Saturday, November 21, 2009

Aspergers and Depression

I’m not sure what set me off in this direction in my thinking but here I am, wondering if I have Aspergers.

First, an update on life as I know it. Things have been going poorly. The economy hit me hard and one of my two sources of income crumbled away. My other source, writing, is actually doing very well. I signed a book deal – my first – in October and other gigs continue to come in even without my seeking them out. I’m making less than I was, which wasn’t much, but I’m happier in this work. So, I should be happy overall but we are talking about depression, right?

My social world continues to shrink and, although I don’t like social situations in the least, I can tell that the almost complete lack of them since I started working at home is taking a heavy toll on my overall emotional well being. I’ve considered spending two or three mornings a week working in a coffee house. I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone but just being out and among others might help.

My drinking has increased. I’m not ready to say it’s a problem yet but it’s worth mentioning.

Depression has wrapped itself completely around me. I’ve succumbed to it in recent months and have found an odd comfort in the resignation. I haven’t taken St. John’s Wort since the summer.

On to Aspergers. Like I said, I’m not sure what sent my mind down this path but I’ve been thinking about my severe social dislike and awkwardness and wondering if this might have something to do with mild autism, which is an oversimplified way to describe Aspergers. Check out the Wikipedia entry on Aspergers if you’re unfamiliar with this condition and really want to know.

I have most of the symptoms. Some points of my life that seem to really mesh well:

The speech thing – My mom tells me that I was a very late talker. She doesn’t remember my first word because I just started talking in complete sentences one day. (I’ve always thought that was odd. Wouldn’t one remember their baby’s first word or utterance regardless?) Also, in elementary school I used to go to speech therapy. I don’t remember the specific problem – I actually forgot about it until college when suddenly one day the memory came flooding back when I met the son of the woman who was my speech teacher. Weird, right?

Social situations – I’ve beat that one to death; that’s a definite check in the yes column.

Misunderstanding other’s nonverbal communication – check.

And so on.

A few points where I don’t seem to fit the condition: I think I’m a pretty good abstract thinker. My professional writing is nonfiction but I have written fiction in the past and greatly enjoyed it. I also like reading fiction and think that I’m pretty good at picking up on the subtext. However, having a degree in English literature could have given me the training to approach this formulaically.

Lack of empathy – this is the biggest reason that would make me question my having Aspergers. I think that I am hyper-aware of other people around me and their reactions to what I say. I often will stop mid-sentence because the slightest change in my listeners expression. People do think that I have an odd speech pattern and I do tend to go on obsessively about a few topics, both aspects of Aspergers.

So, I took the Autism Spectrum Quotient test this morning and scored a 30 which is rated as above average. I always feel like I’m screwing up these self administered tests, though. I’d just spent an hour or so reading about Aspergers so I recognized the symptoms behind the questions. I realized that I was overcompensating and trying to not be to eager with a “yes, yes, that’s me exactly” sort of response. So did I drive my real score down? Who knows.

What will I do with this new information? I have no idea. Probably nothing. However, it does make me feel even more justified in refusing the social anxiety medication that was prescribed to me years ago. It might have treated a symptom but not the problem if I do indeed have Aspergers.


The Pursuit of Happiness said...

Okay, perhaps this is all a wild hair. I asked my wife to read the wikipedia entry on Aspergers and she doesn't think I have it in the least. "You just don't like people," she said.

Kylyssa Shay said...

I was diagnosed a few years ago when getting treatment for PTSD.

Aspies and other autistic people often express themselves weirdly, in ways neurotypical people don't "get" or can't interpret as creative. Autistics often struggle so hard to simply communicate with other people that they don't even try to get across things like ideas or stories. But many autistics, even those far more disabled than Aspies, are able to write creatively. With the internet age some low-functioning autistics (believed to have very, very low IQs) have latched onto computer technology and written creative and intelligent books, giving lie to the non-creativity stereotype. But people, including medical professionals, are reluctant to give up the stereotype. It's hard to admit you've been wrong and caused so much distress in being wrong.

Aspies often fail to properly interpret other peoples' emotions but when we do, we are just as affected by them as anyone. I may feel sad for someone because I've misinterpreted their intense concentration as depression. I may miss that someone sad or suffering is sad or suffering but once I figure it out it hurts me, often practically guts me.

I also don't cry and scream when physically hurt or make the expected grimaces or flinches. My father is the same. Other people are handicapped in that THEY can't interpret MY feelings and they interpret my atypical reactions to pain as an absence of pain. They also do that with emotions. An atypical expression of emotion (such as a lack of expected inflection) does not mean a lack of emotion.

