I grew up in a house with two heroin addicts for parents, so concern over my health usually wasn’t addressed, however my sisters and other family members have recently noted that I have odd behavior and mannerisms associated with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). When I turned 17 I left my parents and moved in with my aunt and uncle, who provide room and board as long as I help around the house. I’ve lived here for 6 years now as a shut-in and it frustrates me, because I want to get on with my life(I am by no means lazy or unproductive,) I’ve always been obsessed with physics and I really want to go to college, but most days I cannot even bring myself to leave the house. Something as simple as going to the nearest convenience store renders me catatonic and when I do manage to go in, I am in a constant state of high anxiety and I inadvertently look away from people if they glance in my direction. I have had maybe a total of 10 friends in my lifetime, (half of them family members)though I say friends, I usually can’t stand to be around them for more than 30 minute increments and I almost always have to feign interest and emotions when I do socialize. Usually if the topic of discussion or the activity doesn’t involve my line of thought in some way, I lose all interest and tune them out or flat out tell them that I do not care what they are talking about. I’ve been called rude and a jerk a few times because of this but it’s not like I do this on purpose, I try hard to be interested in what other people think but it never works out. The only time I feel comfortable and happy is when I am alone with my thoughts.
I’ve taken a multitude of tests online which all say it is very likely I have an ASD, however I know these tests are not meant to be used for diagnosis which is why I ask on this site if I should proceed to see a psychologist or if it’s possibly something else. It is also worth noting, I recently read that Hypotonia is commonly associated with ASDs as well as other brain disorders and while I can’t say either way if I have it or not, I’ve been made fun of quite often for my shaky hands but it has never been something I’ve been able to control at all (even when I’m not nervous or anxious) and when I was an infant they tell me my head always drooped to one side because I had a big head. After telling my older sister about Asperger’s, she looked at symptoms, she thought it described me quite well (she specifically mentioned about people with aspergers flapping their hands about, as this is something I’ve done for years when I get excited which she always made fun of me for doing.)
A: Thank you for writing in with your question. I would definitely suggest that you follow through with seeing a psychologist, not only to be evaluated diagnostically, but because you have some very serious symptoms that are impacting the quality of your life. You certainly list some symptoms that could be part of ASD, but it could also be a severe anxiety disorder, such as Social Phobia. You could have also developed some unique coping skills in order to deal with the dysfunctional environment in which you were raised. Some coping skills make sense at the time, but they seem strange or unusual years later or out of context.
You deserve to feel comfortable with yourself and with others. You can develop skills to manage your anxiety and build up the ability to expand your safety zone so that you cannot only go the store but eventually to college. In the meantime, it may be good for you to enroll in some online college classes to help build confidence and to give you an outlet for your intellectual interests.
I encourage you to find a therapist to help you with these goals. You might consider asking one of your sisters or your aunt and uncle to go with you to the first few appointments to reduce anxiety and also to get an outside perspective.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts