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General H/A for asperger's (?)

TB1TB1 Registered User new member
edited October 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
Well, I recently moved out of my parent's house to go to college in a different city, and I realized how much "weirder" I am than most people here. It made me think about my past experiences in elementary/jr high/high school and I came to the conclusion that I have some kind of social phobia. I went to my university's counseling web site where they link to a few self-help sites about suicide, alcohol/drug abuse, stress, etc. and I found a link to this.

http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/3529.html

This seems pretty much exactly what I'm "going through" so to speak. Specifically:

* Difficulty forming friendships.
I haven't made a single friend at college yet, and my past friendships have always been formed by making friends with 1 person (usually someone like me, someone kind of "weird") and then hanging out with him and his friends. Never had a girlfriend, or a friend that was a girl. Large/noisy gatherings, like parties, make me extremely uncomfortable.

* Difficulty maintaining normal conversations, especially because of poor listening skills.
I'm absolutely horrible at conversations. My attempts at conversation go something like this:
Me: "Hey, my name is ___"
Him: "I'm ____. What are you majoring in?"
Me: "______. What about you?"
Him: "_________."
Me: "Uh, cool... ... ... ..."

Every attempt of me trying to talk to someone often has me repeating over and over what I say because people can't understand me, either because I'm too quiet and I can't tell or because I stutter all of my words.

Another part of it is I don't know where to look when I'm talking with someone. I can't look at someone's eyes for more than a second or two before I have this compulsion to look away at something else, even just the wall.

I guess I don't really know how to do small talk/conversation.

* Difficulty reading body language, for example recognizing that a frown indicates displeasure.
* Sensitivity to criticism.
* Poor physical coordination or clumsiness.

I can't play any kind of sport to save my life. I enjoy running/biking though.

* Fixation with certain topics, extensive knowledge about a certain field.
* Average or above average intelligence.
* Excellent rote memory.

I had to look this up, pretty sure it applies.

* Large vocabulary at an early age but difficulty with practical use of language in communication.
I remember some test I took in the 3rd grade that said I had the vocabulary of a "13th grader" (Freshman in college). Again, not very good at communicating outside of text.

I don't think I have any rituals or strict schedules, so maybe that's some hope that I don't have Asperger's. I don't really know. I've scheduled an appointment to talk to a Psychiatrist at the counciling center at the university to get a qualified opinion. My appointment is in about 2 weeks.



TLDR: So, after my long-winded and boring post, is there any general H/A anyone can give to me? Know anyone with asperger's or a similar disorder? Dealing with it yourself? Advice for my psychological counciling? Tell me. Thanks.

TB1 on

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    mooshoeporkmooshoepork Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You should get diagnosed before you jump to any conclusions. Take it from there. That should be the first step.

    mooshoepork on
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Since you have an appointment, my advise is to not dwell on it and set aside what you've read already. Self-diagnosis is a very tricky business, doubly so with anything mental. There's always a tendency to try to "fit" symptoms to yourself.

    The DSM-IV and ICD-10 are expansive and complex bits of literature covering several hundred disorders, many of which are just starting points for diagnosis, and the entire work comes with the disclaimer that there aren't distinct boundaries for all disorders. Without training, you'll probably get lost or be left with dozens of possibilities fitting your symptoms.

    Set aside your worries for now, and let the professional figure things out. Don't offer a pre-diagnosis when you go in. Ideally doing so won't have any effect on the process, but for many professionals in many fields this is a pet peeve. I work on computers and my immediate impulse is to check everything BUT what the person thinks it is. Most of the time, people think it's something they've heard of somewhere, which might be similar, but is in fact quite unlikely to be at fault. The same applies to self-diagnosis.

    You might be right, and the psychiatrist will waste a good bit of time figuring that out for himself. But you also might be wrong, perhaps very wrong. It could be something more or less severe, or even not a disorder at all and can be conquered by simple counseling or social exercises.

    Hevach on
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    stawkstawk Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    TB1 wrote: »
    * Difficulty reading body language, for example recognizing that a frown indicates displeasure.
    * Sensitivity to criticism.
    * Poor physical coordination or clumsiness.

    I think allot of people fall into this category


    TB1 wrote: »
    * Fixation with certain topics, extensive knowledge about a certain field.
    * Average or above average intelligence.
    * Excellent rote memory.

    You mean you like things, have an average (possibly above average) and know your numbers and alphabet well?

    Honestly being socially awkward does not mean you have aspergers. When people see a list of symptoms to something they have a tendency to assume that they show every symptom. I have the same social life as you, go to college all the friends i have i have met because other friends have introduced me, have trouble maintaining conversations, and guess what.... I don't have aspergers im just socially awkward. Personally i think that aspergers is a BS diagnosis, its autism without most of the drawback and all of the benefits.

