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Help Identifying Meltdowns


New Member
Hey all.

All my adult life I have been suffering from involuntary responses to chronic stress. But I can't seem to work out if they are infact meltdowns or something else.

I shall attempt to explain roughly what happens.

It always starts with stress and anxiety that builds up over time, this can be from a number of sources, including work, health, other people, noise, lack of sleep and so on. Often it is a multitude of things building up over weeks or months. however there is always one major stressor and the root of it all, usually another person, either directly or indirectly.

It's like it all just keeps bottling up, and yet I'm able to keep going as my usually quiet self. Then in one moment something will set it off, and kaboom.

It is a complete involuntary response, it feels like I have been taken over and get pulled along for the ride (like the Hulk). During the meltdown there may be involuntary yelling in and rage, not always at anyone, just kind of within my own world. I also pace a lot and go back and forth through self talk over and over the situation. Basically everything that is been bottling up in my mind comes out all at once. Eventually I just seem to ramble (repetitive self talk) myself to sleep curled up in a ball from utter exhaustion.

Next day I often feel very quiet and peaceful, like my mind has hit the reset button, my thoughts and clearer. However I'm incredibly exhausted and will avoid all people. Depending on how bad it was I may loose my voice due to the amount of yelling. It can take days, weeks or months to recover depending on the scale of it. Sometimes it can be smaller ones more often, other times it can be one gigantic meltdown.

It's not a panic attack, I have had those and they are very different.

Does this sound like meltdowns to you? If anyone experiences something similar, do share. I'm attempting try and make sense of what has been happening to me all these years.

Thanks in advance.
You may want to look over these threads.

Post #62 notes several additional links discussing shutdowns vs meltdowns.
For a long time I was puzzled by my reactions to some things. It seems like I could be calm and tolerate a lot and then suddenly totally lose it.

That doesn’t happen so much anymore. I minimize my interactions with others and no longer tolerate BS.
Until I started to suspect I might be on the spectrum, I didn't know much about meltdowns, but I've come to recognise these episodes in myself.

After spending a fair bit of time here there seems to be a basic commonality for a lot of people, including myself, and that's basically that we tend to be very quiet and keep things bottled up until we pop like a shaken up soda bottle that's been dropped into concrete.

I think the solution is maybe to try and let out the stress in small positive ways so it doesn't build to bursting point. I had begun to realise this before I realised I have a lot of traits that would seem to indicate I'm probably Autistic.

Self talk is something I do often and pacing. If I can do these for a certain amount of time I seem to feel less bothered by certain people, situations and stressors.

Like you, when meltdowns do occur, it's like I've just been hit by a tsunami and I go from being my usual mostly placid self to, I guess, the HULK too.

There was one time about a year ago, there was a member of staff in a store behaving in an intimidating and aggressive way towards me for maybe 10 minutes. I already find shopping quite stressful due to the crowds and noises and the fluorescent lighting I've realised seems to put me on edge. So when you get staff treating you that way it can be the straw that breaks the camels back.

I know it's easy to say, but trying to find a way to recognise that a meltdown is on the way is probably the first step to controlling them. In the example I gave about the store, I realised what was happening and decided to leave before I turned up in a YouTube video with the description "OMG Crazy Karen Loses it in Tesco's".

It always seems to be that "final straw" situation for me. So I try to keep track of how many straws I've had to deal with and if I feel like it's a few too many, I might not decide to go out shopping if I can avoid it.

Maybe it's just that I'm getting older, but I seem to be getting a handle on them. And there certainly does seem to be something cathartic after a meltdown. I know that I've usually felt much more peaceful afterwards, if a little ashamed.

I used to find letting loose on a heavy bag (big heavy punch bag) was a good way to unburden some stress but my joint pain doesn't really permit that. Also making sure you have time to focus on your interests might help you from accumulating too many "straws". I definitely feel a lot more like myself when I can focus on my special interests.

Also never shopping in Tesco's again makes me feel better. I know my lack of custom won't bring them down but Amazon surely will eventually ;)
It sounds like it. What makes me particularly suspicious in your description is the repetitive character of what you do during a meltdown (pacing, self-talk). Non-autistic people have meltdowns too, if things just get too much, but I have the impression that the things they do - or more, what we do - during it are a bit different.

But also everyone on the spectrum is different. I have meltdowns, but they seem less intense than what you describe, involving crying, snapping at people, not being in control of my emotional responses anymore. But then, I have them about once or twice per week, depending on what I do. The end-stage, full-blown meltdown or shutdown usually only lasts a few minutes to maybe half an hour, tops. I usually recover quite quickly, but also usually feel way calmer and somewhat at peace afterwards.
My partner, on the other hand, who we are sure is also on the spectrum, basically never has meltdowns - at least not in the last 6 years when I knew him. He says to be more in a constant state of overstimulation from the city we live in, people and everything, but it comes less in peaks. While for me, it seems like I have phases where I'm fine and really enjoy myself in company or during a loud concert if I chose to go, but have more frequent phases where it gets too much.
It sounds like something similar to me. A lot of people get meltdowns, tantrums, rage attacks, intense frustration.... The terminology gets confusing because "meltdown" tends to be reserved for ASD, with the idea that is a reaction to over-stimulation. If you have ASD, then I would label those things as meltdowns. But they also sound like a reaction to frustration rather than over-stimulation.

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