My ex likely qualifies as ASD, though he was never diagnosed. He is terrible with faces. Faceblindness is common among ASD individuals. He had a lot of other issues.
He was career military. A common recommendation for ASD individuals is to let them wear the same stuff over and over, to get them multiple copies of their favorite items to wear. Wearing the same thing helps accommodate their sensory issues.
In the military, he was required to wear a uniform. He had multiple copies of it. A lot of people who have to wear a uniform get tired of it. It's boring. It's stultifying. But ASD individuals find it a comfort.
He didn't have to remember faces. Everyone's last name was displayed on their uniform.
He had handwriting issues, probably dysgraphia. He had his favorite pen. As an adult, he didn't need a file giving him permission to use a particular writing instrument to accommodate his issues. He had choice and it was chalked up to personal preference.
If we happen to find a situation that's a good fit for how we are, we look competent and brilliant. If we are expected to do things that don't work well for us, performance suffers.
There's really nothing magical or mysterious about that. It's just a shame we so often require people to have justification for their preferences.
I read a history piece that suggested that we only had one Civil War in the US because the General that accepted Lee's surrender at Appomattox was a chronic alcoholic and ne'er-do-well who learned compassion because of it. He was an excellent wartime soldier. He was chronically in trouble the rest of the time. He also was a callous bastard that was sending so many bodies back from the front that Lincoln was being harangued to remove him from command. He was considered to be a monster.
Grant was an alcoholic and his presidency was riddled with corruption and his reputation was damaged by the Lost Cause revisionists after his death, but compared to the other historical figures we regularly call 'great' he is a better person that most of them and I wouldn't think of him as a monster, he was an interesting and complicated chartacter.
His reputation was written by his enemies. He worked hard to enforce the 14th amendment, and the south hated him for that much more than the slaughter of the actual war.
Comments on this post lays it out in much more detail.
In a nutshell, my understanding of the war is that Lee was a brilliant strategist and tactician and the primary advantage the North had was numbers of soldiers. Grant did not hesitate to use the only advantage he had, resulting in a high number of deaths to gain the upper hand. Lincoln had his back politically and did not replace him. Lincoln apparently believed in him.
It's a really interesting read for anyone.
There's also little evidence that Grant was a drunk during the Civil War; many historians believe that was propaganda spread by the Confederates and by political rivals in the north, which was based on his problems after the Mexican-American war. The accounts of people who were actually with Grant during the Civil War don't support it.
My recollection is that they concluded that the hypervigilance and paranoia common to such people was an asset in battle.
My father spent 26.5 years in the army and fought in WW2 and Vietnam. I spent most of my life hearing "He's paranoid because he survived two wars." My mother said that a lot because, for example, she couldn't step outside the house to turn on the sprinkler without keys in her pocket because he would lock her out.
After raising two special needs sons and learning a lot about such issues, one day I told my mother "You have that backwards. He isn't paranoid because he survived two wars. He survived two wars because he's paranoid."
As a blind person this was quite difficult to read (emotionally). I don't have any additional mental needs, but for obvious reasons I'm unable to read other peoples' visual body language, maintain eye contact or gauge their facial expressions. And because I can't do those things, and have never been able to do those things, they don't always come naturally to me either. I have a habbit of appearing to have a very serious expression on my face when actually I feel quite light and carefree, for instance. Maybe great in a poker game, I don't know.
As an example of this, I never learned to nod or shake my head in response to questions until a recent trip to visit my partner in Mexico. Her sister is hearing-impaired, and so gestures like those were often the simplest way to communicate meaning. My partner, who is also blind, has grown up using those gestures because of her sister, but for me it was like learning something new.
By necessity I have to be tuned in to the sounds in my physical environment, to pick up any clues which give me an edge when navigating that space. I'd say it was fairly likely that I do the same when communicating with other people - one of the things that attracts me to people is the sound and tone of their voice. I find it difficult to enjoy acting performances, conference talks, etc when something is off about a person's vocal delivery, however small. Although that probably also has to do with the fact that for much of the day I'm listening to a rapidly-speaking text-to-speech engine.
It sounds like you might have a serious advantage? Or is the disadvantage of missing other people's tells too great?
Any poker players care to comment?
I did once enquire at the local casinos (UK). They were concerned about cheating or card tampering, even though they would obviously be purchasing the brailled cards, not me. I guess they have certified suppliers or something. Then again, this is the gambling industry so it's easy for them to shut down questions like this without having to do much explaining. I once contacted PokerStars to ask about using my screen reading software to access their platform, and was told it wasn't allowed because other players may hear my cards. Other players who are physically nowhere near me would hear text-to-speech coming through my headphones. The loopholes they jump through for tax purposes often mean they're also completely outside the scope of equality laws.
Of course, I'm always interested in communicating as best I can. Not sure what you had in mind though.
I remember at one point sometime around the age of 20 I felt like there was something I was missing. I've always had a pretty good intuition and my intuition led me to explore a lot of really really sad anime. The exposure to so much tragedy seemed to kick-start my emotional processing system and I was able to interact with people a lot more authentically after that.
15 years later, I can now recognize the signs of an immature emotional processing center in others and I absolutely see them in her. It's a hard cross to bear, instead of just feeling things, you have to think your way into feeling them. Your 'range' is limited to a small spectrum.
It doesn't affect the ability to function, there's nothing 'really' wrong with you, your emotional system does work. It's just that everything's, well, blunted.
Once I got my emotional center processing again, I started to recognize feelings that I had had in the past, but didn't recognize. It's a strange thing thinking back to your childhood and realizing you were feeling things that you didn't understand that you were feeling. Not entirely sure how common it is, but I do run across immature emotional processing very often.
Now that I've had this opportunity to think about it more, it's like the cognitive part of your brain just isn't connected to the emotional part. So much of your emotions never really reach conscious awareness. If you see a lot of really ugly, senseless, or violent crap as a kid, I think you're prone to this kind of disconnection. Then by the time you're an adult, it almost ossifies. You can work on it, but you have to be motivated to somehow.
Tragedy, for me, opened up an emotional view that was blunted for so long. Immediately my relationship with everyone around me, especially my family, changed -- for the better, that is.
