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The Aspie Meltdown - An Insiders Point of View - Part 2

Following directly on from part one, this entry will try to look at meltdowns in adults.

How long do meltdowns usually last?
Most meltdowns in children last between five and 15 minutes though I have heard of some lasting 45. The lower end of this range is probably due to the amount of energy that an Aspie expends on the meltdown itself. Older and stronger children would obviously be able to continue their meltdown behavior for a longer period than younger ones.

How then, do meltdowns manifest themselves in adults who obviously are much stronger than children.

This one is quite difficult for me to answer because any sense of time disappears during a meltdown. I believe however that I have not gone over the 45 minute mark. I am not sure whether meltdowns are sustainable over a longer period.

The violent adult meltdown
Although there is some suggestion that the violent adult meltdown could lead to mass murderous tendencies (Port Arthur Massacre - Australia 1996), there is much to suggest that this incident can not be blamed solely on the Asperger's condition. In particular, Martin Bryant's Aspergers diagnosis was disputed by a forensic psychiatrist working with his defense team and there were obviously other mental factors at work, including a sub-normal IQ (estimated at 66). Low IQ's are not associated with the Aspergers condition.

Turning a normal meltdown violent
There have been very few occasions where I personally have had a violent meltdown and although furniture or walls would generally be the main victims, there have been times when I've struck people.

What makes an adult aspie in meltdown lash out at people?

  • Other adults being physical first

  • Other adults throwing objects first

  • Adults hurling abuse at the aspie in meltdown

  • Adults taunting or laughing at an aspie in meltdown

  • Adults refusing to leave the personal space of an aspie in meltdown

I think it should be fairly obvious from this list that if other adults behave irresponsibly around an aspie in meltdown, they can escalate the problem.

What can/should the Aspie in Meltdown do?
Leave the vicinity of any non-tolerant adults. Preferably retiring to a lockable (by the aspie) isolated room. If the aspie is engaged in an activity which brings on a meltdown (ie: malfunctioning computer). They should leave the activity for that day and resume fresh on the following day instead.


Anonymous said…

I'm running a Norwegian site about Autism and Aspergers ( and I wonder if we can get permission to translate your two posts about The Aspie Meltdown into Norwegian to use as articles on our site. There is very little information about meltdowns available in Norwegian. You will of cause be credited. Send me an email at webmaster (at) if you're interested. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
As an adult male in undiagnosed and unrealized Aspie life, I have something to share. My most intense meltdowns were with girlfriends in time of conflict. Both women were NT and very social. In what I have learned is an Aspie male trait, both women were older than me.

My first long-term adult girlfriend was very special. After about one year together, I developed a verbal conflict-related meltdown cry for help that I would say "I need forgiveness". The manifestation of this: close contact and petting would relax and disarm me. This partner ultimately left the relationship a couple years later as neither of us understood the underlying cause of the problems.

Many years later, I eventually got a new girlfriend. This second relationship was much longer lasting. Sadly for both involved, failure of this second relationship is what lead to Aspie realization.

The second partner never trusted me on this need to respond immediately to the "forgiveness request". The first time I had a major meltdown with this second partner, the next day I tried to explain how things had gone in my first long-term relationship. Alas, this second person considered forgiveness as "rewarding bad behavior". This person was unable to change their stance, despite the relationship continuing. Throughout this very long relationship, many intellectual attempts to explain the need were interpreted as one-sided attempts to threaten demands on the person. I expect it also didn't help the ego of the second partner to be compared negatively with a first partner from many years earlier.

I never really was able to cope in the second relationship with the general inability to resolve or understand this need. At times, I would avoid the person in a preemptive way, and to isolate from social situations structually with career changes and lifestyle changes. This only added to the long-term relationship issues.
No real solution was ever found or developed in this second relationship.

Looking back, I admit I was closed minded in this second relationship. I did not grow in my understanding. Part of it was intellectual idealism. Not to abandon a committed partner in times of conflict. Marriage vows come to mind.

Part of it was short term forgiveness need: that realization that the meltdown had started and already the other person was hurt. I could never get this person to understand the concept that it wasn't intentional. Despite having a very long lasting monogamous relationship, trust was lacking.

