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FallingDownMan
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04 Jul 2013, 1:49 pm

First I want to come right out and say that I am undiagnosed, and I am still trying to figure out for sure if I am an Aspie.

I want to talk about the eye thing that is typical for people with Asperger's or Autism. I can't remember as a child how well I looked people in the eye or avoiding eye contact. My first memory of confronting this issue was when I was 14 and in an argument with my mother. During this argument, she got mad because I would look her in the eye, and she held me by the chin, forcing me to look her in the eye. Between that, and job interview tips, a college human relations class, and a therapist all telling me how important eye contact was, I will look people in the eye, but only when one the above lessons I had dictates that I should.

When I do make eye to eye contact, the whole time I am busy concentrating on the act of looking the other person in the eyes, looking for that moment when I can break it. It is such an effort that I miss chunks of what was said to me. I don't know how to describe the way I feel during the eye contact. It's like a giant hand reaches into me a starts squeezing my spinal cord, I feel like the other person is able to see right through me and read my every thought and secret. I feel like I want to run away. I feel like... I don't know what, I just want to break eye contact.

I have taught myself several tricks to make it look like I am looking them in the eye, and they vary depending on distance. If real close, I will stare at the muscles that make up their Iris, but not at the pupil. A little distance, it's the hair on the bridge of their nose, how the hair in their eyebrows lay, the length of their eyelashes. If far enough away, it's the tip of their nose, or their lips, or something behind them. My favorite trick of all is to pull something out to show them so that they look at the something instead of me.

I was told by my mother that this was rude behavior, and by my counselor that this was a lack of self esteem, and by countless women that this was a sign of shyness. Now, I am thinking that this is a symptom of Asperger's or autism. More importantly at the moment, I am wondering what other people on this forum think.



FallingDownMan
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04 Jul 2013, 2:15 pm

I forgot to mention, I am so intimidated by eye to eye contact, I married a blind lady. I met her at work, for a job that was about 10 to 1 female to male. I 'think' I had 3 different women flirting with me. My point is that I had a choice of women to try to do something with outside of the work place. I was going through therapy at the time, and actually made a journal entry about how I wanted to flirt with several women, but I was intimidated by their eyes, and how I wasn't intimidated by the blind lady. She was the first female that I was able to talk to without feeling.... no that's wrong, she was the first lady I was able to talk to freely, and openly.

I pretty sure now that I didn't feel intimidated by her because she cannot make eye contact.


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benh72
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04 Jul 2013, 5:13 pm

I can totally relate, currently undiagnosed, going for an appointment next week for diagnosis.
I am not big on eye contact, and like you, have to consciously do it, and can't take in information when doing it.

I had a series of poor relationship, including a failed marriage, then married a woman with CP who uses a wheelchair.
She is very understanding, and has helped me come to grips with the fact I am most likely an Aspie.
The eye thing was an issue for me too in the past, but in my marriage it's not a problem either.
If we are going somewhere together, either I am pushing her, or she is driving her battery powered chair, either way we're looking where we're going not at each other.
Likewise when I drive her places, I have to watch the road.

I totally get that the eye thing contributed to you marrying a blind lady, and assume that you are happy together
I also have to mention that I met my wife through an online dating site, so that made things easier, as we could check out each other's profile, and communicate via messaging email and phone calls before meeting face to face.
I have to say my wife and I really clicked in a way I never did with anyone else.

I think those of us "on the spectrum" relate better to others who have experienced discrimination, marginalisation, or are otherwise alienated from mainstream society, whether due to disability, cultural difference, or whatever.
Remember, diagnosis or not - if you are or identify as an Aspie or Autie, it's part of you, but it's not all of you.

Eye contact is overrated, and with the advent of tablets, kindles, and smart phones, soon enough worry about eye contact will be a thing of the past!



InnaLucia
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04 Jul 2013, 5:19 pm

I am diagnosed and hate making eye contact. I avoid it most of the time, and force myself to make eye contact when I recognise that it is expected. I think I actually find it easier to make eye contact with strangers rather than people I know well, maybe because I think I'll never see the stranger again. I do find it hard to concentrate on what someone is saying to me if I'm trying to make eye contact at the same time, it tends to be that I have to choose between one or the other. I either make eye contact or I don't, I don't do the thing where you look at their face so they think you're making eye contact.



grahamguitarman
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04 Jul 2013, 5:38 pm

Eye contact 'shudder' I hate it. Luckily being hard of hearing gives me an excuse not to use eye contact - I have to look at peoples mouths so I can lip-read ;)


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04 Jul 2013, 6:32 pm

the eye contact issue is because someone looking in an autists eyes triggers the fight or flight response;which is fueled by the release of several neuro chemicals responsible for causing stress/anxiety,temple grandin has written some pretty good stuff about eye contact before though cant remember where.

however,this isnt just an autistic issue, it happens in people who are introverted or shy as well.


