Depression is even more likely to affect those in the autism community than it affects neurotypicals and the non-disabled, because of the lifelong torture that people with autism go through on a daily basis. And people on the autism spectrum also have a high suicide risk, according to medical research and proven psychology articles. Which is why as someone with Asperger syndrome I find myself wondering if I will continue to suffer from depression and have thoughts of suicide for the rest of my life.
There was this group of ASD and Asperger Syndrome adults who had either contemplated suicide or considered doing so after being diagnosed at a clinic, because they ended up suffering from depression. I also heard about one autistic man who eventually committed suicide. I don't want to end up amongst those people - even though I won't be able to break free from my severe depression.
Speaking from personal experience, depression is very difficult to overcome and it comes and goes in cycles lasting months and years.
Sometimes there are obvious triggers for depression and a change in lifestyle or other external factors can improve things. At other times I'm just depressed and that's it. I've never tried prescribed drugs to lift my depression.
Thoughts of suicide. When things were bad I thought of suicide all day every day.
I made three serious suicide attempts in 2016. That's when a mental health crisis team got involved.
Like Robert I have periods of depression and very recently been experiencing suicidal thoughts. I grit my teeth, hold my nerve and ride it out.... but being wobbly can be rather scary at times - but I hold out that these will pass in time like a child on a rollercoaster!!
I try to nurture myself as best I can during those episodes - try to do things that I hope to find enjoyable or feed the soul in a positive way as a means to self-rebalance.
One of the challenges for me is the depressive thoughts PLUS my autistic characteristic of finding it difficult to articulate myself, feelings and needs which is scary. Also as estranged from family and with very very few friends it becomes a case of self trying to help self.
Although the following programme does not cover those individuals on the spectrum, last weeks BBC Horizon programme looking at stopping male suicide is very insightful and not embarrassed by mental health.
In terms of gender the programme states that it is women more than mean that express suicidal thoughts but that men are ultimately more successful. This in the programme is ascribed to the "fact" that women are more likely to have a support network in place.
With my geek hat on, the programme also talks about the use of machine learning to try to predict pre-suicide, those at risk. It seems to be a multi-modal element of things than can trigger such intention - i.e. social isolation + relationship loss + financial difficulties + poor health, for example that can create that perfect storm.
Autism can mean that social isolation is more likely, plus communication challenges, plus other comorbid conditions adding extra to the pot!
From a quick online search the following book comes up:
below is a link to some of the resources mentioned in the book. Not read it...so can't comment if it is of any worth/use or not.
NAS36090 said:I don't want to end up amongst those people - even though I won't be able to break free from my severe depression.
Then, I would suggest that you try to find good souls that you feel able to talk to. If you find it difficult to voice your struggles that it may be pertinent to make people aware of how you display your depressive behaviour - i.e. if you become more socially isolated, your autistic characteristics become more pronounced, self care seems to falter etc.
Have you also thought about accessing some autism friendly CBT support as this may help you recognise symptoms or develop self care strategies.
I just wish I didn't have to live in the same household as any of my family members, or anyone else for that matter - especially because of this household being within the type of negative toxic environment that is not even set up for vulnerable autistics like myself who are also suffering from severe depression. I wish I could escape elsewhere and get as far away from everyone and everything as possible. Then I can start focusing on getting help and consider joining a few depression and suicide awareness programs. Because I feel the need to start opening up about my suicidal depression.
I totally get that. Broke out of my parent's household when I was 13 by forcing them to put me in boarding school. Still better than to remain in their toxic environment. In those days, people like us didn't get diagnosed for Autism. Just kicked around and labeled "weird". Then finally left home and boarding schools when I turned 18. Dind't care how I would live or where as long as it was somewhere I chose.
I live alone; can't live with someone else. Have tried different models: no go because I need my space to myself. Had my times of depression (I'm in the middle of one now) but never as dangerous as when I was forced to stay in a household with people who ignored my vulnerability and spent their time bossing me around and making fun of my quirks. I am so damaged that I can't work with others and every social contact requires hours, sometime days of recovery but still, life is worth living and I never ever wanted to give in to the terror of the 'outside world'. In any case, there are place to find relief and this here is one.
Fled to university 23yrs ago... never been back. The only person in my family I’ve spoken to in the last 4 years is my dad.
akways needed a quiet life... hidden behind a book, scree, or far away from any “rattling” forces in the sticks!
Pits abiut keeping myself as grounded and centred as possible
The average life expenctancy of people with Asperger's is 54. The main cause of early death is suicide. The incidence of suicide is, so I've read, 9 times higher for autistic people without a learning disability than for the rest of the population.
I live in a constant state of depression - low-level for the most part, but always there. I take comfort from the thought that suicide is always there as an option for me. That's not a 'normal' or particularly rational thing to say. I have a young colleague who survived cancer and is living with the thought that the likelihood is high that it will come back at some stage in the future. She soaks up every moment of life... and tells me that I should do the same. It feels churlish to disagree with her. But the circumstances otherwise are entirely different. She has a partner, a wonderful family, loads of friends - in short, a lot to live for. I sometimes wonder what I still have to live for, apart from simply getting older and probably having some age-related disease come upon me. I'm already showing early signs of arthritis in some of my finger and toe joints. I drink too much, but it's a comfort. It's the one thing, really, that gives me some release.
