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55 Ways to Beat Depression: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and HFA

Many, if not most, adults with Aspergers (or High Functioning Autism) will experience some significant bouts of depression from time to time. So if that has happened to you – you’re not alone. Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to do what you need to feel better.

But while overcoming bouts of depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t beat it through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent.

You can make a huge dent in your depression with simple lifestyle changes (e.g., exercising every day, avoiding the urge to isolate, challenging the negative voices in your head, eating healthy food instead of the junk you crave, carving out time for rest and relaxation, etc.). Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day and draw on the support of others.

Recovering from depression requires action. But taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better (e.g., going for a walk, spending time with friends, etc.) can be exhausting. It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery. The things that help the most are the things that are most difficult to do. But there’s a difference between difficult and impossible.

For all you Aspies out there, below are some very important tips for dealing with – and ridding yourself of – depression. Pick one or more (preferably several) of these techniques. Some will work – others won’t. So you can expect a short trial-and-error period until you find the right combination of techniques that work for you.

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1. Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.

2. Aim for 8 hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.

3. Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking.

4. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.

5. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking: Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)

6. Avoid diminishing the positive: Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)

7. Avoid emotional reasoning: Believing that the way you feel reflects reality (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)

8. Avoid jumping to conclusions: Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic.”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead end job forever.”)

9. Avoid labeling: Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)

10. Avoid overgeneralization: Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever (“I can’t do anything right.”)

11. Avoid 'shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’: Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.

12. Avoid the mental filter: Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.

13. Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.

14. Call or email an old friend.

15. Challenge negative thinking. Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future. But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.

16. Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.

17. Consider taking a chromium supplement. Some depression studies show that chromium picolinate reduces carbohydrate cravings, eases mood swings, and boosts energy. Supplementing with chromium picolinate is especially effective for people who tend to overeat and oversleep when depressed.

18. Cultivate supportive relationships. Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression. But the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important. The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. You loved ones care about you and want to help.

19. Do something spontaneous.

20. Do things you enjoy (or used to). While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark. Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.

21. Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every 3-4 hours.

22. Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet. What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.

23. Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden.

24. Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas can boost serotonin levels without a crash.

25. Get regular exercise. When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue. Scientists haven’t figured out exactly why exercise is such a potent antidepressant, but evidence suggests that physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension—all things that can have a positive effect on depression.

26. Go for a walk with a workout buddy.

27. Have lunch or coffee with a friend.

28. Help someone else by volunteering.

29. Join a support group for depression. Being with others who are dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.

30. Keep a “negative thought log." Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. But maybe he’s just having a bad day.

31. Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that are stressing you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.

32. Know when to get additional help. If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better! Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.

33. List what you like about yourself.

34. Listen to music.

35. Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.

36. Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or french fries. But these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.

37. Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can give your mood a big boost. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements. Canned albacore tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed.

38. Pets can make you happier and healthier. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and you a sense of being needed—both powerful antidotes to depression. And the research backs it up. Studies show that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression or get overwhelmed by stress.

39. Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

40. Read a good book.

41. Schedule a weekly dinner date with someone special.

42. Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.

43. Spend some time in nature.

44. Start small and stay focused. The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one. Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up. And for all the energy you put in to your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return.

45. Take a long, hot bath.

46. Take care of a few small tasks.

47. Take care of yourself. In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.

48. Talk to one person about your feelings.

49. Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.

50. Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. When you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell. But being around other people will make you feel less depressed.

51. Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.

52. Watch a funny movie or TV show.

53. Write in your journal.

54. Pray (if you’re a spiritual person) for guidance, peace, joy and prosperity.

55. Be patient with yourself as you try these “depression-busting” techniques. Experiment. Dump the ones that don't work. Keep the ones that do!

Good Luck!

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Crucial Interventions for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Each person with ASD [High-Functioning Autism] is unique, so interventions need to be individualized. Grown-ups come to this awareness at different ages and stages of their lives, which can influence the approaches they choose.

Be creative in the combination of interventions you use, and simplify your life.

Here are some general ideas regarding interventions for adults with ASD:

1. A Cognitive-Behavioral approach to therapy is strongly indicated.

2. A slower-paced environment will likely be more tolerable and allow for a greater sense of comfort and competence.

3. A therapist with an awareness of ASD (or interest in learning about it with you) is essential.

4. A variety of therapies can be helpful to adults with ASD, depending on the individual.

5. Advocate for environmental changes at work or home. If you are more comfortable, the people around you will be as well.

6. Teach others about the "disorder" (actually, I like to think of it as simply "a different way of thinking"). Grown-ups with ASD are pioneers in educating others in their families, workplaces and communities.

7. Attend a group where social skills are explicitly taught.

8. Know your weakness, and seek professional “life coaching” to work on those areas.

9. Communicate with those around you about your need for periodic “down-time” (i.e., time alone to recharge your social battery), but do not use it as an excuse to avoid participation in family or other activities.

10. Contact Career One-Stop Centers (federally funded centers designed to help people learn new, marketable skills, identify jobs and prepare for interviewing).
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11. Contact the vocational rehabilitation agency in your state. With an official diagnosis of ASD, you may be entitled to service.