I consider it to be a very beneficial and important part of my personal development over the last few years.
It sounds like tragedy is the cause for this rapid improvement in emotional processing. Maybe it's the only emotional state that can break down this wall of emotionlessness. Sounds painful, but I can understand how it could help.
I just don't need it. I would mostly cry to be empathetic.
I don't think this is wrong. Many people do it to help out e.g. that friend who cried on the funeral of your mother? He is crying to communicate his compassion, not because he feels grief. If you would know how many people do this, you would be astonished by the emotional coldness that many have inside their heads (involuntarily).
related SMBC: https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/do-humans-have-feelings
I have this problem. Most of the time I call it autism for convenience although I know it isn't accurate. Deficient/Immature emotional processing is a better phrase that is more accurate.
I think that development issues in the psyche can lead to delays in areas like emotional processing and theory of mind. Oftentimes I have to simulate emotions because I don't feel them in myself and others. The good thing is that I've become very good at analyzing people and their motivations using knowledge of psychology - it's all conscious. I can understand people better on a rational level because my explanations incorporate negative thoughts people may have about themselves without realizing them (negative unconscious thoughts - mostly fear and anxiety). But I have to allow myself explicitly to feel something because my emotional regulation is very high - I think this stems from fear.
There's a wish to control social situations to feel safe. Maybe individuals who have this problem had negative social experiences because their perceptions were off in such situations and they realized that their assessments were wrong which lead to a deficit in self-esteem. To an untrained eye, this may look like autistic behavior, but it's mostly based on anxiety and a deficit in emotional processing.
It's possible to overcome that, but I have to admit that it has positive effects: I don't get emotional easily, I can control social situations and I don't feel fear or embarrassment. Feeling is a choice and having empathy feels like a tool. Sounds sociopathic to me (autistic people also have sociopathic symptoms), so I don't really wish this to anybody.
But isn't that how empathy works?
Imho people on the spectrum are often way too aware of their conscious thoughts, at least in contrast to "neurotypical" people.
Which just adds to their general problem of figuring out signals in all that noise, leading to misconceptions like the above.
Heck, I'd even argue having to think about your emotions is a bit of an advantage because then you can actually reasonably justify having them, in contrast to "just feeling them", which is afaik also not considered "healthy".
Nobody would want to be around a person who tends to get angry because he's sometimes just feeling like getting angry.
Emotions exist in me (I'm not a robot or a predator) and I can extract the information they contain to inform my decisions, but I'm mostly unaffected by them. I don't use this trait to destroy people - I think this is what only weak sociopaths do that are not content with themselves - I use it to be more successful and manage people properly (I'm an empathetic leader) and to be more assertive in negotiations.
I read the word psychopath with a negative connotation i.e. a ruthless person who doesn't feel remorse. I agree, I mostly don't feel remorse, but I'm not doing the things many people think sociopaths/psychopaths do (like attacking people on a psychological basis, destroy lives, ...). I'm a good person and I think many sociopaths are - it depends on the values and on the motivation to hold those values up (although I agree that they feel optional. I'm not bound to societal expectations).
If you read about Hannah Arendt you can see that "normal" people are capable of evil things. I think circumstances are in most cases more important than defining brain-damaged psychopaths as the root of all evil. People kill and feel joy in the right circumstances. Sociopaths are more open about the dark nature of human beings.
> I have killed animals (as a child). Whenever there was a stray animal in my alleyway (cats or dogs usually) I would pick it up and leave it in my trashcan by the side of the house until it got dark. Whenever my parents were asleep, I'd sneak out and take the animal out of the can to torture it. Sometimes I kicked it to death and other times I would suffocate it. This was my main source of entertainment since I didn't have many other things to do.
from . Run if you see people like this, their moral compass is not aligned. Sociopathy is very likely a spectrum disorder like autism.
- - -
> Sociopaths have the neural map of a neurotypical person in an fMRI machine, they are not lacking in, nor do they have differences in the brain that are apparent as psychopaths do, they have the grey matter necessary to experience what empathy is. Here is the massive difference from neurotypical responses, from sociopathic ones.
> When the sociopathy is formed, the person experiencing whatever the causative agent is tends to shut off their access to the emotions like affection, desire for attention, empathy, anything that would make them outwardly dependent and turn insularly. While the pathways are still there, they are no longer used.
> In that regard they probably had a heavier pruning to the bonding section of the brain.
That guy here  theorizes about the causes and neurological aspects of sociopathy. And I would like to clarify that my own self-diagnosis and your reference to "The Psychopath Code" is not a reliable source of information for a diagnosis.
There is however a standardized test for psychopathy (do it at ) for self-reports. Some of my business friends score very high on this test.
> Sociopathy is very likely a spectrum disorder like autism.
I'd say we're starting to understand disorders in general are. At the very least they're not binary. Even something like sexual preference such as homosexuality isn't binary.
I killed ants as kid, cause they didn't follow my traffic signs. I used a catapult to throw stones on a cow because I thought it was funny. I've also been a vegetarian and vegan.
Most people are still omnivore. They can't watch a video of a cow getting slaughtered, but they'll happily eat the meat. Yet when some kind of animal which is commonly a pet such as a dog or cat is ill or gets killed they get super emotional. I don't understand that; and I dislike dogs (they smell, they poop on street, are noisy, and demand attention). I can imagine that dogs/cats on the street can be a nuisance. Especially if poop on your property or make noise at night. Been there. Had a couple of street cats for years on my premises at night.
> Your score from primary psychopathy has been calculated as 1.9. Primary psychopathy is the affective aspects of psychopathy; a lack of empathy for other people and tolerance for antisocial orientations.
> Your score from secondary psychopathy has been calculated as 3.3. Secondary psychopathy is the antisocial aspects of psychopathy; rule breaking and a lack of effort towards socially rewarded behavior.
Hardly surprising for someone with ASD. I'm actually sensitive, but IRL I tend to carefully hide that so I don't seem too vulnerable (become a victim of the narcisist/sociopath/psychopath). I have a moral compass. Its values are different from the status quo which might make it seem like I am amoral, but I know very well I have one.
