Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Asperger's and Depression - Part 3

Continuing the discussion about how Asperger's traits can directly cause depression, I'll be working through the list from the end of my last post.

Very good long Term Memory
How can a having a good long-term memory be responsible for depression?

The key to understanding this is to approach it from the point of view of an NT. Most of the time, it seems to me that detailed memories just aren't available for NTs without external assistance. By external assistance, I mean the use of video cameras or photo albums.

In the movie One Hour Photo, Robin William's character says, while looking at birthday snaps, "Nobody takes a picture of something they want to forget". I think that this is particularly relevant to the issue because it means that NT's tend only to remember the good things in any detail.

The Aspie however, with their long term memory often has perfect recall of past events and conversations. They will spend hours analyzing a conversation that occurred years ago and will often take negative feedback on board even if it was provided in the heat of the moment.

The long term memory of the Aspie therefore can be their worst enemy for dredging up guilt and other negative emotions.


Obsessive Compulsion
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not entirely where the lines are drawn between Asperger's and Obsessive Compulsion. It is obvious that people can suffer from Obsessive Compulsion without having Asperger's Syndrome but I'm not convinced that it works the other way around. To be specific, I think that the Asperger's condition carries with it certain obsessive compulsive influences which manifest themselves in different ways.

At this stage, I don't believe that the obsessive-compulsive part of Asperger's is the same as obsessive compulsion in the normal clinical sense.

I think that people with Asperger's who follow patterns on the ground or who feel the need to collect, arrange or categorize items in their special-interest don't have obsessive compulsion but simply displayed traits commonly associated with the condition.

Since in this post, I am describing Asperger's only conditions leading to depression, the obsessive-compulsive drive I'm talking about relates specifically to that found in Asperger's. While I'm sure that some Aspies obsess about things like handwashing, I'll only be considering collectibles and patterns here as these things do affect me.

Obsessive Compulsive drives only seem to lead to depression in Aspies when they are blocked or are unable to be fulfilled. This happens more often than you would expect.

Examples include;

Packaging Changes
When collecting books, DVDs or other items in a series, the publishers of those items decide to make packaging changes which break the pattern. Good examples of this being Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series which continued for such a long time that the original publishers (in Australia at least) stopped publishing. It is extremely irritating to have these books next to each other on a bookshelf with mis-matching covers as they grate on my mind whenever I see them.

Imperfections
This can be as simple as a mark on the wall, an off-center picture or a scratch on the cover of a book. often, these imperfections cannot be fixed and are a source of constant annoyance for the Aspie independing on the degree of daily contact they have with the imperfection.

Order
Aspies can also become quite obsessed with the order of things; eg: putting collections into alphabetical order (My CDs & DVDs are Alphabetical). Sometimes the order is Genre based (like my books) and sometimes it is date based. Lots of things can happen to upset the order but the most common is unintentional "messing up" by the people who live with the Aspie.

Food
Aspies are often become quite obsessive about food. Sometimes they become obsessive about germs. A good example of this being the fact that I went through a stage where I could not even bear people to look at my food when it was on the table.

Aspies can also become obsessive about particular ingredients. These could range from an inability to eat anything that has come anywhere near contact with sultanas. (I'm still not over that one). Although I love biscuits (cookies), I cannot eat any which have been stored in the same jar as those with sultanas in them.

My eldest son (7) has a problem with potato salad. If potato salad has been put on his plate he can survive by simply not eating it. If however, it touches any of the other things on his plate he will have a meltdown - guaranteed.

The Obsessive Compulsion part of Aspergers is an obsession with completeness, order and patterns. If those patterns cannot be completed or if the order is being jumbled this will stress out the Aspie. They may seem like small things to others, but with enough stress, the Aspie will become depressed.

More to come
Once again, this post is getting long so I will stop here. I'll try to cover the following in my next post.

  • Difficulty reading of other people's body language expressions and tone
  • Unusual world view/Paradigm
  • Overwhelming feelings and thoughts
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks

7 comments:

anisotrope said...

I came across your blog several days ago when looking for information on Asperger's and depression. Your "Part 2" post gave me some things to think about as I really identified with it. This "Part 3" is one with which I identify even more strongly.

The OCD label has been stuck on me more than a few times so I have learned to hide it when I can. For instance, I taught myself not to straighten or arrange the magazines in waiting rooms (but I can describe every uncomfortable time I didn't do it).

The Obsessive Compulsion part of Aspergers is an obsession with completeness, order and patterns. If those patterns cannot be completed or if the order is being jumbled this will stress out the Aspie. They may seem like small things to others, but with enough stress, the Aspie will become depressed.

I completely agree with you on this one. While I have condescendingly been informed by a therapist that an obsession with order followed by the compulsion to create order is the very definition of OCD, it has never seemed to me to be the whole answer. Once Asperger's is added to the picture, the AS/OCD argument should be about motivation instead of semantics.

Weezie said...

My nephew goes bonkers if food touches other food on his plate.
NO spices allowed!
He eats the same foods all the time.
He freezes up when I approach him for a hug.
He says he's choking and can't because his shirt collar is too tight even though it's not.
He has a funny speech pattern with certain parts of words.
He totally zones out with TV and will go on and on about a cartoon he saw to the point of not making sense.
He can go all day with no food just soda and TV, zero interaction with anyone unless they change the station or the volume.
He clings to his mother but makes no eye contact with her or anyone.
Aspergers?
He is 10 yrs. old.

Gavin Bollard said...

If he is otherwise able to hold conversations with people then it's very likely Aspergers.

Kaneda said...

I've just come across your blog and wanted to thank you for writing it, as it's very informative. Found "part 3" very interesting especially in regards to food. I have always had problems with grapes, and fruit with a thin outter skin. People have always thought its weird and just cannot understand why I can't be near the things and have to cover them up if I am around them.

On to part 4... :)

Damo said...

Finally someone gets it. I like the list. most of them are spot on.

Anonymous said...

Fix this! :P

"a scratch on the cover of a book. often, these imperfections cannot"

I mean the "o" in often.

the acro said...

the obsession part is pretty bad for me. when i watch a music video, i count how many times the drummer hits each drum in my head (i try not to, but i somehow acomplish it). If he doesn't hit each drum the same amount of times (never does)i go nuts.