The physical and emotional stress of this second relationship has been bad on both parties in the relationship. More spiritually, I have always forgiven the other person and taken the majority of the blame. However, over many years, resentment and a sense of hopelessness would build about not having that trust. Hhaving few to any close friends as an Aspie, I keep all eggs in that one unhealthy relationship basket. It made for an abusive situation, much of it self-abuse by staying in the relationship until the bitter end when the partner left in a rather hostile and draw-out way.

Nearly two decades letter, I was fortunate enough to reconnect with the first girlfriend. That person played a pivotal role in my Aspie realization and discoveries.

I wrote this post as I wanted to point out that for at least one person in a period of undiagnosed/unrealized state: intense close and "light intimate contact" (petting, hugging, reassurance) was a response request to the "meltdown is imminent" internal sensation.

Taken to an extreme, I guess generally NT's call this contact "make up sex". More literally for me, "make up hugging and petting." I never asked for nor had any sexual desires during the conflict, it wasn't about that. It was more the clearly obvious realization that all was forgiven and understood that the first relationship had offered.

Needless to say, your blog posting is very appreciated. I hope that at least someone else sees themselves in my story and can learn from my previously unrealized mistakes. Ideally, before it is too late.

thank you.
Oh yeah, all to familiar with this thing which remained un-namable till now.

Part 1 about kids and posessiveness of food - last year I had a meltdown triggered by one of my grandkids asking for food off my plate. I and everyone else were WTF!?!?!?!? Was THAT? when it cooled off.

That taunting bit led to a story I'm not gonna tell here.

The more I see there is to learn about Asperger's, the more I see there is to learn.
Unknown said…
I'm a diagnosed ADHD nd undiagnosed aspie (hopefully to be rectified soon).

You have no idea quite how much I identify with what your saying here. The grey band, the feeling of helplessness, the loss of the realization of time; all of those happen to me.
Nam said…
Do any of you ever feel remorse for the relationships that you have lost on account of recurring meltdowns ?
Anonymous said…
In response to Nam.

Yes I feel remorse, and also great sadness at times from fatally damaging close relationships or friendships with people I really liked following one of my meltdowns.

Before recently being diagnosed with ASD, I never understood what was happening to me when I had my meltdowns from various and sometimes seemingly insignificant situations. The trouble is that it was always some time after the event when I calmed down and thought things through that I had any sort of realisation of what had happened and it was only then that I became remorseful and apologetic to the people I had blown up at, but I also became withdrawn and depressed as a result of my remorse and lack of self control. The major issue with all of this is that I have, and continue to alienate people without knowing I am doing it at the time, they too cannot tolerate my mood swings. It is at the point where I now have no outside friends and, my work colleagues and family will give me a wide berth for a quite a while after I have blown my top.

My latest meltdown and depressive state was not long ago on my birthday (which I was not looking forward to). My poor long-suffering wife had gone all-out to get me something special for my birthday to cheer me up. However, due to already being in a depressive state from a recent 'episode', I bluntly said that I did not want the gift after seeing it. Needless to say she was most upset and taken aback from my reaction. She immediately took the gift back from me (to avoid/prevent any further grief), and returned it the next day for a refund. Things got really quiet after that with nothing further said. It was only during this quiet that I realised (too late yet again) what I had done and I cursed myself relentlessly for being so callous and ungrateful for the gift and the effort she put into it.

I tried to talk to her and apologise for what I had done and about how I was feeling, but it only seemed to create more friction between us. I already felt like such an uncaring and worthless person, but I now felt far worse (I really hated myself by now) and withdrew even further from every thing and everyone.

It has been just over 2 weeks now since my birthday fiasco and we are only just starting to talk again. But even now my wife is very wary about talking to me, or even touching me for that matter, as she says that I am still 'not on the planet' and she does not want to set me off again. I'm really not sure how she copes with me at times, and I often wonder how much longer our marriage and friendship will last before I foul that up too. I really thought I had a handle on things, but as I get older I find that I seem to be going backwards despite seeking help.

The way I see things now, is that if I cannot get back control of myself soon, I am going to lose the most precious things in my life (my wife and daughters) and wind up being nothing but a lonely, miserable old man.

