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      Depression, Mental Health and Crisis Support   06/04/2017

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Sally44

Can you 'feel' and 'recognise' your emotions?

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Sally44   

My ten year old son has been doing some work with CAHMS and Clinical Psychology around 'emotions' and 'feelings', and it has become very clear over the last 4 months that he does not really 'feel' his emotions and isn't able to label them at all.

 

Whatever his 'emotional state' he is unable to say how that might 'feel', or what his face may look like expression wise etc.

 

Today, when asked about things that made him happy and talking about them and asked how he 'felt', he replied 'I don't have a happy feeling inside me'.

 

So, I'm wondering. Do any of the adults on the forum struggle to 'feel' or understand their own emotional response to things, events or situations? And I am also wondering if the higher the demands of sensory processing, cognitive load and language etc makes it harder and harder to 'function' in this way, whereas in a calm 1:1 setting the child/adult maybe much more able to keep everything integrated more and might be more able to 'feel' and label their emotions?

Edited by Sally44

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bid   

For me, it's more that it can take me quite a time to identify the emotion. If I'm suddenly put in an emotional situation, I either don't feel anything at first, or I know I feel agitated, but can't identify whether that's fear, anger, whatever.

 

It can take a few days to work out what I feel.

 

But of course I experience all the 'normal' emotions, it's more needing processing time to identify them.

 

My son had help at his special school when they realsied he couldn't identify his emotions...they worked on cuing into how he was feeling physically (e.g. hot and fists balled = anger, etc, etc).

 

HTH

 

Bid :)

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GaryS   

Google "Mirror Neurones" with and without "Ramachandran" and there are some fascinating insights as to perhaps why ASD don't seem to be able to process emotions the same as NT's

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Gordie   

Hallelujah ... FINALLY someone else in my boat, who struggles to feel emotions.

 

This never used to be an issue for me as a child, but I'd say my emotional peak was at around the age of 16. If only I knew then that I'd only feel emotions for a limited period. :unsure: I later suffered from depression while at university (aged 18 and beyond), but this was also when my emotions, both positive and negative, started to fade, slowly but surely. And, now I'm 30, a situation has to be pretty extreme for me to feel anything now. It's a pretty sad existence I live these days. :(

 

I'd gladly take back the negative stuff, maybe even depression, to have positive emotions back again. Now I don't feel worry, anger, depression; spiders don't even scare me the way they used to(!) ... all great, you might think, but I also don't feel motivated, excited, passionate, enthusiastic, and I can't love any more either - I can forget about holding down a relationship with a girl in the future - that's all in the past for me now. I have no ambition in life, no desire to better myself. I'm just an inhuman zombie.

 

It's not a case of being unable to label or identify my emotions. I just don't feel them.

 

A good example of this was when I was doing a bungy jump on New Zealand last year. Normally, I expect I'd be scared witless at the prospect of jumping off a bridge with only a rope around my ankles to restrain me. But instead, I felt nothing until I was literally on the edge of the plank, about to jump - then it was finally extreme enough for me to feel the fear. But I still jumped right on the '3' of the count to 3, so it can't have affected me that much.

 

I've always thought this was more than just Asperger's, as most of the Aspies I know still feel a full range of emotions, just like I did half a lifetime ago. But, despite the unfortunate circumstances, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one in this particular boat.

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Sally44   

It must be a very confusing place to be in.

Gordie do you demonstrate any emotions, or are your behaviours also quite 'flat'?

 

I'm just trying to get some kind of understanding for what my son feels (or doesn't feel).

 

He can demonstrate emotions sometimes - but he has to think about the facial expression and body posture that goes with it - so it is more like a cartoon character reaction rather than a 'typical' reaction. So often that is misread by people as teasing or humour.

 

At other times he needs the time that Bid talks about to process something. Often things are very disjointed and fragmented and the information is just not there, or he gets the experience of the situation but not the sensation.

 

I think, and wonder, to what extent this affects his difficulties around making choices. Because we all make our decisions based on predicting our feelings and emotions at the outcome. If you cannot do that it makes things very hard.

 

My son finds it very hard to talk about things that make him happy. He has said that he does not think he has a happy feeling inside him. But later on he maybe laughing at something on TV. I can't understand why he cannot tie together the "laughing" with the good sensation he feels inside. In some way he seems totally unaware of internal feelings, and also internal bodily sensations like hungry/thirsty/needing the loo/hot/cold etc can all be "off-line" at times.

 

If I talk about situations to my son eg. how do you think you would feel if x, y or z happened. Then he might get the answer right, or give an appropriate response, or I suppose he does equally get it wrong. But what he seems to be missing is what it feels like within yourself rather than working it out in your head.

