Are You an Aspie and Depressed? That’s Not Unusual

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression: Part 1

As most teens and adults with Asperger syndrome know, people with Asperger syndrome can be significantly depressed. The rates of diagnoses of depression vary among studies, from 18% to 22%. The most commonly quoted rate of a depression in the general population of the US  is 6.7%. Most of the research shows both genders have these high rates of depression.

Studies focused on males and females and not those who are transgender. There are more people who identify as transgender in the AS population than in the general population and transgender people have a higher rate of depression. One would guess that someone who is both AS and transgender might have a high tendency towards depression.

Interestingly, non-autistic full siblings and half-siblings of individuals with ASD (not just Asperger syndrome) also had higher rates of depression than the general population, although at half the rate of those with ASD. Studies of suicide attempts are also very troubling. In studies of suicide, the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts are prevalent, especially in adolescence and young adulthood.

It’s critical to identify depression, since it can be treated.

It’s obviously important to understand why rates of depression and suicidal thoughts are so high. One factor, given the findings in siblings, is that there is an increased genetic vulnerability to depression, although large studies haven’t supported a common genetic overlap. We have to look to other factors to account for these high rates of depression.

It’s important to diagnose clinical depression for anyone for a simple reason – depression is treatable with a variety of modalities:

Are People with Aspergers as “Logical” as They Think?

Balancing the left and right brain: the role of emotion and mood

One of the hallmarks of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is that individuals often have strong points of view, and they have trouble seeing other points of view as equally valid. Most see themselves as extremely logical and therefore right in their conclusions; for them, the points of view of others can seem illogical. This is often perceived by neurotypicals as being oppositional, stubborn or lacking empathy.

Brain hemispheres sketch

What’s interesting is that often when people think they’re being logical, research shows that their emotions can be driving their cognition. Emotions are frequently substantial influences in people’s thinking without their knowing it. In his eloquent writing for LinkedIn, Kristopher Jones makes clear what is my experience as well:

People with AS can have very strong feelings.

Peter Salovey and Marc Beckett of the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale University www.ei.yale.edu have done compelling research on the topic of feelings influencing thinking. In one study by Brackett and his colleagues on the influence of teacher emotion on grading practices, they took a large sample of middle school teachers. Using techniques demonstrated to be effective to induce a positive or negative frame of mind, they had half the teachers influenced to be positive and half to be negative. All were given the identical essay to grade. The scores given by the two groups differed by 1 to 2 grades, yet all of them were certain that mood had nothing to do with their scoring.

Why is this significant for people with AS?

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy model of cognition suggests that we all have a logical mind and an emotional mind.

It’s where these two overlap (are integrated) that genuinely “wise” thinking can get done. Otherwise, we’re unaware (like the teachers) of the extent to which emotion that hasn’t been acknowledged is dictating what seems to be logical thinking. Most AS/NLD individuals I know operate out of one kind of mind or the other, but fail to meaningfully integrate the two.

I worked with a young man who was very reactive to what he perceived as criticism. A person who criticized him at a temporary job became someone he never wanted to see again; in fact, the entire setting became somewhere to be avoided.

He felt this was logical – you don’t go where you are treated badly.

15 Steps to Start the School Year Right: Anxiety, Transition, and Preparing for Success

As students with AS and NLD of all ages return to school, there’s two challenges: making the transition from summer to the school routine, and setting up the year to maximize success. Transitions and novelty often are the source of anxiety, so many AS and NLD students are increasingly anxious as that first day back to school approaches.

Anticipatory anxiety can be expressed as headaches, stomach aches, and specific fears of the year ahead: who’s in the classes, will there be bullying, what’s expected by teachers, having to take gym.

How can a parent help (or an older student prepare)?

Deal with anxiety:

  1. Recognize anxiety is a real feeling, but not an accurate prediction of what’s going to happen. Too often parents get caught up in the anxiety themselves.
  2. Meditation has been proven to turn off the “fight flight” response, and the breathing techniques are useful to use when there’s challenges or frustration. It’s a good time to start practicing daily. There’s apps for all ages.
  3. Exercise is another good way of dealing with anxiety. It doesn’t have to be a sport. Walking outside can be calming.
  4. AS and NLD students usually have ideas of what helps with anxiety but sometimes don’t initiate doing those things: reading, music, playing with pets.
  5. Use self talk – realistic self encouragement can be thought through ahead of time: “I can handle this,” “I know I can get help if I need it” are examples.

What Happens to Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome? (Kids Grow Up)

Resources for Adults with AS

Adults with Asperger’s find that the accommodations and supports available for kids aren’t there for them. It’s increasingly recognized that children have sensory issues and supports are often made in schools to support social issues and social anxiety. Some accommodations are made for emotional reactivity and problems with becoming overwhelmed. Adults don’t grow out of these problems; in fact, some make the transition to college or try to find jobs and find little understanding and no support.

Group of business people assembling jigsaw puzzle and represent

Social challenges may be confounding and complicate relationships with friends, work colleagues and partners. Accommodations in school may have helped with inflexibility, concrete thinking and difficulty with changes in routine, but these considerations aren’t typically made in work situations. Many parents of young adults with AS fear that their over-reactivity and poor social judgment may get them into serious trouble in the community.

Puberty Basics for Parents of Girls with AS/ASD: Health, Hygiene, Self-Esteem and Safety

Informational Webinar

Puberty is a difficult and oftentimes scary process in any adolescent’s life. The changes that the body goes through can be frightening and confusing. For young girls with ASD, these changes come with an entirely new set of obstacles and challenges. At Aspergers101, we focus on providing resources that are free to the community. The following webinar by the Asperger/Autism Network contains invaluable information, but at a cost of $20. We hope that this can be of use to some families, as this is a very important topic that often gets overlooked.

https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/225691630814543362

Mon, Sep 19, 2016

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM CDT

This webinar takes parents of girls through the common difficulties faced by girls with AS/ASD as they begin and move through puberty. These girls may be confused or upset by the changes taking places in their bodies. New hygiene routines can be made more difficult by sensory sensitivities. In addition, pre-teen and teen girls with AS/ASD often desire increased independence, but need to learn safety skills. Parents will learn to address these sensitive issues in a calm and informed manner. We will also look at different resources to use when talking to our daughters. Following the presentation there will be time for questions.

About the presenter:
Erika Drezner, LCSW, is a social worker and has been on staff at the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) since 2009. She has trained as a Parent Consultant through the Federation for Children with Special Needs. Erika has a special interest in girls on the spectrum and has run support groups for parents of girls at AANE. In addition, she has presented workshops on Females with ASD, Anxiety, Friendship, and Adolescence. Erika will be a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital for 2016-17. She has two children with autism spectrum diagnoses and in her free time she enjoys running and reading.

Please register for ‘ Puberty Basics for Parents of Girls with AS/ASD: Health, Hygiene, Self-Esteem and Safety’

Price: $20.00 USD

Mon, Sep 19, 2016

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM CDT

https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/225691630814543362

Recommended by Dr. Marcia Eckerd