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Jonesy435
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22 Jan 2016, 8:32 am

Hi, I'm Male and I have been recently diagnosed with Higher Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder Sub-Type (Bit wordy probably the result of changes to the Diagnositic criteria in the DSM V.) However I feel like I am at a bit of a paradox. I apologize for the length.

I am aware that many people with ASDs report they have empathy with the majority of those many reporting they are not lacking in affective empathy and/or sympathy. Also, I am aware that clinically speaking that the deficits in empathy arise from deficits in theory of mind.

As I said earlier I feel like I am at a paradox. Following my diagnosis I have been putting a lot of thought into understanding myself, and through those months I have come to the conclusion that the majority of my problems arise from being hyper empathetic, friends, relatives, teachers have told me as much, I have also got a very intense theory of mind, so much so that I often lose my identity to others, I begin to mirror their thoughts, feelings, I feel them intensely as my own. and I am constantly overwhelmed by this, emotionally and physically drain. It has got to the point where my identity is being drowned and pulled apart by the tidal forces of the emotions and thoughts of those around me.

This is only made worse by the fact that when I encounter people I adopt there tone of voice, gait, colloqualism so it physically feels I lose myself too (I am aware that people with ASDs often mirror people, called social echolalia??) . If I walk into a room I feel awash with the emotional charges of people within it. It effects my school work, find some work to emotional painful, especially in English but also I can't argue a point because I begin to mirror the person's viewpoint, and my future aspirations I initially wanted to be a clinical psychologist but after having a friend who suffered with mental illness, I developed their symptoms to the extent they had to tell ME I had to get help. So that aspiration will be detrimental to my wellbeing, and I'm not sure I should allow myself to try and reach it.

I hope this makes sense. The best way to sum it up is; as I am hypersensitive to lights, sound and touch I am also hypersensitive to other people's thoughts and feelings I am, like the sensory issues overwhelmed by empathy. I wonder if I am misdiagnosed, if so what could it be? I recognise I might not be because people's brains are like mosaics
uniquely configured, despite similarities.

This may sound shallow but after reading Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, I can strongly identify with Will Graham's Character, that kind or tension and instability resonates strongly for me, all throughout my childhood and now. I have searched everywhere for answers to this and this is a last resort for me. Thank you for any replies, they are appreciated.

I forgot to add I think I potentially have mirror-touch synaesthesia. For example if I see someone who's hurt their hands I will get a corresponding pain on the same hand, except for it travels up my arm to my head then down my back like a bolt of electricity.



Ettina
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01 Feb 2016, 4:23 am

I've heard that a few autistics are like that. Personally, I just have normal empathy as far as I can tell. Maybe a bit more than most people, but mostly it's because I make a conscious effort to be the person I want to think of myself as being. And as a psychology major I know when I might be falling into psychological traps that inhibit empathetic behaviour.



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23 Feb 2016, 12:55 pm

I am like this! I get asked a lot if I actually have Asperger's. I think a lot of it comes from hyper-perception and being a highly sensitive person (HSP). While I may lack the body language people are looking for in order to see I understand, I feel others way too strongly, which is why I tend to avoid overly emotional people who talk about stuff that drains my energy for conversation.

I am wondering if a lot of people on the spectrum are also Highly Sensitive Person. There's tests for it and stuff.
http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/


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UDG
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14 Mar 2016, 5:44 pm

There was an interesting article posted on this forum a while ago which posits that ASD people have a (relative) deficit in, what the author terms, cognitive empathy and a (relative) surfeit of, what the author terms, emotional empathy. That the deficit related to difficulties in the intuitive social understanding of other people, and the surfeit causing ASD individuals to feel and adopt the emotional states of others around them to a greater extent than usual (of the general population average), which could lead to avoidant social behaviours.



UDG
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14 Mar 2016, 5:49 pm

On a more personal note, I seem to, to at least some extent, mirror the emotional state of people I am interacting with. Which is most obvious (to me at least), perhaps predictably, in situations involving obvious emotions.



Jonesy435
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30 Apr 2016, 10:07 am

(Ettina) Yes I can relate to making a conscious effort to maintain my sense, this is especially so as I have now become more aware of it, perhaps similarly to how you prevent yourself from falling into psychological traps, from your knowledge.

(Zaye) I checked out the Highly sensitive test and scored 25/29(?, terrible at counting haha) questions, I think that probably means I can be considered highly sensitive. I found your point about some people on the spectrum being also highly sensitive really interesting it certainly holds true for some people I know who are also on the spectrum.

