Shutdown Mode
by LearningGF, Jan 14, 2009
My boyfriend has Asperger's Sydrome. If he gets too confused, uncomfortable or hurt. He experieces what we call shut down mode, meaning he feels nothing. He is unable to relate to me in any way and needs time to himself. Even if I have a crucial occurance in my life that I need his support on. He is uncapable of giving me any really understanding. This is ok because we currently do not live together. Makes it easier for me to give him his space to go through this. And they truly do not happen often.

Unfortunately he is unable to describe what he is feeling or goes through during this time other than he is evaluating his emotions.

I was curious if anyone else had any more knowledge on this. What it is that is going on during these periods? Is there anything I can do help him once he gets to these points? Is there any thing that can be done to help him to not completely shut down?

I love him and I just want to understand.
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Member Comments (11)
by MJIthewriter, Jan 14, 2009
When I shut down it's feeling overwhelmed.  imagine if you were thrown out in a hughway and expected to cross the street.  Or say if you were expected to direct air traffic and you have no experience.  You see the planes about to crash in the sky, but can't do anything.

It feels sort of like that.  When I'm overwhelemed even just the sound of someone's voice hurts my ears and I can only make out some words but not the whole sentence.  Usually I feel very angry also. Or I may feel overwhelmingly tired and start to fall asleep, or feel like I'm about to sleep every time I blink.

Neither of these feel really good.  The best thing is to just let me go someplace, take a nap and renew my energy before tackling the problem any further.

Force me to work after my mind shuts down and you're risking a meltdown, anxiety attack or a violent outburst...
by Sally44, Jan 14, 2009
I have a son who will be 8 in February.  When he gets overstimulated, or his expectations are not met, or something changes unexpectedly, or incoming sensory perception is hurting him; then you will get a tantrum.  When that is happening I don't try to talk to him or touch him because it is just more information he has to try to process/cope with.  It is best to have a quiet place for him to calm down.  Then I will try to talk to him about it when he has recovered.  But I don't always get an answer or explanation because I don't think he knows himself.  I heard a good comparison given that said their emotional response is like a shower without a cubicle.  Most people are able to contain and control their emotions like a shower cubicle contains the water.  For those on the spectrum there is not that containment and the water (emotions) go everywhere.  I think this has been proven to be true from brain scans that show that larger areas of brain light up.  And the fact that they cannot stop the sensations they are feeling or bring them under control means that you are really just trying to give them supports to deal with crisis management.  
Although my son is only 8, this difficulty seems to be lifelong and many adults have the same difficulties.  If you go onto www. website you can view their recent advertisement that they are going to put on the televison.  They have done other videos before and the aim is to try to show the general public the 'autistic' behaviours that people on the spectrum exhibit.
I would really go with what your boyfriend says works for him.  Unfortunately that will mean that at certain times, especially if they are times of stress or anxiety he may well not be able to 'be there' for you in the same way another adult would.  Or he maybe able to give you advice, but may seem insensitive because he cannot put himself in your shoes and his suggestions may sound unrealistic to you.  This is to do with Theory of Mind.  You can google that to see what it is.  I presume he also has literal interpretation of language and is a concrete thinker.  
by MaryannesMom, Jan 14, 2009
My Aspie husband would go through cycles, every couple of months he would need to be alone for days at a time.  He is now 49 years old and doesn't need to leave completely (disappear for days), but he does need to go out into his garage and work on a project to get himself back to "normal" (whatever that is!)
by MJIthewriter, Jan 14, 2009
Also headaches seem to trigger shutdowns. I had a bad one yesterday. Though the headache seems less severe, I'm dealing with feeling dazed out like in a dream.  At this point I can't take sounds well at all...

I hurt my grandma's feelings trying to tell her to not talk to me right at the moment. She tries to talk to me whenever I sit down to eat. For me that's almost always a bad time to talk, then add the effects of a migraine. I think it will be the last time I talk to her about headaches... I feel bad because it makes me seem very evil to tell someone to stop talking to me when they mean no harm. I know they mean no harm, but I don't know what else I can do.

Also I feel like I can't think straight, so if this post doesn't make sense that's why.
by SueNYC, Jan 15, 2009
Though I would say that my husband definitely does not have Asperger's, he definitely needs to shut down.  I think he has said "I love you" about twice in our relationship.  I love has always taken a back seat.  Our honeymoon was postponed four months because Gitano Jeans decided to go bankrupt that year - he didn't flinch when he told me.  Was never one to hold hands or talk about emotions - which at times was frustrating.  Most nights he comes home and tinkers with the computer - either taking them apart (hate it when he does that to the Macs), plays with his cameras, or reads blogs.  He has a high stress job and needs to restructure at the end of the day.  I have been with him over 20 years and we have rarely had "feelings" discussion.

