Are physical conditions linked with autism stress related?

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Callista
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06 Jul 2009, 12:57 pm

Here we go... good ol' Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Ad ... n_Syndrome

Quote:
Exhaustion is the third and final stage in the GAS model. At this point, all of the body's resources are eventually depleted and the body is unable to maintain normal function. At this point the initial autonomic nervous system symptoms may reappear (sweating, raised heart rate etc.). If stage three is extended, long term damage may result as the capacity of glands, especially the adrenal gland, and the immune system is exhausted and function is impaired resulting in decompensation.

The result can manifest itself in obvious illnesses such as ulcers, depression, diabetes, trouble with the digestive system or even cardiovascular problems, along with other mental illnesses.
Okay. We all know it: Autism causes long-term stress, right? Constant exposure to overstimulation is enough all by itself, but add the problem of living in a world where one is expected to be normal, and forced into intensive therapy (yeah, 40 hours of ABA for a five year old?!), and you start to have a very significant exposure to stress.

I've been studying hypertension lately, which led to stress, which led to autism... The "general adaptation syndrome" is apparently a well respected idea, though it's one of severalThe many accounts I have heard about autistic "burnout" trying to maintain coping skills, having to function at a higher stress level than most people, seem to fit the pattern of the "general adaptation syndrome" in autistic adults; and I am wondering: In the instance of intense stress, could this actually happen in a child? And what would the results be? Different than in adults? (The effects of long term high blood pressure, for example, are much more apparent in adults... and for that matter, hypertension doesn't even seem to show itself that early most of the time...).

I don't even know for sure that autistic people--with autism only, not some larger syndrome that includes autism--are more vulnerable to physical conditions like gastrointestinal complications, immune system problems, etc. I haven't found anything that corroborates that idea (other than statistically useless anecdotal or case-study stuff). But I think this is an interesting concept nevertheless. Might they actually be looking at the wrong end of the picture--seeing the effects of stress, rather than the effects of autism?

One presumes the physical complications of stress in children might be quantified by studying foster children, refugees, or survivors of child abuse. Using that as a baseline might still be invalid, though, because autistic people might be (probably are) a lot more responsive to stress to begin with. (There's another topic: Are they more responsive to stress? If so, how much more?)

I've only recently gotten interested in this--has anybody else done some fact-checking in this area?


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Last edited by Callista on 06 Jul 2009, 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

richardbenson
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06 Jul 2009, 1:14 pm

im one stressed out guy so i would say yes


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Callista
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06 Jul 2009, 1:58 pm

Might the reports of physical illness in autistic children be not a result of the autism itself, but a result of the stress of coping with a world not optimized for autistic minds? I am pretty sure this idea is not something that would present itself immediately to the mind of a researcher, because they would be looking for the direct results of having autism... They wouldn't be looking for secondary problems.

A more social-science example might be, "Is the higher divorce rate in the parents of disabled children due to the disability itself, or to social perception of the disability?" It's a question of direct versus indirect effects. The indirect can often be prevented without even touching the direct symptoms. Similarly, "How many of the symptoms of autism are associated with the problem of living in a world not designed for autistic minds, and how much are directly related to autism itself?" And I think the physical signs of stress would be a great thing to start with because they are simply a great deal more quantifiable and thus much more attractive to researchers...

Well, first you'd have to find out whether autistic children have more signs of stress-related illness. And before that you'd have to figure out what the effects of stress in children are...


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06 Jul 2009, 2:07 pm

I don't think all of them are, but some cases I vote yes.

Panic disorder
Fibromyalgia
Gastrointestinal problems
Insomnia



Marcia
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06 Jul 2009, 2:31 pm

I don't know if this is relevant to your thinking here, Callista, but have you thought about looking into research studies on the children who spent time in orphanages in countries like Romania, in the former Soviet Union?



Callista
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06 Jul 2009, 2:35 pm

No, but that sounds intriguing. I wonder how one would separate the effects of stress and malnutrition, though?


