Introverts, Aspberger’s, Autism

Builds Upon: Introversion and Schizoid Traits

It has occurred to me that many aspies and autists exhibit exaggerated or acute forms of  typical introverted traits.

In a previous post, I examined the concept of  schizoid personality disorder as  a way of pathologizing typical introverted behavior.

The autistic spectrum then is perhaps a still ‘lower’ plane in which undesirable traits are bad enough to make an individual decisively dysfunctional in the larger society.

Persons with autistic spectrum disorders are known for being:

-socially inept/unresponsive

-having difficulty relating emotionally to others

-failing to make eye contact/acknowledge others’ existence

-having in depth knowledge about subjects nobody else cares about

-preferring the inner life over the outer world

-being mental before physical

-being thoughtful about things others do automatically

-in general not getting with the program(not caring about or going along with whatever others nearby are up to)…

The list of traits is long and almost all could be parts of a non-pathological introverted personality.  So where does innie end and aspie begin?

Perhaps the big tipping point is having enough social presence of mind to figure out what traits and behaviors are undesirable and work on hiding them.  The physicist Paul Dirac comes to mind.  He wasn’t even capable of normal conversation, was oblivious to social niceties, and hated social events but he understood just enough about what was expected of him to get by.

Maybe the severity of one’s labels is also heavily dependent on whether parents clamor for the strongest possible diagnosis.  A decisive point of separation would thus be impossible to establish.

Many merely eccentric individuals are considered strange because they walk in and out of autism’s borderlands.   I’ve never received any autism spectrum diagnosis, yet I exhibited frequent rocking behaviors as a kid and sometimes still do so to this day.  I spent a lot of time in my own world reading books and had difficulty understanding that other kids didn”t care about the cool stuff I’d learned.  I often didn’t even hear someone talking to me unless I was looking directly at them.   I somehow managed to get away with a generic LD(‘learning differences’) diagnosis while avoiding a youth characterized by chronic ritalin consumption.  Does someone like me have a touch of autism?  Who knows?

It is rather curious that even the idea of an autism spectrum has existed for less than a century.  Now increasingly more people are getting a diagnosis as these disorders have reached the popular culture in the last decade or so.

Who and where were all the autists and aspies before the medical community came up with a name for them?

Possibilities?:

-Some were just locked up in madhouses.  OR unable to survive socially perished on the streets as homeless wanderers.  Today, more than ever can be kept by their families and sent to doctors.

-If someone could make a good horseshoe or good furniture maybe it didn’t matter to people as much.  It isn’t hard to imagine this being the case in a less prosperous more results-oriented society.  Maybe aspies and autists with their incredible focus and penchant for specialization even had a competitive edge in traditional craftsmanship.  Did lots of them make a living and pass down genes as productive functional members of society for thousands of years?

-Maybe families did not think of their strange kid as having a disorder even if they behaved differently from most other people.   Noah Joad, a possibly autistic character from ‘Grapes of Wrath’ comes to mind.  Families typically had lots of children and may have been less prone to obsess over one with abnormal behaviors.  Perhaps the autistic spectrum diagnoses are in part spurred by smaller families in the second half of the twentieth century.  With less kids, the more  responsibility remaining kids had for the future of the family.  In families of 1-3 kids, one kid turning out ‘strange’ would be disastrous to the family legacy where before it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.

In conclusion:

Is there an autism spectrum epidemic or has society become increasingly oriented towards social expertise?  If so, many who would previously just have been introverted or merely ‘strange’ end up altogether unable to function in society.  After all most of the symptoms are based on measures of a person’s performance relative to an acceptable norm.  If requirements for acceptability have become more stringent, perhaps the strange, silent kid who grew up to be the best carpenter in town no longer has any place to go except therapy sessions.  If 21st century success depends first upon success in water cooler politics, what kind of raw talent has the  mass society left untapped?

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27 responses to “Introverts, Aspberger’s, Autism

  1. Is there an autism spectrum epidemic or has society become increasingly oriented towards social expertise?

    I’m not sure this is true in an overall sense, but quite possibly.

    I have wondered that with this possible autism spectrum epidemic where on the spectrum is the epidemic. Is it on the total autism side with kids who will never be able to lead normal independent adult lives or is it on the side of Aspergers and High Functioning Autism? If the epidemic is on the Aspergers and HFA side then it could be society that’s changed.

