Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (or Pervasive Developmental Disorder) characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors and interests. Those with Asperger Syndrome, or AS, may exhibit a lack of empathy for their peers, clumsiness, and atypical use of language, though none of these symptoms are required for a diagnosis.1
The pain of coming to terms with having Asperger's is still very real for me right now. There is a tremendous sense of grief. Grief for all that I suffered through to try to be "normal" and grief for how short of "normal" I always have been. There is also great relief to know that I am not crazy and that not everything can be traced back to an abusive past in the sense that some of what I experience is not choice/emotional but neurons/physical. The greatest challenge I face right now is trying to figure out which is which. This is not easy.
One of the most common side effects of a number of antidepressant medications is loss of sex drive. I could forgive our friends at fine companies such as Eli Lilly, Bristol Meyers Squibb, and Pfizer if dry mouth, irritability, disrupted sleep patterns, loss of appetite, sloth, and social phobia were the sole issues related to the medications I take on a daily basis. However, it is the sex thing I find most challenging.
Anhedonia is the technical term for the inability to experience joy. When people are in the depths of depression, nothing touches them, not the most intensely pleasurable activities, not the most familiar comforts. They are emotionally frozen. In this state, people either have to get professional help or simply wait for weeks or months until the depression lifts by itself; nothing is going to make them feel better.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness which affects one person in every hundred.
Depression is perhaps the most common of all mental health problems, currently felt to affect one in every four adults to some degree. Depression is a problem with mood/feeling in which the mood is described as sad, feeling down in the dumps, being blue, or feeling low. While the depressed mood is present, evidence is also present which reflects the neurochemical or "brain chemistry" aspects of depression with the depressed individual experiencing poor concentration/attention, loss of energy, accelerated thought/worry, sleep/appetite disturbance, and other physical manifestations. When this diagnosis is present, the individual will exhibit at least five of the following symptoms during the depressive periods:
Less dramatic than anhedonia but a much more pervasive problem is a condition that doesn't even have a clinical name; it's the gradual withdrawal into isolation and indifference that can mark the beginning of depression. Robertson Davies called this condition acedia; it's akin to the deadly sin of sloth. But it's not merely laziness, it's a gradual closing down of the world. As depression makes us lose interest or pleasure in ordinary activities, our range of activities constricts. We stop taking chances, we avoid stimulation, we play it safe, and we begin to cut ourselves off from anything that might shake us up — including loved ones. It's the gradual poison that sinks into marriages and makes people vulnerable to affairs. It's the hardening of the attitudes on the job that makes for petty, passive-aggressive bureaucracies. It's the withdrawal from our own children that leaves them questioning why we bother to live.
I worry that the symptomatic relief of depression provided by medication or brief therapy only helps a person regain a previous level of functioning that was depressed to begin with. Acedia, the absence of feeling, makes for empty lives, and it seems to be on the increase. Putting anger, guilt, and shame in their place is not enough for recovery from depression; we also must take responsibility for learning to feel good. We might prefer to play it safe, to avoid or control all emotions, but we simply can't; it doesn't work; our selves and our relationships deteriorate into brittle, bitter, vulnerable shells. While learning to feel may be temporarily upsetting, in the long haul it adds richness and meaning to our lives.
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