 

Yet at the other extreme he can get very emotionally attached to what I would call bits of rubbish and he will get into a very tearful state if he thinks I am going to throw them away.

 

He's also getting into obsessions now as well. He has said himself that his brain keeps getting "distracted" onto things he likes/wants. And he himself is not happy about this.

Edited by Sally44

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Me personally i feel like i can recgonise my emotions alot more than a few years ago, maybe just as i've got older.. I feel emotion because i'm frustrated but determined to try to turn my life around and get a new job/life basically and i know i have to try real hard now.

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bid   

It must be a very confusing place to be in.

Gordie do you demonstrate any emotions, or are your behaviours also quite 'flat'?

 

I'm just trying to get some kind of understanding for what my son feels (or doesn't feel).

 

He can demonstrate emotions sometimes - but he has to think about the facial expression and body posture that goes with it - so it is more like a cartoon character reaction rather than a 'typical' reaction. So often that is misread by people as teasing or humour.

 

At other times he needs the time that Bid talks about to process something. Often things are very disjointed and fragmented and the information is just not there, or he gets the experience of the situation but not the sensation.

 

I think, and wonder, to what extent this affects his difficulties around making choices. Because we all make our decisions based on predicting our feelings and emotions at the outcome. If you cannot do that it makes things very hard.

 

My son finds it very hard to talk about things that make him happy. He has said that he does not think he has a happy feeling inside him. But later on he maybe laughing at something on TV. I can't understand why he cannot tie together the "laughing" with the good sensation he feels inside. In some way he seems totally unaware of internal feelings, and also internal bodily sensations like hungry/thirsty/needing the loo/hot/cold etc can all be "off-line" at times.

 

If I talk about situations to my son eg. how do you think you would feel if x, y or z happened. Then he might get the answer right, or give an appropriate response, or I suppose he does equally get it wrong. But what he seems to be missing is what it feels like within yourself rather than working it out in your head.

 

Yet at the other extreme he can get very emotionally attached to what I would call bits of rubbish and he will get into a very tearful state if he thinks I am going to throw them away.

 

He's also getting into obsessions now as well. He has said himself that his brain keeps getting "distracted" onto things he likes/wants. And he himself is not happy about this.

 

Sally, I think the answer to your questions is basically 'autism' >:D<<'>

 

My DH says I intellectualise things in order to try to understand it.

 

Bid >:D<<'>

Edited by bid

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Sally44   

I know that that is the case. But i'm just trying to get some kind of understanding of what the process is, or the lack of process etc. I think I have a glimpse into some of the difficulties.

And the reason I am asking these things is because my son does have tremendous problems in these areas and yet his school have said "he has no emotional literacy difficulties". They don't provide him with a programme because he can label cartoon emotional faces. But that isn't the same thing as being able to understand your own emotions. My son cannot connect this information sometimes at all, or at other times it is delayed and processed later.

And like you say, these difficulties are part of autism, so the school really should have known better.

He doesn't have access to a social use of language group anymore either because whilst in the group he could always answer the questions correctly. But that is not the same as being able to apply those questions/behaviours into the real situation - which he definately cannot do because he does not recognise them as being the same thing. Again, this is typical of being on the spectrum I would have thought.

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GaryS   

This seems to be the biggest problem with professionals understanding HFA. One can intellectualise and perhaps appreciate an inability to read emotions in other people will perhaps automatically introduce a certain amount of inappropriateness in a persons behaviour; but one can never understand how someone "feels" until they have been through the same or very very similar situation. Being able to recognise an emotion through pictures does not mean one can empathise with it.

 

I don't know whether this is "typical" though. I think it may be another "partial" trait with AS/HFA; as with other traits, maybe on this "Autistic continuum" where firstly there is an inability to identify fine differences in emotions, as more "factors" become involved the influence of emotional recognition and empathy gradually moves towards a complete inability to recognise and indeed understand emotion in themselves or others.

Edited by GaryS

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Sally44   

I agree entirely Gary S.

Sometimes I feel the "professionals" I am dealing with have more autistic behaviour (from a non-autistic perspective) than the autistic person themselves. Because they too are blind to many of his difficulties. They make assumptions about him based on what they can or cannot do. And as you also say, their is also often a multi-tasking and multi-sensory integration problem that means what a person is able to do in a 1:1 discreet session does not necessarily transfer into a noisy primary classroom.

I think I get a partial glimpse, and that is all anyone can really claim to have of another's experience, and that is because I have an auditory processing disorder and in certain environments, sensory processing situations, I simply cannot hear conversation or noise as I do at other times. Sometimes I zone out and become completely deaf in exactly the same way that my autistic son does. However I do not have the degree of difficulties and it is not pervasive - I have it in just one area.

