Friday, March 13, 2009

Anger and Depression on the Spectrum

Anger and depression are both issues more common in Asperger's syndrome than in the general population. Part of the problem stems from a conflict between longings for social contact and an inability to be social in ways that attract friendships and relationships. Even young children seem to know that they are not the same as other kids and this gets emphasized in the social era of adolescence.

This leads to “trying too hard” to fit in with others. This in most cases actually puts off the very people with whom he is trying to connect. Many cases of depression, in fact, begin in adolescence. Anger, too, stems from feeling out of place and being angry at one’s circumstances in life.Ideally, the focus should be on prevention and on helping younger children with Asperger’s syndrome develop communication skills and develop a healthy self esteem. These things can create the ability to develop relationships and friendships, lessening the chances of having issues with anger or depression.

Anger in AS children often occurs due to over stimulation of the senses or a change in routine. It is often the only response the AS child knows. Anger management presents problems. They see things in black and white, which results in tantrums when they don’t get their own way, feel threatened, or overwhelmed. Some children with Asperger’s bottle up anger and turn it inward and hit or bite themselves, never revealing where the trouble is. Many people with AS are perfectionists reacting with anger when things don’t go as they wish.

Anger can also come in Asperger’s syndrome sufferers when rituals can’t get accomplished or when their need for order or symmetry can’t be met. Frustration over what does not usually bother others can lead to anger and sometimes, violent outbursts. This kind of anger is best handled through cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on maintaining control in spite of the frustration of not having their needs met. Will begins this therapy on April 7th. While it is better to teach communication skills and self esteem to the younger children, communication skills and friendship skills can be taught to teens or even adults that can eliminate some of the social isolation they feel. This can avert or reverse depression and anger symptoms.The truth is that some Asperger’s syndrome patients become so depressed that they commit suicide. The challenge becomes recognizing these individuals before they do harm and getting them into therapy or starting medications for depressions or for obsessive compulsive symptoms so that tragedy can be avoided.
Will is not violent. While he does on occasion have an angry outburst his anger is almost always directed inward. We have had a few, and I mean 2 or 3 ever, times that he has showed any aggression toward Christian. He is a very good big brother and seems to connect better with Christian than anyone else. I must also mention that he is very kind and helpful with Matthew. I have noticed though, that sometimes his reactions with them are totally inappropriate. For example if Christian falls down, Will smiles at him while in a very sing song type of baby talk asks him if he is OK. He is concerned for his well being, but his expression and tone are all wrong.

If nothing else I want everyone to know what a good boy he is and how hard he tries.

1 comment:

  1. I can feel the emotions you are going thru more than you might know. My heart aches at the all too familiar scenes we've had at our house/school/church. Your blog is going to be a great resource for newbies and veterans alike. Your attitude and love will be a inspiration to all. YOU are the biggest blessing on your life's spectrum!