Understanding Antisocial Personality: The Stigma Tied to ASPD

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Antisocial personality (ASPD) is one of the cluster B personality disorders, which typically involve emotional, impulsive, or dramatic thoughts and actions. This group of personality disorders is also significant because it includes borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder, in addition to ASPD. These issues, and personality disorders in general, are among the most stigmatized mental health conditions.

Colloquially, many people use the terms psychopath and sociopath interchangeably with antisocial personality. A common assumption is that all people who have ASPD are incapable of emotion and feeling and will eventually commit violent crimes and harm others. It’s true many people living with ASPD typically don’t feel remorse or guilt. They may also lack empathy, struggle to understand the emotions of other people, or experience frequent legal issues, due to a tendency toward impulsive and often dangerous or illegal actions.

But sociopathy isn’t a mental health diagnosis, and not every person with ASPD will hurt other people or engage in violent acts. It’s possible for people who have ASPD to avoid actions that could harm others, especially when they have support from a compassionate therapist. In therapy, people can develop interpersonal skills along with coping techniques for impulsivity and aggression. These tools can benefit people who want to improve relationships and avoid illegal or dangerous activity and behaviors that harm others.

It’s possible for people who have ASPD to avoid actions that could harm others, especially when they have support from a compassionate therapist.

How Common Is ASPD?

The estimated prevalence of ASPD may vary depending on the study and criteria used. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), between around 0.2 and 3.3% of the population has ASPD in a given 12 month period. This condition is only diagnosed in people over the age of 18.

More than 90% of people diagnosed with ASPD also live with another mental health issue. Substance abuse is the most common co-occurring condition. Research suggests ASPD occurs much more frequently in men diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. Higher prevalence is also seen in prison settings, as well as population samples from impoverished areas. Other common co-occurring issues are anxiety and depression.

Though ASPD is far less common in women than it is in men, some research has suggested when ASPD develops in women, the condition may become more severe. Women living with ASPD are even more likely to abuse substances than men living with ASPD. However, research also indicates antisocial behavior may persist longer in men. Men who have ASPD also have an increased risk of early death.

Aggressive and violent behavior in childhood, such as that seen with conduct disorder, can be an indicator for ASPD. Not all children who have conduct disorder will go on to develop ASPD, but a history of conduct disorder is one of the diagnostic criteria for ASPD. These symptoms must appear before the age of 15. Parental neglect, abuse, or inconsistency and a lack of stability from primary caregivers can all increase the risk that a child with conduct disorder will develop ASPD.

Asocial vs Antisocial

It’s not uncommon to hear antisocial used to refer to people who prefer to be on their own and avoid spending a lot of time with others. But “asocial” is a more accurate way to define this lack of interest in social interaction. Asocial can describe a general disinterest in society and engagement with others, but it doesn’t indicate a person harbors any ill will or negative intent toward others.

Antisocial, on the other hand, goes beyond a general dislike or avoidance of society and community. People who meet criteria for a diagnosis of ASPD typically feel hostile toward other people. Even those who don’t have actively hostile feelings toward others may care very little for the safety, general well-being, and feelings of most other people. It’s also not uncommon for people who have antisocial traits to have significant disregard for their own safety.

It’s important to note that these feelings don’t necessarily translate to violent tendencies. Studies of people in prison do reveal high rates of ASPD, but this condition occurs on a spectrum, and not everyone living with the condition becomes violent or dangerous. Research has also observed that some people who display antisocial traits may have developed these behaviors in order to survive and protect themselves when growing up in difficult circumstances.

Many people use psychopathy as a synonym for ASPD, but this usage isn’t accurate. Psychopathy can best be considered a severe form of ASPD, rather than the most characteristic presentation of the condition. Most people who meet criteria for psychopathy according to the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL – R) do also meet criteria for ASPD. But only about 10% of people diagnosed with ASPD also meet criteria for psychopathy.

What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

At the core of ASPD lies a consistent lack of regard for the rights of others, which generally includes impulsive, irresponsible, and reckless behavior. People may take action without considering potential consequences and experience little or no remorse for harm caused by their behavior. Theft, manipulation, and other deceit are common, and people living with ASPD also tend to rationalize or minimize their actions.

Antisocial behavior can include violent or criminal acts, but people living with ASPD aren’t always aggressive or violent. Similarly, while many people with ASPD lack empathy, this isn’t always the case. People living with ASPD often struggle to develop or maintain meaningful relationships, and they may cause emotional harm to their partners; but it’s still possible for people with ASPD to feel love and empathy, often for a select few people such as children, partners, or close family members.

Abuse, neglect, or absent caregivers can increase risk for ASPD when other factors are present, particularly early onset conduct disorder. In people who develop ASPD, early childhood mistreatment can reinforce the belief that no one else will look out for them, so they should do whatever they can to look after themselves and get their needs met. This belief commonly occurs with ASPD.

In recent years, a few people with ASPD have written about their experience living with the condition. This may have had a small effect on the stigma surrounding the condition, but many people still struggle to accept that ASPD doesn’t always mean a person is violent or “evil.” The stigma associated with personality disorders, ASPD in particular, may make it even more difficult for people who want to improve to get the help they need. Negative attitudes from caregivers and educators may begin early on, often when children first display signs of conduct disorder.

The stigma associated with personality disorders, ASPD in particular, may make it even more difficult for people who want to improve to get the help they need.One study of 202 kindergarten teachers found teachers were most likely to have a harsh response toward aggressive children. But negative attitudes, or writing children off as troublemakers or delinquents, can reinforce ideas such as, “I’m bad,” “I’ll never amount to anything,” or “No one cares what happens to me,” from early childhood. Some experts believe this can increase the chances aggressive behavior and disregard for others will continue and worsen.

Treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Not everyone considers ASPD a mental health issue. Research has shown that many people believe people with this condition are:

  • Violent
  • Evil
  • Dangerous
  • Impossible to treat

Having a mental health issue doesn’t absolve a person of responsibility for their actions, but it’s an important factor in understanding why some people behave the way they do. When stigma perpetuates the idea of a group of people as evil, positive change becomes even more difficult to achieve.

