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Illustration by
Julia Yellow

Suicidal thoughts alarmingly common in people with autism

The idea that people with autism don’t feel strong emotions is a myth: Many of them are vulnerable to depression and despair in unique forms.

by  /  31 July 2014
illustration by:
Julia Yellow

As a teenager, Bianca Marshack often flew into rages over seemingly minor problems — as when her mother, Kathy, didn’t bring her favorite chicken dinner home from the grocery store. Her anger would quickly spiral out of control, and she would threaten to kill herself.

“I would try to just hold her, to calm her down and say, ‘I’m here, I’m here for you,’” recalls Kathy Marshack, a Portland, Oregon-area psychologist.

Bianca had been diagnosed at age 13 with a high-functioning form of autism called Asperger syndrome, and as she got older her moods could be explosive. “Sometimes she would say, ‘If you would just kill me, then we would both not have to suffer anymore,’” Kathy remembers.

Bianca’s behavior reflects the striking paradox of emotional turmoil in autism, an aspect of the disorder that has received attention only in the past few years. Often, people with the disorder can seem emotionless, with a flat affect and little interest in talking about feelings — their own or anyone else’s. But they may also have outbursts in which they make dramatic, shocking threats to end their lives.

Experienced clinicians have long had a sense that people with autism are at increased risk of ‘suicidality,’ which encompasses thoughts, plans and attempts to kill oneself. Their suspicions have been borne out in recent years: Several large studies of adolescents and adults with autism reveal that bleak moods and suicidal despair are alarmingly common, particularly among those on the milder end of the spectrum with so-called high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome.

At the same time, this suicidality may be difficult to recognize, because people with autism don’t talk about their emotions in typical ways — for example, they may report feeling suicidal without describing themselves as depressed.

In the most recent study, published in June in The Lancet Psychiatry, two-thirds of a group of adults diagnosed with Asperger syndrome said they had thought about committing suicide at some point, and 35 percent had made specific plans or actually made an attempt1.

“These are individuals who have been struggling all their lives to fit in,” says study leader Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. “Along the way, they have really been suffering.”

In fact, researchers say, some of the cognitive patterns seen in people with autism, such as the tendency to perseverate or get stuck on a particular line of thought, may make these individuals particularly vulnerable to suicidality. With this new evidence, they are starting to look for ways to identify suicidality and prevent it in this population.

“This is a community in distress,” says Katherine Gotham, assistant professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who studies depression in autism. “This is something we need to know more about and do something about, and the faster the better.”

Hidden epidemic:

For a long time, suicide was largely ignored by autism researchers. “When I got started taking care of people with autism, there was this belief that it’s not possible for them to have depression,” says Janet Lainhart, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. People with autism were thought to have little experience of emotion, let alone of suicidal despair.

Through the 1990s and 2000s, even as knowledge and awareness of autism rapidly accelerated, few rigorous studies investigated the topic2. One of the earliest, in 2007, involved just a few people but offered a strong suggestion that persistent, serious thoughts of suicide are common. In that study, ten adolescents with Asperger syndrome answered a detailed questionnaire about how frequently they had had various suicidal thoughts over the previous month. Half scored in a range that indicates high risk for suicide3.

Although Asperger syndrome is no longer an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the term is still in use in the U.K. and elsewhere, and many individuals still identify with it.

In the past couple of years, larger studies have confirmed that suicidality is common among young people with autism. Last year, researchers reported that among 791 children with autism younger than age 16, 14 percent had either talked about or attempted suicide, compared with just 0.5 percent of children without autism4. Another study of 102 children aged 7 to 16 with anxiety and high-functioning autism found that 11 percent had suicidal thoughts and behaviors5.

Teenagers are already at a higher risk of suicide because of the emotional and social turmoil of adolescence. Having autism intensifies these difficulties, says Oren Shtayermman, associate professor in the School of Health Professions at the New York Institute of Technology, who conducted the 2007 study. “As they become adolescents, they become more and more ostracized from their peer groups,” he says. “They become more and more isolated from society.”

Age may not offer any relief from this sense of isolation. An unpublished analysis of medical records of more than 2,000 California adults with autism found that 1.8 percent of these individuals attempted suicide between 2008 and 2012, compared with 0.3 percent of controls.

Rehan Siddiqui became severely depressed in early 2001, during his second semester of college. “I had no friends, really. I went to class, I attended lectures, but had no one to hang out with.” During that period, he sometimes thought about ending his life, but was too deeply depressed to take any action. “I said I wish I would die, I wish I would die in a car crash, stuff like that,” he recalls. When he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome nearly two years later, it came as a great relief, he says: “Finally there was a reason for why I’m so different.”

“These are individuals who have been struggling all their lives to fit in. Along the way, they have really been suffering.”

Some researchers say people like Siddiqui may be even more vulnerable to suicidality than those diagnosed as children, having spent years to decades without an explanation for their struggles — and without access to help. The 374 participants in Baron-Cohen’s, study, for example, were diagnosed at an average age of 31. They were nine times more likely than people in the general population to experience suicidal thoughts.

