I hope someone could help me, I am trying to help a colleague or understand her more. I would like to ask if some of you who do have ASD or those who are in relationships with someone on the spectrum if you've seen this behaviour? That said person does do things or feel things however they are unable to recognize the emotional reason behind such actions? If that makes any sense.
And if you have, do you have any tips for me to give this person to be able to cope or understand their emotions much better?
Any feedback would be highly appreciated.
Alexythmia is the name for this - have a look at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/alexithymia-condition-impacts-emotions-new-research-science-a8374496.html or https://theaspergian.com/2019/05/13/alexithymia-and-autism-what-its-like-to-not-know-how-you-feel/ for example.
I believe I have it; I struggle to differentiate between emotions in myself and others
I really struggle to recognise my emotions. Try watching some of Purple Ella's videos on YouTube - she gives some great advice, both for autistic people and the people close to them.
It's good that you're making an effort to understand your colleague and lovely that you reached out to the ASD community to learn more. Colleagues/friends like you are very valuable.
I really struggle to identify my emotions or that I am even feeling any emotions. Consequently, I can think that I am coping extraordinarily well with A LOT of stuff then suddenly it all falls to pieces in spectacular style! I also struggle to recognise other people's emotions. Unless it's obvious like laughing/crying/shouting.
do you think this could also be applied to say 'love' or 'caring' for a certain person / close to it? Where the person is unable to acknowledge the emotion to that extent?
Kitsune said: suddenly it all falls to pieces in spectacular style!
this it seems to be, is what is in a way happening, and I'm trying to help as much as possible but don't seem to be going about it the right way.
Everyone's different, but in some cases, yes. I struggled to differentiate between 'love' and 'caring' in my late teens/early twenties (there were a couple of times I thought I loved someone, but I actually just cared for them and might have had a slight crush). I'm now genuinely in love with my partner and realise that it feels entirely different. I think we just have to learn as we go along sometimes.
I think in all honesty, their best bet is going to be trying to get help from autism services. It’s something that I need to do myself at some point. I’m sorry I can’t advise you further. I can only say that this is a very common experience in autism.
Psychologists call this difficulty "alexithymia", and it is known to be far more prevalent among autistic people, and for them, often more severe if they do experience it. If you search the internet for that word, you'll find many threads on different autism forums about it, and there are even a couple of dedicated forums.
You're quite right that alexithymic people do have emotions, and they're not much different to anybody else's. The problem is with identifying which one you're feeling and being able to find the right language to describe it to people. You might think that you'd identify an emotion from how it makes your brain feel - but actually it doesn't work quite like that. Our body is often used as a messenger between the emotional bits of the brain and the bits that make us consciously aware of them.
For example, you only know that you're stressed out because of the weird body sensations such as having a fluttery feeling in your guts and your heart rate rising - and for most people this is completely automatic. However, it seems that, for many autistic people, this "body messenger service" doesn't work quite right; maybe just because our body awareness isn't all that good. This can even lead to the very weird situation where somebody else can read the person's emotions from their physical reactions even though that person can't read the emotion for themself.
I was identified as quite profoundly alexithymic when my autism was diagnosed, and the good news is that it can improved. I was taught by a counsellor how to pay more attention to how my body feels, and how to associate those body sensations with the emotions that are causing them. The second part is to talk through a situation with a sympathetic person to work out what kind of emotions a certain situation might be associated with - using a process of elimination, if necessary ("nope, can't be that one because I don't feel agitated" etc...) Even examples of similar emotional situations from TV and films (and, as I discovered, even kids' cartoons) can also help with piecing things together.
That's exactly where sympathetic friends and colleagues like yourself can be a great help. Rather than pressing for a description which the person feels unable to give (it will get harder for them the more you push), act instead as a sounding-board so that they can work their way to the answer. It can be a slow process at first, and you must be careful not to bias their reading by prompting too much (it's more about listening without judgement than the talking), but my experience is that this can be a huge help. I doubt that I'll ever be as emotionally fluent as most people, but there has been a notable improvement in my relationships with the people around me since learning how to be an "emotion detective" like this.
YUP with the thinking I'm handling it right up until the moment it crashes around me!! Doesn't help that my response to basically every emotion is crying, even sometimes when I think I feel completely calm...
Yeah I end up crying at random stuff sometimes and don’t even know why, I feel fine!