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Asperger's linked to stress hormone
[Posted: Thu 02/04/2009 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
Some of the symptoms of the autistic condition, Asperger syndrome, such as a need for routine and resistance to change, could be linked to the stress hormone cortisol, the results of a new study indicate.
According to Aspire, the Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland, several thousand people in Ireland are affected by this complex condition, with males significantly more likely to be affected than women.
Generally those with the condition have an IQ within the normal range but may have extremely poor social and communication skills. Common characteristics can be a lack of empathy, little ability to form relationships, one-sided conversations and an intense absorption with a special interest. Sometimes movements can be clumsy.
According to UK researchers, people usually have a surge of the hormone cortisol soon after waking, with levels gradually decreasing during the day. It is thought that this surge makes the brain alert, preparing it for the day and helping the person to be aware of changes happening around them
However the researchers found that children with Asperger’s do not experience this surge. They believe that these findings may help explain why individuals with the condition have difficulties with minor changes to their routine or changes in their environment.
“Cortisol is one of a family of stress hormones that acts like a ‘red alert’ that is triggered by stressful situations allowing a person to react quickly to changes around them. In most people, there is a two-fold increase in levels of this hormone within 30 minutes of waking up, with levels gradually declining during the day as part of the internal body clock,” explained Dr Mark Brosnan of the University of Bath.
However the children with Asperger syndrome ‘didn’t have this peak although levels of the hormone still decreased during the day as normal’.
“Although these are early days, we think this difference in stress hormone levels could be really significant in explaining why children with Asperger’s are less able to react and cope with unexpected change,” Dr Brosnan said.
The researchers believe that the findings are important because they provide a clearer understanding of how some of the symptoms of Asperger’s are linked to how an individual adapts to change at a chemical level.
“This study suggests that children with Asperger syndrome may not adjust normally to the challenge of a new environment on waking. This may affect the way they subsequently engage with the world around them,” they added.
The team hopes that by understanding the symptoms of Asperger’s as a stress response rather than a behavioural problem, this could help carers and teachers develop strategies for avoiding situations that might cause distress in children with the condition.
The next step in the research will be to look at whether children with other types of autism also lack a peak of cortisol after waking.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Psychoneuroendocrinology.
|Casie Posted: 01/05/2009 14:57|
I find this article very interesting because this seems to be exactly the problem my teenage son has who has Asperger's syndrome. He does not fit the usual stereotype but he cannot handle even the slightest unexpected event no matter how minor. We have readjusted our lives so that he almost totally avoids situations that might cause distress for him. He has to have a member of family with him at all times. We just treat this as normal for him and it's no big deal.
We plan things out well in advance and always make sure he has prcise details of what's going to happen in any unusual situations like being on holidays and going on a day trips. We get all the information first. Sometimes information is incorrect so we have to go on mini trips without him to make sure information is good. Thereafter the whole family can set out for the day. We've had great holidays together. He's happy because he doesn't have to worry.
Our son appears completely normal so most people don't get it. The biggest problems are with school, teachers, hospital and health professionals other than psychologists and psychiatrists. Most just refuse to believe there's a problem. They seem to think that it's just putting up with nonsense. We have been unable to get Domicialliary Care Allowance for our son bcause he does not conform to the stereotype although he is unable to go to school and cannot go anywhere or do anything alone. He was diagnosed by a psychiatrist. The Dept of Education accepts this. They have done everything to help with his education. However the HSE assume him to be just a mild case because we make sure that he avoids stress so that he can develop normally. Because he seems so normal and well they don't seem to believe it.
If what this article says is true and professionals stop focussing on behaviours and stereotypes they might start believing that children and teenagers like our son have a genuine disability that makes them very dependent. When our son told the doctor in the HSE that he could not go out alone because 'something might happen'. She didn't think this was a medical problem. Every single day of our lives is a struggle and only people with diabled children can understand what this is like. In the light of this research maybe the HSE can re-evaluate these cases.
|Carrots Posted: 02/05/2009 19:04|
Blown away by this information. Good luck with further studies.
|TWNE Posted: 23/04/2010 17:54|
I was treated the same as a child although undiagnosed until recentley. Im now 31. My mother filled me in on everything and I normally stayed in my room or watched tv with one of my two sisters. I became psychotic during college due to my bad social skills and although i didnt harm anyone, my mental health was severly damaged. I was treated a number of years ago and undiagnosed given zyprexia. It worked at first and I was able to cope with postgraduate studies for my first year. I became very depressed for my MA and stayed that way living on my own for a number of years. I lost touch with who I was, I depended on the zyprexia to get me to sleep and went through each day just passing the time and doing nothing neccessarily productive. I read some books and lost touch with the joys of life like women, tv. I forgot how to feel. I turned to drugs because some friends where trying them. This forced the issue of what was happening with my life and I gave up drugs and stopped taking zyprexia the next week. The past two weeks have been a roller coaster ride. I felt the sun again and began to feel, pain, hope, life. I went to a psychiatrist and was told i should ween myself off the zyprexia. I dont know what my future holds. Living by myself has become very unsettling and I can never truly relax because i dont have a routine. I find it hard to sit and watch tv, my mind wanders too much. I read philosophy in the hope of going back to do an MA in Philosophy next year. I feel I have jumped into the abyss a few times already now and studying philosophy cannot hurt my mental state too much. I need guidance and I feel isolated.
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