Asperger Syndrome and Addiction Treatment
Our ability to function in the world depends largely on developing the ability understand and effectively communicate with others through complex verbal and behavioral cues. When you have Asperger syndrome, however, these basic building blocks of relating to others are missing and you are not able to interpret or communicate information the way most people do. While many people with Asperger syndrome lead full and productive lives, for some, it can also cause profound emotional suffering, isolation, and functional disturbances that greatly reduce quality of life. This is particularly true when the condition is accompanied by co-occurring drug addiction.
Isolation and Disconnection
Asperger syndrome is a type of pervasive developmental disorder that exists on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Characterized by social impairments, limited and specific interests, communication difficulties, myopic mannerisms, people with Asperger syndrome often struggle with basic interpersonal interactions that limit social and occupational function. Many of the social cues we use every day to understand others, such as facial expression, tone, and figurative language, elude you, you may be reluctant to engage in even casual conversations, and you may experience great difficulties establishing and maintaining meaningful social connections. For some, these functional limitations can lead to significant emotional distress, social anxiety, and feelings of depression, leading you deeper into isolation and despair.
The causes of Asperger syndrome are not known, but many experts believe that there is a genetic component, as the condition tends to run in families and brain imaging studies have shown that people with the condition have structural brain and functional features that differ from those in neurotypical subjects. While some believe that environmental factors such as environmental toxins may be a contributing factor in the emergence of Asperger syndrome, there is no evidence that social environment plays a role in its development.
Symptoms of Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome display a range of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms that can vary widely in severity. These include:
- Social difficulties, including a reluctance to have conversations and an inability to form friendships
- Odd, repetitive motions
- Communication difficulties, such as the inability to understand facial expressions, misunderstanding context, and avoidance of eye contact
- Ritualistic behavioral patterns
- Poor coordination
- Limited, specific, and obsessive interests
The extent to which these symptoms interfere with emotional well-being and function depends on the individual; while some people with Asperger syndrome are able to live relatively normal lives, others face profound struggles with everyday living.
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Asperger Syndrome and Addiction
Some studies suggest that Asperger syndrome is not associated with higher rates of substance use disorder in general; in fact, many people with the condition are highly risk-averse and prefer predictable experiences within their known comfort zone. For others, however, Asperger syndrome creates enduring emotional distress as the result of your inability to connect with others and you may turn to drugs in order to cope with the psychological pain of alienation. In other cases, people with the condition may start using drugs in order to increase sociability and try to fit in with others. Unfortunately, people with Asperger syndrome often lack the ability to self-regulate and engage in moderate drug use, heightening the risk for addiction.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Although there is no cure for Asperger syndrome, the right therapies can lead to remarkable improvements in your ability to function socially and form meaningful connections with others. If you are experiencing co-occurring drug addiction, however, these therapies are best delivered within the context of a comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment program to address the full scope of your needs.
Dual diagnosis treatment combines the most effective emotional and behavioral therapies to help you improve your social skills, cope with emotional distress, and recover from your addiction. It is imperative that this treatment is tailored to your individual needs, ensuring that you can engage in a meaningful therapeutic process that speaks to your unique situation. This process may include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Psychodynamic Therapy
- Experiential Therapy
- Holistic Therapies
- 12-step support groups
Although there are no medications that treat Asperger syndrome as a whole, pharmacological treatments are available to address specific symptoms such as depression and anxiety. For many, these can greatly improve treatment outcomes and allow you to more fully engage in the recovery process.
Dual diagnosis treatment gives you the support and structure to examine the relationship between your Asperger syndrome and your drug addiction and identify obstacles standing in the way of your healing. With the support of compassionate, skilled clinicians, you can gain the insight and skills you need to remove these barriers and create pathways towards sustainable recovery. Simultaneously, your therapeutic process allows you to learn and practice invaluable social skills that will enhance your ability to forge meaningful connections with others, helping you break your isolation and nourish your interpersonal relationships. To further fortify both your recovery and your relationships,dedicated family programs that allow your loved ones to take an active part in your recovery process can be an integral part of your treatment plan.
Unlike many co-occurring disorders, Aspergers is a lifelong condition. While great strides can be made while in treatment, it is imperative that you are given the resources to continue your healing journey after treatment has ended. Thoughtful aftercare planning and continuing care programsensure that you have a comprehensive strategy in place to help you maintain and build on the gains you have made in treatment to minimize the risk of relapse and promote ongoing personal growth.
If you would like more information about drug addiction and Asperger syndrome, or have any questions about dual diagnosis treatment, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always available to offer support and guidance to help you find the treatment you need to establish not only sobriety, but a greater capacity for connection, joy, and loving relationships.