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My story - How I overcame most of my autism symptoms

Discussion in 'General Autism Discussion' started by Matthias, Jun 6, 2020.

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  1. Matthias

    Matthias Well-Known Member

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    When I first signed up, people requested that I explain the story behind my username and claims I made about autism. Here it is:

    I was born with autistic traits. I’ve always had a slow processing speed and nonverbal impairments that made me socially awkward and made it harder to understand people, fit in, and make friends. I consider the above problems to constitute the core symptoms of autism and believe all of them are genetic.

    However, I attribute most of the problems I had that are part of the DSM-V criteria for autism to believing I was fundamentally different than other people. When I was a child, I felt I couldn’t understand people, fit in, or belong because I was different and born that way which caused me to avoid social interactions and not be interested in my peers. I repeated phrases (echolalia) because I was afraid to use my own speech because I feared other people would judge me for being different. When other people told me I was weird, it reinforced that belief and made me feel more alone. To cope with feeling like I didn’t belong, I created a world of my own inside my mind and lived in my head so I could avoid emotional distress caused by negative social interactions. It's hard to know what emotions I experienced because I had alexithymia (inability to identify and describe my own emotions) which was probably caused by suppressing and avoiding the many negative emotions I experienced in the real world. The internal stress caused by my belief that I was different and the problems it caused made social interaction overstimulating. I insisted on sameness and inflexibility adhered to routines as a way of coping with stress in a world I found confusing and hard to understand. I got extremely distressed at small changes and relied on rigid thinking patterns to help make the world seem simpler and easier to understand. The depression I felt from feeling alone caused me to have few interests. Since I didn’t have any friends or fit in anywhere, I devoted an excessive amount of time to the few interests I had.

    When I later noticed that I felt better when people were nice to me and that people who had friends seemed happier, I started to want to have friends. However, my belief that I was different made me very cautious around other people. I didn’t initiate conversations because I couldn’t think of anything to say (my peers weren’t interested in computer programming and I didn’t have any other interests due to being depressed). Since I wasn’t aware that depression was the cause, I attributed not being able to think of anything to say as more evidence that I was different and born that way. When other people initiated conversations, I said little because I feared they’d find out I was different and wouldn’t like me because of it. My belief that I needed to diligently hide, or mask, my differences to avoid being judged and rejected was stressful and made social interaction overwhelming. My belief that other people were different than me made me anxious, suspicious, distrustful and fearful that something bad would happen if I said or did something wrong which impaired my ability to develop, maintain, and understand relationships. The chronic stress I experienced made me much less sensitive to pain and also caused me to have digestive problems and trouble sleeping.

    After I learned about unhelpful thinking patterns while studying CBT to treat depression, I realized I was engaging in mental filter (focusing on the negative and avoiding the positive) to protect myself from being harmed. I realized I magnified my problems, thinking they were much worse than they really were so I could remain vigilant to prevent something bad happening to me if I offended someone or said the wrong thing. Most importantly, I learned that my belief that I was fundamentally different was the result of a cognitive distortion called black and white thinking (putting people into two rigid categories, different/autistic and normal/neurotypical). By focusing so much on social difficulties, I failed to consider that everyone else had weaknesses and flaws too. Sure, there are differences between autistics and non-autistics but that’s also true of bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and every other condition. Everyone has things about themselves that make them unique or different than other people but none of those things make anyone fundamentally different than other people. We’re all human beings with similar wants and needs, we all have flaws and weaknesses we often try to hide, and we all have odd traits and other quirks that make us unique individuals.

    I used to blame autism and other people’s response to it for causing me to be depressed, have anxiety, and not understand people very well. I now know it was my own belief that I was fundamentally different than other people that caused those problems (along with all of the other coping mechanisms I used to deal with problems caused by that belief). I now know my brain wasn’t wired differently, like I thought. Instead, the stress that resulted from thinking I was different than other people and the ways I coped with it altered how my brain worked which made it difficult to understand other people. After addressing the cause of my problems instead of avoiding or coping with them, my alexithymia went away and tests show I now have above average emotional intelligence (which is amazing considering I was well below average my entire life until recently).

    That maladaptive and distorted belief that I was fundamentally different than other people caused me more problems than all of the genetic symptoms of autism combined. I still have the same core autistic traits that everyone with autism has but no longer have deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships nor do I have any of the restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior listed in the DSM-V other than adverse responses to clothing and being more sensitive to sound. I’m not depressed, don’t have much anxiety, have very little stress, and understand people very well (Although, since part of the reason I didn’t understand people very well was due to a lack of experience in social situations, I didn’t instantaneously understand people perfectly but I was able to learn things much more easily by socializing just like most people).