    I’m an introvert and a lot of my friends are introverts. I have been told by multiple people that they think I have Aspergers. So have several of my friends. We’re all guys. We’re all adults, and we’re all able to have regular independent lives. We all hold down jobs without trouble.

    Where is this we have Aspergers coming from? The explanations come done to one sentence: We’re not or unable to get laid. That’s it. Sure they will try and claim their reasoning is more complicated, but that’s it.

    I have to wonder about how much of this “autism spectrum epidemic” is due to labeling men and teenage boys that aren’t popular with women/can’t find a girlfriend to save their lives. This would not have been an issue in earlier times. There was arranged marriage, but beyond that there was much more family and community involvement in finding romantic/marital partners. An introvert might not be able to attract women easily but in earlier times a woman’s family & community would push her to get involved with an introverted man. Now that family & community structure doesn’t exist leaving a lot of introverted men alone. Rather than dealing with the problem, it gets called “Aspergers”.

  2. men and women should stop being opposite armies because everything gets worse.women have asperger’s too ,you know, and it’s worse.

    Invictus said “I have to wonder about how much of this “autism spectrum epidemic” is due to labeling men and teenage boys that aren’t popular with women/can’t find a girlfriend to save their lives”

    why do they need some woman to save their lives?this is bitter but one needs a brain to realize. The point is to try and do the best out of youself,don’t push your limits and if something is meant to happen,it will.

    It’s not the best era to live in for an aspie but we should not completely reclusive and quit life.we have to come to terms with our own personal pace.

  3. Invictus,

    “As I’ve written before, what men like in women is simple. In descending order of importance, here are the female attractiveness traits that men desire in women:

    Beauty.
    Femininity.
    Sexual eagerness.

    In descending order of importance, here are the male attractiveness traits that women desire in men:

    Psychosocial dominance (game).
    High status/fame.
    Personality (passion/charisma/humor).
    Wealth.
    Good looks/height/muscularity.
    Cleverness/smarts.
    Dependability/reliability.
    Sexual prowess.”

    http://roissy.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/how-much-can-game-do/

    The good new is that Game can be developed and strengthened. The above link will show the results of doing so.

  4. Eric, please do not sell new-age, airy-fairy, hippie-dippie, LoA (Law of Attraction/The Secret), PUA, “Seduction Community” false hope to emotionally sensitive young men who may be suffering from ADD, ADHD, OCD, Depression, Asperger’s, Autism or any number of other such disorders.

    This is like telling a 400 pound ugly woman that she can land Denzel Washington.

    We all know it’s a lie and despite trying to be “nice” to them and “boost their self-esteem”, in the long run it is a form of extreme cruelty that sets these innocent people up for huge disappointment.

    I know several young men who have psychological issues that result in social ineptness.

    No amount of peacocking, opening, negging, etc is going to get them a girl.

    At most these young men will be able to find a girl like them – with similar psychological issues. Whether or not they will be able to keep her depends on how much she needs a man to be her “support system”, something these young men will not be able to be.

    Before I knew the extent of their issues and before I stumbled across the blogosphere that addresses them, or for that matter PUA blogs, I also used to fill their heads with hope and tell them how “good” and “authentic” they were and how they would someday find a quality girl.

    Nonsense.

    Yes, they are good, and for sure – they are authentic, however their issues cause them to come across as “off” to people.

    They are unable to hold down jobs and they exhibit extremely immature behaviours at times. Again, neither of these things are entirely their fault so I don’t think of them as “less than” for it, however I’m not about to enable the myth that they will ever be able to date successfully or sustain an LTR with a woman.

    Posing as a “dominant” male for a few hours, days or weeks in the beginning of a relationship is one thing. What happens after you move in with the girl and have no money? No job? No ability to hold down a job for more than a few months? A video game addiction? And the girl has to remind you to take your meds as if she is your own damn mother?!

    If I were to continue giving them that false hope, knowing what I know about them and the world we live in, then I would feel that I was no more than a psychologically abusive and cruel enemy.

    As someone who cares about these young men, I have to henceforth tell them the truth.

    • “Posing as a “dominant” male for a few hours, days or weeks in the beginning of a relationship is one thing. What happens after you move in with the girl and have no money? No job? No ability to hold down a job for more than a few months? A video game addiction? And the girl has to remind you to take your meds as if she is your own damn mother?!”

      F’n Awesome! (Since I said that out loud after reading that paragraph.)

  5. A Concerned Friend,

    I, too, am leery of grandiose claims. Game (like personality) is largely genetic but less so than height and IQ.