Having ASD is a curse, and I would not wish it upon anyone.
Nam said…
Thank you for your response. It has been a great help. Wishing your family and you strength and love to tide over the rough patches.
Anonymous said…
My husband was dx'd 2 months ago and fell into a deep depression. After 13 years of being together, I saw my first Meltdowns and shutdowns this past year. I don't know why. He is 52 and now his Meltdowns are becoming more and more aggressive. I have no hope any more and I am too disabled to leave. I am very isolated being far away from another town. Isolated from everything, including him.
Gizmo said…
Same thing has just happened to me. Suspected husband was Aspie but thought the relationship was fine, but a little eccentric. Without warning he chucked a meltdown and handed me his wedding ring and then disappeared for the night! When he came back he had miraculosly met the "new" love of his life and wanted to brag about her to me, openly texting her and playing a video of her dancing on his laptop so I could see his new "host"! Like me she is older and like me has a good income - poor woman, she has no idea how controlling and isolating these people can be. Trust me it's all about them, you are nothing but a useful object in their life and the extreme callousness of their withdrawal from you will leave you reeling and very much poorer financially. Anonymous, just run, it won't get any better and you'll be surprised how much better life is when you leave Planet Aspie!
Anonymous said…
I have been with someone for about 3 years now. Early on, he revealed that he had Asperger's Syndrome. We are both professional and mature people. I have seen two meltdowns, the second of which occurred recently. He wanted to leave the house because he saw I was upset over his outburst, but I managed to get him to stay. I care a lot about him and we get along well. However, the last blog about how leaving an "Aspie" will make life much better is scaring me.

In fact, reading this blog, (thank-you for it), helped me very much identify the outburst as a meltdown. We haven't yet discussed it and I am not sure how to approach the subject.
Anonymous said…
I am aspie and have had two long term partners.My 1st partner was aspie and so we could both have meltdowns. Life threw us a real curve ball and we mutually descided to part (we are now good friends). My 2nd partner had aspie traits and meldowns. After many years together he had a meltdown, stormed off, came back the next day saying he had met the love of his life. Without going into details, we spilt up and I found out that he had a majior psychiatric problem. So Gizmo, it seems possible that your husband had more than aspergers going on and to the writer of the subsequent post I'd like to say, talk to your husband about what you can both do to help your relationship at such times. A genuine aspie meltdown is has no manipulative or controlling subtext.
Anonymous said…
My 21-yr-old son has Aspergers, and had ADHD as a child. When my son was little, I spent 3 very difficult years in relationship with his father, on the receiving end of constant abuse and regular violence. I'm only just considering how much of his behaviour back then might have been due to these two conditions, which often travel together, undiagnosed in himself - although so much damage has been done as a result, the whys don't matter as much to me now. I do appreciate this blog and the inside understanding it brings, because I don't think Aspergers is a precursor to violence; I think other factors affected my former partner's behaviour as well. I've been round in circles of confusion about it, because in their own bubble, Aspergians seem to have such a unique gentleness about them too. I don't want to sound harsh, but in my situation, explanations are not excuses. Whatever the reasons for it, the abuse back then, together with the cold indifference, was just dreadful. I'm writing a book about the unbelievable aftermath of having lived with it all those years ago. It is comforting to hear Aspergians' own voices here, and further understanding from people coming forward with their experiences on this blog can certainly only help us all.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing this. It really helps me to understand a situation I am in.
Unknown said…
Gizmo this shows no compassion.
Unknown said…
This doesn't show compassion.
Hanwookie said…
Gizmo,The person you are describing here is not someone with aspergers. It is not likely that someone with aspergers will so easily find "his new love" overnight. In fact, though he may have some mental health issues the person you're describing here is sounding like a manipulative sociopath I.e. Narcissistic. People with aspergers usually would come back and apologise for how they acted, because once the meltdown is over we tend to feel terrible for how we've acted. I really wish people would stop and think before they get on sites and start saying that someone they know is in the spectrum, even though I often will never hear of them having been officially diagnosed, then proceed to talk about someone whose obviously not. Please go find a place where you can study up on narcissistic personality disorder, and cut this guy out of your life, which it sounds like you have already. Stop blaming a disorder which actually only perpetuates a stigma that is often undeserved. We don't just up and leave our mates, as we are often loyal to a fault. We run out to be alone, not to find other people to spend time with.
Anonymous said…
I agree, Craig. As an Aspie female, I have been at the hands of a narcissist man. A HUGE difference in the two. You are correct, in my case, that I am loyal to the end and I run off to seek time alone. I have my meltdowns, but they are nothing like what Gizmo gas described.

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