    TLDR: 99.9% chance you dont have aspergers or you would have been diagnosed by now.

    Edit: Im a psych major and having taken class on specific disorders and if i believed what they said i would be a depressed paranoid obsessive Compulsive guy with high anxiety and fear of social interaction (as well as spiders and the dark)

    stawk on

    stawk.jpg
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    TrowizillaTrowizilla Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You may very well have Asperger's, or you may just have social problems without a specific diagnosis. Either way, it sounds like you could use some help learning to converse and relate to other people. Your university's counselling center will be able to help with that, so stick with it.

    It sounds like you have the beginnings of a decent conversation, just not the continuation. After you ask someone about their major, follow up with "Oh, do you like it?" or "How'd you get into that?" If you know any professors that they might have had, you can bring those up: "Have you taken a Smith class? I hear his labs are really cool," that kind of thing. Look for topics you can segue into. You've got a boost because you'll be mostly talking to college students, so you've already got tons in common: classes, professors, the terrible food at the cafeteria, the lack of parking spots, etc.. If you join a club, you'll have even more stuff automatically in common. It's safe to assume that everyone at the Anime Club enjoys anime, or everyone working for the school newspaper has at least a passing interest in journalism (and a major interest in getting the damn paper out on time, but I digress.)

    I have problems with being too quiet, too. Try to make it a rule that if someone asks you to repeat yourself, turn up the volume at least a couple of notches. It takes a bit of getting used to because you'll sound loud inside your head, but other people will be able to hear you much better.

    Oh, and don't be afraid to talk to girls. We're just people too, and some of us are shy and awkward and nerdy.

    Trowizilla on
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    CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You are probably just shy and nerdy. The key is to practice. University is a great place for this. Unlike in High School you are not trapped in with these people, so feel free to make mistakes. There should be lots of societies for you to join to practice hanging out with like-minded people. If you join a club, conversations are easier than with just random people because you have an interest in common. I recommend the roleplaying society if you have one at your uni, it did wonders for my social skills. There will probably be other nerdy societies like Sci-Fi or gaming as well.

    CelestialBadger on
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    oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Well, you're psychiatrist will be able to diagnose you definitevely, so I would avoid trying to make judgements for yourself before then. I'm not doctor, but my general impression is that people with asperger's usually aren't aware enough to realize they have asperger's.

    oldsak on
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    XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Asperger's in its milder forms is really nothing more than a label for certain personality traits, so there's not much of a dividing line between that and just being socially awkward.
    Definitely see someone rather than self-diagnosing, but it's best to be aware how blurry the definitions can get, too.

    Xagarath on
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    Drew_9999Drew_9999 Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I think others here are on the right track. Social skills can be learned. They must be learned, in fact. When you see people that can easily start a conversation, that's because they do it all the time and they are skilled at it.

    About speaking too softly, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You are not nearly as loud as you think you are. Speak from your diaphragm. Push the words out with your gut and project your voice. You know how when you yell, you use a totally different set of muscles? Those are the ones you should be using. It will be weird at first because you'll feel loud, but also because people will stop straining to hear you and asking you to repeat yourself.

    It sounds like you know how to start a conversation. Do you know how to end one? Short conversations are fine, and a graceful exit helps both parties. The conversation you posted is almost complete...

    Me: "Hey, my name is ___"
    Him: "I'm ____. What are you majoring in?"
    Me: "______. What about you?"
    Him: "_________."
    Me: "Uh, cool... ... ... ... (Here you add some commentary and a follow up question, as Trowzilla stated.)
    Him: "It kind of sucks, I think I'm going change to ______."
    Me: "That might be cool, you get to _______ and make a lot of money. Hey, I am going to get another drink/see someone I know, excuse me/am going to head over there where there are more women/am going to get another drink, would you like one?"

    So, enter a party, go through that with 5 people, and hey, lookie there, you're mingling. Just keep talking to people, and you'll develop a number of leading questions to ask people that will provoke longer responses. And don't forget to talk about yourself. People that talk about only themselves are annoying, but if all you do is ask questions, it comes off as more of an interrogation than a conversation.

    Drew_9999 on
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    SarcastroSarcastro Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I highly doubt you have Asperger's. Mostly because your post clearly indicates you have a solid working model of relationships and personal communication, and understand the importance of social skills within the context of everyday life.

    Also, it's well written. If you actually had Aspergers/autism, your social model would have been... well, insane really.

    To give an example, you might have brought up a chart correlating the number and density of brightly colored shirts within a given social gathering, and positive or negative social responses to preformed questions relating to the proximity of brightly colored shirts to you, and then cross-referenced that data to alternate findings when you yourself had worn a brightly colored shirt.

