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Asperger’s Syndrome and Mental Health: Depression

Depression is a crushing yet entirely mundane beast. It brings forth great contradictions; being completely hopeless while in the midst of promising life changes, or feeling entirely alone in the midst of a crowd. It isn’t a climactic fall into oblivion, but a slow and inexorable spiral – water swirling down the drain. It is a very real illness that if left unchecked and unaided, can kill.

There’s been a slowdown in research on links between depression and Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in recent years, with most studies dating back to the mid to late 1990s. There’s a few possible reasons for this, but most probable is the differences in presentation between people with depression alone and people with depression as a comorbid disorder with an ASD. People on the spectrum will often throw themselves into their special interest, rather than become disaffected by it, and often there is no change in accompanying social habits.

Life is often more stressful for those on the spectrum, and to those predisposed to depression, the chance of depressive episodes is higher. It always feels like there is the ever-present chance you will execute some social ‘faux pas’, some social wrong turn. This creates and propagates the type of anxiety that leads to depressive episodes. When you’re terrified that everything you do might be in some way wrong, you’re terrified to even go outside.

If you’ve ever heard of the popular quotation, ‘do one thing every day that scares you’, be aware that for someone on the Autism Spectrum, this is true for most days. For someone on the spectrum with depression, this can be every day. There were so many times that I was chastised for not doing something, or leaving things out, or seeming lazy. I always felt like screaming back by way of retort; ‘I’m up, and I’m out of my room, I’m talking. Isn’t this enough? Do you know how hard this is?’

I am always in awe when I see friends with depression being sociable, conversational. Never underestimate a person with depression who is out and about, a person laughing and chatting. That person is not cured, or faking – that person looked their struggles in the face, and smiled.