The adults with autism in the California study were more than five times more likely than controls to attempt suicide. “I think this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the bigger picture of suicidal ideation,” says Lisa Croen, director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente, a nonprofit health care system based in California.

For many people with the disorder, the longing for social and romantic relationships, independence and meaningful work is intense, but there are few programs to help them fulfill these basic human desires.

Siddiqui says his hope is “to live a nice, independent life.” He lives with a roommate and is excited that he recently got a car, because it will help him stay more socially engaged. But bouts of depression — winter is especially difficult — have sometimes prevented him from working. “I’ve had my ups and downs,” he says. “Ideally, I would love to have a job where I can support myself without any government support.”

Depression’s new face:

Among the general population, most people who become suicidal are depressed. That’s true among people with autism too4. And because people with autism have high rates of depression, it’s not surprising that they are frequently suicidal.

Still, traditional screens for depression may miss the emotional experience of people with autism. In Baron-Cohen’s study, suicidality was far more common than depression as it is usually diagnosed. Although 66 percent of the participants reported having suicidal thoughts, less than half as many reported feelings of depression.

That’s not because they don’t have those feelings, however. “They may not be able to access or have the vocabulary to describe their emotional state,” says Baron-Cohen. This condition, called alexithymia, is common in people with autism.

Yet if clinicians listen closely, they may hear clues — albeit not the usual ones. People with autism may be unlikely to describe themselves as depressed, but “they will explain their emotional pain in idiosyncratic ways,” says Lainhart.

One clinician recalls an individual with autism who was so deeply sad and hopeless that he described himself as “now darkness.” Another said she constantly thought that the time had come for her leave this planet, in search of another galaxy where she would fit in better and find a friend.

The way people with autism think may itself make them more vulnerable to suicidality. For example, they often don’t think to reach out to others when they are upset: Asking for help is, after all, a social skill.

They also tend to have rigid, inflexible thinking, so once suicide enters their mind, it may stay there. Gotham and her colleagues have found that patterns of repetitive thought contribute to depression in people with autism. “I think that there could be something similar going on with suicidality,” she says.

People with autism often struggle to imagine the thoughts and feelings of others, including their own future selves. As a result, they may have trouble believing they will ever feel better. They can also easily become overwhelmed by the small but complex problems of everyday life and respond with extreme thoughts or statements.

In the study of children with anxiety and high-functioning autism, researchers found that the children sometimes made suicidal threats for attention or to escape from an unpleasant situation. “Often it was a reaction to some limit being set or placed on the child,” says study leader Eric Storch, professor of pediatrics, psychology and psychiatry at the University of South Florida in Tampa. For example, a parent might announce that it’s time to stop playing video games, and a child might throw a tantrum, lose control and say that he is going to kill himself.

Regardless of the intent, parents and clinicians should take threats of suicide from people with autism seriously. “It’s their best attempt to raise a red flag saying that they need help,” says Lainhart.

Storch and his colleagues are developing a program for suicidal teens with autism based on a similar one for those with Tourette syndrome. The next step for Baron-Cohen’s group is simple but unusual: The researchers plan to ask people from the Asperger syndrome clinic what would help them.

“We just have to be a little bit cautious not to jump to solutions that are off-the-shelf,” Baron-Cohen says. For example, telephone crisis lines are often recommended for suicidally depressed people — but because of their social deficits, people with autism may be unlikely to call.

Since her daughter’s diagnosis, Kathy Marshack has oriented her psychotherapy practice to help families who have a child or parent on the autism spectrum.

“At the time, it was frightening to me that Bianca was suicidal,” Marshack says. But looking back, she says, her daughter probably lacked the empathy to recognize the effect her pleas about wanting to die would have on her mother. “She was in such pain,” Marshack says. “She was trying to say, ‘I feel helpless.’”


References:
  1. Cassidy S. et al. The Lancet Psychiatry 1, 142-147 (2014) Abstract
  2. Hannon G. and E.P. Taylor Clin. Psychol. Rev. 33, 1197-1204 (2013) PubMed
  3. Shtayermman O. Issues Compr. Pediatr. Nurs. 30, 87-107 (2007) PubMed
  4. Mayes S.D. et al. Res. Autism Spect. Disord. 7, 109-119 (2013) Abstract
  5. Storch E.A. et al. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 43, 2450-2459 (2013) PubMed
  • Jessica Sachs

    Wonderful article. Thanks so much

    • Jessica

      I just google searched “autism and thought of suicide” and found this article. I’m in the process of having our 5 y/o son evaluated for autism. In the past few weeks he has made the following comments: “I’m going to get a knife and cut you”, “I want to run away”, “I’m broken or My body is broken”,”I hate you Mom,”, I’m going to climb up this (railing) and die”, “I’m going to sleep forever.”
      This is coming from a child that receives lots of hugs and kisses, bed time stories, 3 loving older siblings, and a dual-parent home. He has been in speech therapy for 2 years, has received in-home therapy (occupational), and has an IEP in school. My heart breaks for my child, I don’t know what is happening to him or how to “fix” him.