But most times my thoughts or opinions are not listened to and I find that so frustrating. Clinical Psychology have now identified that my son has no emotional recognition in himself. Again it isn't as black and white as that, but it has taken them years to finally discover for themselves that what I was saying 3-4 years ago is true.

 

Can I ask another 'related' question.

My son often talks about how his brain gets "distracted" by things. This means he often changes conversations to what has just popped into his mind, and once on a certain thought - which maybe about a series of toys he wants to collect, he can go on and on about it. But recently he has been talking about how he doesn't like this. So it is not a case of him enjoying his obsessions. What he is saying is that he understands that he gets distracted away from other stuff to his obsessions, and he does not like the fact that he cannot control it. Again, is this something quite common - I think it is - but how do you deal with it especially if you begin to feel frustrated with yourself at not being able to stay on topic.

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GaryS   

"I think I get a partial glimpse" - absolutely. Precisely what I'm suggesting where I've said that the "Autism gene" is far more widespread through the population than one may imagine but in the greater part of the "affected" population is by no means pervasive but it doesn't take much more expression of a particular trait to go beyond "glimpse" into experiencing the pervasive nature of the expression.

 

As to your second point from my perspective you are describing the ADD side-effect of the spectrum. I don't think anyone will argue that it is easy to become distracted from a task that you are not particularly interested in by something you are very interested in, as in most "NT" cases it takes will-power and extreme focus to stop yourself from being distracted. You may have see me use the expression "Autistic Selfishness" where autism has the purest form of selfishness in that it is not concious but an self-beneficial subconscious thought. If one can imagine an autistic individual gets more mental "pleasure" from continuing an obsessional thought than returning to the previous thought track and no amount of "will power" (or indeed external instruction) over-rides that impulse - autistic selfishness. In this way, an ADD individual perhaps gets the "pleasure" from continually receiving and then acting on new stimuli, discarding the previous processes thus appearing as a butterfly; add in a over-exuberance which physically takes over, over-expressing mental excitement and you get the Hyperactivity. .... waits to be mauled by BD :)

Edited by GaryS

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bid   

Can I ask another 'related' question.

My son often talks about how his brain gets "distracted" by things. This means he often changes conversations to what has just popped into his mind, and once on a certain thought - which maybe about a series of toys he wants to collect, he can go on and on about it. But recently he has been talking about how he doesn't like this. So it is not a case of him enjoying his obsessions. What he is saying is that he understands that he gets distracted away from other stuff to his obsessions, and he does not like the fact that he cannot control it. Again, is this something quite common - I think it is - but how do you deal with it especially if you begin to feel frustrated with yourself at not being able to stay on topic.

 

Ahh...I still do this, despite years and years of knowing it can be inappropriate, and getting increasingly better at not doing it!

 

It's hard to explain: I think partly there is an element of having to concentrate so much in a social conversation that often I feel I have to get my bit in there before I forget, even if the conversation will have moved on (but my mind hasn't so I can't let go of what I wanted to say), but I still have to say it...and partly when I think something is so interesting or funny that other people must want to know about it!! Also I think because I analyse things so much to myself that sometimes I've just got to get it out! Plus I think not reading the body language so well...although sometimes I can see that the other person has glazed over, I can't stop myself...

 

This is something that has got better as I've got older.

 

Bid :)

Edited by bid

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GaryS   

Interesting... Picked up from yesterday's Independent

 

"Empathy excess, however, is much rarer than empathy deficit. And while people with empathy excess suffer alone, those with empathy deficits cause others to suffer. Or at least some of them do.

 

At zero degrees of empathy are two distinct groups. Baron-Cohen calls them zero-negative and zero-positive. Zero-positives include people with autism or Asperger's syndrome. They have zero empathy but their "systemising" nature means they are drawn to patterns, regularity and consistency. As a result, they are likely to follow rules and regulations – the patterns of civic life.

 

Zero-negatives are the pathological group. These are people with borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. They are capable of inflicting physical and psychological harm on others and are unmoved by the plight of those they hurt. Baron-Cohen says people with these conditions all have one thing in common: zero empathy. "

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Sally44   

I don't think that those on the spectrum have no empathy. What I think they do have is the ability to multi task and multi process information in real time. They may not connect information and often cannot read voice tone, body posture/gestures/facial expressions etc to get information through those sources. So often they are reacting to the limited amount of information they are receiving rather than having no empathy. Often, if the situation is explained to the person, or shown in a different format, the person (with an ASD), will understand to a far greater degree that they demonstrated in the functional setting.

 

And regarding the Nazi's, these people (apart from maybe a few at the top of the regime) systematically dehumanised the people they killed. They weren't born like that, they learnt it as part of the propoganda during those times.

 

To a certain degree all soldiers have to learn that. Otherwise nobody would ever kill anybody and wars would cease. There has to be a dulling or lessening of empathy for you to kill or torture your fellow human.