Perhaps you'll enjoy The Mastermind  a series about Paul Calder Le Roux by Evan Ratliff.
> how different ASD is from Cluster B
is therefore like saying "how different a football is from balls". Did you mean "ASD is different from Borderline (problems with emotional regulation, panic attacks, ...), Histrionic (egocentric, seeking attention) and Narcissistic (egotistic, abusive, ...) personality disorders" in the sense that those result from trauma?
Now your comment makes a lot more sense. I agree. There was a time when people thought that the mother is responsible for autism in their child (through their behavior) which was a huge injustice. I also think that autism is fundamentally different to personality disorders (except psychopathy which is an extreme form of APD that has biological roots AFAIK).
While all mental disorders have biological roots, as in they are all malfunctions of the brain which is biological, I believe psychopathy is trauma-driven just like the other Cluster B disorders, though I think there's likely a heritable component like many other disorders.
Firstly, it can't even be diagnosed until early adulthood because the empathic center takes that long to develop. Children who seem psychopathic can 'snap out of it' even in their late teens.
The brain pathways either get exercised or they don't, it's the failure of them to do so that causes psychopathy, this failure can have very deep roots completely shutting large parts of the limbic system or small parts. The extent of the trauma largely determines the extent of the disorder. Trauma can be 'blocked out' and the formative traumatic experience can be totally out of memory's reach as the brain tends to block such things because they cause further distress. Just because you don't remember a particular experience doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I do think that meditation, or the judicious use of psychedelics, particularly once the empathic center is reactivated, can allow one to 'hone in' on the specific blocked memory and provoke a catharsis, and give a lot more meaning and clarity to who you are and why you are that way.
What I do believe is that the psychopath - empath spectrum is a true spectrum in that everyone is on it, unlike the autism spectrum, where most people who think they're on it are really looking for some kind of framework to order their life around and so just about every sort of social maladaption gets lumped under that label. Autism describes a specific sort of brain misdevelopment, psychopathy / narcissism / cognitive empathy / poorly-developed empathy / neurotypical / sensitive is something everyone can find meaning in.
I think in 10 years or so the categories will be far clearer and emotional development will be far more well-understood.
Most people, I don't know, I can't speak for them. But I know not by the professionals who diagnose ASD here in my region. Because other explanations than autism get carefully evaluated via their own knowledge on the matter (at least 4 eyes, including a clinical psychologist, though possibly more), heteroanamnesis, and statements by a family member/friend to verify.
> Autism describes a specific sort of brain misdevelopment, psychopathy / narcissism / cognitive empathy / poorly-developed empathy / neurotypical / sensitive is something everyone can find meaning in.
I like this video  explaining how someone with autism can get overstimulated.
The thing with autism is: not two autistics are alike. They all have different issues, and might have different issues on top of autism, such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD (though the latter can only be diagnosed in childhood). That's also why I found it so very interesting to meet other people with autism from my region. I also feel less lonely that way. I go every month to a group of "fellow sufferers" (for lack of a better word in English I can think of).
As a final word, I can recommend to be very careful with psychedelics. For me, cannabis specifically, has triggered a few psychoses. Although the most severe one was due to stress.
It's definitely in the Cluster B 'spectrum' but in order to make sense of it I think the best approach is to understand where in early development mind started to get disordered, and just how 'off' you really are.
Autism Spectrum Disorder happens extremely early, while the mind is developing. Only the precisely correct form of early intervention will restore some degree of normalcy to the person.
Personality disorders are not quite as dramatic, and start to develop in childhood. Traumatic things happen to you that affect the way your brain develops and it deeply affects you all the way down to your basal ganglia. The amygdala has the ability to completely override the forebrain and cognitive processing, so when it malfunctions, or is disordered, it seriously affects your ability to function in society.
What I'm calling here 'cognitive empathy' is when the trauma doesn't really reach the point where it affects functioning. The person knows something is wrong but can't put a finger on it. What's happened is rather than trauma pushing all the way down into the reptile brain / basal ganglia, or so deep into the limbic system that it rewires or completely turning emotional processing off, (psychopathy) the person gets 'shadows' of emotional processing that they then need to 'shore up' with cognitive processing.
Those with personality disorders don't really have a choice other than to develop a 'mask'. Their emotional centers just don't function well enough, no amount of watching sad anime will cause any form of feeling to arise. Normal people are really sensitive to the subtleties of emotional response hitting your face, and so psychopaths simply can't have a 'normal' conversation with people unless they 'put on their masks'. The mask is a wholesale cognitive recreation of the limbic system, crafted over years of getting it wrong until they finally figure it out.
I think most people that describe having cognitive empathy aren't this badly damaged. Their limbic systems function, just not well. They can improve, often just by seeking out feeling wherever they can find it. So many people describe operating cognitively until one day in adulthood they managed to start processing, then all of a sudden it's like a new world opened up for them. It's their limbic system finally making connections with the forebrain. They have to keep working on it throughout their lives to increase the trickle into a working and healthy interconnection.
Really good empathy involves lots of back and forth communication between the forebrain and the limbic system. Empathy that's only cognitive needs to be controlled and extreme anxiety results when the control isn't maintained. Anxiety results when you get amygdala activation as a result of a feeling of lack of control. It overrides your forebrain and places in the forefront of the mind, "get back to safety." With good limbic system function then the person can better orient themselves in uncertain situations. A lot of this is due to empathy, the 'mirror neuron' system. You can look around, sense that no one is trying to judge you or anything, and start to relax. But if all that is happening cognitively, it won't happen fast enough to keep up with the amygdala's defense mechanisms.
But this is the experience of many people with "high-functioning" ASD, even people who have received formal diagnoses. "Something" is off and affecting their relationships, but until they receive their diagnosis they can't understand what it is. It seems to me as though you are inventing your own idiosyncratic definitions for these ideas.
You describe the exact model I have created for my brain as well. It's exactly this. A separate thing that simulates the activity of the limbic system, but I'm still unsure if I'm not simply reusing the limbic system for that (would need a fMRI to test this hypothesis).
> What I'm calling here 'cognitive empathy' is when the trauma doesn't really reach the point where it affects functioning.
