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Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

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Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby MEKG » Fri Jul 29, 2011 4:48 pm

I've been told I might have AS but I've noticed that I don't have a few of the key traits. I have empathy for others, and I can easily detect sarcasm and body language/facial expressions. Does this mean I don't have it, or is it possible to still have it without these?
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby TNSe » Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:03 pm

I think the concensus has been that AS have problems showing empathy, but they got shitloads of it. Also I have learnt to read and use sarcasm/irony.
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby petrossa » Fri Jul 29, 2011 6:22 pm

Second that. I'll explain:

Aspergers comes with a different wiring then the 'normal' brain. The most prevalent ones are the anomalies in the white matter, especially the Corpus Callosum. This causes the brain to develop radically different with as result varying in degree but steady overall differences in behavior and mode of thought.

The most recent developments show that the wring of 'let's call it' the social part of the brain is not the same. This means we just lack the brain to properly process social issues. (Atypical neural specialization for social percepts in autism spectrum disorder, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=21777159)

So whilst we have empathy, since this is located in the limbic system and that's unaffected by the whitematter variations, we lack the connective module. We can't, or have difficulty with, linking the one with the other.

Since this a real basic brain issue, the brainmodule isn't there or faulty, you can never use that or learn to use that.

But you can make do. Reroute the otherwise automatic processes through your higher order processes and over time consolidate an automated social module. It'll never be perfect, but it'll work. Reason why most aged Aspies aren't that socially inept as they were when younger.

As an analogue you can liken it to brain plasticity. If someone suffered a minor stroke the lost capabilities can with a lot of training be taken over by other parts of the brain.
There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch.
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby Fluffycoon » Fri Jul 29, 2011 6:43 pm

Yes it's normal... You can still emphasize with others, but you may not emphasize on a social level.

Like say someone comes to you for advice and expects you to respond a certain way... you may say something rational (or you may not know what to say at all) but that doesn't mean that that's what they expected.

People can try to connect to you, but you may not connect to them. Doesn't mean you don't emphasize, because you can still emphasize if you have had a personal experience you can relate with.

Other times, people expect weird answers... I have friends that know my good side, but there will always be an oddball person that will think they're "winning" by being critical towards you even though they look like an ass in public.
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby katana » Fri Jul 29, 2011 8:23 pm

from what i gather, lack of empathy in AS is a myth.

I think there are some misconceptions about AS - I always thought its about difficulties in social communication (problems interacting and bonding with others cause of that) rather than not having empathy underneath that, more like being unable to express empathy? I don't know the exact details.

Also, people mix up other problems making it impossible to connect to others, or just upbrining and psychological/mental health issues with Aspergers. Even intelligence gets mixed up with it. I've had people try to suggest i'm on the autistic spectrum but i actually disagree.

I explained to a mental health worker I couldn't empathise properly and was trying to improve it (through therapy) a long while back and the lady I was speaking to turned round and said "well maybe you're just somewhere on the autistic spectrum". My reaction to that was "well how come i've developed this empathy that comes and goes then?" After a long discussion, she agreed my problem was psychological and dissociative, not autistic.

with autism, you have to learn to read/project social cues by rote/systematically ? personally, i just needed therapy to go back and fix the reason i couldn't empathise. the conclusions i came up with about things ended up pretty logic based cause i lacked the connect in a different way. that but the 2 issues are very different.

Academic ability is also not the same thing as systemising. (Aspies score very high on systemising.) i did well at school (academically anyway) and dont score high on systemising at all.
Aspergers is not intelligence either - I think most Aspies are very bright, maybe AS is what happens when someone particularly bright is on the autistic spectrum. but not everyone bright - or even bright with social problems - is an Aspie.

One question I'd ask people is, If you need to do something do you just get on with it and see what will happen, or do you sit down and draw a detailed matrix of everything you need to do and become facinated by it? - (i'm sure that question could be improved, but its just a rough idea.)

maybe these posts by aspies might help:

http://www.autismandempathy.com/?p=82
http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/in ... 132AACU3sb
http://insideperspectives.wordpress.com ... s/empathy/

I was brought up in an academic sort of family that didn't nurture empathy or emotion as a reponse, but did nurture intelligence and academic performance, and was also abusive. It screwed me up,That isn't autism.