Many autistics are empathetic once they can interpret another's emotions.

Autistics are individuals and autistics are as likely to be creative as anyone else though institutionalization and other traumas associated with autism can easily stifle creativity.

What you are dealing with is an interpretation of what autism is like conceived by non-autistics.

Most therapists use the official criteria to diagnose Aspergers, not the older stereotypes.

You may have Aspergers or something else. Simply not liking people doesn't come with depression associated with it. You may have social anxiety disorder, general anxiety disorder, suffer from biological depression, or have just about anything else including several physical ailments. Any of those things should be treated.

See a therapist.

Recycled Envelope said...

I've been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and social anxiety, as well as depression (the former two feeding the latter). I also shy away from social functions and find it hard to make new friends. If your wife doesn't see you fitting into the Aspergers symptoms, it's quite likely you have something similar to me.

Have you spoken to a clinical psychologist about your depression? I found having my issues diagnosed somehow lifted a weight off my shoulders. It helped to know that so many others feel this way that there's actually a name for it :)

JoLynn said...

My son was diagnosed with anxiety disorder when I took him in for an analysis with a developmental pediatrician (he was 10). By age 12, after years of scratching our heads and being on a 9 month waiting list, we heard the diagnosis: Asperger's. He is linguistically gifted, not speech delayed. His 4-year-old brother, also with ASD, was speech delayed.

As a teacher, I had taught many with the diagnosis, yet didn't see it in my own son until I saw a list of symptoms on a website. Go with your gut. Knowing the diagnosis can help with a plan for dealing with a society that is far from ready for the tsunami of individuals who are coming into it with ASD. It's never too late for a diagnosis to help you with the characteristics and planning for the bounty of situations that are challenging because of it.

Poppy said...

Hmm, I guess there's always a danger with self-diagnosis, particularly over the internet. I've done it myself, for various things, and none of them have turned out correctly. It's very easy to find all sorts of similarities that don't actually exist. But if this is causing you worry, I'd try and see a specialist? At least then you have the relief of knowing, one way or the other.

The Pursuit of Happiness said...

Spot on, Poppy. If nothing goes awry I'll have health insurance in January and, assuming I can screw up the courage, I can get definitively checked out. (Oh, but there's NOTHING needing reform in the US health-care system. (Sorry, I try to avoid politics here but this particular topic is just so stupid that I can't help myself.))

Matt said...

If you are the person always suffering from depression, seek help immediately. And if you are a victim of depression, don’t get even, instead try to help the person. Yes, they do need help, I tell you.

Spera said...


I suppose it might make one feel better to have a name to call something.

Too bad.

I was once told I was bi-polar. Turns out the headshrinker just didn't like me.

I think people who are depressed just generally find other people tiring chores. You have to behave well in front of them, put up a facade, and that can be very draining.

Lately I just want to stay in bed very late and go into the office when everyone else has already gone home. I still go to church, but I'm thinking of choosing one where no one knows me.

Bryan said...

I think that you should always help a person who is suffering from depression...Never make a joke of him..Even if you are suffering from depression then get it checked at the initial stage only...After dat you will feel free and good always.

Mary J said...

I know how you feel when it comes to succumbing to it for awhile...I felt really tempted to do that myself.

Depression Treatment said...

Asperger's Disorder is a milder variant of Autistic Disorder. It is also one kind of mental illness related to depression disorder. A proper treatment is important to get out of this mental illness.
Thanks for sharing nice information.
Keep posting more like this.

Anonymous said...

I'm back to being depressed at the moment and I must admit this time round the exact same thought had gone through my head 'Do i have Aspergers?', so at the very least it's comforting to know that at least one other person in the world has followed this same thought process. If I am it's probably mild - but as all depression sufferers in the world will know there's a whole range of shades of grey out there when it comes to mental health, from off white to black-grey.

BTW - stumbled accross your blog, as one does with these things - have made damn sure it's bookmarked now though - keep writing.

Robin said...

i can relate to this said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said... said...
At 36 years old I have recently been diagnosed with Aspergers, now I have a little more realisation why certain things were so bloody awkward and frustrating, also some of my OCDs! well, lol, things now make more sense and are easier to deal with.
At the end of the day most people are somewhere on the autistic spectrum and the sooner we all realise this and get used to the coping mechanisms we may have to use but also some of the attributes our condition brings the better. In the meantime, remember computers were made by people with Aspergers for people with Aspergers.

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