It is common for people with Aspergers to be upset by little things throughout their day. It can happen quickly and relatively easily. Sometimes, the least little thing can set your Aspie off.
Aspies and Autistic Spectrum Individuals often suffer from stress from environmental influences that other people would either take in stride or not even notice. School issues, social issues, the texture of food, The texture or smell of their clothing.
Since OCD often accompanies Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Aspies can be overwhelmed by many simple things. Obsessive thoughts tumble around in our heads and cycle over and over and over. Little things like noise, scent, textures, disorder… can all interrupt an obsessive cycle. This can cause cognitive dissonance that can really only be resolved by going back to the compulsive behavior.
While cognitive dissonance is the basis of neurotypical decision processes, your Aspie has a big problem dealing with it. Neurotypicals have a spectrum of likes and dislikes; (i,e, I like thing a more than thing b.) Aspies tend to have no subtlety in likes and dislikes – it is all or nothing. Your Aspie will say “I like it” or “I hate it.” There will be no in between. This polarized mentality makes it difficult for your Aspie to get past the obsessive thoughts.
Once we’re in that place, nothing matters is those obsessive thoughts. It brings us pleasure. The cognitive dissonance associated with interrupting the obsessive thoughts, brings us psychological pain.
As a result, your Aspie will often be perceived as intolerant of their environment as well as other people. Anxiety will build in unstructured settings and situations where people are milling about. Noise in these situations can cause acute stress. Your Aspie may not be able to stand having people too close to them.
Every Aspie will be different, but mark my words, they will have their stress triggers. Younger Aspies may react to these with a temper tantrum, and older Aspies may have outbursts because things aren’t going their way. These outbursts are not childish behavior, but a way to translate their distress into something that allows them to put it out of themselves… to get it away.
As much as it pains me to say it, you may, at times, just have to give in to your Aspies idiosyncratic behavior. This may mean quiting down the environment, or keeping items in specific places in orders. It definitely means that your Aspie will be dressing in clothing he or she feels comfortable in. Learn to embrace it, or do the kind thing and get your Aspie into an environment where they are cherished as opposed to grudgingly accepted. Your Aspie may be about 13 degrees off cool, but they will not thrive any other way.
Lack of sleep is another major issue for your Aspie. The stress hormones associated with sleeplessness build up until rest can be achieved, however, the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors may (actually will) interfere with a good night’s sleep. Most Aspies don’t want to take medication to sleep. (In fact, most Aspies rebel against the idea of taking any medications. We’ll cover that more later.)
Most Neurotypical stress reduction techniques simply don’t work with the Aspie psyche. Be prepared for your Aspie to want to have alone time, rigid rules or even a nap when stressed. These things make your Aspie relax and will help him relax, granting a sense of security.
Images in this issue SHAMELESSLY stolen from the following sources:
2 thoughts on “Care and Feeding of Your Aspie: Part 3 – Aspies and Stress”
Your blog and this series in particular is very helpful, thank you so much. I did notice that “Most Neurotypical stress reduction techniques simply don’t work with the Aspie psyche.” But there are still “common grounds” between NTs and Aspies that make some basics still apply, no ? Eating well (being careful with caffeine and stimulants, etc.), getting some physical activity is at least somewhat helpful, if only to avoid having an even worse “default stress setting”, right?
First off, let me thank you for compliment… It always helps me continue one when I hear that I have helped someone.
There are some commonalities… but you have to take into account some of the other issues. Eating well often involves introducing your Aspie to new foods, which can be a chore at the best of times… And if the initial encounter wasn’t handled properly, your Aspie will be oppositional in regards to that item, and it may spread to other foods.
On the subject of stimulants – Keep in mind that with the incidents of Co-Morbid conditions, sometimes we are going to need stimulants above and beyond that which normal people do… Just one example is ADHD. There are is a high percentage of Aspies with ADHD… Almost all of the medications for ADHD are high stimulating… The issue is that most of us find the side effects of all of the medications and many would prefer to self medicate with caffeine, as we are familiar and comfortable with the effects of it.
Lastly… I can only speak from experience on this one… I have tried physical activity in response to stressful or dissonant situations… And again, I only speak for my experiences… All that ever accomplished was to make me physically tired while still being stressed and dissonant. I will state that a walk can solve a lot… IF your Aspie can return to the conversation and LET IT GO, but many of us have an issue with that, as well.
I have, in the past, been known to just leave… tell someone that “I’m sorry, this is making little to no sense to me and seems confusing and irrational. As such, I have to go.” And just left.
I don’t know how useful my response is… but I hope it DOES help.