I can't remember being traumatized, but I know that I didn't seek affection as a kid (my sister told me that hugging me etc. didn't affect me, any type of punishment didn't affect me on an emotional level - there were some autistic tendencies).
I got my IQ tested (because I misbehaved in school and teachers thought either I'm stupid or highly gifted) and got many points (got downvoted the last time I wrote that number down here). If the numbers are correct I'm part of the top 1% with my intelligence. I guess I had to pay a price for that. Are there studies that show a correlation between highly gifted kids and problems with the linking of the limbic system?
> It's their limbic system finally making connections with the forebrain.
> Empathy that's only cognitive needs to be controlled and extreme anxiety results when the control isn't maintained.
> You can look around, sense that no one is trying to judge you or anything, and start to relax.
Very accurate observation, although I can easily recognize if I get judged or if people focus on me - I wasn't able to do this in the past (people told me), but I'm getting better and I'm now on a par with "normal" people (and I have the advantage that all this information is conscious so I can act on it faster and more rational). But I also think that this is based on my forebrain. The limbic system feels something (but retrieving this information is more demanding). Normally I maintain a feeling of apatheia in my limbic system (I can control this most of the time). Once I've set the emotion, it's hard for anything (myself included) to change it. I don't even care about death in that state which is a bit dangerous (had some very dangerous situations in the past because of that) - I'm completely content, very stoic and don't feel ego in that state.
> But if all that is happening cognitively, it won't happen fast enough to keep up with the amygdala's defense mechanisms.
Sometimes I feel that I'm actively suppressing defense mechanisms because my consciousness overrides the emotional response. I think it's a matter of training. It's hard to be faster, but most of the time you get the control back pretty fast. Using knowledge of cognitive biases, human tendencies, evolutionary psychology and rationalizations are extremely helpful to achieve that.
Sometimes I let it slip and I'm positive about being able to feel something - I can remember that I was grateful that I was able to cry when one of my ex-girlfriends left me: I didn't had to and I had to convince myself, but I felt like a human being doing that. I thought: "Very good, I'm crying. Like a normal person. I'm still human". I was able to stop crying in every second, everything was very controlled - I don't know if this is normal, but this fits to your statement: "They can improve, often just by seeking out feeling wherever they can find it."
I'm trying to do that. But I have to say: My best improvements came through improving my knowledge about psychology. I'm making better predictions about human behavior and slowly it's better than most people with their intuition. I'm slowly achieving above-average insight into human nature compared to my surroundings. I use feedback loops to ensure that my assumptions are correct (not always very nice: I ask people very intimate things, bypass their emotional defenses or analyze them thoroughly). But it's the only way to be sure that I'm actually improving and not falling for self-delusion.
Studying psychology gives you more cognitive resources, allowing your brain to wrap itself better around certain concepts. I think it's easy for intellectual types to put too much emphasis on cognitive development and they need to be encouraged to actually develop their limbic system.
The cognitive wants to get better, constantly constantly better. The limbic wants harmony. I also have had the experience of being prideful of the capacity to be emotional. Over time I've been able to gradually cede the compulsion of the cognitive to allow the limbic to do its job. It makes life much, much, much simpler, to be able to turn off the need to constantly understand everything.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: mindfulness can aid with that.
Mindfulness is useful for when you have uncontrolled emotions flooding your forebrain and making it difficult for you to function. Forcing your mind to watch the processes as they're happening allows the forebrain to come up with novel ways to make sense of what the rest of the brain is doing.
You want to release, then integrate emotion. Catharsis, then mindfulness.
I've heard that many people get tears while watching it, although many people don't score high on standardized psychopathy tests.
Part of getting older, for me and I'm sure many others, is learning that the boundaries of my perception and experience seem to form the totality of the universe for everybody's perception and experience. I think my feelings after the saddest event of my life is the saddest anybody could ever feel. But really, compare tragic experiences: losing a beloved pet, losing both parents in a single day (e.g. car accident), losing your child on a wilderness hike. It's a slow process of growing up and understanding the depths of emotion that so many others of the human race have already experienced, and that you have not. And until that's complete (hint, it never is, you just grow more and more aware of its vastness), you'll always struggle to fully connect with other people.
As a very different example, drawing on the parent post, if you've grown up in a violent world, it's just as difficult to imagine life from the point of view of someone who has not. Beyond ASD, think of kids who grow up in gang life, or on either side of an abusive relationship.
But the amygdala overrides are a crucial part of social experience, they 'alert' you when something's 'wrong'. Developing emotional maturity involves being able to sensitively process the overrides in a way that contributes to social harmony instead of, say, getting really mad and huffy and demanding.
"Feelings are such a tricky thing.
I was raised to suppress them. Or, well, not even that. Feelings were so thoroughly suppressed in my family, that they never even featured. I must have learned that any expression of emotion gets me nowhere by the age of 0.5
In my 20s, throughout various failed relationships I began to re-examine what feelings are. Why did people (and, anecdotally, women) have so many feelings, of such strength and seemingly of such unpredictability?
It wasn't long until I decided to get therapy. To see what's lurking beneath.
Lo and behold, there were some feelings there. Lots of them surprisingly strong, yet hesitant to surface. It was a bizarre dichotomy to have to deal with. One that affects me to this day. It's like the stronger a feeling within me, the further it is hidden away, leading to this cat and mouse game of 'who am I?'.
Feelings offer a surprisingly absolute way to perceive the world. They are always there and they are always exactly what they are. So long as you allow yourself to feel them.
For the last decade I have been doing nothing but trying to feel more and more. This is still a lot less than most people. At the same time it makes me feel much more 'at home' in the world, it has made me able to connect with people better, it has reduced my stress and anxiety.
It has also lead to some other curious changes within me. I am feeling myself become more and more incompatible with the 'business world'. I know that's a very vague term, but I have found corporate culture and the striving for endless profits, no matter what the human cost, to be incredibly despiccable. Nauseating, icky. Misguided.
I wonder whether feelings and emotions provide a certain common ground for what a human being 'should be' or 'wants to be', which runs counter to capitalist incentive. After all, you want a herd of obedient workers, not uppity individuals causing trouble with their free spirited antics.