Specific characteristics associated with ASPD, such as self-sufficiency, a tendency to externalize problems, disdain for authority, and general hostility, also make it less likely people with ASPD will ever reach out for help, complicating treatment and decreasing the chance of improvement.

When people with ASPD do enter treatment, it’s more often to get help for a co-occurring condition or because a legal authority or family member has steered them toward therapy. Among those who do get help, many drop out of treatment early. Negative attitudes among therapists or ineffective treatment methods can contribute to this.

It’s important for people with ASPD to work with therapists who offer compassionate support and are willing to try a range of approaches to find the most effective treatment. In many cases, people with antisocial traits can learn skills to cope with their condition and avoid acting in ways that negatively affect others. When people with a dual diagnosis seek treatment, it’s essential for therapists to recognize the ways ASPD can contribute to and worsen other mental health symptoms.

A key factor in successful therapy for ASPD is recognizing individual fault. People living with ASPD who can’t admit or accept their actions are harmful or that they have a role in the harm they’ve caused may not be able to improve. One approach to treatment that’s shown some promise is mentalization-based therapy. This approach helps people explore their state of mind, including emotions, desires, and feelings toward others. Once they better understand their thoughts, they can use this understanding to address impulses and control them.

Some research suggests schema therapy, an approach that helps people work to identify and address maladaptive behavior patterns and develop more effective ways of relating, may also be helpful for people with ASPD. It’s effective for other personality disorders, including BPD and narcissistic personality, and some research suggests people are less likely to drop out of this type of therapy than other approaches.

Research has shown treatment can help improve many of the behaviors associated with ASPD when a person is willing to work toward change. It’s important for future research to continue exploring the most helpful types of treatment for ASPD to increase the chances of people with the condition improving with treatment. Successful treatment can not only improve well-being and quality of life for people with ASPD, it can also have a positive impact on the people in their lives.

If you or a loved one is struggling with the effects of ASPD, know that help is available. Begin your search for a trained, compassionate counselor at GoodTherapy.

References:

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
  2. Antisocial personality disorder. (2017, November 20). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9657-antisocial-personality-disorder
  3. Antisocial personality disorder. (2018, May 25). NHS. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder
  4. Arbeau, K. A., & Coplan, R. J. (2007). Kindergarten teachers’ beliefs and responses to hypothetical prosocial, asocial, and antisocial children. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 53(2), 291-318. doi: 10.1353/mpq.2007.0007
  5. Brians, P. (2016, May 17). Asocial. Retrieved from https://brians.wsu.edu/2016/05/17/asocial
  6. Brill, A. (2017, June 16). Life with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Retrieved from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/life-with-antisocial-personality-disorder-aspd/#.XMY0wJNKjOT
  7. British Psychological Society. (2010). Antisocial personality disorder: Treatment, management, and prevention. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK55333
  8. Hesse, M. (2010). What should be done with antisocial personality disorder in the new edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-V)? BMC Medicine, 8, 66. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-8-66
  9. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, August 4). Antisocial personality disorder. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353934
  10. Sheehan, L., Nieweglowski, K., & Corrigan, P. (2016, January 16). The stigma of personality disorders. Current Psychiatry Reports, 18, 11. doi: 10.1007/s11920-015-0654-1

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Mental Illness Deniers Are as Dangerous as Climate Change Deniers

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Back in the mid-80’s, I was one of a few, fortunate psychiatrists in Massachusetts in charge of administering the just-released atypical antipsychotic medication clozapine. In our clinic, its use was still limited to a small number of carefully-selected patients with schizophrenia who had not responded to any of the conventional antipsychotic agents.

Harry was one of my first clozapine patients. He had been an inpatient for much of his adult life, and was widely thought to be a “lost cause.” For many years, Harry had been tormented by threatening “voices” urging him to harm either himself or others. He had become a shrunken wreck of a man, pacing the halls with a haunted look on his face, and confined to the inpatient unit with little hope of a normal life.

Clozapine changed all that for Harry. After a few months of treatment, the voices quieted down, and we were able to discharge Harry from the hospital and arrange for placement in a neighborhood residence. As I described in an earlier essay, Harry actually went on to earn his driver’s license.1

But, in the world of mental illness deniers, I was the deluded one. There is no such thing as schizophrenia, these critics claim. Mental illness itself is a “myth”, as famously (or infamously) argued by the late psychiatrist, Thomas Szasz. (Disclosure: Dr. Szasz was one of my teachers during residency). At most, the deniers claim, what psychiatrists call “mental illness” is nothing more than a socially-constructed label, or a misguided metaphor. According to mental illness deniers, the term “schizophrenia” does not identify a “real disease”, like cancer or coronary artery disease; rather, it is a term grounded in a mistaken theory of disease, based on an agenda of social control and coercion. Szasz argued, to his dying day, that only bodily disease is “real”. For him, a “diseased mind” was a contradiction in terms. Szasz argued that classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases was a category mistake, like classifying the whale as a fish.2

Szasz was a genial man, and a brilliant polemicist who still has many admirers among antipsychiatry groups and bloggers. But Szasz was flat out wrong regarding what should count as “disease.”3 When someone is suffering and incapacitated by a condition that destroys the ability to separate delusion from reality, that is real disease. When this person winds up lying dirty and disheveled in an alley way, hearing the Devil’s voice saying, “You don’t deserve to live,” that is real disease. When someone’s thoughts are tangled up in knots; when their emotions are blunted; when they think constantly of suicide, this is not the result of a metaphor or a myth. This is the reality of serious psychiatric illness, like schizophrenia.

To be sure, not all critics of psychiatry are “antipsychiatry.” Some are prominent psychiatrists themselves who rightly point to specific problems within the profession, such as over-prescription of some medications in certain settings, or the use of imprecise diagnostic criteria. In contrast, dyed-in-the wool antipsychiatry groups dismiss psychiatry as a fraud. They write off psychiatric diagnosis as nothing more than pathologizing “disapproved of behaviors” or “problems in living.” (Try telling that to someone like Harry, or to his anxious and beleaguered family). In a sense, mental illness deniers represent the flip-side of mental illness alarmists — people who, for example, see mass shootings, gun violence, and other violent acts as the product of mental illness, despite the fact that when psychiatric illness is adequately treated, it is very rarely associated with violence. Left untreated, however, serious psychiatric illness can increase the risk of violence; and, unfortunately, many people with untreated psychiatric illness wind up in the largest “mental health system” in the U.S. — our jails and prisons.