If anything is inaccurate here, people with an Aspergers dx are welcome to correct anything in here i may have got wrong. :)
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby Chic Geek » Sat Jul 30, 2011 5:40 am

I have some empathy. Mainly for my children and my immediate family. I don't show it at all and that gave me great stress as a child. I never understood why I felt things on the inside (pretty intensely sometimes) but on the outside I looked like I couldn't care less. I figured this out only by reactions from others to my behavior. For the longest time I thought I was terrified I was a sociopath like my mother. On the outside it appeared that way to others. Lack of facial expressions, seeming to not care etc. It certainly would have been helpful if my parents were like "hey, something seems different, we should take her to see a psychiatrist" but they didn't believe in labeling their children.

I can only empathize with other people I am not related to when I have been through the same or a similar situation whereas with my family I can feel it regardless. The worst for me is when someone who I know, but I may not really care for is upset or telling me about something horrible that recently happened to them and I have zero feelings about it (and it shows all over my face). Talk about wanting to be swallowed up by the ground.

Also remember, Aspies are often "clueless" as to what the other person is feeling unless it is spelled out for them so if we don't that they are feeling bad, how can we empathize. Most NT's can read each other's mind so to speak so people don't feel the need to verbalize it when it is written all over their faces.

Lack of empathy is attributed to ASPD (Anti Social Personality Disorder and Narcissism. I have a sociopath as a mother and a narcissist for an ex-husband. Ain't I lucky? I count my blessings every day that I "only" have Asperger's.

Alexithymia Wow, there is a name for everything. Reminds me of my favorite boardgame Balderdash. I think we all for the most part knew this:

Research suggests that 85% of ASD individuals have alexithymia, which involves not just the inability to verbally express emotions, but specifically the inability to identify emotional states in self or others. According to recent fMRI studies the syndrome of alexithymia, a condition in which an individual is rendered incapable of recognising and articulating emotional arousal in self or others, is responsible for a severe lack of emotional empathy. The lack of empathic attunement inherent to alexithymic states may reduce quality and satisfaction of relationships.

Cognitive versus affective empathy
Rogers et al. suggest that one must differentiate between cognitive empathy and affective empathy when regarding people with Asperger syndrome. They suggest that autistic individuals have less ability to ascertain others' feelings, but demonstrate equal empathy when they are aware of others' states of mind. Autistic and AS people actually have a greater response to stress that they witness others experiencing than neurotypical people do.

Oversensitivity
A common source of confusion in analyzing the interactions between empathy and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is that the apparent lack of empathy may mask emotional oversensitivity to the feelings of others. People with ASDs may suppress their emotional facility in order to avoid painful feedback. (I do this and I am really oversensitive to criticism) This is cited by Phoebe Caldwell, an author on ASD, who writes:

What is clear is that, while people on the spectrum may not respond easily to external gestures/sounds, they do respond most readily if the initiative they witness is already part of their repertoire. This points to the selective use of incoming information rather than absence of recognition. It would appear that people with autism are actually rather good at recognition and imitation if the action they perceive is one that has meaning and significance for their brains.
As regards the failure of empathic response, it would appear that at least some people with autism are oversensitive to the feelings of others rather than immune to them, but cannot handle the painful feed-back that this initiates in the body, and have therefore learnt to suppress this facility.

An apparent lack of empathy may also mask an inability to express empathy to others, as opposed to difficulty feeling it, internally.


katana wrote:I was brought up in an academic sort of family that didn't nurture empathy or emotion as a reponse, but did nurture intelligence and academic performance, and was also abusive. It screwed me up,
What are you my brother? Not knowing I had Asperger's my whole life partly screwed me up, living with a sociopathic mother REALLY screwed me up. My family also didn't show emotions, if we had any, they were invalidated. That was pretty confusing to me as a child. We were all "groomed" to be successful adults (mainly by my father). But if you ask my sister and brother they are eternally grateful for that. I however, am not a successful adult :( I'm working on it.
If anything is inaccurate here, people with an Aspergers dx are welcome to correct anything in here i may have got wrong. :)
Oh, I'm sure they will :)
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby Kessana » Tue Aug 09, 2011 12:15 am