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04 Jul 2013, 7:00 pm

KingdomOfRats wrote:
the eye contact issue is because someone looking in an autists eyes triggers the fight or flight response;which is fueled by the release of several neuro chemicals responsible for causing stress/anxiety,temple grandin has written some pretty good stuff about eye contact before though cant remember where.

however,this isnt just an autistic issue, it happens in people who are introverted or shy as well.


My issues with eye contact come about because the last time I locked eyes with someone, they made a first class idiot out of me. That person happened to be my father, during my high school's night of music, where I was one of 2 featured soloists (the other soloist was my cousin).

One of the tricks to avoid this, as well as stage fright, was to pick a spot on the wall in the back of the auditorium and concentrate on that spot.


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04 Jul 2013, 7:36 pm

KingdomOfRats wrote:
the eye contact issue is because someone looking in an autists eyes triggers the fight or flight response;which is fueled by the release of several neuro chemicals responsible for causing stress/anxiety,temple grandin has written some pretty good stuff about eye contact before though cant remember where.

however,this isnt just an autistic issue, it happens in people who are introverted or shy as well.

    ooooo! Interesting!

    @ OP That's a pretty good description of how parts of my life have been too, I feel your pain.
    I know how to fix it, at least situationally. Though it sounds as though you've kind of got a handle on it yourself anyhow.
    StabilizingAutism/unsolicited-advice


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windtreeman
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05 Jul 2013, 12:55 am

I've always wondered if adolescents with Asperger's don't make eye contact simply due to a lack of innate understanding that eye contact is expected in conversation, or also because they're intimidated? Perhaps all of us had issues with eye contact as children and have been heckled enough for it, that it becomes a predominantly anxiety inducing experience.


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05 Jul 2013, 1:21 am

OP: I can relate with just about everything you said. I've never really made eye contact with people and I've long since been aware of it on some level, but I don't instinctively make eye contact with others. When I do make eye contact, it's all I can think about, and I don't register anything the other person says. And in those cases, I'll often blur my vision or "look through" the person so as to avoid making actual eye contact. I don't force eye contact too often, though--usually only when someone tells me to look at them in the eye.

I always assumed it was just a shyness thing until I learned it's common autistic behavior too. I also realized too that I generally don't make eye contact even with close friends or family members, which--among other things--makes me think it's more than mere shyness in my case.



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05 Jul 2013, 2:22 am

Eye contact is similar to sex. It's inappropriate most of the time.


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05 Jul 2013, 2:44 am

I don't try. I was working with my boss and while we were talking he said, "Shiloh, why don't you like at people when you talk to them!?" I just told him that I didn't like eye contact. He said, "Look at people when you talk to them, or at least make sunglasses contact." (everyone wears sunglasses where I work). I am only 16 so people don't generally criticize me for not looking at them in the eyes. Thus I don't worry about it. I'm sorry if you have to anyway though. Eye contact is weird and pointless.


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FallingDownMan
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05 Jul 2013, 7:04 pm

Thanks everybody for your responses. Fight or flight, hmmm, I'm going to have to pay more attention next time I'm out at a social function.

I've been scrolling through the posts here and found a description close to how I feel on the rare occasion I do make eye-to-eye contact. It's like every little detail about me starts flowing out into the other person's mind. I feel like if I maintain contact, they are going to know every little secret about me.


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05 Jul 2013, 7:27 pm

windtreeman wrote:
I've always wondered if adolescents with Asperger's don't make eye contact simply due to a lack of innate understanding that eye contact is expected in conversation, or also because they're intimidated?


As an adolescent diagnosed with Asperger's, I can tell you that the reason I usually avoid making eye contact is because it is physically very uncomfortable. It isn't painful, but it causes my eyes to become uncomfortable and begin to water. It has always been this way, and I've always just avoided it, although I wasn't always aware that it was expected of me.

I've attempted to get around this by looking at the person's forehead, but I've recently read that this makes people VERY uncomfortable, so much so that criminals have used it to intimidate police officers during interrogations in the past! What to do, what to do...