Both the deniers and the alarmists misconstrue the nature of psychiatric illness, and both do harm to people like Harry. The mental illness deniers erect barriers to the effective treatment of serious diseases like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and make it harder to persuade Congress to provide adequate funding for psychiatric research — after all, why should we fund research on a “myth”? The mental illness alarmists fuel social prejudice and job discrimination against those, like Harry, who suffer from severe psychiatric impairments. In my view, the mental illness deniers pose as much risk to the health of this country as climate change deniers.

To be sure, some people who post angry comments on antipsychiatry websites have had bad experiences with their own psychiatric care. Whether their accounts are entirely accurate or not, these people are understandably aggrieved by perceived mistreatment. Having worked in a variety of psychiatric settings over several decades — hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and private practice — I have seen both excellent and poor psychiatric care, and everything in between. Certainly, there are legitimate reasons to confront psychiatry on its shortcomings. But this is a far cry from the outright denial of the reality of mental illness, and the blanket condemnation of psychiatry as a medical specialty. Like climate change deniers, mental illness deniers are doing a grave disservice to the health and wellbeing of their fellow citizens.

I have seen hundreds of people like Harry, suffering with psychiatric diseases as real as lung cancer or heart disease. And, with proper care and treatment, I have seen many of them recover their sanity, their lives, and their dignity.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Dr. John Grohol for commenting on an earlier draft of this essay

For further Reading:

Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill by DJ Jaffe (Author), E. Fuller Torrey MD (Foreword)

Mental Illness Deniers Are as Dangerous as Climate Change Deniers

Footnotes:

  1. Pies, R. (2009, May 4). A Guy, a Car: Beyond Schizophrenia. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/health/05case.html []
  2. Szasz, T.S. (1998). “Thomas Szasz’s Summary Statement and Manifesto.” Retrieved from: https://selfdefinition.org/psychology/articles/thomas-szasz-summary-statement-and-manifesto.htm []
  3. Earley, P. (2018). Psychology Today Article Debunks Claims By Antipsychiatrists: “Easily refuted by scientific evidence.” Retrieved from http://www.peteearley.com/2018/09/07/psychology-today-article-debunks-claims-by-antipsychiatrists-easily-refuted-by-scientific-evidence/ []

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Bipolar Professor

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It’s hard working as a college professor with bipolar disorder. I suppose it’s hard working anywhere with bipolar disorder, but my particular vocation is teaching 18-year-olds how to write at a local university. I’ve had bipolar illness for almost 30 years now; I was diagnosed in 1991. I’m 56. I’ve been at my university for about as long as I’ve been bipolar.

Why is it so hard to be a bipolar teacher in the higher education system?

The main reason is the stigma of the disease. As you probably know, even in 2019, there is horrible stigma about bipolar illness. There is sympathy for anxiety/depression and now for PTSD, but for bipolar, there is still relentless stigma.

If I tell someone I’m bipolar, they look at me as if I have a hidden tail tucked into my pants. This is why I don’t talk about my illness as a rule. Academics are often not as accepting as they make themselves out to be. The university is a place to freely exchange ideas about things, but not about your bipolar illness. In the age of disability awareness, no one is talking about this issue.

Then, there is the basic stress that comes with living with the illness. This is one disease where medication is absolutely necessary. If I forget to take my meds, I have a bad day. Sometimes, the meds don’t do their job. I may find myself sinking into depression or rising into hypomania. Because of my illness, I live with more unpredictability than the average person. This is stress-inducing, and we all know extra stress makes things harder.

Loneliness. This is a lonely illness. I literally know no one who lives with this issue at my university. At school, I walk around with the knowledge of my mental health problem and I never talk about it. The LGBTQ folks have each other. Many of them are out of the closet. I would love to be completely out so that I could be myself. Bipolar illness doesn’t define me, but it’s a big part of who I am.

What can I do about this difficulty I face every day?

Come out of the closet with my teaching peers. Begin talking about my disability openly. (I should tell you that I am “out” as a bipolar person in my writing, but since I use my maiden name as my pen name, no one recognizes me. This is illustrative of my ambivalent nature about this issue.)

Come out of the closet with the students and start a club for people with mental health issues. (Would I want to be part of a club that would accept me as a member?) I’ve thought about doing this for years, but I’ve doubted my ability to lead this type of organization because I don’t have any psychological credentials; I think I’d be better at running a club if I were some sort of counselor or psychologist. This is what has held me back from taking on this enterprise.

Nothing. Go on living the way I’ve been living for 30 years.

So at the university, where you can be whatever you want to be, it’s hard to be bipolar.

My brain is different; it’s what manifests this illness, but it’s also what makes me creative and drives my writing.

You might be thinking it’s here she’s going to say that if given the choice, she’d remain bipolar if a cure for it were developed.

Well, surprise, if there were a cure for bipolar, I’d take it. This is not a picnic, and I’d get myself out of my life situation if I could.

Not surprisingly, there is no national mental health coming out day. There is a day to observe mental health; this occurs on October 10 of every year, but this day is simply to “raise awareness” of mental health issues. This is very different than a day of coming out. (It should be noted that LGBTQ coming out day is October 11.)

I propose (as a few might have done before me) that we create a day for coming out with a mental health issue, a day when all the bipolar folks and schizophrenic people and depressives and the anxiety-ridden and individuals with OCD and all the people with personality disorders and PTSD can simply say “I am the way I am.”

If this happened, things might get better for everybody.

No one knows when and if they will develop a mental illness.

It could happen to anybody.

Bipolar Professor

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Living with Chronic Anorexia 

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It’s been two-thirds of my life that I have been listening to this harassment in my head. I’ve talked back, I’ve fought back, I’ve negotiated, and yet I still suffer. It’s like a permanently playing radio, sometimes louder, sometimes more quiet, but always there as the background sound of my life. It is exhausting, but not as exhausting as it is to try to turn it off and keep it off. Sadly, I’m just used to it now. It’s become so normalized that I don’t really recall what it’s like to not have it there, my chronic and badgering anorexia.