    The best part of acknowledging and correcting my distorted beliefs is that I can finally be myself. I no longer have to hide, or mask, anything. Social interaction that was stressful, overstimulating, and overwhelming in the past is now much easier and natural. I feel much better since people like me more and they like my true self and not the normal person I pretended to be in the past.

    Resources I recommend are:
    15 Common Cognitive Distortions
    10 Proven Methods for Fixing Cognitive Distortions & Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts
     
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  2. Sarah S

    Sarah S Well-Known Member

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    MOST informative i have say (two thumbs up ) and im happy that you find away to adapt and cope with youre different iccues :)
     
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  3. WoodWorkingJoel

    WoodWorkingJoel Active Member

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    Great Post, nice to see when someone doesn't take the diagnosis and give up or use it as an excuse to not even try.off now to check out that link.
    Thanks
     
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  4. menander

    menander Well-Known Member

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    Society can eat people alive. Then they name it. There are so many who were smashed systematically as we see know protests over. Then they say they are suffering from mental illness. The homeless are considered mentally ill first, but papers show once they are treated like human beings who have the same needs as other human being and are given food, sleep, water, decent toilet access.....oh, they get better. Dehumanization ruins people and how ever they act, it's labeled.
     
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  5. SkyForever

    SkyForever Active Member

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    I'm really happy that this worked for you and grateful to you for sharing it with us :) I'm going to try the same!
     
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  6. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    Then why do you say you are formerly autistic?

    It sounds like you were defining "autistic" as an anxious, OCD person terrified to socialize, but a lot of autistic people have rich, fulfilling social lives, have developed advanced emotional intelligence, and don't have much anxiety or depression. I've known autistic people similar to that description, but they were still autistic.
     
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  7. Rasputin

    Rasputin ASD / Aspie V.I.P Member

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    How one views himself/herself is important in learning to cope with issues such as anxiety and depression. I can't say I am fond of the Autism label either; I am what I am though. I can say that I have never thought of myself as disabled, and I have learned to cope with every major issue I have faced associated with autism. The bottom line is that if these strategies worked for you, it is a success story.
     
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  8. Kalinychta

    Kalinychta Well-Known Member

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    Many autistic people are misdiagnosed with personality disorders, so it sounds like perhaps it was the other way around for you? Although as @Fino points out, you say you overcame autistic symptoms which were actually the result of social difficulties and depression but at the same time you say you still have autistic traits. So that’s a bit confusing.

    Also, it sounds like you didn’t overcome autism; rather, you overcame anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Those things are NOT autistic traits; it’s just that many of us develop them for the reasons you describe in your post. So I’d say, you overcame mental health issues, not autism. The latter is wired into our brains and can’t be overcome. We can only learn how to work around them, such as with CBT like you did.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
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  9. Matthias

    Matthias Well-Known Member

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    I thought I no longer met the DSM-V criteria for ASD due to no longer having:
    Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships
    Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior (I still have 1 of 4 but DSM-V says 2 are required)

    When I checked again I noticed it said "currently or by history" so I still meet those requirements. However, I no longer meet requirement D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or
    other important areas of current functioning. I still have impairments but I don't think they are clinically significant.

    I used DSM-V criteria. What makes those people still autistic?
     
  10. Matthias

    Matthias Well-Known Member

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    All of the symptoms I mentioned in my post are included in the DSM-V as symptoms of autism. I agree with you they are mostly caused by anxiety and not genetics.

    If someone is born with autistic traits but doesn't have trouble fitting in and making friends then psychologists would say they don't have a disorder and dismiss their autistic traits as a normal human variation.

    If that same person were born somewhere else and was depressed (resulting in social withdraw) and anxious (causing repetitive behaviors) because he couldn't fit in and felt like he didn't belong anywhere, then psychologists would consider him to have a disorder.

    What that means is the DSM-V criteria doesn't include everyone with autistic traits. It defines ASD in a way that only includes people with autistic traits who have psychological problems.

    I think it's important that people know those additional symptoms aren't genetic and can be overcome allowing people diagnosed with ASD to end up just like people born with autistic traits who never developed any psychological symptoms.
     
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  11. Kalinychta

    Kalinychta Well-Known Member

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    Right, but you said you were born with autistic traits and then you said that most of the traits listed in the DSM were the result of emotional distress caused by not fitting in and feeling alienated. Being born with a slow processing speed and nonverbal impairments doesn’t make you autistic, and if the other symptoms in the DSM were the result of emotional distress caused by not fitting in, then I would definitely have to say that you were never autistic, especially if CBT eliminated the symptoms (except the slow processing speed and nonverbal communication problems).

