People with Aspergers Syndrome, Girls on the autistic spectrum and Depression
Aspergers Syndrome, Anxiety and Depression
Aspergers female talks about depression
AS and Depression
Anxiety and Aspergers Syndrome
Depression and Aspergers Syndrome
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Depression and Aspergers Syndrome
Aspergers Syndrome and Depression
Unfortunately today depression has become very commonplace. It has now also been identified that for many people there is often a root cause to their feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy and deep sadness.
Depression and Bi-Polar Disorder are too often also found in people who have Aspergers Syndrome or Autism. In fact in the past people who today would most probably be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome would then often have been misdiagnosed as having Bi-Polar Disorder or Schizophrenia.
While many people with Autism or Aspergers Syndrome often do also develop depression because of the additional struggles they have to endure in their everyday lives. For the autistic person so many everyday activities that others take in their stride are often very confusing, alien and often appear like totally baffling behaviour. Also the autistic person doesn’t have an instinctive knowledge on how to socialize or deal with situations that other people can adapt to quite easily.
In my own personal case the diagnosis of clinical depression didn’t come until after the birth of my first child. This though was still many years before the real cause of my depression became obvious to me i.e. for most of my life I was totally unaware that I had Aspergers Syndrome. When I was initially diagnosed with depression it was the start of my long journey to discovering what was really going on inside my head and why. I knew there was more to my feelings of inadequacy, difference and confusion than just depression but unfortunately many people tried to convince me for many more years that this was not the case.
So what exactly are with main symptoms of depression?
For everyone depression can manifest itself a bit differently. For me personally now that I think back it is often hard for me to separate the extreme thoughts which I now know are all part and parcel of having an autistic overactive brain and then those thoughts that were fuelled by me feeling clinically depressed.
Extreme thoughts and Depression
Having extreme thoughts is a very common sign of depression. For me this usually meant constantly berating myself and asking myself questions such as: ‘Why am I so useless? What sort of an ejet am I?’ Or I used to also regularly give myself nice compassionate advice like, ‘just cop on Mary and walk into that room and talk to those people. Or is it any wonder everyone hates you and thinks you are a total fool when you actually are these things?’ Constantly these thoughts would be swimming around in my head day and night. Keeping me awake into the small hours and waking me before dawn.
These thoughts in most people with depression will include elements of constant self-criticism and periods of berating themselves for their perceived faults or shortcomings.
Usually there is also often a total lack of self esteem and confidence.
An inability to concentrate is also common and activities and tasks that were once liked and considered important will now also often have no appeal for the depressed person.
For me this always caused me difficulty great at work because no matter how hard I tried I wouldn’t be able to keep my mind on the task at hand. Instead I would find my mind wandering off and focusing in on something else entirely. Such as an event twenty years before that and how stupid I had been to handle it the way I did i.e. a total inability to let go of past mistakes and move on.
Quite suddenly a decision as unimportant as which black shoes to wear to work the next day became a mammoth decision. Therefore the inability to make even simple decisions and extreme indecisiveness are also symptoms of depression.
Feelings associated with Depression:
A person with depression is engulfed with constant feelings of extreme sadness about every area of their life. It really is a dark, foreboding cloud hovering over you from which you cannot escape from. Every sad event in your life is constantly buzzing through your frazzled brain. You are in a constant state of confusion, may feel terribly frightened, have extreme guilt about small trivial matters and yet can’t help yourself from feeling this way even though your mind might tell you that you are overreacting.
For me I felt like I wanted to escape my life and run away but at the same time I didn’t have the energy, the drive or the confidence to actually pick myself up and do it. The person with depression often also feels totally inadequate and incompetent which only adds to their feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Behaviour and Depression:
A depressed person finds every mundane task an awful effort. Their mind is draining all their energy so their body is constantly exhausted and it may feel like you are walking around with blocks of cement dragging after you. Every limb is dead weight and every move requires so much effort that many will retreat to their bed and just want to stay there indefinitely.
Other people with depression might find they can’t stay in the same spot for more than a couple of seconds and are constantly on the go and yet achieving nothing. They are consumed by a feeling of restlessness that they just can’t escape. They are trying to escape their inner turmoil but can’t because they are carrying it around inside their heads with them all the time no matter what they do or where they go.