I know that it’s in my genes because I have relatives who, although never diagnosed, have struggled with eating issues as long as I can remember.

Many people know about my disease, yet many do not. I don’t know what they think about me. I am a master of making excuses for missing meals, and people don’t realize that my obsession with exercise is not something to be admired.

Since the very first signs of an eating disorder, my parents had me in therapy. I’ve devoted my life to animals, but so much time and effort has been consumed with therapy, doctors, dietitians, medication, inpatient treatment and hospitalizations. Nobody can cure me — or anybody — of this. But people can get better. Or not. Chronic anorexia (also known as Severe and Enduring Anorexia Nervosa) feels like handcuffs and, sadly, like something I will always live with.

My mind started the anorexia harassment when most people are starting puberty. It stunted my growth and stole away my adolescence, causing lifelong and terrifying damage to myself. That’s what people don’t realize — I’m not naturally this small; I have forced myself to maintain this body since I was a child. And it didn’t help that I was a pretty serious gymnast. But this body isn’t who I was meant to be. Who knows who I was meant to be.

So I go about my life, missing out on so many foods that I know I would love but aren’t worth the anguish of listening to that damn voice in my head. I’m somehow different. I can’t have them. I don’t know what it’s like to eat what I want, when I want. Anything outside of my “safe foods” makes me feel like I’m gaining weight and like I’m bad, for I have disobeyed my eating disorder. Challenging it is simply too exhausting. And I punish myself with exercise, no matter the weather, no matter the pain. It’s the only thing that quiets and calms me.

I am constantly shocked how people can be so incredibly stupid, especially when they think they are trying to help me. The comments they have made send me backwards and out of control, back into the comforting arms of anorexia. “You look healthy.” “You look great.” “You look like you put some meat on your bones.” I’m thirty pounds underweight. Who on earth would think these are helpful things to say? I don’t want to look “healthy,” and saying so to an anorexic person thinking it will make me feel better can be damaging. Healthy means fat to me, great means that clearly thirty pounds underweight isn’t enough. And yet other people make very concerned comments to my mom, as if she hasn’t been spending years trying to help me get better.

You don’t know what somebody else is going through. Be careful what you say. I’d like to be more open with people, but I fear that they will think I’m judging their diet, their weight. I’m not, I don’t. It’s only me who sees myself and hears myself the way I do. And if you are familiar with these same harassing voices, like a conscience gone awry, seek help. At least there’s more knowledge of the causes (biological, genetics) and so maybe some better treatment options than when I fell into this trap about 23 years ago.

So now all I can do is persist in life, doing the very best I can to give back to the world despite the buzzing radio static of anorexia nervosa. I have hope, but there is no cure yet.

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5 Myths and Facts About Drug Rehab

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Drug abuse is a serious health concern. Overdose-related deaths in the United States have reached epidemic level. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate an average of 130 people die from opioid overdose each day. This number doesn’t take into account deaths related to other drugs, which may increase this number.

Any drug use can become dangerous. Marijuana, now legal for medicinal and recreational use in many states, may help relieve pain, chemotherapy side effects, and symptoms of mental health concerns such as anxiety and posttraumatic stress. Research has also suggested marijuana may help treat addiction in some people. But despite these potential benefits, it can become addictive and could have health effects such as short-term memory impairment, impaired brain function, and respiratory health issues, among others.

Recreational use of illegal substances, even short-term use, can have serious health effects, including anxiety, paranoia, depression, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, nausea, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and more. There’s also a risk of death due to overdose or complications. Long-term use of certain drugs could increase risk of violent behavior and may lead to legal trouble. Abusing drugs can also lead to drug dependency, or addiction.

Rehab can help people who’ve reached their absolute low work to overcome addiction, but it can also help people begin to break free of addiction before it significantly impacts their lives.

If you’re experiencing addiction, you’re not alone. According to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 20 million Americans experienced a substance abuse disorder in 2014. Addiction can be difficult to overcome, no matter how hard a person tries. Professional support, in the form of inpatient or outpatient drug rehab, can benefit many people living with drug addiction.

Myths about drug rehab are plentiful. If you’re considering rehab for yourself or a loved one, making sure you have all the facts will help you make a more informed decision. Here, we present five common myths about drug rehab and the facts to counter them.

Drug Rehab Myths and Facts

Myth: Only wealthy people go to rehab.
Fact: Anyone can go to rehab.

It’s true that drug rehab can become expensive. Some people may not even consider inpatient rehab an option, believing it to be out of their budget. But the cost of drug rehab can depend on a number of factors, and there are rehab options for a range of budgets. See our article here for a more detailed explanation of rehab costs.

Some drug rehab centers offer low-cost or sliding-scale fees, based on your income. According to the 2012 National Survey of Substance Abuse, 62% of rehab facilities charge based on a sliding scale. Facilities may also offer payment programs or other types of financial assistance to people in need. Many drug rehab centers accept insurance, though not all insurance providers cover rehab.

When considering rehab, talk to your insurance provider and the rehab facility you’re interested in to get a better idea of the cost involved. Some centers may be able to work with you or refer you to another quality center that is more affordable. If the cost of inpatient rehab is a barrier, you might also consider outpatient drug rehab programs.

Myth: Rehab is for when you hit “rock bottom.”
Fact: You can begin recovering from addiction at any time.

Many people go to rehab when no other treatment option has worked. Often, they’ve lived with addiction for many years. Rehab can help people who’ve reached their absolute low work to overcome addiction, but it can also help people begin to break free of addiction before it significantly impacts their lives. Research suggests early intervention helps improve treatment outcomes.

Addiction not only contributes to emotional and physical health concerns, it can also lead to homelessness, unemployment, debt, and breakup or divorce. Choosing to enter rehab when you first find yourself becoming dependent on substances can help you begin the recovery process before addiction can have more of an effect on your life.

Myth: Rehab is only for people who can’t quit on their own.
Fact: Anyone experiencing addiction can get help in rehab.