      • John Smith

        Is this your son? I wish I’d have had that situation when I was young. You need a specialist that deals with Autism. I am Autistic, and my eldest daughter was diagnosed with it. Myself and my first daughter were both vaccinated, whilst my other two children are not and seem fine.

        • C

          You disgusting antivaxxers are another reason autistic people get suicidal. We’re not a bad result, we’re people with a different neurology. The vaccines myth has been debunked.

          People who choose to skip vaccines are ignorant and disgusting. The only suitable reason to not get a specific vaccine is an allergy. And people who can’t take a vaccine because of an allergy depend on herd immunity.

          You antivaxxers are destroying lives and you don’t care as long as you avoid autism.

          Take your ableism and shove it.

  • Dean McIntosh

    As a late-diagnosis autistic adult, I have to tell you this much. Being called “person with autism” makes me suicidal.

    The enemies who call us burdens, tragedies, etc, they are the ones insistent on using person-last language (as I call it). Every word out of their mouth is a rhetorical separation of what makes us us from us. In the I Am Autism ad that was transcribed elsewhere, they literally go out of their way to address “autism” as if autism is an analogue of Adolf Hitler, saying “everyone in the world, every nation is against you”. Without care or concern that when they address autism in this manner, they are effectively addressing autistic people.

    In this context, you article makes me feel that little bit more like my life is better off with a delete and start over option. It did not start that way because of autism, either. It started off that way from the effects of parental abuse, societal abuse, increasing physical sickness (try being autistic and having history of skin cancer, diabetes, thrombiosis, high blood cholesterol, etc etc), and __separationist language__.

    “…with autism”, “suffers from autism”, “…has autism” are never far from one another. One is especially offensive, but all of them prompt similar responses to expressive promises to rape or murder. On that basis alone, your headline is offensive and so are your tags. Good day.

    • Neil

      As a fellow late-diagnosis adult, I’m likewise upset, and agree with what Dean writes.

      The problem is that it has suited those who see us as a burden, to be pitied and/or ostracised to regard us as having no feelings. If we don’t have feelings then there is no moral problem with treating us as things they can treat as tragedies, burdens or scapegoats. I’m aware they have the same fantasies about nonhumans, which enables them to morally keep them in sheds before killing and eating them.

      I did not need research to reach the above conclusions. Yes, I perseverate on suicidal thoughts. Yes, the social exclusion and lack of prospects for friends, romance or employment, with the vilification that comes with those things, are important factors behind this. Yes, I have a suicide plan, the means to implement it and the intention to do so under certain circumstances. The fact is, I think humans (I do feel that humans are a distinct species, who don’t think like me, communicate like me or like to live in the same environment as me, not to mention the fact that they’re reproductively isolated from me) hate me for being different.

      What do you expect me to do? Sit here isolated and demonised and be happy about it?

      In terms of what would help, I suspect little that’s realistic. I don’t hold out much hope of neurotypical society overcoming thousands of years of habit and suddenly becoming accepting of difference, and realising I’m odd, not dangerous.

      • Huytongirl

        Persons afflicted with neurotypicality can be selfish, lacking in empathy and utterly arrogant. Most tragic of all, they think it is autistics who have a problem.

  • Dean McIntosh

    “effectively addressing autistic people”

    (I mean “threatening” autistic people, pardon me. The editor in the consciousness tends to get drowned out when I am upset.)

  • Rose

    It must be so hard to contend with all these feelings. I cannot imagine (I hv my own demon depression). Please know I hear you loud and clear. Like your parents, I have a beautiful son who’s smart as can be, sweet as candy then snap…reactive, bolting, hitting, screaming, leaning on me, daring, negative attention seeking, slamming walls, breaking windows on doors. Plesse educate me. He needs you, I need you, the world needs you. More than ever the world needs peacemakers, maybe your a window to a bigger picture building for the good. Future still being written…keep seeking support, best, M

  • SCDMom

    Just my 2 cents Dean & Neil: What you have (and Rose, your son) and what my son has grown into having—is Asperger’s. To me the difference is night and day. My son WAS physically sick, and could not communicate, but through the DAN Protocol, has been able to recover largely from Autism. I am THRILLED that he is where he is (having Asperger’s). To me he is cured of Autism. Best to you all.

    • Neil

      Please stop patronising me. It’s insulting. DAN is quackery: vaccines do not cause autism, and there is precisely no evidence that chelation works and plenty that it’s dangerous. ABA is no more than child abuse.

      • Neil

        Incidentally, I don’t think the difference between me and my silent cousins of classic autism is a matter of night and day. I had no *delay* in intellectual development, but that’s about it. I see them struggling with overstimulating, effectively hostile, neurotypical environments just as I do. I see them shutting that horrible world out to a greater *degree*, and some of them may be less intellectually able, but I see them as more like me than many allistics. I do think that the Aspie community needs to be fighting for their rights more than we do, simply because many of them can’t speak up for themselves – and precious few others are going to. Most of the parents seem focused on their own needs, and not those of their children, with demands for “normality”, to their eternal shame.