I should add that I am of German heritage and I feel there is an entire generation of people who have lived through historical events enabled almost entirely by the suppression and eradication of all feelings (apart from, ironically, hate and fear)."
This one hit me like a well thrown punch. I know it's a somewhat common sentiment, but in conjunction with being more "emotionally aware" I found it striking.
Since I became more in touch with my own feelings, the quality of my daily experience with work (and the people there) matters far more to me than mere compensation. This is something I think a lot of workers go through, and I think managers who are aware of it will be more effective than those who aren't. Knowing what motivates others and what they value can be extremely useful.
I work in IT and I find this to be very true, personally. I'm not a socialite and wouldn't talk to strangers at a party, but customer phone calls are not that. We're both there for a purpose and working to meet our goals together through banter and small talk is a non-issue.
And yes I know there is a spectrum of autism from severe to not as severe, but when someone is as high functioning as this does the word have any meaning anymore?
There are large variations in what different autistic people are capable of, and (e.g.) whether they have intellectual disabilities. The writer might be considered high-functioning by a professional, but it has clearly impacted their life. To call their autism "incredibly mild" sounds dismissive of their experiences.
Full disclosure: I'm "high-functioning" autistic too and can associate so much with their account.
> And yes I know there is a spectrum of autism from severe to not as severe, but when someone is as high functioning as this does the word have any meaning anymore?
I wanted to reply to this edit. In this post is someone who struggled to function at a dinner with potential friends, and reverted to clients at a strip club because at least that can be rehearsed.
I refuse to judge the author; I think they've done amazingly. But having this label may empower them and help them be more in control of their life. The word has meaning.
It certainly does, and although the wait lists are long here in NL, I can still recommend people who suspect they have autism to investigate it (via professionals). Its been roughly a 10 months ago since I had my diagnosis, and I learned so much ever since:
* My partner (then undiagnosed) went to a group of partners of ASDers to learn more about how I experienced the world. This led her to believe she also has ASD (recently confirmed).
* I learned all the things related to what makes ASD different from NTs such as Theory of Mind.
* I met fellow ASDers, learned their background, their strong and weak traits, and was able to observe them as well.
* I did a mindfulness course specifically for people with autism.
* We, a couple both diagnosed with autism, get help to deal with our baby so she can grow up healthy in this NT world with two autistic parents (I'm terrible at reading her body language...)
* There's more in development but I'll keep my mouth shut until it's been done & succeeded.
All of the above thanks to the fantastic healthcare system in The Netherlands. God, I love my country, I'm so blessed being born here.
EDIT: A lot of women (like my partner) end up being undiagnosed. Women are trained into a certain role in society which isn't typically masculine-autistic. They're forced to learn to mimic, act, etc to fit the feminine role.
At least her son was diagnosed a lot earlier, he's now getting medication and extra classes to catch up on about a year of falling behind at school.
My GF has an ASD diagnosis, her sister ADHD, and her brother and mother lead a very secluded life and are in our opinion fit for an ASD diagnosis. It runs in the family, so to say. Her sister also gets checked for ASD however she's quite "different" from the other ones mentioned.
I've lost plenty of jobs because of it, and for the longest time I just figured people like to be mean, because when I was fired, nobody would ever say why, even when I pressed them for a reason. When I was shunned or excluded, people feigned ignorance and looked for a quick way out of the conversation when I asked why. It's incredibly frustrating and saddening feeling like people pick on you for no reason, when you know that there IS a reason, but nobody will say what it is, or how to fix it.
I've tried being extra friendly (people think you've got an angle), being strictly professional (people think you don't care about anything), more helpful (people think you're brown nosing), more talkative (people think you're a buffoon), less talkative (you become the guy nobody knows, and are the first to go at layoffs). And since there's no apparent rhyme or reason to their reactions, your life becomes a series of ticking time bombs until a relationship ends, a friendship ends, a job ends... Who you are means nothing if it slowly creeps people out.
I had one wake-up call when I was called wierd by my training buddy, him question why I even took part in the classes we were taking. I asked him why, he responded that my T-shirt was cryptic.
After explaining the print to him (it was a film reference), he thought everything was fine again.
That's sadly the level some people operate on.
Yup, people with severe autism get diagnosed early in their life, as child. They're clearly impaired by their autism, and get help.
People with a mild version get un(der)-diagnosed, especially women. They're expected to just blend in with society yet when they have difficulty in life, they're being told to e.g. "man up". Which might work with NTs shrug.
If you don't see a disability, its not there, right?!
Yeah, that's the one billion dollar question indeed, one even specialists are unable to answer. (Both me and my significant other asked our specialists this very question.)
Autism is a (developmental) disorder. In our society you're expected to behave in a certain way, and if you don't you get burned. You get called a witch, a hermit, an oddball, a nerd, or what have you. People with mild ASD can function in our society, but there will be situations where they have to adapt to society's norms instead of their own.
If the world worked the way I'd envision, a lot of small talk simply wouldn't exist. Simple example: I get fucking annoyed by this terrible, inhumane and fake way Americans seem to greet each other with how are you which they don't mean one iota of. I cannot stand it, but I have to endure it, and the American culture is coming for you. It slowly creeps up into the world, for good or bad (not saying its all bad!). Another example: looking someone in the eye when you talk to them. I don't want to! I get over-sensitised! I prefer to stare to something beautiful peaceful, such as clouds, nature, or some one point on the wall which has a slightly different colour.
The good news is that people with mild ASD, with adequate help and understanding from their peers, can have a functional, successful life and many have bend the positive side of their ASD to something fruitful. Whether that's some scientific advancement, great invention, financial success, or a plain happiness is less relevant than it might seem.
If you don't understand how to interact with people, you don't understand. You need help to figure it out, or you need help to realize you don't need help.
And that does wonders for you when trying to be diagnosed and, if you are lucky, treated.
BTW, I also don't think of ADHD and ASDs as diseases either. Like you said, it's more like the way we are wired. I am wired in a somewhat odd way, but I wouldn't trade my brain in for the standard model, even if it is inconvenient sometimes.