The idea that addiction only happens to weak or flawed people is widespread. It might seem logical: Many people experiment with drugs, but not everyone becomes addicted. But drug abuse alters brain chemistry and affects cognitive function, leading to cravings for the substance and eventually addiction. Certain factors, including genetics, can increase a person’s risk for addiction.

Although a person might choose to try drugs, they don’t choose to become addicted. Once addicted, many people can’t stop using drugs without professional help. Needing rehab isn’t a sign of weakness. Changes in the brain resulting from addiction can make it extremely challenging, if not impossible, to stop using drugs without the support of health care providers trained in addiction support.

Whether you’ve tried to stop using drugs and relapsed or are just beginning to realize you may have a problem with substance abuse, rehab can help you begin recovery.

Myth: Rehab will prevent a person from relapsing.
Fact: Relapse is common, but treatment can help reduce its impact.

Between 40 and 60% of people dealing with addiction will relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While rehab may help reduce your risk of relapse, completing a drug rehab program doesn’t guarantee you’ll never relapse.

But rehab still has benefit. Research shows rehab can help by helping you develop skills to resist cravings, making relapse less likely. If you do relapse, the length of the relapse may be shorter. People who participate in treatment programs such as rehab also tend to relapse fewer times than people who don’t. Rehab can also lead to improvements in your relationships with friends, family, and loved ones. Developing stronger bonds with people you care for can also decrease the likelihood of relapse.

Myth: Rehab doesn’t work if you force someone to go.
Fact: Rehab can work even if you don’t want treatment.

Some people choose to enter rehab on their own, but some people experiencing addiction may not see its effects on their life, or they may not believe they have a problem with substance abuse. They may only decide to enter rehab grudgingly, after a court order or intervention from loved ones.

Being issued an ultimatum or feeling otherwise “forced” into rehab could make some people resistant to treatment, at first. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, however, people who feel pressured to overcome addiction in order to maintain an important relationship or avoid criminal charges, for example, often do better in treatment, even though they didn’t choose to enter rehab on their own.

Substance abuse and addiction can have serious, lifelong consequences. But there is help. Drug rehab may seem like an extreme measure, but this is partially due to the many myths surrounding rehab treatment.

Numerous studies support the benefits of rehab for addiction recovery. Inpatient centers provide a safe place to begin the detox and recovery process at any stage of addiction. Some facilities are expensive, but it’s possible to find affordable centers that will work with you to find a treatment program that’s right for your needs and your budget.

Don’t let myths about drug rehab keep you from getting addiction recovery support. Compassionate care is available! Begin your search today at GoodTherapy. Recovery may be a lifelong journey, but you are not alone.

References:

  1. American Addiction Centers. (2019, February 14). How much does rehab cost? Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcohol-rehab/cost
  2. American Addiction Centers. (2018, October 15). Rehab success rates and statistics. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/success-rates-and-statistics
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  8. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Retrieved from http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx
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Autism Is But One Part of a Complex Personality Structure

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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April is Autism Awareness Month. To review: Autism is one of the five pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) listed in the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) which provides diagnostic guidelines for mental health professionals. Autism is characterized by difficulties in social interactions, a narrow and particular range of interests and repetitive behaviors. Although it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, research has yet to identify the differences in the brain that determine what makes people with autism different from the norm.

Since the combination of attributes can be extremely different from one individual to another, autism is described as being on a “spectrum”, depending on how much a person is affected.

When coupled with other disabilities, like intellectual disability, a seizure disorder, or a brain injury, for example, it can have a profoundly limiting effect on someone’s life. Such individuals may require services of others for the rest of their life. Their severely restricted communication and/or social skills make it difficult to impossible to communicate their wants and needs. Their narrow range of interests doesn’t help them to be functional members of society. Repetitive behaviors such as finger snapping or arm flapping separate them even more from comfortable social connections.

Elly is an example of a person on this end of the spectrum. She is nonverbal. She loves to look at fashion magazines and to tear out the pages, which she then stacks and restacks in orders that make no sense to her caregivers. Although she recognizes and seems to like family members and certain staff, she makes no attempt to interact with them, preferring her internal world.

On the other end of the spectrum are people with autism who are performing services on which the rest of the population is dependent. In fact, there is research that indicates that about a third of autistic Americans may have exceptional skills.

Max is a good example. He is the troubleshooter for a major medical facility’s computer systems. He is happy to tell anyone who is interested about the extraordinary complexities of the software required to keep all systems up and humming. Yes, he is socially awkward and doesn’t seem to understand that not everyone is as fascinated as he is by the minutiae of the computer codes he works with. But does it really matter that he can’t make small talk or look me in the eye during conversation? Excellence doesn’t require being the life of every party.

Once called Aspergers, Max’s particular set of autistic traits is now seen as part of the autism spectrum and is sometimes called “high functioning autism.” People like him are quietly working in the background of our lives, making our world safer, delving deeply into problems, and inventing and/or improving systems that the rest of the population takes for granted.

I suspect that Silicon Valley has more than its share of people with Asperger’s. (“Aspies” being a familiar term used by some people on this end of the spectrum to name themselves). Others have found places conducive to their single-minded pursuit of a “narrow range of interest” on college faculties or in laboratories where their ability to hyper-focus on a problem is highly valued.

Of course, most people with autism fall somewhere in between the exceptionally abled and the exceptionally disabled — just like the range of possibilities for the neurotypical population, just like you and me. We all have both gifts and deficits. Each of us is a complicated sum of many complicated genetic and nongenetic legacies that put us at risk (or not) for any number of both positive and negative qualities and traits.

In short, being on the autism spectrum is not a sentence to a restricted life. It is but one part of the complex personality structure of a person. And just like anyone else, with adequate treatment for any co-occurring issues and with support for learning more comfortable ways to be in relationship with others, most people on the spectrum can be all they can be. That includes growing up to live independently, have jobs, marry, and have children.

Which is why people who are anti-vaccine for their children concerns me deeply. The subtext of the anti-vaccine campaign is that it is better to die of measles or to contaminate classmates and neighbors than to risk having autism. Really? First and most important, there is absolutely NO connection between vaccines and autism. That is fact. It has been proven by countless studies.