I remember when my grandfather died, I was a mess. The problem was, when I'm a mess inside, I tend to present as if I really couldn't care any less about what happened. Those who knew me knew I HAD to be torn up. He was pretty much my father. My own father I saw a few times a month growing up. He got me my cats in middle school, and one of them is, for all intents and purposes, like my daughter for all I'm barely into my 20s. And I barely see her and she's somewhere around 7-10 years old. She mopes when I'm not around and I'm the only one who knows why I call her "Cuddlebug". But yeah, he wasn't the…easiest person to be around. He…he literally cares more about his company than his family. So my grandfather took over in that dept.. I learned his music, his movies, his shows, his jokes. We went places together, and he bought me ice cream more than was probably good. He always kept so much soda in his car I'm surprised it didn't make a hole in the driveway. And he taught me everything I know about emotions. My uncle even said I was the only person he ever said "I love you" to. But I was just…I couldn't cry, I couldn't act like half my world was gone. I was irritable. Everyone was crying and it pissed me off. Not because I couldn't cry, but because everyone else was crying at the drop of a hat. I even got told off for "not being at all upset." But I wanted to. I wanted to cry, to mourn, to…I guess "be normal" for all that normal doesn't exist…

A bit more than two years later I'm still crying, still upset. I can barely see the screen right now. But it took a LONG time to be able to show how I felt, to be able to cry.

So yes. You can have empathy, sympathy, strong emotion…it's just harder to express that. When I was snapping at my mom, my aunt, for crying because I couldn't understand what they were saying, it wasn't because I couldn't understand what they were feeling, but because it's just how I was then. Not to say I was a jerk, but because I just couldn't express it and it annoyed me, I guess, that everyone else could.
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby Kessana » Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:19 am

As regards the failure of empathic response, it would appear that at least some people with autism are oversensitive to the feelings of others rather than immune to them, but cannot handle the painful feed-back that this initiates in the body, and have therefore learnt to suppress this facility.


That's exactly what I was trying to say. When I'm a mess inside, when I'm feeling too much all at once, I suppress everything I feel, and in that case, when my grandfather died, it made me annoyed. Since "Annoyed" was outside the suppression, that's how I presented. As annoyed. It's not how I REALLY felt, I was feeling horrible and scared and about half my world dropped out from under my feet forever, and I wanted to join the big huge cry-fest that was my family, and cry, and laugh while crying as we shared stuff, and generally feel like I did. But I couldn't do that because it was too much to feel. And because I couldn't, I was annoyed. And since Annoyed was outside the suppression I'd already set up, outside the "emotional quarantine" of sorts…I felt Annoyed. And a bit guilty, but that was also inside the "quarantine" for the most part. But I wanted so much to cry, and cry with, and generally mourn. It was…not all that fun. And the house was full by the time I was ready to let everything out…and it's not pretty to let a big huge ball of suppressed emotions out…not for me. I generally devolve into a loud, shaking, quivering ball of tears and(at the time) hair. I had so much hair…but the fact remains de-suppression for me is…well, let's just say last time I did I required my cat, about three gallons of tea, six days, and an empty house, and I only had two of those. I got a third a year later. I don't think this house is ever really "empty."

Now I am about ready to KILL whoever owns the car with subwoofers the size of freight tires. They drive around here every night and go up and down the streets until about dawn…and we don't have a lot of streets around here. I woke up with a sinus headache the size of Montana's total surface area and a nose that sounds like one of those poor bulldogs with asthma. Not to mention I already want to kill said person for keeping me up all night for about a third of my nights the past year and a half since they found this place…and I live here 'cause it's QUIET.
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby MarshAbChaos » Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:27 am

Aspergers Syndrome has a high comorbidity rate with alexithymia.

"Alexithymia is defined by:
-difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
-difficulty describing feelings to other people
-constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a scarcity of fantasies
-a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style."

With alexithymia there are problems with empathy. The essay I read about alexithymia and autism spectrum disorders noted that as much as 50% of people with autism spectrum disorders also have alexithymia. This might be the cause for why lack of empathy is connected with aspergers so often.
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Re: Can you have empathy for others but still have AS?

Postby petrossa » Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:53 am

There is only on cause of the lack of conscious awareness of empathy and that is that the communication module of the brain that links the two is underdeveloped.

Nothing more nothing less. Neurological fact.
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