    You’re right that they’re going to be banging models – just like a 60 year old man who starts going to the gym is unlikely to ever squat 900.

    However, incremental progress is possible to the student who applies the principles just like everyone will improve from proper nutrition/exercise.

    It’s that capacity for improvement that should be developed in all of us, whether in terms of girls, money, health, etc. The only way to truly lose in my view is to give up.

  6. Eric, go through this blog and you’ll come to understand that “introverts” are an entirely different species, so to speak, from extroverts. Some aspects of extroversion CAN be learned and adopted, however, most introverts see that as a waste of time and energy.

    An introversion blog is no place to peddle “game”.

  7. No need for a combative tone. He isn’t ‘peddling’ anything.
    I think the pickup route is a good place for introverts to explore, though I am critical of the culture that surrounds it. It has its merits. It is methodical and takes apart otherwise indecipherable human behaviors step by step. This is a valuable to learn since we perform consciously a lot of actions that others ‘just do.’ It helped me to start seeing cues in human interactions with both sexes that I was missing before.

    An introvert is never truly going to be an extrovert, but it’s still important to have a model of the motivations of others. Our lack of such a model is part of why so many of us are so often socially in trouble!

  8. As far as the original comment from Invictus:

    Difficulty getting a girlfriend is but one small aspect of the matter.
    People on the spectrum are known for having difficulty with social interaction in general, especially with reading social cues, and expressing oneself in a conventionally understood manner. None of these facilitate romance, to say the least.
    However, I don’t think Invictus was making the claim that aspie is primarily a disorder of dating prowess. He was saying that people will look at eccentric, reserved, otherwise normal people and suppose they are aspies just because of their meager dating lives.

    As for Sofia’s talk of men and women in opposite armies, this is exaggerated and simplistic. Sometimes the biological objectives of men and women coincide, sometimes(perhaps more often than not) they don’t.

    At this rate, I’m gonna need a discussion board.

  9. However, I don’t think Invictus was making the claim that aspie is primarily a disorder of dating prowess. He was saying that people will look at eccentric, reserved, otherwise normal people and suppose they are aspies just because of their meager dating lives.

    This is exactly what I was saying. Sofia completely missed the point. I don’t think society has become increasingly oriented to social expertise. What I is that autism spectrum disorders are overdiagnosed? It’s one thing if we’re talking about people who have trouble with day to day life. There really can’t be overdiagnosis there. The spectrum nature of ASD means that it is easy to overdiagnose on the low end, Aspergers and HFA.

    While introversion is arguably closer to ASD I do think by itself that introversion leads to an Aspergers diagnosis or label. Something like difficulty getting a girlfriend can because its recognized as a problem. If a person thinks they have a (psychological) problem they are more likely to see a psychologist.

    Most people or even psychologists don’t understand the problem of men who have trouble forming relationships with the opposite sex. Since these guys usually are introverted to some degree the Asperger label gets thrown around. It’s one thing when its random people saying you have Aspergers, but psychologists should know better. However, they don’t understand the nature of the problem either so even psychologists will label it Aspergers.

    In reality what would help these men more would be a sex surrogate not a diagnosis of something they probably don’t have. Most psychologists against the idea of sex surrogates, and as a result there are only handful of surrogates available. In many places no surrogates are available. Because psychologists are politically unwilling to prescribe sex surrogates for these men, they give them an incorrect diagnosis which ends up in this case being Aspergers.

    • I figure, 20-30 years ago, there will still plenty of industrial pollutants. There may even have been more chemicals floating around that were not yet known to be toxic and not regulated.

      There were no regulations at all when industrialization first began; it was a new phenomenon. Thus, the origin of the Mad Hatter. Hatters worked extensively with mercury compounds and suffered from poisoning as a result. Part of the reason for absinthe being banned was that arsenic and heavy metal compounds were used for green coloring when it was cheaply mass produced.
      Tanners, lead workers, alchemists all suffered from heavy metal poisoning centuries before industrialization.

      • I’m pretty skeptical of the environmental explanation for ASD unless it’s something very specific. It’s not that I think it’s impossible but like you said Unclegluon, there were plenty of industrial pollutants 30-40 years ago. In fact weren’t there more pollutants back them? They had things like the Lake Erie fire back then.

        While being exposed to mercury is a big problem, people even just a couple of decades older than me have talked about how when they were kids they would play with the mercury from thermometers. They didn’t end up with an ASD from that.