 

And there is also a 'cut off point'. There is so much stuff in the world that is truely horrendous and upsetting to empathise with it all. We have to limit ourselves to how much horror we digest. A balanced diet and all that (from an emotional point of view). Self preservation etc.

 

Regarding my other query about being distracted. I was trying to get across the fact that my son does not 'enjoy' these distractions. It happens very suddenly, either the current conversation topic reminds him of something and diverts his thoughts, or his thoughts on his current obsessional topic bombard him. He doesn't like it. He wants to gain some control over it and recognises that he struggles to do that. More in the way that Bid described it I suppose.

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GaryS   

I don't agree with some of what SBC is quoted to say in the general press, I've often felt that it has been quoted out of context and over simplified which often perverts meaning so I take the article with a large pinch of salt, particularly when testosterone plays part of the discussion.

 

There is a whole new argument surrounding the zero-negative aspects of his theory which has little relevance to the autistic world I believe. It is clear that there is a large range of empathy expression both within and outside the spectrum, my belief is that they have different psycho-pathology.

 

I understand your son's discomfort with what is essentially a loss of traditional mental focus. I work a lot with an individual who is ADHD and very, very bright - it is usually impossible to complete a discussion on a subject without having to drag them back to the main object of the discussion several times due to these "obsession interrupts". Perhaps some light CBT may help him break down the cause of the "interrupt" or at least recognise and resist the temptation to sidetrack. I think this process is very similar as the young child's "insistence behaviour" when they get a thought in their head and just have to get it out, irrespective of context. Just as we'd advise the child here not to beat themselves up over either losing the thought or changing the thread of conversation, I think you son would feel much more comfortable if he didn't get angry with himself for expressing what he's programmed to do, accepting these thought processes as being part of his personality and why he's loved for them.

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If asked what emotion I feel I don't really give a good answer, just "normal". If I am angry I don't think "Oh dear, I am angry", just that I am feeling negative. It takes a bit of time before I realise it is anger. Unlike others who have replied here it doesn't take too long to recognise. I have not thought about this much.

I do not think I feel as many emotions as others or I just do not correctly identify them.

 

Rather than emotions I think:

Positive

Neutral

Negative

 

If I was laughing at something I would think "positive" and after a while think "that was funny".

 

Empathy (this, I think will make me sound bad and I hate to admit it)

I find it very hard to empathise. If someone has been hurt I do not really think about or care how they're feeling. My mother tripped over the power cord of one laptop which was wrapped around the MacBook Pro I would be inheriting at some time, she was not happy that I started asking how the MacBook was and how she managed to do it. I felt a bit angry at her but I did not feel her feelings or feel sorry for her. She then started going on at how I appear to lack empathy so I tried to sound like I don't by saying "Are you okay?", I think this was a bit too late. She doesn't know about Asperger's, to the extent that when I mentioned it she didn't know what I was on about, I didn't tell her what it was because I didn't want to be questioned. She doesn't know because I have not had a formal diagnosis, I have been told there are advantages but I do not want to ask for one.

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Sally44   

"I think I get a partial glimpse" - absolutely. Precisely what I'm suggesting where I've said that the "Autism gene" is far more widespread through the population than one may imagine but in the greater part of the "affected" population is by no means pervasive but it doesn't take much more expression of a particular trait to go beyond "glimpse" into experiencing the pervasive nature of the expression.

 

As to your second point from my perspective you are describing the ADD side-effect of the spectrum. I don't think anyone will argue that it is easy to become distracted from a task that you are not particularly interested in by something you are very interested in, as in most "NT" cases it takes will-power and extreme focus to stop yourself from being distracted. You may have see me use the expression "Autistic Selfishness" where autism has the purest form of selfishness in that it is not concious but an self-beneficial subconscious thought. If one can imagine an autistic individual gets more mental "pleasure" from continuing an obsessional thought than returning to the previous thought track and no amount of "will power" (or indeed external instruction) over-rides that impulse - autistic selfishness. In this way, an ADD individual perhaps gets the "pleasure" from continually receiving and then acting on new stimuli, discarding the previous processes thus appearing as a butterfly; add in a over-exuberance which physically takes over, over-expressing mental excitement and you get the Hyperactivity. .... waits to be mauled by BD :)

 

 

Yes I can see that. I think Donna Williams has written something along those lines as well. She also talks about the "addictions" and chemical highs that can come from these behaviours and processes as well, and that that becomes the motivator, and like you say nothing is going to divert that person to get that them back onto what the other children are working on.

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Sally44   

If asked what emotion I feel I don't really give a good answer, just "normal". If I am angry I don't think "Oh dear, I am angry", just that I am feeling negative. It takes a bit of time before I realise it is anger. Unlike others who have replied here it doesn't take too long to recognise. I have not thought about this much.