Some depressed people are extremely needy and will cling onto a significant other for dear life. You may be told, ‘how you leave me like this?’ They may want you to save them even though at the end of the day you can’t because only they have the power to help themselves to get over their depression and that has to come from within.
The depressed person will be very irritable and you may feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells around them. No matter what you say it will be perceived as wrong. (Just ask my husband he will tell you all about this one!). Any innocent comment will be construed as being an extreme insult to the paranoid depressed person.
Physical Symptoms of Depression:
As already described usually a depressed person is totally lacking in energy, drive and interest to do anything much. They will want to stay in bed all day, will lose all interest in their appearance, self care skills will not interest them and just seem like too much bother. E.g. Why does it matter if I brush my hair or not when I am the biggest failure the world has ever encountered?
A depressed person will just have no interest in what is going on around them and this can be very hard for other family members to get or accept.
A person with depression may seem to sleep all the time or consequently they may be awake all night and not be able to sleep at all.
Some cannot eat and will lose weight. This was not my experience though when I am depressed food is my first love and I crave every kind of junk food that ever existed and that is all I am interested in eating. So when I am depressed I usually gain weight.
Many people with depression will develop physical pains which may have no root cause, this used to happen to me a lot in the past.
Aspergers Syndrome and Depression:
For me depression is merely a symptom of my Aspergers Syndrome. The autistic brain is wired differently to the neurotypical one and unfortunately for us Aspies we are usually more prone to becoming depressed.
The following are some of the reasons for this:
Aspergers brain is wired differently
As my husband has so eloquently put it on many occasions, ‘you think too much about everything and you are totally paranoid.’ Now I know though that this unfortunately is just how the autistic brain operates e.g. somebody says to me, ‘I have never seen you wearing blue before, it’s different.’
That might usually seem like quite an innocent comment to make but automatically the Aspergers brain homes in on this as their way of telling me, ‘would you look at the state of your one in the big blue blanket. What was she thinking going out in public with that draped around her huge body? Doesn’t she realize she looks like an overripe, overstuffed blueberry? If I were her I would go home rip that monstrosity off my person, burn it straight away and then hang my head in shame for the next six months.’
I always seem to home in on and remember the smallest of critical details of every comment that other people make and even though they don’t even necessarily mean it as an insult that's how I am likely to pick it up unfortunately. When it comes to self criticism the Aspergers brain has a memory better than any elephant. Unfortunately I don’t seem to hold onto any memories of praise in the same way. Undoubtedly this type of thinking encourages depression.
Aspergers Anxiety pent up stress and depression
For the person with Aspergers Syndrome everything thing in their everyday world is a challenge. I have spent a lot of my life marveling at people who can just walk into a room and instantly it lights up. Everyone is so happy to see them. I on the other hand will try to sneak in after them with my eyes averted and my heart thudding anxiously in my chest.
It is a relief to now know that this is a perfectly normal way for someone with Aspergers Syndrome to feel. That really I can only do my best to cope in this type of situation and if I need to withdraw from it to avoid sensory overload then that is okay too. If only I had known that a longtime ago how it would have helped my self-esteem and maybe even have given me some confidence.
Obviously because I didn’t have the benefit of a diagnosis until my 30’s I had already suppressed all this type of anxiety inwards and it had manifested itself as depression.
Depression, Aspergers Syndrome and pent up anger
When I was first diagnosed with depression I saw a very nice Counsellor and she told me that depression is often caused by suppressing unexpressed anger. That made a lot of sense to me. Now of course I know I felt angry because I had Aspergers Syndrome and I just couldn’t understand why I had to act and do things in a certain way to try to fit in even though they made no logical sense to me whatsoever
E.g. if someone asks you how you are you must say, ‘I am fine thanks and smile.’ Why I used to wonder when I am dying inside? Why can’t I just say, ‘I am awful, my mind is a mess, I hate myself, I am a total disaster and I just want to run away and hide under a cabbage plant somewhere and stay there for the next ten years.’ I used to think if only I could say that I would feel so much better but no instead I have to pretend and play this charade that became known to me as ‘social interaction.’
