Autism and post-Trauma
Socialising and relationships
Lack of, or difficulty with, eye contact.
- Not recognizing loved ones’ faces (impaired ability to recognize people/surroundings etc. due to ‘dissociation’).
- Inability to trust others.
- Lack of expression in communication (gestures, voice intonation).
- Withdrawal into yourself.
- Being uncomfortable in groups and social situations.
- Preferring to work in situations that require theoretical or mechanical skills rather than people skills.
- Dissociation (distancing and detaching yourself from your own physical and emotional experience), leading to numbness and lack of response to distressing situations.
- Impulsivity and impaired ability to recognize and respond to threats or danger.
- Feeling unwelcomed, rejected, unlovable, bad, wrong... and even sometimes alien and not quite human. Individuals with the "Connection Survival Style" experience themselves as outsiders, disconnected from themselves and other human beings.
- Diminished capacity for joy, expansion, and intimacy with others.
- Problems in maintaining relationships.
- Avoiding eye contact.
- Faceblindness (impaired social development?).
- Less turn-taking and sharing (children). Lack of social play.
Impaired ability to make friends with peers.
Unusual intonation (lack of emphasis or expression when talking, or emphasis and expression unusual and stereotyped).
Lack of gesticulation when communicating. Inability to interpret e.g. body language, facial expressions.
- Not looking at people, not smiling. Appearing deaf at times.
Not responding to own name.
- Feeling uncomfortable in group situations. Difficulties in sustaining conversation.
- Having an analytical 'rational' approach, and often appearing ‘cold’ or unemotional.
- Lack of stranger anxiety. Lack of separation anxiety (usually occuring in the first year, e.g. when mother departs).
- Problems with danger awareness e.g. 'stranger danger'.
- Feeling of disconnect from others, strong feeling of not belonging (WrongPlanet).
- Feeling lonely. Autistic children suffer from more intense and frequent loneliness compared to non-autistic peers, despite the common belief that children with autism prefer to be alone.
- In adulthood, few friendships/romantic difficulties
- often there have been repeated unsuccessful attempts to establish fulfilling friendships and relationships.
- Low self-esteem.
Shame and self-hatred.
- Finding life overwhelming and not feeling you have the energy to deal with it.
- Being more intellectual than emotional.
- Sudden, inexplicable and persistent fear responses.
- Chronic anxiety.
Perceiving the world as a dangerous place.
- Strong emotional (right brain) reactions to seemingly insignificant things, and looking for someone or something to blame for them in the present.
- Disproportionate reaction to mildly stressful (for others) situations.
- Lack of nuanced response to frustration (either all or nothing).
- Inertia, depression (autistic adults).
- Self-hate and chronic shame.
- Overwhelm and exhaustion. Pervading anxiety.
Lack of coping mechanisms/filters.
- Intellectualizing and distancing yourself emotionally.
- Panic attacks.
Pronounced and prolonged fear responses.
- Having extreme anxiety and phobias, as well as unusual phobias.
Lack of fear or more fear than expected (hyper or hypo-sensitivity – the latter as a result of dissociation due to chronic overload).
- Getting upset by minor changes.
Unprovoked attacks on others. Black-and-white thinking.
- Having 'meltdowns' or 'tantrums'.
Tendency to have an 'all or nothing’ response (to both positive and negative stimuli).
Movement and body Responses
- Lack of body coordination/fluidity (or being 'gravitationally challenged').
- Tendon Protect Reflex (not putting weight on heels when walking, or not even putting them to the ground).
Problems with fine motor coordination.
Brain disconnect from body (lack of interospection).
- Increased risk of risk of autoimmune disease.
- Bowel/elimination problems.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromyalgia.
- Migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Depersonalisation (feeling like a detached observer of oneself).
Dissociation (detachment from physical and emotional experiences)
- Alexithymia (inability to identify and describe emotions in the self, or 'feeling nothing'. Note: there are links between Alexithymia and self harm).
- Self-harming (e.g. biting or hitting oneself, pulling hair out, picking at skin till it bleeds).
- Sleep problems and nightmares.
- Suicidal thoughts.
Problems with stability, balance and posture (Vestibular System).
- Toe walking.
Problems with motor control (Dyspraxia: difficulties affecting the initiation, organization and performance of movements).
- Immune dysregulation.
In autistic individuals, the immune system fails to balance itself. Inflammatory signals dominate. Anti-inflammatory ones are inadequate and a state of chronic activation prevails.
- Gastrointestinal disorders.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
- Showing very low levels of fear/reactiveness in situations that others would find stressful or scary.
- Pronoun reversal (e.g. saying 'you' in the place of 'I').
- Dissociation, even to the point of having a co-morbid diagnosis with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder).
- Difficulties understanding or connecting to own feelings.
- Sleep disorders.
Unusual sleeping habits.
- High risk of suicidal thoughts.
Psychological and behavior patterns
- Limited imagination, and fixations.
- Obsessive and repetitive behaviour.
- OCD (between 4% and 22% of people with PTSD also have a diagnosis of OCD): compulsive behaviors (like checking, ordering, or hoarding).
- Memory and attention impairments.
- Lack of imaginative play.
Unusual or severely limited activities and interests.
- Repetition and perseveration. Inflexibility with highly specific routines and rituals (possible 'co-morbid' diagnosis with OCD).
- Compulsive behaviors: Time-consuming behaviors intended to reduce anxiety that an individual feels compelled to perform repeatedly or according to rigid rules, such as placing objects in a specific order, checking things, or hand washing.
Apparently purposeless movement, such as hand flapping, head rolling, or body rocking.
Repetitive movements - rocking, hair twirling.
- Hyperactivity (very active). Hyperfocus on some tasks, inability to concentrate on others.
- Black and white thinking.