I do not think I feel as many emotions as others or I just do not correctly identify them.

 

Rather than emotions I think:

Positive

Neutral

Negative

 

If I was laughing at something I would think "positive" and after a while think "that was funny".

 

Empathy (this, I think will make me sound bad and I hate to admit it)

I find it very hard to empathise. If someone has been hurt I do not really think about or care how they're feeling. My mother tripped over the power cord of one laptop which was wrapped around the MacBook Pro I would be inheriting at some time, she was not happy that I started asking how the MacBook was and how she managed to do it. I felt a bit angry at her but I did not feel her feelings or feel sorry for her. She then started going on at how I appear to lack empathy so I tried to sound like I don't by saying "Are you okay?", I think this was a bit too late. She doesn't know about Asperger's, to the extent that when I mentioned it she didn't know what I was on about, I didn't tell her what it was because I didn't want to be questioned. She doesn't know because I have not had a formal diagnosis, I have been told there are advantages but I do not want to ask for one.

 

 

I think this again common with those on the spectrum. I presume that like all skills it will range on a spectrum, but that everyone diagnosed must have a significant degree of difficulty in this area to get a diagnosis.

 

I'm sure alot of adults would say that rather than 'feeling' the emotions to empathise, they have to work through the thought processes and say the appropriate thing as a learnt process rather than an automatic felt response. It would be interesting to do some brain scans of NTs and those on the spectrum whilst showing emotionally charged videos to see if the same areas of the brain lit up.

 

As a further diversion, can I ask you if a difficulty with feeling emotions, or a limitation to a more basic emotional vocabularly, has lead to any difficulties with making choices? My hypothesis is that we all make choices on predicting the outcomes and how they will make us feel. If someone does not have emotional literacy and difficulty predicting outcomes, then making choices is surely going to be difficult because they don't know what the end result of the choice you make will be.

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GaryS   

Yes I can see that. I think Donna Williams has written something along those lines as well. She also talks about the "addictions" and chemical highs that can come from these behaviours and processes as well, and that that becomes the motivator, and like you say nothing is going to divert that person to get that them back onto what the other children are working on.

 

 

I haven't read any Donna Williams (something that I will be rectifying, thanks for the introduction) but it is this line of inquiry that I generally pursue as an ex-clinical chemist - looking for biochemical 'reasons' for these processes. If you can suffer the nomenclature, looking at the GABA system in respect to autism is a worthwhile exercise along with phosphodiesterase and inhibitors. I think that these complex neurochemical effects along with the slight differences in both micro and macroscopic neuroanatomy can explain why we see so many observable differences across the spectrum each having similar routes but what on the surface are different but "co-morbid" behaviours.

 

 

 

I think this again common with those on the spectrum. I presume that like all skills it will range on a spectrum, but that everyone diagnosed must have a significant degree of difficulty in this area to get a diagnosis.

 

I'm sure alot of adults would say that rather than 'feeling' the emotions to empathise, they have to work through the thought processes and say the appropriate thing as a learnt process rather than an automatic felt response. It would be interesting to do some brain scans of NTs and those on the spectrum whilst showing emotionally charged videos to see if the same areas of the brain lit up.

 

As a further diversion, can I ask you if a difficulty with feeling emotions, or a limitation to a more basic emotional vocabularly, has lead to any difficulties with making choices? My hypothesis is that we all make choices on predicting the outcomes and how they will make us feel. If someone does not have emotional literacy and difficulty predicting outcomes, then making choices is surely going to be difficult because they don't know what the end result of the choice you make will be.

 

 

I think you're right to a certain extent in saying empathy is an acquired reaction and also think that it can be 'un-acquired' by observing lack of expression. My daughter had what I would consider to be a natural empathy when very young. A consideration to other people and particularly animals seemed to bring on a vary caring behaviour which I can only explain as a natural ability as she was really far to young to be able to express such cognitive behaviour. However, since spending a few years in the big bad world, exposure to school peers who may not have such consideration (for whatever reason) has resulted in a reduction in this instant "empathy", there remains a natural compassion (maybe the right word) but a clear difference in a cognitive consideration.