        I don’t know if overdiagnosis is really the complete explanation for the radical increase in ASD in the population but I don’t see how it can’t be a big part of it.

  10. Invictus and Uncle, I think some people are being over-diagnoses, and the reason is that the pharma industry is in cahoots with the mental healthy industry to make big $$$. They are working on a drug for Aspergers/Autism as we speak. They’ve also started diagnosing more girls. I’ve read articles that say girls are UNDER-diagnosed for it and scaring parents with the “your daughter could have aspergers/autism and you don’t know it line”. The symptoms? Following the lives of celebrities, playing with dolls and having imaginary friends. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I wish I could find that article.

    (I know that Autism and Aspergers are not the same thing, but I can’t remember which one the article was talking about or if the article conflated the two)

    ANYWAY, I have a male friend who thinks he has Aspergers. He definitely has “issues” that is for sure. HOWEVER, he is not desperate for a girlfriend or even wants one. His mind just does not work like that. I suspect he has very low testosterone levels. I also suspect that this “going without a girlfriend or sex” problem is more in the minds of OTHER PEOPLE, than it is in the minds of the Aspergers persons.

    I guess it never occurs to people that some people are just not all that concerned about getting laid.

    • HOWEVER, he is not desperate for a girlfriend or even wants one. His mind just does not work like that.

      Sure but for a lot of guys being a 30 year old virgin or even an older virgin is a problem to them. So they will go looking for answers, but get told they have Aspergers Syndrome when they really need a sex surrogate.

    • “ANYWAY, I have a male friend who thinks he has Aspergers. He definitely has “issues” that is for sure. HOWEVER, he is not desperate for a girlfriend or even wants one. His mind just does not work like that. I suspect he has very low testosterone levels. I also suspect that this “going without a girlfriend or sex” problem is more in the minds of OTHER PEOPLE, than it is in the minds of the Aspergers persons.

      I guess it never occurs to people that some people are just not all that concerned about getting laid.”

      You don’t know me, do you?! :)

      Although, if you read Wrong Planet Forums, for instance, most seem terribly distraught at the lack of a relationship.

      • There’s always going to be a few percent of the population that is more or less asexual or minimally sexual. Maybe there’s a disproportionate concentration among autists and aspies, but still very much in the minority. It’s what we could only expect considering every single one of our ancestors succeeded in reproducing.

        I imagine lots of aspies or other socially awkward people are going to be mistaken as asexual types because of a lack of understanding and communication. Most of the time it won’t be the case.
        Concerned might even be surprised about her friend.
        He may be one of many social outsiders who have discovered that females with whom he has much in common are nearly impossible to find. Thus he’s basically given up and has ceased to care.

        Also, even an outsider with an above average sex drive might be seen as asexual because of an overall closed demeanor and incompatible world view.

      • Gluon the Ferengi, (For some reason I can’t reply to your reply.) Sorry, but you mistook that as my writing. I was merely quoting what A Concerned Friend wrote above and agreeing that I am the guy that she/he just described. (Except for the low testosterone and the taking meds part.)

        I wrote more but decided not to share too much. :) I shall do so now though, for understanding and learning.

        I was probably lucky (due to being decent-looking and probably a narcissistic air about me that draws people in.) to have several relationships in my life – some lasting 2 to 5 years, even. Some were gorgeous. Some were very
        intelligent. But superficiality only lasts so long. Relationships always ended, for whatever reason. (They cheat on you/They want to have babies and get married and live the American Dream that you can’t hope to provide, although you don’t know it yet – you’re pretending (pretending you are normal) and don’t even know it. / The facade is tiring. Your problems set in and they cut their loses when they realize. / They don’t want to be your mother. / They need security.

        Eventually you realize that it’s just not going to work that easily, and it’s no fair to them (or yourself) to pretend. You would have to meet someone who can except your ‘flaws’, and there’s no sense in searching – if it happens it happens.

        Now i’m more schizoidish, in that I decided to be myself, live for myself and not try to be fake – not try to please others, nor worry about what they think. It would be hard to do such a thing if I were trying to get into a relationship. It’s more important to be me and live my life. I’ve never been happier, now that I stay true to myself and no longer let others “use me”.

        For one, I was molested several times as a child. I was also beaten by my mother once as a child, as well as bullied plenty of times throughout life. I repressed all of this. I was in a serious relationship of 5 years, living with (and engaged to) the woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with when all of these repressed memories came flooding in on me. I told her all about it and shortly after she was ready to go find another. After seeing how your best friend can just abandon you like that, it’s hard to trust people.