I attended a workshop the other week on 'Autism and Mental Health', run by my local authority. It was good to see a lot of autistic people turning out and telling the panel how they felt, what they needed, etc. At one point, the terminology shifted from 'mental health' to 'mental illness'. I pointed out the qualitative differences between them. I asked, too, for some clarification on how they reached their definitions. I said that I function relatively 'normally'. I hold down a job. I keep a home. I pay my bills and meet all my responsibilities. On the surface, there's little to indicate that I have any problems. But then I pointed out that the idea of suicide is ever-present in my mind, and that I find my daily life increasingly exhausting. But I carry on with it. What does that make me? Depressed? Mentally ill? I couldn't get a clear answer on that one.
I haven't attempted suicide since my diagnosis, because it gave me more of a sense of personal validation and vindication. But before it, I made several attempts. I was lucky to survive two of them.
I carry on with the thought that I can never know if life can get better unless I give it the chance to get better.
For me, it's maybe not a normal thing to say, but it's certainly part of my "normal" to think of suicide often. I can't say that I think of it as irrational, either; when I've had enough of doing something, it seems rational enough to want to stop; whether it's picking my nose or being alive. I've given up trying to get through to people that my lack of fear of death is real and complete; wanting to feel nothing more seems very logically and emotionally preferable to feeling awful; it's the emotional bond that people have with being alive for it's own sake that seems irrational to me.
I think that's the part that I've struggled with the most; that I'm encouraged to talk about these things, but other people's (including mental health workers') conception of them is so different to mine - they never understand that I have never been without depression or suicidal thoughts almost every day since, at the latest, my early teens. This is my "normal", so I don't exhibit the expected melodrama; I get accused of being flippant because my talk about them is so matter of fact, or I'm accused of simply lying that I even have them. How could anyone have those thoughts without being in a blind existential panic? I don't know, but they're still there.
I takes extreme effort even to look for help with them - no-one else goes to a doctor just to tell them that everything is exactly as it normally is, so why would I? When I'm asked what particular event or mood has made me feel suicidal, I can never answer. For sure, alexithymia has its part to play in that, but more profoundly, I don't see why there should be an answer - there needs to be no specific trauma or emotion; it just is, and always has been, there. I've yet to see a therapist that could get anywhere with this aspect of my life because I don't have the discrete traumas or visceral reactions that they seem to need to hang their interventions on.
The ultimate reaction of professionals seems to be; well, I've had these thoughts most days for several decades, and I'm still here, so just carry on carrying on. I never mention it to people in my personal life because I can't bear their melodramatic responses, or accusations that I'm just looking for attention
Curiosity is what keeps me going; it drives the special interests that distract me, and the morbid fascination that keeps me alive sometimes; How much longer can the world carry on being so awful? Can it get any worse? Might some others accept that I was right all along? I have been saved from suicide by procrastinating about those things many times; so maybe my executive function impairments have a "positive" side all along!
That’s interesting. Do you think the combination of autism and alexithymia engender a diminution of sense of self? I have been pondering on this a lot recently.
Not come across alexithymia before. I've just taken a test which results in 'most likely'.
Graham said:That’s interesting. Do you think the combination of autism and alexithymia engender a diminution of sense of self?
It certainly feels that way to me. I've lived my life motivated almost entirely by trying to work out and simulate other people; to perfect the art of it. I barely ever considered what I wanted, besides a few special interests for my depressurisation time. I can't really complain about being a doormat who only ever did anything when pushed into it, because I never worked out any other way that I could live. My main motivator was to not be like me. To be more "me", I have to drop the only thing which ever really gave me a sense of purpose. I'd like to drop it because I can see how harmful it has been to me, but it makes me feel adrift in a sea of procrastination.
I have some core principles which I believe in very strongly, but there are many senses in which I don't feel that I know who I really am. My previous counsellor could often point out emotional reactions in me that I was totally oblivious of myself. And my executive functioning often leaves me wondering what the point of making decisions is if I can't trust my brain to carry them out. I've done a lot of learning about autism since my diagnosis, and am thankful to the people that have shared their experiences with me, but there seem to be parts of me that I just don't seem to gain any insight into. It's not just neurotypicals that I struggle to empathise with; I struggle to empathise with myself. My reaction when the counsellor told me that talking about something had made me sad was often just a kind of indifferent "oh, that's interesting."
Not come across alexithymia before.
It was something I'd not heard of until I started using autism forums, too. It's relatively common among autistic people, both in frequency and severity, yet it is barely spoken about in most of the literature about autism. I was lucky that it was touched on at my autism assessment; it wasn't named, but my experience of it was acknowledged and explained a little.
One part of what the sychologist said really interested me. She said that our emotions aren't always connected to our consciousness directly in the brain. Rather, the emotions let all kinds of chemicals into out blood stream which drive various glands etc. to produce the physical signs of the emotion. Our consciousness then picks up the emotions by reading the body signals or chemicals which are sent in return. Just as we pick up (or don't!) other people's emotions by observing their behaviour, that's how we read our own; rather like I said above to Graham, even just having different sensory reactions could make us less empathetic to ourselves. I've read a couple of science papers which show this kind of link between poor reading of body signals and alexithymia, and it tallies with my own experience of having poor body sensation and dissociation.