But even if there was a connection (which there isn’t), why is the concern about the possibility of autism more compelling than the certainty of what can happen to a child and the surrounding population when kids aren’t vaccinated and disease spreads? Why are those who are pointedly against vaccines frightened by the specter of a highly disabled child and not hopeful they will get an Aspie genius?

Full disclosure: I have a personal perspective on this because I developed polio before there were vaccines for it. (Yes, I’m that old.) Do I wish there had been a vaccine? Absolutely. The physical issues that were the result have limited me in ways I wish they didn’t for my entire life. I’m grateful that a vaccine has almost eradicated the disease throughout the world and dread its recurrence due to some people’s insistent belief in a fraudulent study.

As we think about Autism Awareness, let’s think about how our culture can be more appreciative of the enormous range of personality types and talents that are found within the human species. Let’s provide the services that people with complicated and multiple diagnoses need and deserve, whether they are on the autism spectrum or they are set apart by other conditions. Let’s accept and enjoy those whose autism is simply one of their quirks and be grateful to those whose autism makes it possible for them to make unique and important contributions to our world.

Autism Is But One Part of a Complex Personality Structure

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How Writers Write About Heartbreaking Things and Care for Themselves in the Process

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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For more than 20 years, Mary Cregan wanted to write her recently published memoir The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery, but she felt that she couldn’t. It’s primarily because she wasn’t ready to face the exposure required to be so honest about such a devastating, difficult part of her life.

Because that’s the thing about writing: We let readers into our innermost thoughts and feelings, into our souls, and that can be scary.

We tackle topics we’d never bring up with a close friend, let alone a stranger, and yet that’s exactly what we do. We share our stories with thousands of strangers.

Writing about heartbreaking things and publishing that work makes the private very, very public, a process that we, of course, can’t reverse. This is especially difficult if you were taught to keep your stories to yourself, behind closed doors. As Cregan writes in The Scar, “In my large Irish Catholic family, the tacit understanding was that it was best not to draw attention to oneself.”

Nita Sweeney thought she was writing a memoir about running, but after many, many drafts realized that she was writing a memoir about how running saved her life—from depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, and alcoholism.

“The fact that I’d gone from a woman who could barely walk around the block into a marathoner was important, but the real story was that I’d gone from a woman who wanted to kill herself into one who wants to live,” said Sweeney, whose forthcoming memoir Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink will be published mid May.

Mental health advocate and writer Hannah Blum regularly writes about her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her blog “I’m Bipolar Too” and her website Halfway2Hannah.com. While there are many parts of her story she’s not ready to share, writing about difficult things actually isn’t that difficult for her.

“Turning my pain into art gives power to any of the challenges I have faced throughout my life.”

“It’s when I am writing about the people I have met along my journey who were not given a chance because of their mental illness that I struggle to write about the most,” Blum said.

Author, mental health advocate, and Psych Central editor Therese Borchard has been writing online about her experiences with mental illness for many years (and before that she shared her story in her print column). But that doesn’t make sharing any easier.

“It’s extremely difficult to share the more personal posts. My index finger hovers over the publish button sometimes for an hour before I have the courage to press it,” Borchard said.

Why Write About Such Hard Things?

When a friend asked Cregan why on earth she’d want to revisit the worst days of her life—the death of her infant daughter, and her descent into a deep, unrelenting, suicidal depression—Cregan realized that it was because she’d spent decades trying to conceal that time. “…I wanted to turn to the past and face it squarely,” she writes in her memoir.

Cregan also wrote her story as a way to reject the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. She wrote it for her younger self, and for the young women in her family who, too, live with depression.

“It is also for the countless people who find themselves struggling to cope with internal forces that feel overwhelming but—as I try to show in these pages—are survivable,” she writes.

She writes at the end of her book: “Most importantly, I want to encourage people in the depths of hopelessness to believe that they can come through, and to find help from a compassionate, responsible professional who will care for them until they do. People in the grip of severe depression might take as their mantra a line from Rilke so relevant to all kinds of human trouble that it has become an Internet meme: ‘Just keep going. No feeling is final.’”

Sometimes after publishing a vulnerable post, Borchard feels like she’s “walking around naked,” and wonders if it’s really worth it. “However, then I will get an email or comment from a reader who tells me she feels less alone because I shared it, and it makes it worth it.”

Blum, too, is propelled by the people who read her work, along with the mental health community in general. “Knowing that I may help someone not feel so alone or encourage them to accept themselves is a gift to me. Relating to people emotionally through words inspires me every day to write.”

For Borchard, writing about the more challenging parts of her recovery helps her in another powerful way, as well: “I get to recognize the voice within me that doesn’t necessarily come out in casual conversation with friends or even in therapy. There is something about writing about your experience that clarifies it…”

Self-Care During the Writing (and Publishing) Process

After Borchard pens a difficult piece, she’ll often walk in the woods or over to the creek by her house. This is when she processes what she’s written—and tells “myself that should I get scathing responses, it doesn’t detract from my truth—that I am a good person who speaks from the heart, even if that truth isn’t received well.”

Blum finds it helpful to sit with her thoughts, and journal what she feels. She also reads books by Hemingway along with pieces from modern-day poets, such as April Green, Lang Leav, and JM Storm.

For Cregan, when the writing became especially difficult, self-care looked like refocusing her attention toward researching or writing less personal sections of her book. On the days it felt unbearable, she’d schedule several sessions with her psychiatrist.

She also found it helpful to “change the channel” in her mind, something she still does today when she’s getting depressed. “I read or watch a movie or see a friend—anything, really, to get my mind out of the track it’s stuck in.”

Exercise is equally critical for Cregan’s well-being, which she does regularly, whether it’s indoor cycling or yoga.

For Sweeney, self-care while writing includes: hugging her husband, cuddling her dog, running, spending time with a supportive community, meditating, taking medication, going to therapy, not drinking, and calling her sister.

Because Sweeney writes regularly, the actual process isn’t so difficult (more on that below). But the after is.

“My mindfulness meditation practice helps with the aftermath, the ‘post-writing’ emotional hangover…During the time I’ve allotted for this practice, the huge rock in the pit of my stomach or the noose tightening around my neck becomes the object on which I focus. Awareness and a non-judgmental attitude transform these unpleasant sensations into something more neutral. It might sound like hocus pocus, but it’s quite intensely practical and for me, effective.”