Something you commonly see with impaired kids is that they are given far less control over their lives, far less choice, than "normal" kids. I did the opposite. I gave my kids more latitude, not less, to help them be comfortable.
It shouldn't really come as any surprise that sensory issues plus other people not doing things on your terms typically results in an aversion to being touched at all. It isn't necessarily solely due to them being ASD per se.
When I was a child, it was far worse though. Just like the author, all my life I’ve learned through experience how to talk and I started so many fights as s child and hurt so many friends with my words. The worst part is that those things still haunt me, I regularly lose sleep because I remember somethibg weird I did as a teenager, finally figure out why it was weird, and feel like shit.
This fear of doing or saying something bad still keeps me away from social gatherings. When I feel like I don’t get any feedback on how I’m performing I often bail.
Sensitivity to non-harmonic noises, especially loud ones. The tapping of a pen, the hum of someone standing around. I cannot stand being around crying children. The feeling isn't quite that of blood pressure rising. More, that it creates a bubbling discomfort that makes me feel as though I might speak out against my own will. I never do, but it feels that way. So I have to remove myself from the situation or do something to rectify it.
A preference for non-verbal communication, well over that of my peers. A thumbs up. A nod. A wave instead of a "hey". I wave to greet people in case they don't hear me. I'm quiet because I don't like loud noises, and my own voice is near myself.
No interest in forming social relationships outside of work. People can tell I'm not interested because I don't offer to do activities outside of work. So I learn about people meeting up after work through overhearing people in passing. I'm okay with this, but I realize that this is outside the norm. Many social activities are not of interest to me.
I stave off loneliness through watching streams on Twitch and interacting primarily through Reddit. I get to control how much interaction I want. In both cases, I aim for smaller communities. I have a large body of programming work that I rarely discuss not out of humbleness or a desire to keep it to myself, but because the social rewards of sharing one's work don't carry the appeal to me that they do to others. At least, that's my assumption.
I can't read people's faces. I stopped bothering to try some time ago. I intuit by relation. This scenario seems familiar. I bet this person will want to do that. Aha, I thought so. I've also learned to tune into people's word selection. Do their words suggest urgency toward a goal, or a more relaxed attitude toward it? How do they ask for my attention? How do they speak about what they're wanting to learn? Where is this? Over there. Other questions with more detail suggest the speaker has more time, and may allow for more detail.
On the face of it, I can come across as relatively normal (though quiet). Deep down, the signs of Aspergers are still there, I've simply managed to find clever ways around them.
If that seems to make the term lose meaning, it's only because the original impression was warped.
I should think so given the challenges the article describes. You can't really believe that only people who act like the Rain Man are autistic. I suppose this kind of misunderstanding is one thing that makes the elimination of the name "Asperger's" in favor of "ASD" a problem.
I realize that you are not the original commenter who alleged that the term "autism" was being thrown around too lightly, but you're happy to agree. Is the entire basis for your view that sometimes people are misdiagnosed? Or do you have a stronger claim in mind?
Of course the fundamental issue is that the difference between disorder and being different is not well defined. I think a reasonable definition would be a disorder is something that's likely to cause an individual to harm themselves or others in a way completely outside of their control. Schizophrenia is a good example, as are the sort of autistic children you can find that have little to no ability to communicate and might see engaging in 'autistic flapping' in a corner.
Imagine if we treated things like schizophrenia the same way we do autism. We better stick every single religious individual that claims to be able to communicate with or hear the voice of god on antipsychotics and scheduled 'treatment', as they're clearly on the scale. From a secular point of view, that's kind of an amusing idea but only as a form of schadenfreude - it's of course an idiotic idea and notion. They may have eccentric views or behaviors, but that is not schizophrenia. The definition of mental illness should not slide so far as to begin to encompass people that clearly are not ill by any meaningful definition of the word.
This post answers yours clearly: it is a spectrum.
> I think a reasonable definition would be a disorder
Homosexuality is not a disorder according to ICD or DSM. Autism is a development disorder. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder. Disorders cannot be cured, and cannot be treated either. One can learn to cope with them, but it cannot go away like a traditional disease. Its a verdict for life, so to say.
Someone with autism can have other issues, on top of their autism, e.g. ADHD or depression however autism is the main issue from which the other issues derive from.
The rest of your post is just denial, and I can only speculate why.
> The definition of mental illness should not slide so far as to begin to encompass people that clearly are not ill by any meaningful definition of the word.
That's why we have specialists who analyse people, and not laymen like people themselves, or people like you who claim about random strangers they "they don't have autism" or "don't have severe enough autism". Those people who get a diagnosis by said specialists who specialised in ASD generally don't get misdiagnosed. You may safely assume that those people have ASD. If they're not a child anymore, that generally means they have a relatively mild form but as you can read throughout this thread that doesn't mean they don't suffer, or that there's no room for QoL improvements. You can figure out how adults with so-called mild autism suffer by reading into their stories. The linked story is a great anecdote though unfortunately the subject didn't get a diagnosis.
I am lucky enough to live in a relatively rich country with decent healthcare. But many in our world, including in the USA, are not as good off as I am. Those people might run around un(der)diagnosed. That saddens me, as I've been misdiagnosed and un(de)rdiagnosed myself for a good 3,5 decades.
And this perhaps generalizes to these fields in general. The entire fields of psychology and psychiatry are currently in crisis in that their studies and research in general is now, more often than not, deeply flawed. I'm sure you aware of this  study which showed some 61% of major psychological studies published in reputable journals did not yield the results claimed when replicated. Follow up results from different researchers have corroborated this issue. One of the responses from the psychologists and psychiatrists involved in the unreproducible studies was to complain that they didn't use the nearly identical samples - for instance using students in e.g. Germany instead of students in New York. However that is a rather direct acknowledgement that these studies do not generalize in any way. But if they don't, then these fields are in no way producing science, let alone actionable science.