 

I think there is an increasing problem when regarding brain scans (by which I'm assuming MRI) as some form of Podalirius (a brother of Panacea) for neurological conditions. While I am frequently amazed at this visual representation of thought, I am very skeptical that it can be used reliably in a structure which is so poorly understood. I think there is considerable sense in the recent backlash against the overuse or over-reliance on this technology which may unfortunately be driven by commercial interest over scientific usefulness e.g.Reproducibility of brain scan studies questioned (follow the links mid-article). Diagnostic reproducibility is something that has been central to my professional life for over 30 years, while I don't pretend to understand how these newer instrumentation systems actually work and how they are applied in fine detail, I think I know when a "dog doesn't hunt". :thumbs:

Edited by GaryS

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...As a further diversion, can I ask you if a difficulty with feeling emotions, or a limitation to a more basic emotional vocabularly, has lead to any difficulties with making choices? My hypothesis is that we all make choices on predicting the outcomes and how they will make us feel. If someone does not have emotional literacy and difficulty predicting outcomes, then making choices is surely going to be difficult because they don't know what the end result of the choice you make will be.

 

I do have difficulty making some choices for example, when I go to a friend's house I am asked what I would like to eat and I like the choices equally, I can never choose. Apparently, there is now a commonly used expression when my friend cannot choose and that is "Don't do a Callum". I don't think this is related though.

To be honest I find this question very hard to answer. Choice making is by far not my strongest point I know. In contrast to the point I made earlier, I find some questions related to computing easy, for example I would choose to program a static page in HTML rather than PHP simply because there is no need to use PHP and PHP requires slightly more server side processing (if I were to put it in a giant print) which is negative. Again, I don't think this has anything to do with emotions.

 

Please give an example of a choice that I may have to make and then I can try to answer using that.

 

Actually, I may be able to think of one. "If xxx happened how would you feel?" or "If xxx happened how would that character feel?" (The xxx is meant to symbolise an event). I would answer "sad" or "angry" if xxx were negative or "happy" if it were positive. I just say "yes" if asked "Do you think they would feel yyy if xxx happened?" (yyy being an emotion), all suggestions I receive are correct (the teacher thinks so) when I am asked so that is why I agree. When I am suggested to I then realise that maybe that is correct because it is negative or positive which the emotion suggested is. I answer "yes" before I've even thought about it usually.

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GaryS   

I think this mis-reading of what others want to hear is perhaps the most difficult consequence of Aspie behaviour. While many of those "further down the spectrum" can't understand how to read the situation (or even that there is a situation to be read) so don't read it, this may be more beneficial than mis-reading. In this way the individual can on the one hand be considered weird because they don't respond or even worse, respond incorrectly: both further alienating the individual from social interaction, particularly in the AS case due to their drive to be liked.

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dom   

the more i think about it (in my case -undiagnosed) ..it's like, most of the time rational thought processes take over - unless i'm feeling very relaxed and/or on my own with some "happy / funny" feeling - leaving very little to the emotional intuitive response.

I do feel something but there's a variable time span in which i need to think about it, rationalize it - if i don't, that's when my "quirky odd character" sneaks through. If i do, during the time i need to think about it, it's as if the emotion is lost to some extent.

I reckon I can't have one without the other but it seems to explain things for me: why i'm much better at reading/writing than communicating verbally, why I'm ALWAYS reasoning about situations (which makes me feel cr@p at times even if others say I'm right) ...the list goes on.

Hope this helps somehow.

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Sally44   

All this info and experiences is helping to see how it fits into the bigger picture.

 

I asked about difficulties making choices because when a person makes a choice, they do that from either past experience or by predicting what the experience might be. The "experience" outcome needs to be recognised as being "good" or "bad" to make an informed choice. Sometimes my son cannot do this eg. choosing a certain food by name rather than seeing or smelling it. He might choose something and then find it is not something he wanted or even likes. Or having to choose between two similar things. My son does not seem to be able to work out which choice would please him more - or if he does understand that both would please him to an equal measure, he cannot then make a decision. Often he refuses to make the choice and asks another adult to do it for him.

 

If I ask him if he would like to go swimming his usual response is "maybe" or "I don't know". If I try to help him (which doesn't seem to be any help really), by asking him "do you like swimming", he again cannot answer. If I ask him "how does going to the swimming baths make you feel" he again cannot answer that. And I know my questions are open ended because I am trying to get some kind of descriptive explanation from him.

 

If I said to him "you have the choice of either going swimming or not", he is more able to answer that. But if he chose to go swimming, he cannot tell me "why" he chose that.

 

Choices and decisions must be linked to the predicted outcome and how the person thinks they will feel about that outcome. If you cannot understand, connect or process feelings/emotions, how can you make an informed choice?

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oxgirl   

Hallelujah ... FINALLY someone else in my boat, who struggles to feel emotions.

 

This never used to be an issue for me as a child, but I'd say my emotional peak was at around the age of 16. If only I knew then that I'd only feel emotions for a limited period. :unsure: I later suffered from depression while at university (aged 18 and beyond), but this was also when my emotions, both positive and negative, started to fade, slowly but surely. And, now I'm 30, a situation has to be pretty extreme for me to feel anything now. It's a pretty sad existence I live these days. :(

 

I'd gladly take back the negative stuff, maybe even depression, to have positive emotions back again. Now I don't feel worry, anger, depression; spiders don't even scare me the way they used to(!) ... all great, you might think, but I also don't feel motivated, excited, passionate, enthusiastic, and I can't love any more either - I can forget about holding down a relationship with a girl in the future - that's all in the past for me now. I have no ambition in life, no desire to better myself. I'm just an inhuman zombie.

 

It's not a case of being unable to label or identify my emotions. I just don't feel them.

 

A good example of this was when I was doing a bungy jump on New Zealand last year. Normally, I expect I'd be scared witless at the prospect of jumping off a bridge with only a rope around my ankles to restrain me. But instead, I felt nothing until I was literally on the edge of the plank, about to jump - then it was finally extreme enough for me to feel the fear. But I still jumped right on the '3' of the count to 3, so it can't have affected me that much.

 

I've always thought this was more than just Asperger's, as most of the Aspies I know still feel a full range of emotions, just like I did half a lifetime ago. But, despite the unfortunate circumstances, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one in this particular boat.

 

Gordie, I found your post very interesting and Sally44 I also could relate a lot of what you were saying in your post after Gordie's to my son's situation.

When my son was younger he was very volatile, used to scream and show extreme emotion at the drop of a hat. When he started puberty and got to about 15/16, he changed TOTALLY! Like you describe, Gordie, he became very, very flat emotionally and slowed down in every possible way, it's almost like he was drugged. He is nearly 18 now and very rarely shows any emotion at all. His facial expression is very flat, he rarely smiles and never gets angry anymore. He used to have a lot of phobias when he was younger, used to over-react to all sorts of things and that has all gone, just stopped, it's very striking. I'm sure I read somewhere that teenage hormones are similar to Dopamine, almost drugging the teenager, which makes them slow and zombie-like. I'm not sure if this is a permanent state for my lad or just him going through changes, but it's interesting what you say Gordie about losing all your enthusiasm and motivation because my lad is exactly the same, seems to have lost all of the joy from his life, although he is not unhappy or depressed in the classic sense, he just seems to have ground to a halt. :unsure:

 

~ Mel ~

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Sally44   

I wonder what has caused that. Neurological brain changes during adolescence? But whether the person does not feel the emotions (because they aren't there to be felt), or because they don't feel the emotions (because they are not processed in real time or connected) must make it very difficult to make choices and plan things unless you have a previous memory of what that situation made you feel like. And often those on the spectrum tend to have huge problems generalising things from one situation to another, so most likely struggle to do that anyway.

 

But you need feelings and emotions for responses (ie. fight or flight response), emotions real or anticipated cause chemical reactions.

 

It must be something similar to people who have lost their sense of smell. Without it all food must become very bland.

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Sally 44 I have much the same situation as your son.

 

I have basically two emotional states.

 

1. Normal

2. Sad

 

There is a third state that occurs occasionally and that is REALLY VERY ANGRY.

 

Psych says that really very angry becomes obvious to me after a long build up of anger that I am not aware of, makes sense?

 

It all relates to alexithemia (inability to read self feeling) I was told.

 

I mostly don't know what my expression looks like and have been shocked by a number of photographs. One particularly I remember getting good news and there was a photograph from that moment and it looked as though I had a migraine or was about to murder someone. If you had asked me before showing the photo I would have said that because of the good news that I had a Cheshire Cat grin.

Edited by CaptainGreyboots

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I can feel emotions when I read or watch a movie but I find it difficult in real life situations. Maybe this is because with a story or a movie I'm outside the situation and there's nothing I can do about it, while in real-life I don't know what's going to happen next and I'm in there and I just freeze up.

 

Does that make sense? I don't know, it's just so difficult to put it into words.

 

With a work of fiction I can 'feel' the emotions of the characters but I'm outside the action. When I'm involved in the action it's as though I'm watching everything through a sheet of sheer glass - me on one side and them on the other.

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Hi Sally, I saw part of this post a while back now and wanted to reply but didn't know how - now there's a ton more info I figured I'd give it a shot

If I talk about situations to my son eg. how do you think you would feel if x, y or z happened. Then he might get the answer right, or give an appropriate response, or I suppose he does equally get it wrong. But what he seems to be missing is what it feels like within yourself rather than working it out in your head.

 

Yet at the other extreme he can get very emotionally attached to what I would call bits of rubbish and he will get into a very tearful state if he thinks I am going to throw them away.

I had/have this problem - to a lesser degree now than when I was younger - if you were to ask me how I feel right now I'd say tired and slightly tense, but neither of those are emotions, tired is physiological and mental and so is stressed - cuz I don't feel tense but my body is tense - it just doesn't feel like an emotion.