And sometimes, Sweeney said, she needs a good “scream-cry.” “I do my best to experience heaving chest, stinging tears, and howling, with awareness and equanimity. If I find myself judging any of this, that becomes the object of meditation.”

The Power of a Regular Writing Practice

Sweeney also has developed a consistent, strong writing practice. Thanks to studying with Natalie Goldberg, she’s learned to “shut up and write,” and “go for the jugular.”

“Following [Goldberg’s] suggestion, I’ve spent years, no, decades, pushing my pen or pounding keys into painful and unpleasant memories. Hours reading aloud to small groups of people then listening to others who are also sharing their difficult situations by reading aloud, developed my spine.”

Plus, Sweeney has participated in National Novel Writing Month every year for a decade, writing or revising nonfiction. “Producing 1667 words a day during the 30 days of November, trained me to write on a regular schedule the rest of the year.”

Because she’s always writing, nearly every day since 1994, she doesn’t think about it. “It’s just what I do. If I thought about it too much, I’d never do it.”

Borchard views writing from the heart as “just another way of living sincerely, or with integrity.”

“It’s not for everyone, but I’ve found that the more transparent I can be in my life, the more I create opportunities to bond with readers and others on their journey. You are like a travel guide of sorts. So it’s also a privilege and one I take seriously.”

How Writers Write About Heartbreaking Things and Care for Themselves in the Process

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8 Things Autistic People Wished You Knew about April

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Every April, autism takes a center stage in global awareness. All around the world, well-meaning, good-hearted people “Light it up blue” for Autism Awareness Month, and they decorate their social media with the puzzle piece frames and the jigsaw rainbow awareness ribbons.

And, every March, autistic adults are already dreading April. Many of them report feeling traumatized by previous Aprils. They begin to mentally prepare for what is ahead, feeling powerless to stop it. They’re bracing themselves for what is on the horizon.

What autistic people wish their neurotypical allies knew going into April:

  1. We really don’t want or need awareness. To most neurotypical (non-autistic) people, awareness of autism is to be aware of a disease, to regard it with a somber recognition of how serious a problem autism is and how fervently a cure is needed. It doesn’t conjure the reverent solidarity that breast cancer awareness does for survivors, the bereaved, and their loved ones. Instead, it means that the world comes together to talk about the tragedy of autism.
  2. Most of us do not want a cure. The vast majority of autistic adults do not want a cure, nor do they see autism as a disease. It is simply their way of existing, perceiving, and being. Autism is inextricable from the identity and perception of the autistic person, and a “cure” would mean to erase from them what is their core self and what their divergent minds can contribute to society. Most of us are quite proud to be autistic.
  3. We wish you’d see us outside of the medical disability model. The medical model pathologizes our innate traits. We may develop on a different curve, have different strengths and weaknesses, and relate differently from the majority of the population, but those traits aren’t inherently negative. Our traits are interpreted in the most negative way because they are not what “most people” do. We express empathy differently, but a lack of eye contact or verbal expressions of emotional solidarity do not mean we lack empathy.
  4. We are offended by puzzle pieces, “Light it up blue,” and Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks has dominated the world’s narrative about autism. They are a fundraising monolith, and their information distribution campaigns rank at the top of search engine results around the internet. The focus of their campaign was originally to scare the world into realizing how important it was to find a cure and to eradicate autism and to implicate vaccines as the culprit. They have continued to deny autistic perspectives, and only a minuscule portion of their many millions in donations actually goes to helping autistic people (often less than 1%). Essentially, donations go to marketing puzzle pieces and the international “brand” Autism Speaks has created. They are responsible for the puzzle pieces and the “Light it up blue” campaigns. For a more detailed breakdown and alternative charities to support, click here. We ask that you share autistic-authored posts and articles in April and hashtag them #redinstead.
  5. We prefer identity-first language over person-first language. This means that we prefer to be called “autistics,” or “autistic people,” or “aspies” (if that’s how one identifies) as opposed to “person with autism” or “person with Asperger’s.” But, every individual’s preference should be respected.
  6. We are great at self-advocating, and we wish you’d learn about autism from autistic people. There are thousands of blogs, websites, organizations, and informational resources out there produced and managed by autistics. The autistic community is a thriving, tight-knit juggernaut of change and advocacy, and they uplift other marginalized populations by focusing on intersectional human rights outside of the neurodiversity paradigm. They’re fierce defenders of children and dedicated scholars and researchers. They can be found on social media by searching the hashtag #actuallyautistic. The Aspergian is a collective of autistic writers, or you can read more of my blogs here at PsychCentral.
  7. Autism doesn’t end at age 18. Most people tend to think of autism as a childhood disorder, but an autistic person is autistic every day of his or her life.
  8. Function labels are deeply offensive and inaccurate. When someone is autistic, it has been socially acceptable to comment on how high- or low-functioning he or she is. The truth is, autism is invisible, and a person’s struggles cannot be measured by how a person seems to be performing. Often, “function” comes at great price to the autistic person, meaning that they have to hide or “mask” their innate traits and behaviors to appear more “normal.” You can read all about function labels by clicking here.

Autistic people need neurotypical allies to be more than just aware of autism, but to accept our differences and see our strengths and our weaknesses as unique to the individual. We need your help to find our way into the conversation about autism, which means sharing articles by autistic people and supporting autistic organizations. We need employers and schools to accommodate for our neurological profiles, and individuals to understand how we relate differently.

So, let’s make April “Autism Acceptance Month” and shift the focus to autistic people as thinking, feeling, valuable human beings. By reading this article, written by an autistic person, you’re off to a great start as an ally.

8 Things Autistic People Wished You Knew about April

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On Stage on the Spectrum

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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About three years ago, I got an email publicizing a drama school called the Center for Applied Drama and Autism, C.A.D.A. I was instantly interested. A year before, my 10-year-old son Tommy had been diagnosed with autism. I had always wanted him to get into acting because I’d acted as a child, having been in shows such as Gypsy and Fiddler on the Roof at local dinner theaters. Tommy seemed as though he would be a natural because he had the ability to memorize scripts (he was an avid scripter; people who are autistic often are), and he was very funny.

