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People with Asperger syndrome normally have problems in areas that can lead to feelings of unworthiness, rejection and sadness. Unless addressed, these feelings can degenerate into depression. Here are some causes to be aware of.
- People diagnosed with Asperger syndrome frequently struggle with communication and social interaction and may be ostracized by their peers. Feelings of not belonging and being misunderstood are common.
- Bullying is a common cause of depression in people with Asperger syndrome. While this is more common in school-age children, it also occurs in the work place.
- They often have a pessimistic mindset and focus on what is wrong rather than what is right with their lives.
- Asperger's and depression are often found together when perfectionism is an issue. People with the condition tend to be perfectionists and may feel like failures if they do something that does not measure up to their high standards.
- They tend to bottle up feelings and do not express emotion and pain like typical people. This can lead to strong feelings of depression.
- Depression may be expressed as outbursts of anger.
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Treatment of Depression in People with Asperger's Syndrome
Asperger's and depression are a common combination, but there are ways to help sufferers overcome their problems. In some cases, family and friends can help them out of depression, but in other cases, professional help is needed. Here are some ways to approach the problem of depression:
Family and friends of a depressed person with Asperger syndrome can encourage them with words of reassurance, love and affection. Distraction may also help to take their focus off the negative aspects of their lives. Fun activities and humor can be effective in some cases.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can be used to treat depression in people with Asperger's syndrome. It has been proven as an effective treatment to change the way a person thinks and the way they respond to emotion. CBT for aspies may involve learning about emotions and using therapies such as scrapbooking to express their feelings. Other tools include enjoyable social activities with a person who accepts them for who they are, and the pursuit of a special interest.
Discussing depression with the Asperger person may be enlightening if they can express what is causing the sadness and lethargy. If it is poor social skills or a lack of acceptance, it can help to work on these areas with a trained therapist.
Medication is often prescribed for people with Asperger's syndrome with the focus on providing a way to help them manage emotions. While medication has proven benefits, it can also cloud a person's mind and affect quality of life by reducing energy. In some cases it may be used until CBT has had a chance to have an effect.
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Can People with Asperger's Syndrome Overcome Depression
It is possible for a person with Asperger's syndrome to pull out of depression and go on to live a fulfilled life. The first step to recovery is to identify the problem and then to seek help for it. In some cases, a family member may need to be the motivator for this to happen.
Once help has been sought for depression in an person with Asperger's, the psychologist or psychiatrist may suggest a combination of treatments. This often involves support from families and friends, CBT and medication. As time goes on and the person shows signs of improvement, the medication levels can be reduced or discontinued under medical advice.
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The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007