He calls it "Shut Down Mode"

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Rachel4128
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16 Sep 2010, 10:04 am

When my husband becomes overwhelmed emotionally he goes into what he calls "Shut Down Mode." I want to be able to support him during these times but am just not sure what the right course of action is.

We are currently waiting on a referral to counselor but we all know how long that can take... Any suggestions?

Btw.. I am NT and he is an Aspie.

Thanks in advance!


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UnderINK
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16 Sep 2010, 11:27 am

I have a shut down mode as well, but not all of them are the same. Basically what the brain is doing, or he's subconsciously forcing his brain to do, is create an emotional dam when the flood waters get too high. It seals off any leak of emotional drip that might reach him, because once he goes to 'overwhelmed' mode, his only option is to completely shut off any emotional influence around him at all by simply not accepting it. Hard to explain. The only thing that can bring me out of a shut-off mode is physical touch from my fiance or daughter, myself, and that doesn't always work, just sometimes. But that isn't the same for everyone. Sometimes it takes time or solitude to cure that walled off mentality.



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16 Sep 2010, 11:58 am

Best thing for me is to leave me alone when I shut down. It's like an overload and the circuit breaker kicked in.


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pandorazmtbox
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16 Sep 2010, 1:00 pm

^ this is it exactly.

Shut down is actually him doing the best he can for you, and I hope you can see it that way. When I get overloaded, it means I can't process, and all sensory information coming in is making it worse. The heart, the emotions are usually running high as well, and they aren't understood either, because there is just too much going on. There are usually also overwhelming thoughts, but they aren't being thought clearly. It's kind of like cooking too much stuff at once in the kitchen and it's all about to burn...then the phone rings, the door knocks, the TV and Radio both suddenly turn on with the volume cranked up to maximum, all the sinks and tubs in the house are running and starting to overflow at once, a fire just started in the garbage can and the sewer is now backing up, then a tree crashes through the roof...you're the only one in the house and you're needed everywhere at once. THIS is the sensation of a meltdown/shutdown. If a neighbor comes over to help, you may snap at them, because they are just one more thing to have to deal with, and you can't see they're trying to help until you've crapped all over them.

The sensation is overwhelming, and adrenaline kicks in to try and help...so there is a fight or flight physical response happening. It doesn't go away or get better until you can sort of 'reboot' the system. When things get like this for me there are two ways to handle it: scream and rage (meltdown) or retreat and shut down.

Please understand that when he needs to retreat, it is because he needs to reset himself. He is not necessarily running away from you. My husband doesn't understand this about me. He thinks my need to be alone, and my need to retreat when things are intense is personal and an insult. You need to feel secure that he'll return to you when he is able--and you may be able to coax him back. You should let him know that you understand he needs the distance but how it makes you feel--because he probably can't see that bit of the puzzle. When he's calm, the two of you should make a strategy so that he gets the space to recuperate, and you get to demonstrate your understanding and support and still fill like your needs are getting met also. Maybe agree on a post meltdown/shutdown routine...?

For example, if he needs to shut down, maybe there is a place in the house that can signal that, so he doesn't have to try and say it in words. When I shut down, I go selectively mute, and making me talk will probably lead to a screaming match--because I can't make words when I'm like that. I've heard it recommended that Aspies can have a sign signal on the closed door of their room (or special interest room or meltdown closet or whatever works for him...). Green Light means 'come on in', Yellow Light means 'proceed with caution' and Red Light means 'only if the house is on fire.' Some nonverbal signal like this might tell you when it's okay to try to reconnect with him...maybe bring him tea or rub his back--plan some gentle nonverbal connection that you BOTH know means "hey, I'm here when you are ready to tell me about it". I think working out a plan PRIOR to high emotions is essential here.

I also think you working to understand that certain bits of his neurology are just givens. He has to make allowances and compromises for them, and that means that you need to as well if you want to be in a relationship with him. My husband never understood that about me, and has never seemed to try. I think posting here is a good start to get to understanding.

Relationships are tricky things, and what I've learned from mine is that the times we hurt each other, it's usually because we're insecure about something. That's probably all the counselor is going to do--help you both see why what the other does hurts and makes you feel insecure. Once you can get to that, there's always a way to fix it and find a solution if you're both willing to really understand each other. I hope you find a solution that works for both of you.


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16 Sep 2010, 8:06 pm

I shut down when I'm overwhelmed, too. I just have to go away and be by myself. Everything can suddenly become too much to process. It's a very raw state - like having no skin, so that anything, even things that should be pleasurable aren't. I don't think the need to go be alone and reset or shut down or whatever you want to call it will ever go away - at least, not for me. My husband just leaves me be when I get like that and that's perfect for me.

As for a method for dealing with it, it depends on him, I guess. When it happens to me it's not personal against anyone, it's almost mechanical - like the circuitry just got overloaded and I'm a bit fried.