        • Ludwig

          Couldn’t have said it better my self.

          • Huytongirl

            How do we cure NTs, and start making them behave exactly as we do? A monstrous question, of course. But reverse it and suddenly it’s common sense! I yearn for the day when I can look up stuff about autism online and not be met with a brick wall of bigotry, quackery and martyr-mommydom.

  • Reader

    Just our personal experience which amounts to opinion only – Amino acid therapy seems to be promising. Just adding in Sam-E or 5HTP makes a significant difference but that is not a whole approach. Looking at neurotransmitter levels, amino acid levels, methylation, immune system holes and treating those areas with available supplements/meds has only brought positive results for us. Integrative medicine has been amazing for us. – Survivor of depression

    • Neil

      Is anybody else sick of this anti-intellectualism that states that someone’s opinion is as good as properly conducted science (not all the research that makes it on to this site qualifies, but that’s a separate issue)? There may be a rare form of autism where supplementation of some amino acids might be of use, but the work remains inconclusive, even among that group (some of those who also have epileptic seizures). It’s about the inability to metabolise certain amino acids and, even then, supplementation may not help. Research is ongoing.

      For everyone else, it’s more pseudobabble, and it’s going to do precisely nothing for depression and suicidal ideation, which is the subject under discussion.

    • Lilly

      I take 5HTP and it is totally awesome! I work at a high stressed job in a high end hotel where everyone thinks the world evolves around them. So this supplement has taken the edge off being insulted as a low form of life by rich snobs. I have two Aspie boys and my Daughter diagnosed as Dyslexic is probably an Aspie in disguise. I have wonder, the more I do research on the subject, if I too am an Aspie. My ex, My kids father, definitely has it though he was never diagnosed.. but they didn’t know about it back then, and they say Aspies usually get along with each other and can tolerate each others quirks if you will, because they are similar in nature. I have meltdowns and suffer from depression and big time anxiety. I think this article was a good one, connecting the higher rate of suicide to people who are Aspies. I know I tried at least once, before kids (couldn’t abandon my kids that way now), because I felt alone, which is a common theme with Aspies. I think I might try and get my oldest son to try the 5HTP and see if it helps him. Thank you for the suggestion READER.. very helpful! 🙂

      • Huytongirl

        I am autistic and I am sick to death of quacks and “cure” merchants. Go cure your own ignorance. Or is it money-grubbing? Who can tell.

  • Elizabeth

    As a late-diagnosis autistic adult, I have to tell you this much. Being called “person with autism” does NOT make me suicidal.
    It is my autism that makes me feel suicidal.
    I just wish there was a treatment, so every day was not such a huge struggle.
    I am glad the researchers are acknowledging the difficulties I, and others, live with every day.

    • Neil

      As far as I’m concerned, it’s not the autism that’s the problem, it’s the way I get treated by allistic society because I’m different that’s the problem. They are the problem, not me, and not autism. I don’t want to live in their narrow-minded vicious society, but my preference is for most of them to stop being so narrow-minded and vicious, to the point where they want to wipe us out – and yes, that is the only possible reason they are pouring vast amounts of “charitable” money into looking for diagnostic markers in utero.

      I call that attempted genocide. Who would want to live in a society like that? Answer: most of them, or they’d change it. I certainly don’t, but they don’t want a better society, where I and others like me would find it easier to cope.

      They are the problem, not us. You want to know the main reason I’m still alive? It’s to spite the ones who want me dead or a shadowy clone of them, complete with their incessant lies and bullying.

    • Matt S

      I have to agree. As someone who is thirty-something and on the spectrum. Like a lot of other lifelong disorders, this condition prevents people from adapting to their situation, be it in relationships, job prospects, feelings of inclusiveness, and being able to relate, etc, which is the main reasons I’ve thought about suicde too.

      • Chris

        MCS I completely agree. I’m 33 and have high-functioning autism. The world doesn’t treat us with love or respect. It prevents us from many things: reaching the breadth of our potential, getting married, friends, careers…so many things. I’m currently struggling with suicide myself. What’s worse is therapists don’t ‘get it’. “Try harder,” they say. “Join a group.” They don’t understand that we do try and that that’s what’s hurting us after such a long period. Neurotypicals either accept you or don’t accept you. We can’t change their minds. It’s as if we are imprisoned, our life sitting in the palm of their hand. It’s a frightening, but REAL thought. And religion complicates matters further. I won’t get into that subject–I’m sure you are intelligent enough to draw your own conclusions, but god supposedly “sends suicides to hell” and it doesn’t matter the reason. I don’t know, there is always hope and there are always ‘miracles’…Idk!!!

        • MCS

          While I’m not a religious believer, the main reason I have never been serious about suicide is my parents. I couldn’t do that to them after what they have done for me, and leave my body in the house for them to find, but when they are gone within the next 20 odd years I honestly don’t know what will happen.

  • Betsy

    That is a beautiful picture.

  • Debbie Oveland

    I am attending an excellent conference in San Antonio, Texas, #communityconversation. In San Antonio there are 80,000 children younger than age 17 who have one or more mental health issues. I am very concerned about suicidal thoughts in people with autism. Awareness is key. Increase in accessibility to mental health treatment through eliminating restrictions on the practice of nurse practitioners, in Texas, creating autonomous, unrestricted practice would be a great start. I am very hopeful because our Mayor, Mayor Ivy Taylor, responded to Ms. Jo Virgil, The Governor’s Committee on Disabilities, that she will form a Mayor’s Committee for Disabilities. Let’s keep listening and collaborating. It takes a universe. #SpeciaLives

  • usethebrainsgodgiveyou

    I didn’t realize my son was suicidal in Middle School. He felt bullied by teachers, who “dehumanized” him. He felt bullied by the curriculum…he is also dyscalculaic and dysgraphic. It isn’t just autism, any LD, any “difference” …80% of suicide notes of teens indicate they may have a learning disability. How can we build them up, rather than tear them down? It isn’t their job to fit in, as much as it is societies job to accept. We would not ask a blind man to see so he could act normally….a child with autism can change no more easily than a blind person.Replace blindness with gayness, blackness, dyslexianess, or any other marginalized group. We don’t need lower expectations, just different. We put too much on the backs of children who need love and understanding to survive. We are supposed to be the grownups, but we act like children. http://raggette.blogspot.com/2011_11_01_archive.html

    I am sorry in a way for Dr. Simon Baron Cohen. He has done as much to marginalize our kiddos as anyone…yet he seems to want to help.

  • AutismisnotwhoIam

    I am autistic and suffer from severe depression and bipolar disorder. I have tried to kill myself before but have never succeeded. I’ve found means of talking to others, through my writing, through online websites where I’ve bonded with others, and it really helps. But we are not monsters, we are not demons, we are humans like you, we walk among you, living differently, thinking differently, and talking differently. Yet we still feel, and think. I am tired of people believing autistics are stupid. Autism does not define who I am. This author is right about many things. You, sir, or ma’am have a heart and know we are not just people ‘suffering’ from autism, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

    • Chrystal

      Is there a support group that you attend our call when you feel depressed or wasn’t to commit suicide? I have a young man that I am wanting to help…

  • Elizabeth

    I would just like to point out that it is my understanding that Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen is the force behind changing the term autism spectrum “disorder” (ASD) to autism spectrum “condition” (ASC), as this is the term he uses in his published work.
    He prefers ‘condition’ to ‘disorder’ because he acknowledges there are typically areas of strengths in those with autism as well as areas of difficulty, and that it’s not all disability.

    • Dave

      Thank you, Elizabeth. Your comment may provide some more common ground between those seeking a unifying language. The “person-first” vs “identity-first” debate tears apart our community (including those with or without autism), and even de-railed the original post by commentators.

    • Huytongirl

      I did not know Baron-Cohen was autistic. If he is not, he has no more right to decide what we call ourselves than I, as a white woman, have to tell people who are not white what name they should choose. And as for “tearing apart the community” – leave that to the quacks, curers and martyr mommies. Get rid of them and we’ll be fine. There is no common ground with them at all.

  • Catherine

    My daughter has Aspergers and 2 suicide attempts at the age of 8. She tells me all the time and not usually when she is angry. What help or advice is out there?

  • gregboustead

    If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

    You can also visit their website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

  • Melissa

    I didn’t read the article though I intended to. I skimmed down to the comments. After doing so I am not even sure I want to read the article. I am the mother of two (17 years/Aspergers, 8 years old/HF Autism). Both have had thoughts of self harm and suicide. My eldest started a FB group “AspieLife” because he stated that all the groups were either people on the spectrum OR the people that loved them. He said that merely alienates us further and he wanted to bring us together.

    Most recently I discovered that a blog post I made a while back about a 14 year old Aspie (please do not be offended by Aspie as I now some are….. my son chooses to refer to himself that way and I will support him in any way he chooses) that committed suicide. The search engine data showed many of the people looking at the blog post were those with Aspergers that were suicidal. Second were their parents searching for info for their suicidal child. As a result my son and I decided to seek out guest bloggers on the same premise as the Aspie Life group…. doesn’t matter if you are or have been suicidal, if you love someone that is, if you have Autism/Aspergers/PDD-NOS/etc or not. Just a collection of blog posts from everyone connected to unify and stand together.

    I personally do not see Autism (and all other dx on the spectrum) as a negative. Sure, my boys are different then neuro-typs but their biggest struggle is from living in a world designed for neurotyps and the perspectives of the neurotyps that inhabit that world. They are bright, intelligent, compassionate, loving, empathic….. it just isn’t always expressed the same as the rest of us. I don’t think they need a cure. They are perfect the way they are. They need understanding, love, compassion…. all the things they make an effort to show to those that judge them.

    If you’d like to guest blog…..please contact me via either the AspieLife FB group or via the blog at pathsfrommysoul.blogspot.com

  • Galya

    Thanks for a great article
    Can you specify the name of Baron-Cohen’s article?
    Thank you

  • Lee H

    I am an adult of 52 recently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome following being admitted to hosptial after a suicide attempt. They patched me up as best they could, sent me for assessment, diagnosed it, then throw you out the door to carry on by yourself as best you can. There is no funding for Aspergers in adults in my area. Coupled with a spouse who is trained in mental health knowing exactly how to drive someone with the condition almost mad day in day out just for the death benefit on his pension, has shaken my faith in humanity to the core. For myself, self isolation will be my defence. Find a lonely job and the internet will supply almost everything else with little need to face NT people. This may not work for everyone but it is the logical solution for me.
    The fact remains we are different and human nature tries to eliminate defects.
    We just struggle day by day to survive in a hostile NT world.

    • Matt S

      I was diagnosed as likely having the condition a couple years ago at 31, but have had traits of Aspergers my whole life, and live a largely reclusive life.

      • Chris

        Sorry to here that MCS. I’m heading down the same path myself; and not of my own free will. It frightens me and to know you can’t remedy matters is overwhelmingly debilitating. At least it is for me. All I ask is you keep me in your thoughts like I will with you, and (if you believe in a god) pray for me; not that my 15 years of prayer have ever worked. In the beginning, on a scale of 1-10, my suicidal thoughts were 1-1/2. Now, at 33, after numerous failed relationships (some were even engagements), always meeting the wrong ones, never finding a career where my full potential could be used, and just losing my father in August of 2015, my suicidal thoughts have risen to 3-3 1/2. Anyway, good luck to you.

        • MCS

          I’ve never had any deep relationship with a woman, and could never really see myself with someone, largely because I could never see how most women would be able or willing to accept my eccentricities, and finding a women who I could relate to enough to have a relationship with or marry would likely be too difficult and emotionally draining.

  • Lilly

    I replied earlier to someones comment, but I wanted to add that the book “feel the fear and do it anyways” complete with workbook, really helped me with my anxieties.. hopefully it can help someone else in need too 🙂 Have a happy day everyone!

  • Crystal

    Allistic people are really funny. They are the ones who have marginalised “autistic”s in the first place but they place the burden of getting help for feeling suicidal. “Here are some resources”. You don’t want autism to exist but then you are shocked that autistic people want to commit suicide? You can figure out what is “wrong” with us, what makes us different to you, but can’t figure out how to relate to us, live alongside us, or (ironically) see things from our perspective. There are ways to include autistics in society without doing it out of guilt or pity, but allistics don’t bother. If autistics outnumbered allistics then suicidality wouldnt be a problem.

    • Chris

      Crystal, they’re afraid to admit we are far more intelligent and superior. That’s what it ultimately boils down to.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been having trouble finding a job, and the way these NTs handle it is pathetic.

    Autistic: Can’t find a job. The act of networking with people, contacting employers, and writing hundreds of resumes and cover letters to find one is a nightmare, and extremely stressful for us.
    NT: We’ll “empower” you with skills to find your own job. Then you can do it yourself like the rest of us. This is just how the system works, they’ll say.

    Autistic: People make fun of me on a regular basis.
    NT: Hands him a body language and social skills book to learn to fit in with the other NTs.

    Autistic: Has trouble making friends.
    NT: You need to be less isolated and get out more. If you had more contact with people you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable making friends.

    Autistic: Has trouble making eye contact.
    NT: You need to be around people more. Then you’d be more comfortable making eye contact.

    Autistic: NT Syndrome sufferer detected.

    Obsessed with confomity. Delusion of superiority. Think their way is the only way and everyone must adhere to them. Intolerant of people with differences. Can’t seem to decide whether to make eye contact in the “all form” (when talking) or “nothing form” (when out in public). Over-exaggerated body language–a quick 2 second look is interpreted as “OMG he’s staring at me”.

    • Huytongirl

      NTD is indeed tragic. We need to raise awareness. The worst aspect, for me, is that they think that they are the healthy ones. Incredible as it sounds, they judge us autistics by their standards and hound us for not being like them. There is obviously an element of psychosis in NTD.

      • Chris

        The reality is NT’s are just too intelligent to realize they’re stupid and that all their talk and superior pose’s are simply smoke in mirrors.

  • Sarah

    I am seeing someone for a diagnosis very soon, Im 34 and female already diagnosed with chronic depression and severe anxiety, OCD, oppositional defiance disorder (that is some kind of joke right?) and some other rubbish. I know I am autistic but I have to ‘prove’ it with a doctors note my lifetime of suffering and blatant traits according to my family are attention seeking, selfish, weak, a burden, Ive ruined EVERYONES LIFE and I know my cousin who I held the day she was born and thought of as a sister wishes I would kill myself. I wanted to die from the age of 5. I have been bashed, raped, emotionally abused relentlessly or decades, humiliated, assaulted, threatened, homeless, a welfare parasite why after all that does anyone think they have the right, in any dimension of reality to tell me to ‘ask for help and not to kill myself? Thats sick, you people are the sick ones. You drive a person to a point where they are in such a state of suffering and self hatred and rage that you cannot imagine then you have the balls to hand me an F$$%ING phone number? I can’t even use the PHONE!!! I can barely communicate verbally, the internet is all I have. Suicide turns to hatred and bitterness and back and forth and I hide in a corner and don’t anyone DARE come near me and say a damn word. Everything I do or try to do or hold onto to keep my sanity and have any love or joy, my pets, my hobbies even my model trains and toy horses are ‘Junk’ Stupid’ messy, annoying other people, childish, not lady like (the looks I get as an adult female into trains is priceless) and I am also asexual throw that in the mix. No I am just a frigid cranky female whi hasn’t met the right man yet. I try very very hard to be left alone and the NT’s have to keep picking, prodding and will not stop. ‘How can I have no job and be autistic people say if I really have a 140 IQ and why does my spelling sometimes go bad and why does my memory fail me, and why can’t I organise anything properly or get to appointments, finish school, drive a car? No I must be really stupid. Yes this is the wrong planet. I want to move to a planet populated by animals and garden knomes where we all wear funny hats and sunglasses at night and noone looks twice. Sometimes I feel like someone watching the world through a 2 way mirror window outside of it but trapped inside it at the same time, no way out and seeing how totally ridiculous it all is and screaming like people scream at a TV.

    • Chris

      Sarah, I completely agree with you. I’m not merely saying this to be nice. I can relate to your hurt, anger, frustration, and sadness more than you realize. Maybe we can be friends. By the way, your description of another world sounds awesome. Can you provide a map so I know how to get there? 😉

  • Sarah

    I will add another factor to the mix. Chronic itching. If putting up with peoples crap is not enough and the sensory problems try also have severe constant itching skin. A peice of clothing touches the wrong spot wham I get a raised lumpy rash that rages into the night defying all manner of creams and pills I scratch till I bleed then I itch somewhere else. I have scars from last summer. It drives me to madness. Im loosing teeth because i cannot arrange dental apointments and have such a problem with the sensations of anesthetic wearing off in my mouth I have complete freak outs. Had 5 tooth extractions and was in bed for weeks. People see me as weak sorry no until you have this you can shut up. Yet I can brake a bone and laugh. Figure out that one. And I do hurt myself a lot because I am clumsy another thing that pisses people off and gets me ridicule. You are sooo clumsy thanks I needed reminding. I cannot tolerate garlic, I dont digest very well certain foods, not an allergy give me reflux. Most nights I have to be upright in bed for hours and have had this from a baby. ‘Your up all night Sarah’ its annoying people because you sleep in the day. I end up 2 days no sleep because itching reflux and anxiet all night, by morning I am exhausted the cycle goes on and on compounding with all other stress. I know people like me are reading this nodding their heads right now. And people get pissed off with me. So I decided I would stop sleeping since there seemed to be no time I was allowed to. On top of that I have to do all the housework walk to the shops and back because I cant drive and I dont always remember to eat, I am hopeless at cooking and always make a mess and get yelled at. So I go days with not eating much. I nd up burned out exhausted and numb I finally drift into a sleep and someone wakes me up yelling. By the way sarah if you are feeling suicidal here is a phone number… F off.

  • markfriedman

    I was diagnosed with ADHD at 58 and Asperger’s when I was 60. I’ve suffered with depression my entire life and have the additional Dx of dysthymia.

    That’s just background.

    Being on The Spectrum means my mind works differently than that of a neurotypilcal. For me, suicide has always been a reasonable alternative to be included in decision making.

    You had no choice in coming into this world and no choice about your genetic makeup or anything else.

    In my opinion, you DO have the choice regarding when you leave this world – and how you do it.

    After all, everyone – at some point – dies.

    There are two good movies (the first, a 1983 play) that deal with suicide: ‘night Mother, the other: Seven Pounds – a 2008 movie starring Will Smith.

    Don’t see either if you’re depressed, but do see them.

  • Huytongirl

    I am autistic. I cannot be doing with any more talk of my self being a “disorder.” And starting with the idea that we don’t feel emotions! I would like to call such ideas part of Neurotypical Disorder, or NTD. Apparently anything they cannot see is not real. They have just been shocked to discover the trees have roots and the sun does not actually stop existing on moonless nights.

    Stop talking about us as if we were not here. Stop talking about us as if we could not speak for ourselves. Apparently this is a huge part of NTD – the utter inability to recognise or admit the equality of other neurotypes. A very poisonous sort of arrogance.

    You know what? I am starting to think that persons affected by NTD do not feel emotions. Perhaps we could have some autistics given a big grant to investigate them.

    Seriously it really is rubbish.

    • Chris

      I know I feel emotions…it’s the (to express this message kindly) sh** u* or I’ll kick your *** kind of emotion lol XD But I do agree with you, NT’s are causing the world to crumble slowly brick by brick!!!

