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10 Things People with Asperger’s Syndrome Want You to Know

10 Things People with Asperger’s Syndrome Want You to Know

An estimated 68 million people are known to have Asperger’s syndrome, which was more recently folded under the umbrella heading of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the U.S. However, numerous researchers believe that this number is actually probably much higher because many adults with this condition have never been diagnosed. If you know, or suspect, that someone in your life has Asperger’s, it is important to be aware that their lives are filled with many challenges and strengths, regardless of how functional they appear to be.

1. Every Person with Asperger’s is Impacted by Their Symptoms Differently

There is a saying in the autistic community: “If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s.” This is a reflection of the fact that a wide variety of symptoms and traits can be attributed to Asperger’s and autism in general, and everyone reacts to them differently.

For example, some individuals with Asperger’s have such a high pain tolerance that it can be dangerous, while others feel pain much more intensely than people who are neurotypical. In other words, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that each person with Asperger’s will be challenged in different ways by having a neurodiverse brain.

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2. Movie and TV Representations Are Often Over the Top

Some people with autism are similar to depictions found in movies such as “Rain Man” and “Jane Wants a Boyfriend,” but it would be erroneous to believe that these representations are accurate for everyone. Asperger’s symptoms are often hidden by people and may only be easily observed by those who know them very well. In fact, girls and women with Asperger’s are especially adept at blending in, and this can cause them to go undiagnosed for several decades. When you combine this with a flawed methodology that looks primarily at boys and more extreme cases, it becomes easy to understand why movies show over the top examples, but this is not truly indicative of the lives that most individuals with Asperger’s actually have.

3. A Sensory Diet Doesn’t Involve Food

One of the biggest challenges about Asperger’s is regulating sensory input in order to avoid becoming overloaded. A sensory diet is meant to help the individual down and upcycle as needed. For example, being out in public causes someone with Asperger’s to experience a lot of incoming information, ranging from noises to lights.

Some people choose to wear noise-cancelling headphones in public to block out some of this sensory input. It is also common to reduce time spent socializing, exercise daily and engage senses in positive ways such as burning certain types of incense or blowing off steam via martial arts. As an added bonus, some of these activities can help improve motor skills and coordination, which are often less developed. In many cases, a sensory diet can make the difference between a good and a bad day.

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4. Meltdowns Are Embarrassing but Often Unavoidable

Everyone loses their temper or cries sometimes, but this is not what is meant by a meltdown. Adults with Asperger’s typically have a more difficult time with emotional regulation, and they also need to pay close attention to sensory overload. When they become overloaded or fail to have their emotional and sensory needs met for an extended period of time, a meltdown can occur. This is an often embarrassing reaction to struggling to fit in to the neurotypical world.

It is important to note that a meltdown, which is often characterized by an extended period of crying and the inability to properly articulate feelings, is not something that is being done to try to manipulate someone or to control the situation. Instead, it happens because the individual loses their ability to control their emotions as a result of their sensory processing issues.

5. Seeking Medical Care can be Difficult

Receiving medical care is often difficult for people with Asperger’s for a wide number of reasons. In some cases, it is hard to find a medical professional who has experience with adult autism. Social issues and feeling extremely uncomfortable with others touching them can also hinder those with Asperger’s and prevent them from seeking out regular medical assistance. Fortunately, online medical communities such as Lybrate enable these individuals to speak to a doctor without leaving their house.

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6. Lack of Eye Contact Doesn’t Mean Lack of Attention

Making and keeping eye contact is not easy for many people with Asperger’s. Women often adapt better to this social requirement, but either way, the amount of eye contact that someone makes with you is not a good indication of whether or not they are paying attention. Individuals with Asperger’s are often noted for their attention to detail and ability to see things that others don’t, so make sure that you don’t hold their lack of eye contact against them or assume that they are not taking in what you are saying. On the other hand, don’t assume that someone who can make eye contact cannot have Asperger’s.

7. The Autistic Community is Divided about the Autism Speaks Organization

The autistic community has been involved in many controversies surrounding the organization Autism Speaks. Otherwise known by their catchphrase “light it up blue,” Autism Speaks has a history of using language and symbols that many with Asperger’s find to be demeaning. The group also does not have any people with autism on its board, and their focus on finding a cure for autism is understandably offensive to neurodiverse individuals who are high functioning and do not feel the need to be cured. On the other hand, there are many parents of autistic children who are committed to helping Autism Speaks with the goal of finding a cure. Due to this, the community is extremely divided on this topic.

8. Routines and Planning Really Do Make Life More Enjoyable

Movies and TV shows sometimes poke fun at the idea of those with Asperger’s needing routines. However, the reality is that having a firm plan for the day, along with incorporating specific routines, is one of the best ways to make life feel less chaotic and more sensory friendly. When these routines and plans are interrupted, it can cause a lot of emotional distress. This is something to always keep in mind when you will be spending time with someone who has Asperger’s.

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9. No One “Looks” Autistic

One common complaint within the autistic community is that people say things such as “you don’t look autistic.” Perhaps this is meant to be a compliment, but it really shows a lack of understanding of what it means to be on the spectrum. One person with Asperger’s might regularly exhibit certain behaviors that make them stand out, but another person may be able to restrain most of these traits in public. This does not mean that either of them looks less or more autistic because the reality is that they both have the same neurological condition. The odds are high that you know people with autism, even if they haven’t told you or been diagnosed yet, so avoid using harmful phrases based on stereotypes.

10. Individuals with Asperger’s Often Excel in Certain Fields

Someone with Asperger’s may have a hard time socializing or spending a lot of time in a crowded store, but this does not mean that they are unable to excel professionally. In fact, some companies specifically seek out employees with Asperger’s due to their attention to detail. Asperger’s is often associated with several other positive traits, including loyalty, dependability, a strong sense of right and wrong, honesty, persistence, passion, a specific talent and a unique way of looking at the world.

Despite these similar traits, women and men may fit best into different careers. For example, men with Asperger’s are often drawn to jobs in the tech field, but many women end up doing something creative such as writing, art or photography. Singer Susan Boyle provides a prime example of the talented side of Asperger’s.

Routines are vital to those with Asperger’s, but they also need to schedule downtime in order to recharge. When these people are given the support and freedom they need to embrace their strengths and minimize the challenges that can be associated with Asperger’s, they are able to lead very fulfilling lives and have a positive impact on their friends, family and coworkers.

Featured photo credit: Garry Knight via flickr.com

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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