The school was in downtown Akron, about fifteen minutes away from our home. I signed him up. Soon, one Saturday a few weeks later, we entered an old building on Main Street and searched for the acting studio. Down a staircase we went and soon we found ourselves in C.A.D.A.

Tommy was going to take improv. Improvisation classes, we would learn, are good for autistic people because they help them to be better communicators (learning to think on their feet) and ultimately find their own voices. These classes were also fun.

We’d done traditional social groups at centers for people on the spectrum, but these had turned out to be unsuccessful because they lacked vital context and purpose. Acting encouraged the participants to be social, but also to be creative, making up narratives and scenarios.

The first day at improv, Tommy and his classmates warmed up doing an exercise called “Zip, Zap, Zop,” in which they passed energy to each other. Then, they did an exercise called “Mirrors,” in which they mimicked each other as if they were looking in a mirror. Then came a game called “Bus Stop,” where they pretended to be waiting for a bus in a character of their choosing. Soon, they would be acting out fairy tales and even learning Shakespeare.

Tommy took to it. There was only one problem. Well, really two problems. The first was that there was a very loud service bell that people rang so that they could get in the building which was often locked. This service bell unnerved Tommy. He had sensory issues, so the bell was a hindrance in his play. The second problem was that I got cancer, and Tommy fell apart. While I was getting treatment, we had to stop going to drama for a time. But I survived cancer, and then, something else wonderful happened. C.A.D.A. moved! No more service bell. C.A.D.A. relocated to what is known as their blue box theater in Akron, where they currently reside.

Now in 2019 at the blue box theater, Tommy takes improv from Ruben Ryan and Brandon Meeker. He goes every Saturday. And he’s getting good. He can sustain a scene and create original dialogue that is purposeful and entertaining. Improv helps him stay in the moment, to be in the moment, completely engaged and fascinated with people and life. This is saying something for someone on the autism spectrum, who might often be disengaged and out of touch.

So whose brainchild is C.A.D.A.? C.A.D.A. was co-created by Wendy Duke, a drama teacher for over 40 years, and Laura Valendza, an actor and intervention specialist.

C.A.D.A.’s philosophy is as follows:

Our goal is to meet our students where they are now, and without coercion, help them to recognize their own abilities and gifts through empowerment and making connections. We do not wish to change the uniqueness of each student, but rather help each one deal with social and emotional situations that will occur throughout their lives.

We do this via individual and collaborative applied drama techniques such as theatre games, improvisation, role play, character study, voice and body work, mask work (commedia dell’ arte), and Play Back Theatre. Additionally, we encourage creativity and originality through student created puppet plays, playwriting and video production. Visual art, dance and music are all key components in theatrical productions and give our students an opportunity to expand their artistic gifts and interests.

What does all this mean? For a parent of a child on the spectrum, it means that my kid can study acting at a world-class acting school right in our own little Akron, Ohio.

Recently, Tommy was asked to be a “co-star” at C.A.D.A. This means that he will work with a class of younger students as sort of a mentor/helper. Tommy’s father and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Tommy has gone from a timid pre-teen who was frightened by everything, including a loud service bell, to a full-fledged teenage actor in a leadership role.

If your child has autism, you might consider enrolling him or her in acting classes in your hometown. I’m sure acting courses can benefit your child. These classes have made all the difference in Tommy’s life.

On Stage on the Spectrum

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Awareness Isn’t Enough: We Need Autism Acceptance Month

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Why have a month for autism awareness? Look at the numbers — in 2014, the CDC suggests that 1.7% of the US population is on the autism spectrum, which is 1 in 59. The percentage is similar in other countries as well, and only 31% have co-existing intellectual disability.

Many people you would not suspect to be on the autism spectrum actually are, and they experience social stress, anxiety, and sensory challenges. They might seem sort of different or quirky, but also often talented and knowledgeable in areas of interest. Dan Ackroyd, who has Asperger’s (now referred to as Autism Level 1), took his interests and turned them into the movie, Ghostbusters.

Why call it autism acceptance?

There are different ways of processing the world, which is called neurodiversity. The medical model of autism focuses only on disability. The neurodiversity model recognizes whole people with strengths as well as challenges who process experience differently. In accepting that there are different ways of taking in experiences and expressing ourselves, we accept neurodiversity. Our brains can work differently; we’re still valuable people making our way in the world.

The disability model focuses on what people on the autism spectrum (neurodivergent) don’t do “normally,” like social relatedness. While it has its challenges, many with autism are proud to be neurodivergent and the popular phrase is “No two people with autism are alike.” People can mistakenly assume those on the spectrum are aloof, lack feelings, and are uninterested in others; it follows that the abilities of neurodivergent people are misunderstood. In fact, people on the spectrum have intense feelings, empathy, and often want relationships, although they express this differently. They value truth and integrity, have high standards, and in being detail focused, they often have insights or perceptions that others miss.
The people who fit the “normal” model of processing (neurotypicals) and those who are neurodivergent both have much to say, but they say it in different ways. There can be misunderstanding and “mind blindness” on both sides. We need to understand each other.

What better way is there to understand the experience and perspective of those on the autism spectrum than to read it in their own authentic voices? Terra Vance, a gifted autistic writer, has a blog on Psych Central – “Unapologetically Aspie.” In this thought-provoking piece she writes about the emotions of those with Asperger’s.

Other neurodivergent bloggers I suggest are:

Autistic writers can also give moving insight into understanding what it’s like being part of those who are neurodiverse. I strongly recommend the explorations of the experience and meaning of getting a diagnosis in these two blog posts: Searching for Identity in a Neurotypical World and A Life Illuminated.

So, let’s celebrate Autism Awareness Month with awareness, acceptance and curiosity about neurodiversity. Let’s improve the communication between neurodivergents and neurotypicals. Let’s address misperceptions, which I try to do in my blog, but importantly, by going directly to the experiences of neurodivergent people themselves.

And let’s call this “Autism Acceptance Month.”

Awareness Isn’t Enough: We Need Autism Acceptance Month

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