A very related issue here is the medicating of people. A recent study indicated that some 17%  of Americans are consuming psychiatric drugs. That number nearly doubled in a decade, yet the science on these drugs is very questionable. In recent trials upwards of 80% of SSRI's effects were explained by placebo alone.  That number should be doubly surprising as the side effects of SSRIs are, by contrast, very real and tend to undermine double blind studies. And the longterm effects are looking quite dire as well. This is all made more problematic by a pharmaceutical industry that sponsors research more aimed at them making money than on improving healthfulness of people. Emphasizing this is the fact that more than 50%  of preclinical medical trials also have results that were later found to be unreproducible.
 - https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullar...
 - http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/jou...
 - http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/jour...
 - https://www.nature.com/news/first-results-from-psychology-s-...
You seem to be under the impression that all autism, regardless of location on the spectrum, is treated the same way (and that way invariably involves heavy medication).
Between this and your "I knew a kid once" original post, I get the strong impression that you know very little about autism or autistic people, and are forming strong opinions based on little more than rumor and anecdote.
In the most expansive 'recent' study I am aware of, 64%  of children diagnosed with autism end up taking at least 1 psychotropic medication over the sample period, which was ~3 years. Substantial numbers ended up taking multiple, different, psychotropics. This is speaking specifically of children. In older subjects medicating rates are higher, and all rates have been increasing sharply over time.
 - http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/5/833
If you want to make the argument that some of those symptoms (whether autistic or not) would be better treated with counseling than medication, that's reasonable. But I don't see how you can look at that data and conclude that all autistic people are treated exactly the same.
If you've had experience with one person with autism, you've exactly that - experience with one person with autism.
One thing I learned early on in IT is: It is now how you fix the problem, it is how people feel when you fixed it.
This is tough to deal with b/c you can fix the "problem" but still have fallout from the situation b/c the way people felt from interacting with you.
Like we say at our company, don't manage problems - manage clients.
She's mostly OK (if a little over-bearing and too trusting) in 1 on 1 conversation, but has huge problems behaving "normally" when there's many people, often answers in detail to throwaway questions and monopolizes the time and focus in a discussion. She comes out as egocentric and a very weird person.
She also does this detailed analysis of really obvious (to me) situations, to the point that it's sometimes frustrating to see her struggle on whether particular thing she did or said was OK or not (when for me it's obvious it doesn't matter and certainly doesn't warrant 40 minutes of analysis).
She worked in like 10 different schools teaching math, each time for 1 year or less. Mostly the problem was - she was unable to play the politics game, especially when it comes to grading kids unfairly well to please the parents so they don't go to the director and demand her gone.
At the moment she's looking for a new job, economically we're ok but it's not very good to be unemployed for years. Maybe someone have any recommendations for a trade that's a good fit? Doesn't have to be very profitable. She's pretty good with math and computers, graduated math and economy, speaks Polish and English pretty well. She was writing books as a hobby at one point but stopped decades ago, I was suggesting trying that, but she doesn't believe there will ever be money in it. I've also tried to teach her programming (she already knew some basic stuff) but she just doesn't like it, or maybe I'm a bad teacher.
Seems to fit the Maths/Economics background too.
After struggling tremendously with math and social interactions as well as school in general, I spiraled into deep depression. I was bullied, something which I now blame on my lack of normal social defenses. People would say things to me and I would become overwhelmed and shocked and unable to respond. Normal teenagers seem to be quick with comebacks, it literally takes me days to figure out what I should say or how I should react to common scenarios like off comments.
It took me over a decade to get out of it. I recently began reading about the symptoms of aspergers and nearly everything fit.
Extremely high and inappropriate language skills e.g. using words that I really shouldn’t, check. Inability to detect and respond appropriately to emotions. Dyscalculia (inability to do math), something that can be associated with aspergers.
I watched some videos of some people who had been through similar situations and likewise fallen into depression upon hitting the social conditions that occur in teenage years.
It now makes sense why I have to plan my facial expressions before I get Starbucks. If I don’t, I have this horrible death stare and scare the shit out of people.
What really depresses me still to this day is just how sensitive most people in society are to aspergers. Once people detect there is something off about you, you are done. It happens within minutes.
There is nothing I can really do, I can only imagine how many relationships and life experiences Inhave missed due to being rapidly discarded by my peer group due to these kinds of eccentricities.
Don't do that, it's not healthy, I'm speaking from personal experience.
Being bullied often boils down to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Nothing particular about you was "bully worthy", you were just the supposedly "weakest link" in a social hierarchy constructed by pretty much all young humans: Everybody has people above and under them.
This is the result of people being shitty parents and teaching their children "I can do whatever I want to you because you are a child and I'm an, physically much bigger, adult. I don't need to argue with you, I will just make you do it!"
When kids take this same logic back to social interactions with other kids (I'm bigger than you, that's why I can force you to do things!) it's bound to result in bullying and the "weakest" ending up under the wheels.
This behavior then extends into adulthood where the hierarchy isn't strictly based on physical size/age anymore.
So there's no reason to blame yourself, or bullies, for the person you are today. That's just making excuses for self-pity, a lot of time has passed since then, don't mourn what you might have missed out on, rather realize what you learned instead and make that a new positive feature.
As a side note, in this topic, one of the most illuminating things I found:
Interpersonal Traits of Aspies Placed in Context (a chapter from A Mind-Body Look at the Concept of Asperger's Syndrome (pdf) by Michael Samsel, LMHC):
Obviously, this can be exhausting, so tech is great for me! Many coworkers appear to have the opposite: an emotional intensity as muted as mine is strong. We get along great, like zebras and giraffes. They often apply logic to social interactions, and I often apply emotional intuition. As long as we both learn to respect and trust the other's reality, together we can be better than separate.
This entailed years and years of awkward social experiences, and terrible self-loathing and embarrassing gaffs. The single biggest benefit I ever gained was learning that people actually have emotional basis to almost everything they say, as the author herself identifies in her post. For me I never had really any emotional content underneath my words unless I was being overwhelmed by emotion, and because of that I never saw that in other people.
Learning that people are emotional first and rational second has led me to rapid improvements in my social life, including developing a group of friends and even a romantic relationship. I stopped trying to mask myself and instead approached every interaction knowing that the other person was experiencing some emotional reaction to it, and just behaved as myself with that knowledge. I'm still off-beat and I still get called weird but I have friends and a romance and it all seems to be going well, people will adjust to who you are. People I've found normally seek a positive interaction, and acting friendly and seeking more details for what they've said, as well as talking about your own similar events or experiences is the way to pull that off.