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16 Sep 2010, 10:32 pm

@pandorazmtbox, thank you for your post. I'm so sorry that your husband is not supportive of you, but I'm so grateful that you wrote about this topic in such an articulate and compassionate manner. If any Aspie I'd ever been involved with had been willing to communicate as effectively as you have - I'd still be involved with him. Thanks again.


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pandorazmtbox
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16 Sep 2010, 11:35 pm

HopeGrows wrote:
@pandorazmtbox, thank you for your post. I'm so sorry that your husband is not supportive of you, but I'm so grateful that you wrote about this topic in such an articulate and compassionate manner. If any Aspie I'd ever been involved with had been willing to communicate as effectively as you have - I'd still be involved with him. Thanks again.


It's taken me 22 years of hard thinking, and 2 years of: mid-life crisis, counseling, tears, meltdown, morbid depression, countless journal pages, over 3,000 miles cycled, and a lot of pain--for me to get to that level of understanding about myself. That's the hard part. We have to work really hard to understand it ourselves, and I never had a reason to work at it that hard until my life reached true crisis proportions. I'm sorry you've had heart ache. I'm starting to think timing means more than willingness when it comes to love. Sometimes our partners (aspie, NT, wife, husband...) just aren't ready.


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17 Sep 2010, 12:03 am

pandorazmtbox wrote:
It's taken me 22 years of hard thinking, and 2 years of: mid-life crisis, counseling, tears, meltdown, morbid depression, countless journal pages, over 3,000 miles cycled, and a lot of pain--for me to get to that level of understanding about myself. That's the hard part. We have to work really hard to understand it ourselves, and I never had a reason to work at it that hard until my life reached true crisis proportions. I'm sorry you've had heart ache. I'm starting to think timing means more than willingness when it comes to love. Sometimes our partners (aspie, NT, wife, husband...) just aren't ready.


I appreciate your struggle, your effort, and your perseverance in finding your answers. I just can't tell you how much I've learned from what you've written....I wish every NT/Aspie who's ever been in a "mixed" relationship could read this.

I think timing has an awful lot to do with choosing our partners and spouses. I've believed that for a long time. I don't think most people get married because they truly believe they've found the love of their life....more likely they've found someone they have no profound objections to - and they're ready to get married. I suppose timing also has a significant impact on whether partners choose to do the work necessary to stay together - happily.

Thank you again - this post is just striking in it's relevance.


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17 Sep 2010, 8:04 am

pandorazmtbox wrote:
^ this is it exactly.

Shut down is actually him doing the best he can for you, and I hope you can see it that way. When I get overloaded, it means I can't process, and all sensory information coming in is making it worse. The heart, the emotions are usually running high as well, and they aren't understood either, because there is just too much going on. There are usually also overwhelming thoughts, but they aren't being thought clearly. It's kind of like cooking too much stuff at once in the kitchen and it's all about to burn...then the phone rings, the door knocks, the TV and Radio both suddenly turn on with the volume cranked up to maximum, all the sinks and tubs in the house are running and starting to overflow at once, a fire just started in the garbage can and the sewer is now backing up, then a tree crashes through the roof...you're the only one in the house and you're needed everywhere at once. THIS is the sensation of a meltdown/shutdown. If a neighbor comes over to help, you may snap at them, because they are just one more thing to have to deal with, and you can't see they're trying to help until you've crapped all over them.

The sensation is overwhelming, and adrenaline kicks in to try and help...so there is a fight or flight physical response happening. It doesn't go away or get better until you can sort of 'reboot' the system. When things get like this for me there are two ways to handle it: scream and rage (meltdown) or retreat and shut down.

Please understand that when he needs to retreat, it is because he needs to reset himself. He is not necessarily running away from you. My husband doesn't understand this about me. He thinks my need to be alone, and my need to retreat when things are intense is personal and an insult. You need to feel secure that he'll return to you when he is able--and you may be able to coax him back. You should let him know that you understand he needs the distance but how it makes you feel--because he probably can't see that bit of the puzzle. When he's calm, the two of you should make a strategy so that he gets the space to recuperate, and you get to demonstrate your understanding and support and still fill like your needs are getting met also. Maybe agree on a post meltdown/shutdown routine...?

For example, if he needs to shut down, maybe there is a place in the house that can signal that, so he doesn't have to try and say it in words. When I shut down, I go selectively mute, and making me talk will probably lead to a screaming match--because I can't make words when I'm like that. I've heard it recommended that Aspies can have a sign signal on the closed door of their room (or special interest room or meltdown closet or whatever works for him...). Green Light means 'come on in', Yellow Light means 'proceed with caution' and Red Light means 'only if the house is on fire.' Some nonverbal signal like this might tell you when it's okay to try to reconnect with him...maybe bring him tea or rub his back--plan some gentle nonverbal connection that you BOTH know means "hey, I'm here when you are ready to tell me about it". I think working out a plan PRIOR to high emotions is essential here.

I also think you working to understand that certain bits of his neurology are just givens. He has to make allowances and compromises for them, and that means that you need to as well if you want to be in a relationship with him. My husband never understood that about me, and has never seemed to try. I think posting here is a good start to get to understanding.