  • John Smith

    32 years old, and diagnosed with High Functioning Autism 1.3 years ago. My wife I have struggled not knowing what I was. I was diagnosed with ADDHD as a young child, and treated on meds that did nothing to me. I am suicidal 24/7, and first stated I wanted to kill myself when I was four or so. Due to being different, and Autism not being widely known, I was severely abused by both parents, grand parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, teachers, friends of family and neighbours. I had no break from abuse no matter where I went and who. The only person who showed ANY kindness was my mothers mother. My abuse was so severe, it has left me with several other conditions, as well as being removed from parents at age 7 by police and child services. This has damaged me intensely. The feelings of just wanting to die have always been there, and it’s shocking to know it never will go away.

  • C

    Functioning labels are super harmful. This article makes it sound as if nonverbal autistic people who need a lot of help and whose communication is mostly behavioral aren’t able to be sad or depressed either. Uh, it’s damaging to leave them out of the discussion. That’s why functioning labels are crap, they create a division that is not there.

    Also, this article totally overlooked bullying as a source of depression and suicide in autistic people.

    I was severely bullied because of my appearance and autistic traits in high school. I was not just ostracized. I was mocked, called names, publicly humiliated, set up to fail, threatened DAILY with rape and murder and physically assaulted in a manner that could have killed me. Every day, I got to hear that I was a retard, ugly, twig girl, useless, a waste of space, a walking disease, a failed abortion, a disappointment, a piece of shit, somebody that nobody cared about or wanted around… and so on.

    I was ignored by all authority figures when I tried to report the bullying, or I got in trouble because I was seen retaliating while the bullies got off without even a warning. It’s like the bullies did something mean with a teacher’s back turned and I reacted as the teacher turned around. So no amount of saying “she hit me” or “he’s throwing paper clips at me” did a thing because the response was always “I don’t care, I saw YOU hitting/throwing/making rude gestures!”

    I tried to kill myself because I felt unwanted and useless. Fortunately, the attempt failed. Now I’m an antibullying activist and am working my way through all the damage bullying did to me.

  • MsUnderstood

    I have been to many, many therapists for the past 20 something years, trying to get answers. Been diagnosed with all kinds of anxieties, etc. but there were things no one could understand or have an answer to. Why do I like to rock back and forth? It’s something I have done for as long as I can remember. I used to cry over things that others would consider trivial, like my hair not doing what I want it to do. Things like that. Clothes always made my body hurt. I always liked to wear loose clothing…still do. The list goes on. Yet no one ever suspected Asperger’s Syndrome. Now I’m middle aged and finally know what it was all about. My meltdowns were always done in private… Well, except for some bigger things, like when my mom tried to get me to go on an elevator. I freaked out and she dragged me down the hall kicking and screaming. Or the time I thought I could handle the carnival ride where you sit in an individual seat and as the ride spins the seats go straight out. I panicked and hated it and never went on another ride after that. But the meltdowns during the times when I just didn’t want to live anymore? Those were done in private. I would sit on the floor and bring my knees into my chest and rock. I would bang my head against the wall and punch my thighs. I would wish I could climb into a whole in the wall and just die there. I was (and still am) convinced that my life is of no consequence. I think the reason I started keeping these meltdowns to myself is because my mom would tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself. Gee. That’s helpful. I already had so many social issues…never fitting in anywhere. My peers never liked my suggestions. I was bullied and teased all the time. There were times when kids who were way older than me even did horrible things to me. My life sucked. I escaped through listening to music, reading books and drawing. The hatred of myself never went away. In my adult life when I’m under too much stress I end up reacting the way I did then. I don’t do the physical stuff. It’s all mental. I go back to feelings of dread, inadequacy, depressive thinking, self loathing…and a wish that I just wasn’t alive anymore. I used to go into this state of detachment, where I envision doing something that would cause me to die and then allow this feeling of lifting out of my body and looking down at my corpse. This would give me such a sense of relief. I would do this because I’m afraid to kill myself. I’m afraid of it not working and being in worse shape as a result. But the desire to just no longer want to exist never goes away. Bittersweet this discovery is; to finally know what’s been going on yet now, at this age will anyone believe me? I’m afraid to look for help. I mean, in all these years and with all that I’ve shared… And no one saw it? I feel like no one is going to believe me. Nevermind that I’m housebound because of how difficult it is for me to be in social situations as well as random panic attacks. I can’t drive and have to take the bus or walk everywhere. Riding public transportation is the hardest thing for me to do. Not only do I already have a hard time being around people, and have sensory issues, as well as chronic pain, but I live in a city that has one of the highest crime rates. Where I live right now is safe. But to get places sometimes requires that I enter places that aren’t safe and this causes me to stress so badly that I’m always physically and mentally exhausted by the time I get back home. If a professional would believe me that I have Asperger’s Syndrome it’s very possible that I could qualify for a transportation service (it’s not free, I have to pay) and wouldn’t have to use the bus. I’m so used to people in the medical field not listening to me. I have been losing hope of finding answers. I always thought that I was going back to a certain age, where I remember having the most problems, but I am beginning to believe that I never outgrew that age emotionally because all those feelings drown me the way they did then, when I have a sensory overload. I didn’t feel loved then, so I don’t feel loved now. I have a conflict with someone, bam! I’m that little girl. It’s real quite shocking that I made it this far. It really is. I guess I just need to quit feeling sorry for myself. Sigh.

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