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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. However, if you notice that you do seem to have some of the common symptoms of depression, it might be worth arranging an appointment with a mental health professional who could help you.

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 Due to this fact they tend to develop coping strategies, many of which leave them very self-sufficient and withdrawn from extended social interactions, which most people with Asperger’s prefer.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.


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, on the autism spectrum.


  1. Clara Josephine Twigg

    i dont know if youn experienced it but one time in class i wanted to show my math teacher something and she said no and that i must explain it to the class i just felt like i was trapped in a cage because i explain things more when i actually show it then all of a sudden a question popped up in my head saying that i always show it on the board why is it different now and then i just got this weird feeling in my body and almost started to cry i wish i could just tell her the way i think but i am scared that she is an aspie hater — from an aspie

  2. Thanks for this article. It defined what I have been going through. I feel that I am slow compared to others when it comes to completing a college degree. I am in recovery and I found relief in the 12-step meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have retracted from the program and replaced that time with classes at my local community college. I since have dropped out because the English 101 course was not as basic as I remember. I felt my college was too commercial. That feeling ruined my momentum because I allowed it to. Depression and Anixey play more of a conversation starter with my family because I don’t know how else to conversate.

  3. I can definitely say that’s true because a few years ago I was living in a place where I hated, and I felt depressed almost all the time. It had also gotten to the point where I quit doing the things that I was once interested in, and to where I was feeling defeated. However I will say things have gotten better for me because I’m no longer living there, but I will say that I find myself still getting depressed sometimes and if anything I have gotten even more tired of dealing with people and trying to talk to females because I have had no success on getting females to go out on dates with me and pay attention to me.

  4. As an aspie I can relate very strong into all things said in this article and reading this article comforted me as I know somewhere out there are people who understand us. Now I would like to add one aspect which is in my case causing depression in all day living. As known we aspies tend to have strong special interests and they give us a way to decompress, it is usually very hard for close people like friends and relatives to understand the importance of these interest and hobbies even if they know about asperger’s. In my situation the people close to me are reqularly questioning my interests and pushing me to give away them as they see them odd and something that “normal” people wouldn’t do (building old cars in my case). They don’t understand why I would like to spend my free time in garage building new things rather than “enjoying” my life by going to movies or restaurants. Before I got my diagnosis I actually abandoned one of my main interests under social pressure and it made me very angry and depressed for long time. Nowadays I have learned to resist and leave alone opinions of other people, but the main problem still exists and keeps loading pressure and depression on me: most of people seems to think that my diagnosis is bs or some kind of a fashion diagnosis and I could act and be like normal people if I just pull myself up and do things “right”. The worst moments are usually my own relatives telling me something like this: “You are complete normal, don’t believe those doctors. You don’t even look like retarded. You just need some physical exercise to boost your brains”, “Why did you get yourself diagnosed? Do you understand that the diagnosis is ruining your life?”, “Why can’t you be here on time? You should stop being lazy and arrive on time” and “You cannot use your diagnosis as an excuse to behave like that. Every people can behave normal. You need just some self discipline.” I understand I don’t have to keep all people around me, but abandoning relatives is really not an option. I also understand that they don’t want to believe their relative/friend is “disabled” and they want to encourage me by saying these things, but I wish them to accept my diagnosis one day and start learning true nature of Asperger’s. It would be the best thing to support my life. I felt very important to bring this topic up because I’m very sure that I’m not the only asp in this situation and if any friend or relative of an aspie reads this, he/she may learn something.

  5. That ‘s a very good explanation especially about withdrawing from the special interest. But there is hope as you can’t stay in that depressive state and the intellectual aspie logic inside knows it and will move on if you can get a breather.

    • This is very true! I think a big part of the battle is noticing what is happening. When I don’t notice I spiral downward, but when I do, I can actively engage myself in SOMETHING intellectual…learn something new and it helps me. The downfall of this approach (for me) many times is the complete and utter abandonment of the interest that I withdrew from. Almost as if the interest itself was the offender. I am doing this right now…and I don’t want to abandon things I’ve worked so hard to achieve. Right now, I am struggle with my writing, I don’t have time, I withdraw, I stare at the screen. Today, I am answering 39 unanswered comments, and I have over 400 unanswered emails…ok now I feel overwhelmed. But the writing even here in this format is helping drain my swampy brain.

      i started learning how to paint, and found that instead of picking up my manuscripts, my pens, my books, I was reaching for my paints. I was going to stores and buying supplies (lots of them, because we don’t do anything half-assed, we go for the gusto.) I watched youtube videos endlessly into the night, and followed them meticulously learning how to paint portraits. Why? I don’t know. So within a few days, I did learn, and not too bad, I had three paintings done! But…but…but my stories, my revisions, my manuscripts…I was tempted to toss it all away and take paint classes! So how to stop the madness? That–I am still working on!

  6. Very true for my daughter.

  7. Wouldn’t it make more sense for a person with Autism/Asperger’s (Myself included) to explain from personal experience how they cope or see depression?

  8. I don’t suffer from aspergers. It’s part of who I am.
    Nor are functioning labels useful.

  9. Are there any articles focusing appropriate treatments/supports for co occurring Aspergers and Depression?

  10. Very informative, thanks. Have a good time.

  11. This was a very eye-opening article for me, being diagnosed with Asperger’s and having struggled with depression in the past. I can manage quite well at the moment, but the things described here bring me back to my deepest depressive states and all I can do is nod while I read along. I was diagnosed only 7 months ago {I am a 32 year old female} and now I can see why mental health professionals couldn’t do much for me back then; They did not know I had Asperger’s and could not help me accordingly. I am glad I found ways to feel better myself, although it was though and I could have found better help if I got diagnosed earlier. But I digress…
    Great article!

  12. All these things pretty much describe me. Also, having experienced the uselessness of multiple antidepressants in the past I find it very difficult to travel that route again.

  13. I can totally relate to this, myself.

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