(UDG) I think I already came across the post you were describing, before I was diagnosed I belief, to reassure myself about my own personal experiences and how the related to me being Autistic.

I'd like the thank you for the replies, posting this was in many ways a big cornerstone in reconfiguring myself in light of my diagnosis and the following months where I became increasingly self-aware.


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30 Apr 2016, 11:20 am

I find it both troubling and mildly amusing (in a dry, sarcastic sort of way) that so many of the "experts" of autism seem to have no idea of any of this. It's like they set themselves as the gold standard to which Auties are to be compared and in an example of what almost qualifies as lacking Theory of Mind, cannot see the world through our eyes. Which in turn sort of questions the validity of that theory...

I too was/am exceedingly emotionally empathetic, to the point of it being part of the reason I avoided people. I was told by professors that I'd make a fine therapist but my first few practicum were too much for me to bear & I had no way to manage or block it. So I ended up going into IT instead, because computers are emotionally blank & don't affect me that way (although I do project feelings onto them). Not to go full-on geek, but it's like that classic SciFi meme where an empath finds someone they cannot read at all & they find it oddly soothing because they don't have to keep their self-protecting walls up.


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03 May 2016, 6:21 pm

I have heard of this before. I know autistic people who are highly sensitive to others emotions and are often prone to copycat behaviours and having difficulty in understanding their own identity (especially if they have a new friend that they are obsessed with). I think that might be down to the fact that some autistic people are highly suggestible and may find it difficult to differentiate between their own feelings and the feelings of others. So it's not theory of mind, per se, because (and this is conjecture on my part) you might find it difficult to imagine two different perspectives simultaneously so in the interest of maintaining relationships you forfeit your own emotions and adopt theirs (subconsciously, anyway). I could be wrong.

I am more typical in my theory of mind issues so this hyper empathy is something I find difficult to relate to. I just know that some autistics are just like this (particularly females, I've noticed).



Jonesy435
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04 May 2016, 2:01 am

(MindBlind) well I think you are pretty much spot on there! It is true that my theory of mind appears to be a one way track. However, I can still empathise with multiple differing perspectives in same scenario, e.g. with arguments, I'm usually the one offering compromises and highlighting the other person's perspective to the other individual, so they can resolve it. My friend used to have pretty turbelent interpersonal relationships.... Instead of being 'typically Autistic' (oxymoron, whose typical?) I concentrate on the emotions as component parts to a solution.
I do think this might just be the same process but multiplied and I'm still using the same cognitive process by forfieting my own perspective.

I also maintain my sense of morality, typically black and white haha , even though you are right I do lose the rest of my perspective. My morality is never too pleased with the perspectives I quite frankly absorb, especially as I have trouble controlling myself copy behaviours. The ironic twist is morality drives me into these situations, despite myself knowing they might be unhealthy.

To paraphrase MindBlind, that was pretty much spot on, and ironic, definitely not mindblind to my mind, unless of course it is ironic and then it's ironic that I didn't pick that up. Haha bad joke, sorry.

(Edenthiel) yes, it is very worrying that many experts lack empathy. With that SciFi meme it would be nice to find someone who is entirely unreadable like a cool drink on a hot day or a cold pillow, it would make me personally very uncomfortable though. However, unfortunately I am that unreadable person, I have a completely flat affect, my voice is monotonous, blank stares and limited body language, so I have very limited expressed emotion, despite the obvious emotional fireworks internally. I need ironically someone with a tonne of empathy to get along with,
Experts often don't have this and unfortunately this will mean that many people will feel marginalized, discriminated against, worst of all doubting their own internal and external experiences.


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04 May 2016, 2:18 am

MindBlind wrote:
I have heard of this before. I know autistic people who are highly sensitive to others emotions and are often prone to copycat behaviours and having difficulty in understanding their own identity (especially if they have a new friend that they are obsessed with). I think that might be down to the fact that some autistic people are highly suggestible and may find it difficult to differentiate between their own feelings and the feelings of others. So it's not theory of mind, per se, because (and this is conjecture on my part) you might find it difficult to imagine two different perspectives simultaneously so in the interest of maintaining relationships you forfeit your own emotions and adopt theirs (subconsciously, anyway). I could be wrong.

I am more typical in my theory of mind issues so this hyper empathy is something I find difficult to relate to. I just know that some autistics are just like this (particularly females, I've noticed).


This describes me to a T. And is why I am so scared of pursuing a diagnosis - because I couldn't possibly be autistic, could I? How to explain that this is not theory of mind?



