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Depression and the Aspie Comfort Zone, aka Comfortably Numb

It seems to me that Asperger's and depression just go hand-in-hand, like peanut butter and jelly, or perhaps more like rusty tacks in your shoes and pain. But you never hear about depression getting better; at least not in Aspies.

I wonder why that is? I have a hypothesis, somewhat broadened from a forum post:

It's hardly a matter of debate that an Aspie's "comfort zone" is integral to their well-being. I'm no less subject to that; at this very moment I'm sitting in the spot that is the center of my universe, surrounded by creature comforts and stopping typing every so often just to stim with my hands for just a little bit. Comfort zones are good.

What's not good is being unable to break out of that comfort zone. For instance, if I didn't break out of my comfort zone to go to work, or to take care of other equally important responsibilities, I would suffer substantially because of that. But that's the more tangible sense in what I mean by what constitutes a "comfort zone".

Wouldn't it follow logically that emotions also define the makeup of a "comfort zone"? Humans, NT or Aspie, aren't wildly emotional - just as our bodies stay at 98.6 degrees farenheit, so must our minds stay in a state of homeostatis; a state of stability.

Feelings of depression are a very stable mood-state. Things like surprise, anger, jealousy, or grief are not quite so stable; we feel those intermittently. But what if the very nature of depression as a stable mood-state were reinforcing its own existence?

Again, I hardly have to list works cited when I say that Aspies have a strong need for stability. What I hypothesize is that a stably depressed mood-state becomes part of the Aspie "comfort zone", aka our sense of stability, and thus becomes not merely a chemical imbalance as much as a stabilizing force within our own psyches. A maladaptive coping mechanism, if you will.

I say "coping mechanism" because what do we do when we get stressed, aka when something happens in life that is uncomfortable? We scramble for our coping mechanisms, and by "we" I mean humans, but in the strictly Aspie sense we might stim, we might isolate, or like any other person we might drink, or escape into a virtual world - doesn't really matter, they're all coping mechanisms.

Realize that for every action, there is an emotion behind it, even if you don't feel those emotions. When we scramble for our coping mechanisms, we're scrambling to get back within our "comfort zones". But what of the emotion behind those actions? The human emotional state, like any homeostatic system, will seek to restore order; or in the case of emotions, comfort. And if depression is the mood-state you're the most comfortable in, thus will you gravitate towards being depressed at the advent of any sort of adversity that takes you away from a sense of total comfort.

I suspect that when depression has become an integral part of our comfort zone, returning to a depressed state actually becomes a goal for your mind. It's why depression is so hard to break out of - you become "comfortably numb". You start needing the depression to feel normal again, and so depression becomes the logical result of every action you take and every reaction you might have. It's just the mind being hyper-efficient, is all.

For proof, have you ever had a psych ask "how does that make you feel?" and every time you answer that question, you answer it honestly: it makes you feel depressed. Well, of course it does; whatever happened caused you to feel something, some emotion, and in striving to keep a sense of stability your hyper-efficient mind snapped you quickly back to "depressed". Depressed is stable, depressed is familiar, depressed is comfortable.

I hope I've made this concept palatable enough to where you're already starting to think of solutions for yourself, because it's not rocket science; it's just that information is rarely put in a form that can be digested because those with knowledge tend to be unwilling to hand it over freely. If you're thinking of solutions that might work for you, odds are you're right - what works for you works for you; having the knowledge to know that when you see a horse you're not actually looking at a zebra makes all the difference in the world.

As for solutions, I have plenty. But that's another blog post entirely; a future blog post, even.

Thanks for reading, and always ask questions!


I don't think of depressed, however familiar it may be, as "comfortable."
Safe maybe. But not comfortable.
I cannot remember a time when I was not depressed. But for me depression is a downward cycle. It is not comfortable but it is normal. If I slide, it is awful and leads to horrible things for me. I have found no strategy to get out of depression. Ways to cope with the symptoms. But mostly, ways to hide it from others.

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