12. Disclose your disorder to others strategically. Only share the information that is required for that time and place, and consult with a trusted person to determine what to disclose if you’re unsure.

13. Heightened sensory sensitivities may make particular environments unpleasant or intolerable. Thus, change lighting, decrease noise, and wear comfortable clothing.

14. Hire people to do the things you’re not good at, which may include, but not limited to: (a) money management, (b) housework, and (c) organization and bookkeeping.

15. Join Social Groups with other ASD adults. This decreases isolation, and with practice, increases comfort with other people -- and may improve social skills.

16. Know what ASD is in general and how it affects you specifically.

17. Know your areas of difficulty.

18. Know your strengths and build on them.

19. Listen to trusted family or friends.

20. Medication can be helpful in decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety that often accompany ASD.

21. Meet others with ASD, listen to and support one another.

22. People with ASD tend to connect most comfortably around shared interests (small talk is less essential in interest-based groups).

23. Physical and emotional comfort are essential to individuals with ASD.

24. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is generally less helpful.

25. Read about ASD from a variety of perspectives.

26. Sensory and social demands of daily life make more down-time essential for adults with ASD.

27. Stop the blame game  – blaming yourself or others is common and not helpful.

28. Strengthen your areas of difficulty or minimize their presence.

29. Work with a Life Coach that will assist with (a) concrete skills-building and goal direction, (b) independent living skills, (c) employment-related skills, and (d) social skills.

30. Be patient with yourself as you experiment with different coping strategies.


Best Comment:

Frankly, we have been on the verge of divorce since we got married, but we have five kids in the house who have already been through a divorce and neither of us wants to put them through any more trauma. What led us to seek therapy almost immediately after the wedding, was my husband's EXTREME jealous, possessive and controlling behavior throughout the relationship. After we got married it had bordered on emotional abuse. We had been in therapy with various different counselors, (and still are) but no one seems to be an Asperger's expert around here. Getting the diagnosis was both an AH-HA! moment and also devastating, in that this is a permanent and incurable condition.

So much of what I have read online rings true with me, I am horribly lonely and feel like we are roommates but have no "connection" for lack of a better word....but the worst part, that makes me feel it is not safe to drop my guard and allow him into my heart, is the way he just explodes unpredictably. As is typical with AS, he is prone to meltdowns over the smallest things (which always seem to be related to him deciding some action of mine- shaving my legs, getting a text, being five minutes "late", telling my kids they can have a friend over) means that I either "don't prioritize him' or "am trying to attract another man". Neither of which is true, he just can't understand normal behaviors or handle any changes in (his) plans. He will take a normal incident, and go over it and over it in his head until it is just completely twisted into some horrible offense.

I walk on eggshells all the time waiting for him to turn something tiny into something that will dominate his thinking for weeks on end. I am tired of being told not to "push his buttons" and being afraid of what is going to happen, what he will say, what the next fight will be. A chance encounter I have with a male acquaintance can turn into an ongoing interrogation for days or weeks. He asks me if I "ran into anyone" or "talked to anyone" every day, and if I did or do, and fail to tell him EVERY DETAIL of what was said then I am "hiding" things, etc, but if I do tell him, he twists it into something it wasn't, makes accusations, ("why was he SO happy to see you!? why didn't you introduce me/ talk about me, etc") and so forth.... I dread social situations and even school events with my kids because I can't control other people's behaviors. I don't know what someone may say or do that is going to set him off or what he will find to be angry about. I even quit my previous office job that I loved in order to work with him because he was so angry and upset about my job every day. He was bullied pretty severely as a child and always thinks that other men are "playing games", "Bullying him" and are looking to "stir up drama" and that it's therefore his prerogative to respond in an overtly aggressive, nasty manner to these perceived threats, which obviously causes many problems. He also believes that all women are sexually interested in him and that all men are sexually interested in me. (no matter how unlikely or unrealistic that may be)

Some things have gotten better since his diagnosis (he no longer tries to inspect my clothing for any hint of attractiveness/ sexiness, or forbid high heels, for example, and he makes a real effort to buy me gifts, initiate affection, and communicate better.) He now accepts that there are things he simply does not understand; but other things are not. He thinks in marriage it's his right to expect an idealized, fantasy-type sexual relationship where I passionately desire intimacy with him every day; he reads meanings that aren't there into every facial expression or action I take (not standing close enough to him means I "don't love him"; not saying "bless you" when he sneezes is "callous" and so forth); and any desire I express for this slightest bit of privacy means I have something to hide, and therefore he should be suspicious about it.

I am 40 years old. If there is no help for this I would like to at least KNOW, I am exhausted from trying to please my husband and never, ever succeeding. I am absolutely desperate and broken. I can't even tell my husband any of this. I am actually terrified to even send this email and I have been sitting here debating what he would do if he knew I sent it....I am pretty sure if I let him read this email he would just get stuck on the first paragraph, find some example that isn't "strictly what happened"...we would argue over my use of examples, and he would be livid that I "reached out to another MAN", then it would turn into this huge dramatic fight about how much I "hate him" . He would never make it to the big picture at all, see that I am looking for a way to bring us closer, or see how hurt I am. He is not violent so I am not afraid for my safety.

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