping into the computer or an activity is a natural impulse for us aspies and giving up some of that is actually hard. It doesn't mean we don't love our kids. This is " our" bottle or wine or beer . Or friends or social outings. These type of behaviour replace a hell lot of stuff people like you do naturally to feel good. Like friends or nights out or wine etc.

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Anger to Meltdown to Guilt to Self-Punishment: An Asperger’s 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 Asperger’s 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 with Asperger's 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. Asperger's 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.

Asperger's 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.

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 Asperger's individual 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 Asperger’s 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 Asperger's 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 Asperger's 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 Asperger's 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.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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




 
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…

Asperger’s Adults and Problems with Social Imagination

Many people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have trouble understanding and predicting the intentions and behaviors of others (sometimes referred to as “mind-blindness”).

It’s difficult for them to imagine situations that are outside their usual routine, and they often carry out a narrow, repetitive range of activities.

This is not to say that these individuals have a lack of imagination. Most AS and HFA adults are very creative, and some go on to become talented artists, musicians or writers.

People on the autism spectrum may find it difficult to: 
  • accept changes in routine
  • accept others’ points of view
  • appreciate other people 
  • attempt work if they feel they are unable to do it perfectly
  • avoid talking incessantly about their topic of interest
  • cope in new or unfamiliar situations
  • cope with “mistakes”
  • deal with rules being broken
  • determine and interpret others’ thoughts, feelings and actions
  • discover an awareness of unwritten rules (‘”the hidden curriculum”)
  • engage in imaginative play and activities
  • foresee what will or may occur next
  • identify hazards
  • organize their time and/or equipment
  • plan for the future
  • predict the consequences of their own behavior
  • prepare for change



Without the skill to predict what will happen next, the ability to move from one activity or environment to the next is significantly compromised. This can cause extreme anxiety. Having said that, people with AS and HFA can learn many things quickly and easily. But oftentimes, they must learn by “rote” (i.e., repetition, memorization).

As a result, they may have limited understanding of what they have learned and how to use it in different situations. While these individuals have excellent memories for certain things (e.g., dates, facts, figures, etc.), they often lack a meaningful framework to store and access memories relating to personal experience.

When it comes to interpersonal relationships, it is important to break free from the immediacy of personal circumstances and put things into a wider context, rather than following a routine. Social imagination is the ability to shift from one perspective to another, to pull away from the situation and think from an alternative point of view.

In other words, it is a skill in which the person places himself outside of everyday routines and views his actions or life from a third party perspective.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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