 

I still get very distressed over throwing what seems to be rubbish away and used to have total meltdowns as a kid over it when my mum finally got sick of all my collections and wanted to clear a few bits out.

 

Can I ask another 'related' question.

My son often talks about how his brain gets "distracted" by things. This means he often changes conversations to what has just popped into his mind, and once on a certain thought - which maybe about a series of toys he wants to collect, he can go on and on about it. But recently he has been talking about how he doesn't like this. So it is not a case of him enjoying his obsessions. What he is saying is that he understands that he gets distracted away from other stuff to his obsessions, and he does not like the fact that he cannot control it. Again, is this something quite common - I think it is - but how do you deal with it especially if you begin to feel frustrated with yourself at not being able to stay on topic.

Ahh...I still do this, despite years and years of knowing it can be inappropriate, and getting increasingly better at not doing it!

 

It's hard to explain: I think partly there is an element of having to concentrate so much in a social conversation that often I feel I have to get my bit in there before I forget, even if the conversation will have moved on (but my mind hasn't so I can't let go of what I wanted to say), but I still have to say it...and partly when I think something is so interesting or funny that other people must want to know about it!! Also I think because I analyse things so much to myself that sometimes I've just got to get it out! Plus I think not reading the body language so well...although sometimes I can see that the other person has glazed over, I can't stop myself...

 

This is something that has got better as I've got older.

This drives me nuts sometimes - but only because other people can't cope with it ;) I know exactly where the random thoughts came from but it would take way too long to explain the origins of them to people and Bid sums up the rest of how it feels perfectly to me - its pretty amazing how my mind can relate things together that seem totally and completely random to everyone else...

 

If I said to him "you have the choice of either going swimming or not", he is more able to answer that. But if he chose to go swimming, he cannot tell me "why" he chose that.

 

Choices and decisions must be linked to the predicted outcome and how the person thinks they will feel about that outcome. If you cannot understand, connect or process feelings/emotions, how can you make an informed choice?

I don't know whether this applies to your son or not, but when someone asks me a question like your example I can pick, I can identify whether I either want to go, or whether I'm willing to go, but if you asked why I chose to go or not go I probably wouldn't give you much of an answer...

 

1. people don't like the answer and often then don't do the thing cuz the answer is not one of willing enthusiasm or actually wanting to go somewhere

2. there are so many answers that picking one is problematic

3. because of lack of perceived enjoyment I just agree to things sometimes that everyone else enjoys and there's not much explanation other than wanting to be included - which I would never admit to in person

 

A couple of people have mentioned the word zombie and its a word I use about myself at times, but flat would be just as good. I have emotions, moods, feelings, its just complicated to explain and recognise some of them in the instant they occur and the reasons behind them.

 

Well, that's me :lol:

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I think, and wonder, to what extent this affects his difficulties around making choices. Because we all make our decisions based on predicting our feelings and emotions at the outcome. If you cannot do that it makes things very hard.

Thinking abot it, I know I'm more comfortable making my decisions on a rational basis. If I have to attempt to predict my feelings and emotions at the outcome I get into a terrible state and my brain seems to seize up.

 

My son finds it very hard to talk about things that make him happy. He has said that he does not think he has a happy feeling inside him. But later on he maybe laughing at something on TV. I can't understand why he cannot tie together the "laughing" with the good sensation he feels inside.

I think I'd have the same problem as your son in talking about what makes me happy and I would imagine most people do whether or not they are on the spectrum. Also I'm not sure that laughing at something on TV necessarily makes you feel good. It's possible to feel extremely unhappy but still laugh at the sight of someone else slipping on a banana skin.

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acid74   

I don't have emotions such that I can say "I'm feeling happy" or "I'm feeling sad". My emotions work in parallel, so if I have anything to be unhappy about then I've permanently got an unhappy feeling, combined with any other feelings I might have.

 

The end is just a blend of varied emotions and the end product is a dull, not very nice feeling, usually the negative emotions are dominant. The best way to describe it is like mixing a load of different colours of paint together - it all just turns to an ugly brown.

 

If something provokes a certain emotion, such as a funny comment, then happiness does present itself briefly, but not as the primary emotion, more secondary to the primary "dull" emotion, it quickly disappears thereafter leaving the dull emotion as the only emotion. Comedy is strange, I laugh and enjoy it while simultaneously feeling bored/angry/depressed.

 

In general I feel:

 

1) bored/tired/uninterested

2) depressed

3) angry

4) if there is literally nothing that I've got to worry about and instead I have good things to enjoy, I might be happy, but this is a rare scenario.

 

 

The simplest thing to do is ignore my emotional state, blanking it entirely and just doing what I need to do to exist "normally".

Edited by acid74

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