Asperger's Syndrome Community
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Avatar universal

Shutdown Mode

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.
18 Responses
365714 tn?1292202708
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...
470168 tn?1237474845
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. nas.org 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.  
347888 tn?1239903054
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!)
365714 tn?1292202708
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.
Avatar universal
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.  
Avatar universal
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

Avatar universal
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.
Avatar universal
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.  
Avatar universal
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 understand...it 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 crazy...in love with him.
Avatar universal
I saw that its been awhile since you made this post um are you still with him because i am going through the same thing but more then what you said and i live with him we have been together almost three yrs and i just only found this all out hes also got bipoler ontop of it anyway i feel the sam eway u do except it hurts a hole lot because when we first got together he was out going happy go lucky. Sweet not a care in the world would do anything for me but now now he doesnt laugh anymore hes always depressed he doesnt talk to me just reads his magznes and flippes out over lil things i love this guy so much and it pains me t see him go through this sometimes i want to give up and leave but everyones done that to him his parents put him in a group home. Now they dont talk to him his last two girlfriends cheated on him stole all his stuff n left him and i dont want to be another person to just give up on him. But its like the more i do for him the more he says ive nevr done crap and hes constintly accusing me of cheating did u have that problem i just found out the full extent of his problems they all waited til after i had our son to fil me in on these lil details i need advice and help so if u do get to read this and know anything anything atall thatll help me please please let me know thanks
10798116 tn?1412877882

" ... it hurts a hole lot because when we first got together he was out going happy go lucky. Sweet not a care in the world would do anything for me but now now he doesnt laugh anymore hes always depressed ..."

I know this is hard to understand and may sound crazy, but I bet when you met he came from a period of living alone and not having a relationship, maybe for several years. These periods of having very little contact with people, especially very personal and emotionally intimate contact are like winter is for trees, or like the need to sleep and recover after a period of hard work and lack of sleep.

We need periods of withdrawal in order to survive in this world which is ruled by a majority whose nervous systems and brains work very different from ours.

As NT you interpret another person's behavior within a social context. His withdrawing from you gets translated almost automatically into a relationship problem or his feelings for you decreasing. However, this is usually not true.

You don't understand that any kind of personal interaction with a person, now matter how much we love them, is hard work. No, it doesn't come naturally. That's the difference between being NT and being autistic. And no matter how long an autistic person knows his partner, he still lacks the ability to let things flow naturally, like NTs would be able to.

The tricky part is that exactly the relationship we want and the daily interaction with the person we love are incredibly draining energy wise. That's what might cause the impression of your partner having changed. That doesn't mean his basic feelings toward you and his commitment have changed, it means he is exhausted by the need to continuously interact with you, even more so if his job forces him to deal with NTs.

I know I love my gf, and this fact has never changed, but sometimes things are getting too much for me and I have to shut down and withdraw from her, else I would end up in a straitjacket. Not because my feelings for her have changed but because my f*$^&)g nervous system gets overheated and I need some time with extreme lack of stimulation to cool it down. I need to withdraw, sleep a lot, avoid people and do a lot of repetitive stuff in order to reset my system.
You hit the nail on the head. I can now describe myself and my actions in better , more relatable terms.. thank you!
You're very welcome! Best wishes
Avatar universal
hello there,

i have been married to my husband for close to 7 years and we have 3 kids, with the 3rd one just 9mths. sometime in mar/apr this year, I found that my hubby has slowly been withdrawing himself from me. There was a point he suggested that we live apart but eventually the idea did not materialize. At that point, I also suspected that he was having an affair (not physical one but more of an emotional one as he was often on whats app with this girl from work group ). I never once confronted him about it cos to begin with, my husband was not the loving loving sort of guy so his distancing was also not totally "unexpected" from him. Nonetheless, he stopped communicating with me.

Fast forward 6 months later, he barely even utters a word to me. If i ask him something he replies but other than that he is working and comes back to his TV. His frequent phone messaging has stopped but we just don talk. Its been hell for me. Up till recently, someone just brought about this term Asperger to me and as I started to read more about it, the behaviour seems to describe my husband quite a lot.

Can anyone advise? I am so worn out ....
It sounds familiar, and I've been diagnosed w Asperger's. You don't often see it diagnosed later in life. But it happens. As awareness grows, diagnoses will as well. I predict. Anyhow I do this w my husband. We don't live together. That's not his nor my choice just financial reasons. I like it better that way. Oddly. So it's possible he's undiagnosed Asperger's. Other things are possible too. If you can, and if he's worth it (wink wink) ask his family. If this sounds like familiar territory to them, there you go. If it's something new... well no one develops it overnight. I suggest counseling or bringing him to a psych who specializes in autism spectrum disorders. I hope this gets resolved for you!
Oh whoa  youve been married to him and this just stRte? I see your com is a few yea old, jw what came of it  
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