    This actually just demonstrates how most doctors and psychologists don’t know the first thing about autism, as so many of us have experienced firsthand.
    Sensual sensitivities, repetition and stimming, fixated interests, deficits in empathy, executive disfunction - these aren’t psychological problems, they’re neurological.

    That’s just not true, though. If you’re born with autism, you will always be autistic. Always. Your autistic traits will never leave you. The best you can do is learn to work around them, but they will always be there no matter how much CBT you undergo.
     
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  12. Kalinychta

    Kalinychta Well-Known Member

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    I’m not trying to rag on your story, by the way. I enjoyed reading it.
     
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  13. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    According to "The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome," approximately 10% of people with autism eventually stop meeting all the required criteria for a diagnosis.

    And what makes those people still autistic is their brains.
     
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  14. Ezra

    Ezra Relax, it's just chaos.

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    You fixed some psychological issues with CBT. I had CBT years ago for self harm issues and I am able to apply it these days regarding things like anxiety. But it did not change my neurology any. I still have moderate to severe autism. CBT skills just help me deal with it better.
     
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  15. Matthias

    Matthias Well-Known Member

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    I used to think every symptom of autism was genetic. When a non-autistic person is distressed at small changes or insists on sameness, doctors will diagnose it as anxiety and treat with CBT but when an autistic person has those same symptoms some doctors will attribute it to autism and say it can't be treated because autism is genetic. I suffered needlessly of treatable anxiety because it was attributed to autism and considered genetic. I hope my story will help some people see it's not all genetic.

    According to Kalinychta in post #11 those people were never autistic. It seems even people on this forum think everything is genetic and can't be overcome.

    I mean what specifically is different between them and those born with autistic traits who never met the criteria for autism.
     
  16. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    This paragraph makes me think you were never really autistic. Maybe it's just me. I don't know if anyone else will agree with me, but this is how it seems. What's off to me is:

    You give causes for all of your behavior.

    You said you felt different so you avoided social interactions, but I avoid social interactions because social interactions don't interest me. Which of these is autistic?

    You said you engaged in echolalia because you feared judgement. I do it because an irrepressible urge swells up inside me.

    You said you created a world in your head to avoid negative feelings from social interactions, but I believe autistic people do it because that's what comes naturally to them.

    You insisted on sameness and routines to cope with stress. I do it because I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

    You got distressed at small changes and had rigid thinking patterns to make the world simpler. I do this because that's the way I am and how I think.

    You had coping mechanisms, not autism.
     
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  17. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    The DSM criteria is not God. If you don't make the cut, that doesn't automatically mean you're not autistic.

    And the specific difference between them can't be stated. I don't know if the people born with autistic traits who never met the criteria are autistic or not. I don't know if someone is autistic. Typically only the people themselves know. Of course, anyone can decide they are no longer autistic. That's fine. But then it'd be quite odd to frequent an Autism forum.
     
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  18. Ezra

    Ezra Relax, it's just chaos.

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    Something based on self analysis does not really count for much. One can say becoming religious fixed their autism and I bet many have. One fellow on another autism site says giving himself probiotic enemas did the trick. I think in all these cases, whatever was applied, simply made the person feel better and cope better.
     
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  19. Matthias

    Matthias Well-Known Member

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    Every behavior has a cause. No one behaves the way they do for no reason or because genes made them act that way. People may not be aware of why they act the way they do but there is always a reason for it.

    I also avoided social interactions because they didn't interest me. Yet there is always a reason for it. Why didn't they interest you?

    In my case, I attribute it to depression that I believe started when I was a baby. I think I became depressed because I felt I didn't fit in or belong when I was 1 or 2 years old since I've felt that way as long as I can remember.

    This starts when a person is less than 2 years old. I wasn't even aware I was living in my own world until last year so you could say it came naturally to me. It wasn't until after I overcame my problems that I became aware of what caused them.

    Our thinking patterns start at a very young age before we can remember and they aren't genetic. They are formed based on our reaction to early life experiences. I would have said the same thing as you last year.
     
  20. Matthias

    Matthias Well-Known Member

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    I agree.

    I also used CBT years ago and it didn't make me less autistic because it didn't address the thought patterns that caused my autism symptoms (I hope to make another post in a few days explaining it). Of course it won't change neurology. A point I want to make it that just because autism is genetic doesn't mean every symptoms listed in the DSM-5 as part of the criteria for autism is genetic. Some of those symptoms are also listed under anxiety disorders that CBT has been proven to cure and autistics have successfully treated them the same way non-autistics have.
     
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