Can certain events make ASD symptoms worse?

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ArtisticSockCollector87
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06 Apr 2016, 8:18 pm

I suspect I'm somewhere on the spectrum, probably not quite AS but not entirely NT. I stimm (rocking, singing/humming, hand movements, pacing, etc), have special interests, am extremely introverted, and am fairly analytical among other things. However I was wondering if anyone else has heard of or experienced symptoms such as these worsening during/after events like puberty or emotional trauma because I noticed an increase in melt downs and stimming during puberty especially. I'm also diagnosed with minor PTSD however I don't think that really affects the symptoms I've listed too much except increasing anxiety. Thank you!


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ConceptuallyCurious
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07 Apr 2016, 11:53 am

Everyone, including NTs, find it more difficult to cope when they're stressed or anxious and people with ASD are not different in that regard. (Though on average they become overwhelmed and/or anxious more quickly or by different stimuli to NTs.)

So, yes. It is likely that at times of stress or change autistic would seem more autistic.

That was certainly the case for me when my traumatic experiences became too much for me. I went mute for a period and had I been given a support level for restrictive and repetitive behaviours (as per DSM 5), I strongly suspect it would have been a higher one than now.

It's also common to see an increase in ASD traits during puberty, possibly relating to hormones but also because there's big environmental (schools and the expectations there), social and bodily changes during that period. Plus, social skill difficulties become more noticeable because NTs make huge jumps during this period - difficulties adjusting can then cause more stimming, meltdowns, etc.

Not to mention that some behaviours, such as spinning, are far easier to pass off as age-expected or slightly behind in childhood but increasingly strikingly different as children age. Same goes for being a 'cute' little professor, verses a monologuing teen who really 'ought' to know that their partner is bored. Or 'tantrums' (meltdowns) which become progressively less socially acceptable as one ages to adulthood.


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EzraS
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07 Apr 2016, 12:35 pm

More pronounced autistic behavior during big events and changes is like a definition of autism.



Edenthiel
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07 Apr 2016, 12:45 pm

Sensory issues are in part tied to serotonin. Serotonin regulation is tied to (depending on the person) either estrogen or testosterone. Puberty is when those hormones go through some amazing surges and drops in order to trigger sex-dimorphic changes. So....yeah. Symptom severity can get really wonky & unpredictable then. If it gets bad and one is available to you, a visit/referral to an endocrinologist can be of help.

I wouldn't worry too much about whether you are diagnosed or not, or whether you "are" autistic/on the spectrum or not. I've seen so much variation in diagnosis criteria, ranging from dependence on a single trait to checklists to the "gut feeling" / "experience" of the professional doing the evaluation.

What matters is this: are there things that bother you, or make life difficult and if so, can autistic workarounds or understandings of the problem help?


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Whispers
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07 Apr 2016, 5:04 pm

It helped me to recognize that I have autistic traits. I don't seek a formal diagnose, I probably wouldn't get any cause I don't have sensorial issues. But I do have traits and I do identify myself with people on the spectrum (proof: I've been weeks around here and I feel like home).

And for me, those traits, those problems such as needing everything to be after my plans and expectations, getting extremely overload with the different conversations.... it all gets way worse under stress.

Edenthiel, do you have a source, a research with evidences about the serotonine implication? Thanks.


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07 Apr 2016, 5:13 pm

ConceptuallyCurious wrote:
Same goes for being a 'cute' little professor, verses a monologuing teen who really 'ought' to know that their partner is bored.

I stopped being the "little cute professor" in my teens after I realized how unpopular that was and that it didn't really interest anybody. My biggest shock was realizing that everybody had hidden "social games" that I couldn't follow and I deeply disliked. And then I stopped being so talkative and locked up into myself (with my books and my music, thank god I had them).

It happened after I left my "comfort zone" and started in high school. I remember some reactions I had to my frustrations into social situations, and they were more appropriated for small children than for a 15 y.o. girl, and I feel embarrased still!

So yes, I went "more autistic", or I showed it differently.


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From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were—I have not seen as others saw—I could not bring my passions from a common spring— From the same source I have not taken my sorrow—I could not awaken my heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone.
E. A. Poe


Yigeren
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07 Apr 2016, 5:28 pm

My symptoms became more noticeable as I got older because my social skills were more clearly behind the rest of my peers. I was picked on for being different, and I then developed behavioral problems. As I got older, I was better able to mask my poor social instinct at times.

As an adult, I can mask my autism for short periods of time. I am much better at it when I'm in a better mood. If I'm anxious, depressed, or not feeling well it's much harder. So I suppose at these times my symptoms are worse.

During or after very stressful or traumatic events my symptoms had gotten much worse, and my coping skills had diminished. At these times I become much mute sensitive to stimuli, my eye contact decreases (or I may be unable to make eye contact), my social skills decline, I become more upset by changes in routine, and I usually have more repetitive movements and hyperactivity.

Symptoms tend to get better when I'm in familiar situations, but get worse in new ones. Possibly because new situations cause anxiety, and because I often do not know how to behave in a new situation.

Basically, I can tolerate things much better when I'm feeling better. It's easier to overcome my fears and to force myself to do things without added stress. And I think anxiety just makes everything much worse.



martianmary
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09 Apr 2016, 8:26 am

I too find that ASD becomes more pronounced when I am stressed or in an uncomfortable situation which is not usual e.g at a recent wedding .I didn't stay for the reception and never do as I find them too socially overwhelming noisy,and the lights from the disco drive me nuts.Iget out of there!



SocOfAutism
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09 Apr 2016, 8:42 am

ConceptuallyCurious wrote:
Everyone, including NTs, find it more difficult to cope when they're stressed or anxious and people with ASD are not different in that regard. (Though on average they become overwhelmed and/or anxious more quickly or by different stimuli to NTs.)

So, yes. It is likely that at times of stress or change autistic would seem more autistic.

That was certainly the case for me when my traumatic experiences became too much for me. I went mute for a period and had I been given a support level for restrictive and repetitive behaviours (as per DSM 5), I strongly suspect it would have been a higher one than now.

It's also common to see an increase in ASD traits during puberty, possibly relating to hormones but also because there's big environmental (schools and the expectations there), social and bodily changes during that period. Plus, social skill difficulties become more noticeable because NTs make huge jumps during this period - difficulties adjusting can then cause more stimming, meltdowns, etc.

Not to mention that some behaviours, such as spinning, are far easier to pass off as age-expected or slightly behind in childhood but increasingly strikingly different as children age. Same goes for being a 'cute' little professor, verses a monologuing teen who really 'ought' to know that their partner is bored. Or 'tantrums' (meltdowns) which become progressively less socially acceptable as one ages to adulthood.


^^This! Not for me because I'm NT, but this fits with everything I have read and observed.

PTSD seems to be not uncommon in people on the autism spectrum. If you think about a round peg being repeatedly forced into a square hole in many different ways over the peg's entire life, lots of super traumatic situations tend to develop. Some people end up with PTSD as a result. You might want to read up on both autism and PTSD because some of the traits/symptoms are similar.



SirMiles
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09 Apr 2016, 10:24 am

Short answer... Yes. Anything that causes an autistic person to adapt to new circumstances/environment/routine. Stress... eustress and distress.


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