Jonesy435
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04 May 2016, 2:50 am

Here is an article on this: https://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013 ... -too-much/

And here is the original study, if you like that kind of thing: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/ ... 00224/full
Of course just look up intense world theory on wrongplanet.net

I was in a similar position last year and I had to ask myself would a label help me with my difficulties, if yes then you should still consider seeking one if you are being really honest about yourself, despite empathy.


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04 May 2016, 5:55 am

Thank you for the links, they are really useful. I am not sure I believe that all autistic people are like this, though. I find it more likely that this is a subgroup.

I thought about what you said about helping friends see the other person's perspective and therefore being able to consider more than one perspective at the time. But can you hold your own perspective simultaneously? I can't. But if I am talking about someone else's conflict I don't have to.

Also, I wasn't born like this. It took years of life experience plus an emotionally intelligent significant other who explained things to me, to help me start understanding other people's reasoning. Taking other people's perspective instead of my own and doing the chameleon thing was completely unconscious in childhood.

I've no idea whether a label would help me with my troubles. I am bad at decision making, which is why I try to give myself time and ask other people's advice. Maybe I would just be making things worse.



Jonesy435
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04 May 2016, 10:12 am

Hey underwater well like you I can't maintain my own perspective, just drives me 'crazy' questioning my sense of self, made me believe I had disorders I did not.
Well for me I have developed this in part innately but also I believe environmentally. I.e. When I was younger I was severely bullied, like the worst of the whole triad of emotional, physical and psychological. Also, at the same time I had something called Chronic fatigue syndrome and was in constant pain. I think that trauma in many ways drove me to develop these slightly atypical cognitive processes to overcome a 'typically Autistic' problem with cognitive empathy.

That's why I sometimes dangerously assume someone else's perspective and emotions at the expense of my own sense of self because when I was younger predicting behaviour was a great method of avoiding pain therefore I'm conditioned to do so, and my friend as I mentioned had some pretty bad mental health problems which drove me to develop an even more heightened sense of empathy to help her, we were close, she helped me a lot too! which probably changed my brain as a result. However all of this contributed to why I have become so interested in psychology and therefore I just see my past as a catalyst for change, some good or bad.

Also time is good if you need time for descisions, don't feel you need to rush any diagnosis and only really consider it if you believe it is beneficial for solving your problems which you believe are related to the diagnosis. Otherwise the cons outweigh the pros. For me it was as much knowing what made me different than how a label might help me. Like now I volunteer at a local autism charity, which is great.

Hope I answered you questions.


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08 May 2016, 10:02 am

underwater wrote:
MindBlind wrote:
I have heard of this before. I know autistic people who are highly sensitive to others emotions and are often prone to copycat behaviours and having difficulty in understanding their own identity (especially if they have a new friend that they are obsessed with). I think that might be down to the fact that some autistic people are highly suggestible and may find it difficult to differentiate between their own feelings and the feelings of others. So it's not theory of mind, per se, because (and this is conjecture on my part) you might find it difficult to imagine two different perspectives simultaneously so in the interest of maintaining relationships you forfeit your own emotions and adopt theirs (subconsciously, anyway). I could be wrong.

I am more typical in my theory of mind issues so this hyper empathy is something I find difficult to relate to. I just know that some autistics are just like this (particularly females, I've noticed).


This describes me to a T. And is why I am so scared of pursuing a diagnosis - because I couldn't possibly be autistic, could I? How to explain that this is not theory of mind?


This describes me to a T, as well. This entire thread has helped me to understand various things about myself/my mind, that I hadn't been able decipher or sort out, previously.



Jonesy435
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08 May 2016, 10:35 am

Haha it's because everyone's been so helpful with their replies, it really makes me think that this kind of phenomenon for probably quite a few people on the autism spectrum has been largely ignored by scientific, especially clinical literature because maybe they just don't realise what we are experiencing because we find it difficult to communicate that to them, a lack of empathy perhaps on there part, or more worryingly to realise this is to rehumanize us from the dehumanising medical literature, to do so would bring about the examination of our strengths as well as our faults. To do so would ultimately make them examine themselves and that's makes them understandably uncomfortable, because it means they are no longer patients with 'the A -word' (used sarcastically) but people too, even more frightening we people outside social norms without being just defective but instead a mix of strengths and weaknesses, just different from their own. Of course this means some of us are left lost and conflicted.

Hey, well I'm really pleased I posted this, but it's everyone else who have made it helpful to you.


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