Relationships are tricky things, and what I've learned from mine is that the times we hurt each other, it's usually because we're insecure about something. That's probably all the counselor is going to do--help you both see why what the other does hurts and makes you feel insecure. Once you can get to that, there's always a way to fix it and find a solution if you're both willing to really understand each other. I hope you find a solution that works for both of you.


wow this post was awesome:)

underINK also gets honourable mention



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17 Sep 2010, 8:35 am

We Aspies know "shut down mode" well.

We have only so much strength to fight the outside world.

When we have run out of steam, run out of strength, then we need to withdraw into ourselves, lick our wounds and recharge our batteries.

You can't help except to protect us and love us while we are recovering.



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17 Sep 2010, 8:58 am

I think an important part is to not push anything while he's shut down. My boyfriend often tries to do that and it makes everything so much more difficult. I know that I need time to calm down, or I will overreact to anything that comes my way. Give him time, maybe 10 to 20 minutes, then go to him and just touch his arm, or try to make eye contact (if he is okay with that generally). You will be able to gauge where he is, and he may reach out to you if he's ready to open up again. If he ignores you, or pushes you away, he is not ready. You can also ask what he needs - he may not be able to articulate it, but he will know that you want to help.

I just wish my boyfriend could ask questions like this. He just gets angry when I shut down.


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17 Sep 2010, 12:52 pm

Wombat wrote:
You can't help except to protect us and love us while we are recovering.


That would be nice.


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25 Feb 2012, 5:35 am

pandorazmtbox wrote:
Shut down is actually him doing the best he can for you, and I hope you can see it that way. When I get overloaded, it means I can't process, and all sensory information coming in is making it worse. The heart, the emotions are usually running high as well, and they aren't understood either, because there is just too much going on. There are usually also overwhelming thoughts, but they aren't being thought clearly. It's kind of like cooking too much stuff at once in the kitchen and it's all about to burn...then the phone rings, the door knocks, the TV and Radio both suddenly turn on with the volume cranked up to maximum, all the sinks and tubs in the house are running and starting to overflow at once, a fire just started in the garbage can and the sewer is now backing up, then a tree crashes through the roof...you're the only one in the house and you're needed everywhere at once. THIS is the sensation of a meltdown/shutdown. If a neighbor comes over to help, you may snap at them, because they are just one more thing to have to deal with, and you can't see they're trying to help until you've crapped all over them.

The sensation is overwhelming, and adrenaline kicks in to try and help...so there is a fight or flight physical response happening. It doesn't go away or get better until you can sort of 'reboot' the system. When things get like this for me there are two ways to handle it: scream and rage (meltdown) or retreat and shut down.

Please understand that when he needs to retreat, it is because he needs to reset himself. He is not necessarily running away from you. My husband doesn't understand this about me. He thinks my need to be alone, and my need to retreat when things are intense is personal and an insult. You need to feel secure that he'll return to you when he is able--and you may be able to coax him back. You should let him know that you understand he needs the distance but how it makes you feel--because he probably can't see that bit of the puzzle. When he's calm, the two of you should make a strategy so that he gets the space to recuperate, and you get to demonstrate your understanding and support and still fill like your needs are getting met also. Maybe agree on a post meltdown/shutdown routine...?

For example, if he needs to shut down, maybe there is a place in the house that can signal that, so he doesn't have to try and say it in words. When I shut down, I go selectively mute, and making me talk will probably lead to a screaming match--because I can't make words when I'm like that. I've heard it recommended that Aspies can have a sign signal on the closed door of their room (or special interest room or meltdown closet or whatever works for him...). Green Light means 'come on in', Yellow Light means 'proceed with caution' and Red Light means 'only if the house is on fire.' Some nonverbal signal like this might tell you when it's okay to try to reconnect with him...maybe bring him tea or rub his back--plan some gentle nonverbal connection that you BOTH know means "hey, I'm here when you are ready to tell me about it". I think working out a plan PRIOR to high emotions is essential here.

I also think you working to understand that certain bits of his neurology are just givens. He has to make allowances and compromises for them, and that means that you need to as well if you want to be in a relationship with him. My husband never understood that about me, and has never seemed to try. I think posting here is a good start to get to understanding.

Relationships are tricky things, and what I've learned from mine is that the times we hurt each other, it's usually because we're insecure about something. That's probably all the counselor is going to do--help you both see why what the other does hurts and makes you feel insecure. Once you can get to that, there's always a way to fix it and find a solution if you're both willing to really understand each other. I hope you find a solution that works for both of you.


This is brilliant!! Thank you so much! :heart:


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25 Feb 2012, 10:50 am

I have shutdown mode.

Best way to "support me" during it?

Leave. Me. Alone.


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25 Feb 2012, 7:55 pm

I dont have a shut down mode, but i do "overload".
It usually makes me cry, because i feel sad.



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25 Feb 2012, 7:58 pm

I dont have a shut down mode, but i do "overload".
It usually makes me cry, because i feel sad.