Then of course there is the relationship faux pas i.e. I cannot tell my partner how I feel even though he does actually want to know when I am angry, sad or depressed? Apparently he also wants to know when I am in melt down mode so he can get ready to run very fast in the opposite direction of me.
It was such a rewarding day for me when I got my Aspergers Syndorme diagnosis and I read out to him how I really have no control over my emotions once I go into meltdown mode. For the first time I had documented proof that there really is no point to ignoring me for a week afterwards because I got so angry. Now I can say ‘its not me really honey it’s the Aspergers Syndrome, see I have been telling you since the day I met you I really cannot control my emotions sometimes no matter how hard I try. Now here is a nice book by Dr. Tony Attwood where in fact totally backs up this theory. That was a great turning point in our relationship finally there was a new level of understanding emerging and much less depression.
Unfortunately though many couples don’t make it to that stage and it is very tough that so many people separate because their partner just can’t express how they feel because of the Aspergers Syndrome and neither person in this couple is even aware that the Aspergers Syndrome is in fact the real issue. Undoubtedly this leads to depression.
Depression Aspergers Syndrome and Sensory Issues
When you hear a voice four times louder than everyone else, when you can make out a pin dropping at the same time as somebody is speaking to you and you can’t filter out any background noise, it is hell.
If every food you eat also tastes like sawdust or every flavour tastes like a bad Tandoori curry magnified by ten then that makes eating a minefield. These are just two examples of sensory issues that often affect autistic people and there are many more too. This makes it so difficult to lead a normal life and can undoubtedly lead to the autistic person avoiding social settings, going out for meals is just too difficult and doing so many things that others just take as a given have to be avoided or seriously planned. These are more risk factors for depression.
Aspergers Syndrome Obsession and Depression
The Autistic brain is just wired to home in on a particular area that they find hugely exciting and endlessly fascinating. It is now commonly known as, ‘an area of special interest.’ It could be anything from trains, to dinosaurs, to science fiction, for girls it could also be diet, exercise, fashion or something completely different like psychology or even autism itself.
Whatever an Aspies area of special interest is it can often become an all consuming passion. Which then often leads to people with Aspergers devoting every waking moment to this new interest often to the detriment of everything else including family, friends, other interests and just living their life. Undoubtedly this can cause them a myriad of additional problems including isolation, addiction problems, financial worries to name but a few and without a doubt this often leads to depression.
No Aspergers Syndrome Diagnosis and Depression
Personally I believe that if I had had a diagnosis for my Aspergers Syndrome when I was a child then it could have saved me many years of turmoil, confusion, insecurity, social anxiety and many other issues. However in 1970’s Ireland Aspergers Syndrome was not even recognized as being a condition so it was not possible to diagnose it.
However now we are supposed to be living in more enlightened times unfortunately though here in Ireland in 2010 I struggled massively to get a diagnosis for my son who doesn’t have Aspergers Syndrome but Autism and Developmental Delay (currently of unspecified origin please see my article on is it Fragile X Syndrome or Autism? here http://thewritingowl.hubpages.com/hub/fragilexsyndromeexplained).
When I subsequently went about getting a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome for myself I was pretty much laughed at and told to go away and what did I want to know that now for? And that I had coped too well in life to have Aspergers Syndrome! How they deduced that after a five minute conversation with me seemed very farcical.
So unfortunately folks many, many more children, teenagers and adults in Ireland are still going to end up with a myriad of psychological issues because they too will never receive a diagnosis for their Aspergers Syndrome. Instead many will be told they have depression, or Social Anxiety or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or another similar diagnosis or maybe even be told the old chestnut, 'he'll be grand and he'll grow out of it.' Then they will be given a concoction of pills and be told to go away and just live with it as I was. Obviously this leads to more depression.
If you think you might have Aspergers Syndrome then please click on this link to my article on Aspergers and Relationships http://thewritingowl.hubpages.com/hub/aspergersrelationswhere there is also a link to http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html i.e. The Do I have Aspergers Quiz.
My Facebook page
Website for Dr Tony Attwood
- Tony Attwood - Author of The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome - A little about Tony
Tony's web site is a guide for parents, professionals, people with Asperger's Syndrome, and their partners.
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