I've found a good ratatat is to ask about something (normally people will lead off with some experience they've had or story they want to tell, but you can ask to kickstart it) inquire about a detail you would like them to elaborate and then chip in with your own similar experience or somehow pulling the focus off them and back onto yourself before the conversation inevitably bounces back and returns. Before long it's flowing naturally and biology sort of takes over and you're engaged in conversation. Too many questions or too much on yourself and it will all get uncomfortable or rude, so balance is key but if you keep bouncing around like this you will learn the balance for that individual and yourself. I still struggle with identifying what emotion people are trying to convey if it's not a simple and easily visible one like happiness, sadness or anger. But people I've found will normally pick up on the fact you've missed it and be more direct. It's very exhausting if you don't have a natural instinct for emotions, but it is rewarding because we are still emotional creatures.
This is the basis of conversation. Understanding this has also allowed me to attach emotion to my words and people are very receptive to this, and very importantly it has made me feel a lot better and manage stress. More importantly conversation has become much easier as time has gone on and I've begun learning the hints that forever eluded me because I was not interacting on the same foundational base as most other people.
There's more I've learnt about engaging with people than I can write here but they're subtle details that I learnt in the moment. I still over anaylze and I still struggle with my emotions and filtering information but I think I'm on a good path and I think that many neurodiverse people would benefit from similar realizations to what I have had.
Here's a little video by Kati Morton that explains how autism is different in girls/women than in boys/men. At 6:07, she talks about vulnerability to exploitation:
"Research also finds that females with ASD, since they tend to take things literally and are direct, that they can more easily fall victim to sexual exploitation, such as assault or getting stuck in an abusive relationship."
Then there’s the stimulus thing. I’d rather go hungry than go to a crowded grocery store. I can’t stand it. It makes me want to scream. So I usually just order a pizza. Which itself is awkward and I hate it but at least it’s over quickly.
But with technical things I typically pick them up quickly. And I enjoy them so long as their sufficiently challenging. I get bored easily though and prefer to just abandon problems once I’ve solved them or pass the solution on to someone else to implement. So maybe I am just an asshole.
As someone with ADHD, though, the solving something and then dropping it thing is a real problem. Inability to complete a project or task can be hard. I can work a problem until I am satisfied I got to the core of it, got my dopamine hit from that satisfaction. Then I will leave the problem rough around the edges sometimes. Or just abandon it. I don't know how ADHD and ASD intersect though I imagine having both is quite possible?
Because you never met an extroverted autist or you were not aware. I am lucky enough to know one. Also, autism is not labeled as a disease but as a developmental disorder.
I've met a few people who have self-diagnosed themselves as autistic. It's kind of become a catch-all for people with eccentricities and/or offensive tendencies. In the cases I've seen, the people are either just unsocialized having spent most of their lives alone at a computer, or simply very selfish and can't be bothered to make an effort towards not saying things which might offend sensitive people.
It also seems like there's such a strong pressure now for people to fit in with the masses that anyone who has gone a very individualistic route in their life needs to be explained by having some kind of disorder, then labeled and treated as such. I find it paradoxical; we tell people to be themselves, think for themselves, disregard what others think, and just live their lives, but then when they actually do that and the results turn out to conflict with the majority's expectations, it's a disorder and we assign professionals to treat it.
> I've met a few people who have self-diagnosed themselves as autistic. It's kind of become a catch-all for people with eccentricities and/or offensive tendencies. In the cases I've seen, the people are either just unsocialized having spent most of their lives alone at a computer, or simply very selfish and can't be bothered to make an effort towards not saying things which might offend sensitive people.
Typical NT denial that mild ASD is more rampant in society than they'd like to admit.
> It also seems like there's such a strong pressure now for people to fit in with the masses
That pressure was much stronger in the past where you were either Christian or dead. You either functioned (worked), or you were a beggar on the street. Psychology? Diagnosis? Autism? Unheard of. ASD umbrella is new in DSM-V. The amount of undiagnosed people who now get diagnosed is increasing in this century. My simple explanation for that is: "we understand autism better nowadays" and "mild autism is part of the ASD spectrum".
> it's a disorder and we assign professionals to treat it.
ASD cannot be treated. You can learn to cope with it, live with it, but you cannot make it go away (ie. treat a disease).
shrug indeed. "Move along, move along"
I feel reasonably comfortable saying that strip clubs are probably not generally giving their dancers generous healthcare plans; if the woman feels like she's got things under control it's hard to say what benefit an expensive diagnosis would give her, beyond satisfying doubting online commenters.
Moreover, surely it's not "whether they are selfish" that's at issue but why?!
Still further, if someone has a diagnosis of having different brain states that affect social interactions that doesn't mean one must accept deleterious interactions -- generally people don't accept violence because it's caused by psychopathy, for example.
One cant decide for oneself that one is a well functioning member of society, the other members of society decide that.
So, yes, the commenter is free to determine their actions as selfish (diagnosis or no); just as you are free to determine me to have been uncaring, or whatever, based on this comment. What is hoped is that others will make accommodations for us because of our difficulty in being less-selfish in our actions, or less-abrupt, or whatever.
For example: someone is slightly rude to a member of an ethnic minority. But then the same person is revealed to be struggling with some recognised neurological abnormality.
Another example: an elderly person with no kind of criminal record suddenly starts viewing some kind of illegal pornography. But then it is revealed that this change in behaviour might be caused by a prescription drug they were given.
Even in the case of violent crime people seem to make a bizarrely black-and-white distinction between a criminal who is a dangerous psychopath and one who is "evil".
Of course this observation is not a new one. See for example Beckert's monologue near the end of the 1931 German film "M". But the general public still doesn't see any problem with labelling some people as sick and some people as evil, even while they can't tell the difference.
I believe there's more recent evidence suggesting that paternal age may also play a role but there's a confounding factor there that paternal age is strongly linked to maternal age.