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SabbraCadabra
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06 Jul 2009, 2:39 pm

I just read something interesting last night...basically it sounds like autism causes stress which makes autism even worse... :x

Quote:
"When people chew something, it stimulates the hippocampus region in the brain ( "Chewing Wards Off Dementia," BBC, Mar 8, 00). The hippocampus is sensitive to stress -- it's responsible for your short-term memory, which is usually one of the first things to go when you're supremely stressed out, and it's particularly vulnerable to the stress hormone cortisol "

"In fact, long-term stress can actually damage the sustained adult development of this critical brain area ("Taming Stress," SciAm, Nov 03). So if chewing stimulates this part of the brain, that could counter the common stress side effect -- a shrinking hippocampus."


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Callista
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06 Jul 2009, 2:54 pm

Chewing, huh? hmm... I wonder if some of the stimming we do is like that--meant to ward off stress? That'd really be a "told you so" to all those people trying to stop us from stimming, wouldn't it?


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legionsdad
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06 Jul 2009, 4:39 pm

The human body is amazing. We have all kinds of auto defences. I wonder.



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06 Jul 2009, 5:17 pm

There are some underlying neurobiological differences that contribute not only to making someone autistic but can give rise to all kinds of other symptoms and co-morbids. I think the idea of autism only is too simplistic, considering its multiple etiologies, and doubt it exists. But certainly, growing up in a sub-optimal environment can give rise to all kinds of problems.



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06 Jul 2009, 5:57 pm

Well, yes, stimming is meant to ward off stress. ((Edit: It can be likened to the compulsions in OCD, which is an anxiety disorder.))

I know that I used to have an oral fixation; I would always be chewing on various things.

As far as the stress causing physical conditions? Yes, that would be my guess. I live my life in a fairly low stress way (which is actually ironic, because I should be stressing out constantly), and I don't have many physical difficulties linked to stress. For example, my blood pressure is normal-high (my weight, most likely), I don't have diabetes, depression (not much, anyway), or really many other difficulties with my body, much to the shock of pretty much every doctor I've ever had.

My life has not always been without stress, mind you, and it's not even now, but I live with much less stress than one would logically think I would be capable of.


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JessicaDayla
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06 Jul 2009, 7:51 pm

The main question is delving into an area that can be linked to just about anything. I mean stress can be expressed in many many ways, which may or may not be autism related, and autism related physical things may or may not cause extra stress. I am AS myself, and I have very little stress, but I stim like crazy.



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07 Jul 2009, 1:41 am

That's interesting.

I start feeling stressed really easily... Which is funny, since i don't do a whole lot. I know people with 5x busier lives than me who don't seem to be all that stressed at all.



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07 Jul 2009, 4:27 am

I have severe bruxism which led to TMJ caused by stress. Possibly due to Aspergers.



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07 Jul 2009, 4:53 am

I guess... some of it, yes?

I got the general exhaustion about every week, occasional headaches... the list goes on all from my AS+AD(H)D combination since I have become more and more HF ever since I really 'got into' society.

I do not get any of it ever when I'm left all alone. Society and appearing normal when I'm not = stress, every second of the day from thinking what to say, how to say it, where to go, where to put my body parts, what not to look like, what to think of, what to bring with me, how to walk, how to regulate my tone of voice, what that face now meant, what another is thinking... it's driving me crazy. C r a z y.

I also am today very easily catching germs and stuff from others. I am not used to them?

Until I was some 12 I didn't talk to other children or be near them (nearest I got was in class sitting on a common desk) and I've not regularly talked to people and touched them until I got 16.

Since then I'm often falling sick with something additionally to the exhaustion-sickness.

As a kid when I most autistic (functioning-level and severity) I was perfectly healthy. Withdrawn, not bothered by others and healthy. Good combination, if you ask me now.


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07 Jul 2009, 8:35 am

OP: Yep, sounds about right to me! Makes perfect sense!


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