        Anyhow, seems to me that the extrovert types think it would be better for me to go back to pretending, just so that I can procreate. I disagree. That would be unfair to everyone involved. You don’t have to get married and have babies to live a fulfilling life, but society can’t stand to see someone being different.

        My most valued asset is autonomy – freedom. This can not be had while pleasing bosses/wives/family/children. You become a slave, just like we were since birth. Now, this… is true freedom – finally.

  11. I suspect that introversion and autism are related in some way, because both involve high arousal levels and resulting difficulties processing large volumes of disorganized information. I test on Meyers-Briggs as a 100% expressed introvert — I hate interruptions and distractions, and carrying on multiple conversations at once, and am prone to meltdown if I have too many people pushing my buttons and there’s nowhere quiet to retreat to. And that reminds me a lot of self-descriptions of high-functioning autistics like Temple Grandin.

    Not to say that they’re the same thing, but I suspect high-functioning autism and introversion involve similar causes in the functioning of the reticular activating system.

  12. Wow, how dismissive so many of you are of the fact that girls and women are underdiagnosed. I’m glad none of you are my psychologist. Girls are socialized differently and they have different coping mechanisms and different obsessions. A new genetic study says that the real ratio of girls to boys with ASDs should be 2:3 instead of the 1:10 (? is that still correct?) that it currently is. From some of the rhetoric being used in the comments, I feel that I am treading on sexist ground, so I should probably stop while I’m ahead.

  13. Dismissive? By discussing primarily male cases and circumstances?
    I don’t know any exact statistics but it’s relatively well known that the majority of people on the spectrum are male.

    You change 1:10 to 2:3, but it makes little difference. You agree with us that autism predominantly affects males.

    How is the discussion sexist? You give no specific examples.

    Who came up as an example of a high functioning autistic? None other than Temple Grandin.

    You are evidently of the ‘gender’ persuasion. Yes, the sexes are socialized differently, but there are also underlying fundamental differences. Ask why are the sexes socialized differently and you get one of those intractable chicken and egg dilemmas.

  14. I’ve really appreciated a lot of the discussion here. I see in the supposed over-diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders as pathologizing differences among human beings. Who is to say they are disorders? Why not just another way of being human (see http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/200802/weird-and-proud).

    Perhaps this is one of the functions of society–the standardization of expression and understanding of what it means to be human. That’s useful in some ways, but not so much in others.

    • Very true that societies by default define normal human behavior. But of late that definition grows narrower…
      Mass societies don’t handle exceptions too well, especially when mass media creates a single acceptable monoculture.

  15. This is a much better entry, imo, because it has less of an impression of “A is better than B” to it. It also brings up ideas towards social expectations and overdiagnosis, which is definitely an argument which can be related to actual statistics. This is a good read, including the comments.

    In my view, it seems that you argue that the distinctions or the recognition of definite differences has gained more priority over time, and this in part leads to different models for social administration. Supply and demand has always been controlled by Human behaviour, and with social roles and expectations changing, this shifts various personality types into different levels of usefulness. This would work like a cycle; as the environment changes, personalities shift to other processes. By your argument, the social changes must have been quite radical over a relatively short space of time… as though great power has shifted to a different set of organisational bodies and the standards have shifted relatively unnaturally and to the detriment of specific classes.

    Like you pretty much said: one who was once in a nut house is now given purpose, albeit one that is tied to a label, and where most personality traits which otherwise might be seen as unusual but not necessarily too divergent from the norm, are recognised by pathology. Therefore, it is a double edged sword, and most certainly there are many corrupt people with other interests attached to ‘mentally disabled’ persons.

    Quite a heavy topic, I must say.

  16. Pingback: Where Do We Make The Divide Between Introversion and Aspergers

  17. I always hear/read about parents concerned about their kids autism, the foundations etc. A google search for “autistic father” returns almost no result. I do that search because my father is obviously Asperger’s. Did autism appear out of thin air in the last generation ? No, it was always there. They had kids and passed their genes. Kids with autism is obviously a trend. My brother’s son is diagnosed with Autism. People didn’t know or care so much in old times. Also communication was not as easy as it is now. If it was not for the internet, I doubt I would have heard of autism and such. Anyways, I started to think introversion somehow has its ties to autism, because of my problems connecting and feeling a part of anything or belonging.

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