I've seen him cry only a few times.

1)  When our first baby was born to early and died.  Oddly enough, neither of us discussed it ever again.

2)  When our daughter almost died of Kawasaki Disease

3)  Sometimes he cries over the difficulties our son has

4)  When any of our pets died

Great joy

1)  When his children were born
2)  his son's bris (I hated that day but he was the proudest papa in the world),  the bris was far more expensive than our wedding and he had 4 rabbis in attendance.  (He's an atheist).  
3)  when he got into a top 10 law school
4)  when he graduated from that law school
5) his Apple II computer
6)  Winning the NY State Chess championship at 11.  

I think getting married was one of the worst days of his life.  He thinks marriage is an absolutely meaningless institution.

And you wonder why I have a kid with Asperger's.

Does he love me?  I am sure that he does.  Tears and feelings are only shared when their is the feeling of hopelessness or great sadness.  
by teburgan, May 27, 2012
hi Sue, I wanted to let you know I u derstand.  I should never have married my husband.  Now we have two children, one with special needs, and he is completely incapable of helping, or being involved in her care or anything emotionally charged.  I have to take care of everything, from the budget, my child's medical care, the endless insurance fights, everything!  I rely on him for our paycheck and the children adore him.  I am hopelessly stuck.  I wish his mother had gotten him help when he was a child.  I feel like he is just another child in my life I need to manage.  i am too tired to  think a way out of this life.  I live in fear that I will get sick and die and he will not be able to give our children what they need.  i hope you work out something to make yourself happy.  i am working on stress issues, hoping it will help.  Best wishes, Terry

by ryans93, Nov 03, 2013
I have had various shut downs. Our minds simply cannot comprehend or deal with the situation. It just doesn't add up. NTs normally don't understand this and it can cause great strains on relationships. I have only had 2 serious ones. Both resulted in suicide attempts. I don't believe this is common. Basically I was overstimulated and as stated before everything comes rushing in all at once. Try to understand that is was not trying to get revenge or being "selfish" there was logic behind it. Even though emotion was there the logic overtook the emotion and it was like they were in battle. The last incident I drowned myself. Luckily my wife noticed I wasnt in the room and went out to the beach and got help. My psychiatrist has taught me how to deal with these types of situations more effectively. I know as he is your boyfriend that it is hard on you and it seems he is being selfish. Just remind him you love him and maybe try to bring him something to take his mind off what he is thinking about. Its like a broken record it repeats over and over.
by nbarslou, Jan 28, 2014
My boyfriend of 9 months told me an old girlfriend said he had aspergers. My comment was "who is she to diagnose you with anything"  Now after being with him I find myself researching because of his actions.  He get very upset if plans change.  He is very articulate about certain things.  Is a pilot for small planes and loves to skydive.  He is a parachute rigger and loves to fly RC planes. His recent adventure is bike riding..  He put on over 3000 miles in just a few months last summer. All he talks about is that and if I dont react or show great interest he gets upset.  Last time to the point of breaking up.  Now he has once again gone into his shutdown mode and ignores my text and email stating how much I love him.  He did reply and say he loved me and his missed us and was physically ill and heart broken.  I dont understand the shut down again and if like before, in about 2 weeks, I will get a text as if nothing happened.  I dont think he wants it to be over because he has not responded to my requests for my belonging. I feel like he is a very hurtful person with no feelings to treat me like this yet again.  Does anyone know if it is common to just shut a person out for weeks like this over what I consider nothing.  
by Debraydeborah, Apr 03, 2014
So happy to read your post. I have been desperate for more information to help me in my agony over my 4 month relationship with my undiagnosed AS boyfriend. I know quite a bit about Asperger's a I work with kids and their families to help support them and provide suggestions for interventions, etc. So, it is ironic that I have fallen for this guy. He told me that he loved me about a month ago and it just seemed to me that this precipitated the full blown emotional shut down, with no response to my texts and anger when I have tried to call him. He got angry when I pressed him about whether "it was over or not" and will not respond to my request to return my belongings as well.
It is just so hard to cope with even though I think I is that fear of losing him, the relationship, that makes me crazy and makes it hard to be patient, wait in the hope that he will come back to me. And, yes, I feel absolutely love with him.