• Understanding Autism from the Inside

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People with Asperger’s Syndrome May Experience Depression Differently

depression differentlyMany people believe that people who suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a higher functioning form of autism, cannot feel and do not experience a full range of emotional stimuli. Nothing is further from the truth. People with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to feel things just like anyone else. They may be less apt at expressing those emotions in ways that society has deemed “normal;” however, that does not mean they don’t feel emotion. A particularly strong emotion they are susceptible to is depression, especially in adolescents and young adults.

What Happens When People with Asperger’s Get Depressed?

Studies reveal that a possible 65% of people with Asperger’s tend to be more susceptible to anxiety and depression. However, due to the difficulties they have processing and sometimes displaying emotions with “appropriate affect,” it makes it very difficult for clinicians to diagnose the depressive state. Everyone, regardless of whether or not they have Asperger’s, is an individual first. It is hard to say definitively what any given person will feel when faced with depression.

Feelings of Loss of Independence/Individuality.

Social Interactions take a heavy emotional toll on people with Asperger’s. Even a short amount of social interaction can exhaust an “Aspie” to the point they need several days to decompress and recover afterwards. Due to this fact they tend to develop coping strategies, many of which leave them very self-sufficient and withdrawn from extended social interactions, which most people with Asperger’s prefer. When faced with depression, it brings about feelings of wanting to be held, comforted and nurtured. This is in direct contradiction to the self-sufficient independence they’ve developed for themselves. This tends to lead to the feeling of loss of part of themselves, as they feel they lose part of the independence they worked so hard to create. The confusion of this paradox also breeds feelings of frustration, loss, and depression.

Loss of Interest in Special Interests

People with Asperger’s tend to have strong “special interests” (http://autism.answers.com/behaviors/autism-and-special-interests).” These special interests are comforting and help them to decompress after stressful situations and/or experiences. These special interests can also help to give them a sense of self and accomplishment. Depression causes loss of interest in these area, which brings about feelings of isolation and profound loss. The interests, which they held so dear, no longer serve as a comfort or a support. The loss of something to identify with, or an area which they excel in, causes intense feelings of hopelessness and even partial loss of identity.

Intense Feelings of Despair and Hopelessness

People with Asperger’s have difficulty with Central Coherence (http://autism.answers.com/autism-spectrum/autism-and-central-coherence-missing-the-forest-for-the-trees). This makes it hard for them to have any hope that the depression will lift and better days are possibly ahead of them. They are stuck in that moment in time, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and no hope for a better day. They have problems envisioning a future that is not bleak and hopeless, which causes them to spiral ever downward into their depressive state.

Increase in Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Issues

Depression can increase sensitivities issues. A person with Asperger’s Syndrome who suffers from Sensory Processing Disorder (http://autism.answers.com/symptoms/sensory-processing-disorder-spd-in-autism). Those with SPD may find their normally heightened senses even more acute, causing more frustration and despair as well as intense physical discomfort. Due to sensory overload, meltdowns may occur and occur more frequently.

Conclusion

People with Asperger’s Syndrome experience a full range of emotional stimuli including depression. The intensity of depressive feelings ranges in each individual and can be very detrimental. Additionally, due to inappropriate affect it often takes a longer time to identify the depression.

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.

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