    This is the sort of thinking one has when one has a complete lack of empathy or the inability to project an internal emotional model into other people. I don't think you're that far gone. Mostly shy and nervous with a dash of awkward on the side. Social skills are exactly that, skills. Practice makes better, perfect is unlikely.

    Sarcastro on
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    EndomaticEndomatic Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    My advice is to try and stay away from thoughts that might convince you to think that you may have asperger's.

    I think a lot of people will research a problem they think they might have and then fill in some of the blanks that they aren't experiencing just so that they can "know" what's wrong, and deal with it.
    I do it, and it's because I want to be able to put a name to what I'm experiencing, and it's really just misleading myself (potentially).

    So make sure you only focus on what symptoms you feel, not what's typical for X condition.

    See a doc.

    Endomatic on
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    DrFrylockDrFrylock Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Because there are so many socially-awkward nerds on the Internet, self-diagnosed Asperger's has become a running meme/joke. Don't be one of those people; see a doctor if you're concerned and find out one way or the other.

    Autism is a spectrum disorder, and Asperger's is part of that spectrum. As a spectrum disorder, there are mild forms and more serious ones. I have known plenty of socially-awkward people and two people that I'm 99.9% sure had Asperger's (a roommate and a co-worker). There is a substantive difference, and Asperger's is not a BS diagnosis. I've seen the ritual behaviors and experienced what it means for someone to really be unable to read a social situation or be able to intuit what other people are feeling. Unfortunately, neither my roommate nor my co-worker ever talked to me about it (or even admitted it), and neither did their friends or family.

    Because we never talked about it, I never understood really how to live or work with them in a way that they were maximally comfortable, and so there was a heap of frustration as I tried to figure out what the boundaries were through trial and error. If my roommate had just said, "hey, it's not something I can really control, but I nearly have a panic attack every time you open the window, so can you just spot me that one?" it would have been fine. Never happened. With my co-worker, after a couple weeks of working together I realized what was going on and adjusted my behavior appropriately. He had another guy he was working with who never figured it out, and that guy was constantly trying to engage or "fix" the problem, like his problem was just that he didn't play with the other children enough as a child. This ended up causing a lot of antagonism and frustration on both sides.

    For someone that is just awkward, practicing in different social situations will likely be very helpful because that person has the brain-wiring that allows them to understand and process what's going on. For someone with Asperger's, I'm guessing the learning process has to be different. The wiring that lets you, for example, look at someone else's face and figure out how they might be feeling (happy? engaged? uncomfortable? OMG get me out of here?) may not be working right.

    This isn't to say that these folks can't learn to compensate in some other way. The brain is wonderfully plastic. Due to an eye condition when I was young, I don't have stereoscopic vision. This isn't uncommon. However, I can live a mostly normal life because my brain just uses alternate cues like the parallax effect and lighting differences and mental models of space to compensate. I'm not sure to what extent someone without the ability to read emotions inherently can learn it through other, perhaps more effortful, mechanisms, but a doctor should be able to help explain some strategies that work for people that DO have Asperger's.

    DrFrylock on
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    TB1TB1 Registered User new member
    edited October 2008
    Thanks guys, I appreciate the advice. Yeah, I don't have crazy rituals or ever get panic attacks, that's true. And those are probably what separates asperger's from just being socially awkward, right?

    It does make sense to me that self-diagnosis would be highly inaccurate. I'll wait to see what the doc says. Thanks again :)

    TB1 on
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    DrFrylockDrFrylock Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    TB1 wrote: »
    Thanks guys, I appreciate the advice. Yeah, I don't have crazy rituals or ever get panic attacks, that's true. And those are probably what separates asperger's from just being socially awkward, right?

    Sorry, those are just indicators. Remember: spectrum. disorder. Personally, I think that the defining characteristic is the difficulty or inability to read moods and empathize with other people, but I'm not the right kind of doctor to make a diagnosis.

    DrFrylock on
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    SpongeCakeSpongeCake Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Self diagnosis is more dangerous than a lot of people realise. As soon as you attach the label to yourself you start to unintentionally act up to it and can end up screwing yourself up even more.
    If you think you have a problem get a professional diagnosis before you start thinking of yourself as someone with Asperger's; I can't stress that enough.

    SpongeCake on
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    ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Xagarath wrote: »
    Asperger's in its milder forms is really nothing more than a label for certain personality traits, so there's not much of a dividing line between that and just being socially awkward.
    Definitely see someone rather than self-diagnosing, but it's best to be aware how blurry the definitions can get, too.

    Yea, for a couple months my dad seemed to believe I had Asperger's, simply on the basis of me being a non-social geek. Pretty sure people with actual Asperger's have a lot more trouble working in society.

    Scooter on
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