Why people with Aspergers seem so awkward around others

Non-autistic people or neurotypicals see safety in numbers.  We see threat. Unless we are shipwrecked and have been floating at sea in a dinghy for four days with no food we don’t see safety in other people.  They stimulate the amygdala in our brains, causing adrenalin overload and a fight or flight reaction.  So we may feel testy, want to flee, or, because we’ve trained ourselves to do neither, we simply become awkward-stiff, jerky, even suffer from a temporary inability to speak.  Some of us, because of the adrenalin rush, switch into performance mode, and we can seem both witty and charming for a short period of time.  This tricks people into thinking we are socially adept.  It’s a smoke screen. Performances are tiring and we can’t keep it up for long-certainly not an entire work day, or any other lengthy gathering.  Eventually, we become exhausted and depleted and must retreat mentally or physically.

Sensory overload is a daily battle and is now part of the criteria for autism spectrum disorders. For some with AS, a ceiling fan that spins beneath a light is like being in a disco with strobes after one too many cocktails.  Even driving down the road with the sunlight slanting through trees hurts our brains and make us sick. Busy patterns on wallpaper, carpet, etc. make us dizzy. Flickering fluorescents at the checkout will have us curling into a fetal position on the counter. The offices/warehouses/stores that we must shop or work in, and the …

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Rudy Simone is the author of Psychology Today’s Aspergirls blog.

Why people with Aspergers seem so awkward around others appears here with her permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 12/23/10 in Autism, featured | 2 Comments | Read More

Comments (2)


  1. Clay says:

    Argh! I couldn’t “read more” on any of the links given, although I was able to read other articles on Psych Today. With this one, I only got “Page not found” on every link.

  2. Mark Stairwalt says:

    Clay, I just checked them and both links are working fine at this point — but thanks for speaking up.

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