anonymous asked:

I have an autistic character who's also a bit of a foodie, and tends to like more "extreme" flavors (I once depicted her eating raw spicy peppers, for example). Does taste tend to fall in the "sensory overload" category, and if so, is this off?

Taste can absolutely be overloading for some autistic people, like any other sense. Many autistic people are very picky when it comes to food (taste-wise but also texture-wise), and some children can only eat a few different foods (this is also true in adults but tends to be less intense, as the adult will have had more time to find different foods which don’t set off their “sensory alarm”, so to speak).

But sensitivity to any sensory input is something which comes in different levels: an individual autistic person can be very hypersensitive, hypersensitive, normally sensitive, hyposensitive, veryhyposensitive (with many levels in between) to one particular kind of sensory input.

People who are hyposensitive to a specific kind of stimulus tend to crave stimulation of that sense, since they don’t get enough of it through “usual means”. Thus, it is very common in persons with hyposensitive sense of taste to like very spicy food or food with a strong taste.

So you don’t have to change this aspect of your character, it is well into the range of autistic peculiarities!

-Mod Cat

I’m hypersensitive and I LOVE spicy food. I put chili sauce on my vindaloo, baby. SPIIIIICE!

Yes, what Cat said - hypersensitivity doesn’t mean “hypersensitive to absolutely everything all the time”, and not all autistic people are even hypersensitive. We’re complicated, what can I say? :D

-Mod Aira

anonymous asked:

Hi! I have an autistic MC in a medieval fantasy and I've seen a lot of autistic people saying they don't think it would have been as noticeable in the past because there wouldn't have been as much to trigger sensory overload. What sort of situations might be an issue? Eg court is loud and bustling but very structured so she can cope better than in a loud and unfamiliar situation? How do you think she might cope with battles and fights if it's a significant/unavoidable part of her culture & life?

Indeed, I would go further than “it wouldn’t have been as noticeable” to “it wasn’t as noticeable” - that autism isn’t more common these days, it’s just that it’s more difficult to be autistic in the modern world than it was historically. There is loads of evidence that autistic people have been around pretty much forever, and in fact there’s a general consensus that many quite famous historical figures were autistic, especially “prodigies” (which might today be called “savants”) like Mozart and Newton. It’s my personal opinion that humanity wouldn’t be anything like what it is without the contributions of autistic people throughout our history.

Personal opinions aside, we can only speculate on what life might have been like for autistic people in medieval times. There are a lot of possibilities, and it will depend a lot on your specific character (what autistic traits she has) and the life she leads. Is she a farmer? A queen? A warrior? The list of possibilities is too long for one post, but here are a few ideas:

-If she is hypersensitive and/or highly empathetic, violence will certainly be a problem if she is forced to deal with that. Seeing people hurt will hurt her. Loud noises and unstructured, chaotic situations might be completely overwhelming and she’ll be left melting down, huddled in a ball on the ground and sobbing, if she’s unable to run away.

-In a fight-or-flight situation, autistic people tend to default towards flight as a consequence of being too overloaded to fight most of the time. If forced to join an army, for example, and fight, she might panic and run off. If overwhelmed, overloaded, or melting down, her brain can literally just take over her body and tell her legs “run”. She might not have any control over it - not that anyone will believe that if she gets caught deserting her leader.

-The structure and scripted nature of life at court would be a huge advantage - she could memorize the correct greetings and things to say in many situations, and might even have someone teach her such things directly, rather than having to deduce them, which would be problematic. On the other hand, she might miss the subtext - the sarcasm, the lies, the subterfuge. She is likely to be very easily manipulable, and probably obviously so. An autistic person makes a great victim for someone abusive, controlling, or plotting (unfortunately so - and it happens plenty in the real world, too).

Really, the sky is the limit here. I would suggest researching medieval life in as much detail as possible, as well as researching autism. Keep an eye out for our masterposts - we’ll be rolling out more and more of them soon. And when you come across a specific question, feel free to ask again.

Happy writing!

-Mod Aira

Planet Dancetime: Social Skills and Functioning Labels

If you’re allistic, it might be difficult to imagine what life is like for an autistic person. That can make it difficult to write from an autistic perspective. In order to help facilitate understanding, I, Mod Aira, have come up with an extended metaphor that I hope will be helpful. This is the first in a planned series, and it will cover some of the basics of social interaction as well as the harm that functioning labels do.

Please note that this series is written from my perspective and according to my personal opinions and experience. It will not necessarily reflect the reality of all autistic people, but it is one authentic perspective.

Imagine that tomorrow, you wake up on another world. It’s called Planet Dancetime. The people there look just like humans, except their social rules are insane. They do a complicated dance while they talk to each other, and all communication is carried out in this dance-talk. At first, you can’t make any sense of it, but slowly you start to puzzle some of it out. When you speak to a woman, you have to stand on your right foot the whole time. When you speak to a man, you have to stand on your left. If someone is non-binary, you have to stand on your toes. You also have to touch the shoulder of the person you’re talking to every ten seconds exactly. If you don’t follow this rule of *precisely* every ten seconds, you’re being very rude. When you’re telling a happy story, you have to wiggle your shoulders, starting with the right side and working your way left. Sad stories are the opposite. For *angry* stories, the wiggle is in the eyebrows. You also have to indicate your emotional state and age at the time the story happened by a complicated motion in your fingers set to a specific beat, and your *current* emotional state by the particular angle at which you hold your elbows and wrists.

There are still countless other rules here, more than you can figure out. The Dancetime people are constantly making strange gestures and movements. The crazy thing is, it seems to be effortless for them. How can they possibly keep track of all these rules? You decide to ask someone.

The response is not positive. You get the most disdainful look you’ve ever seen, and the explanation, “It’s obvious. Just use common sense.”

Well that isn’t helpful. How could they possibly conceive of this system as being obvious? And if it’s so simple, then why can’t they explain it?

At long last, you come to an epiphany. Of course this system isn’t simple. In fact, it’s so complicated that the only way for them to manage it is for their brains to handle it subconsciously. A massive amount of their brainpower is devoted to decoding, remembering, and carrying out all these convoluted rules. And their bodies are naturally conditioned for it, too. They can stand on one leg for hours without any effort – it’s just the way they evolved. But you can’t. Your brain is busy doing other important things that these people hilariously can’t do (more on this another time), and it’s not about to take over all those extra responsibilities now. You have no easy options, and you’re stuck here now, so you have to make a choice.

Option one is to say – hell with it. Maybe you just don’t have it in you to do this – you just can’t get your head around it, and it’s impossible for you. Maybe you have a physical issue that prevents you from dance-talking, or you just don’t have the type of memory required to learn dance moves, or the multitasking ability necessary to count and talk at the same time. Or maybe you just decide: I’m not going to bother with their stupid rules. I’m going to stand on two feet when I talk, and I’m not going to count to ten silently in my head while I’m talking so I can time the shoulder-touches properly – I mean, who could even do that? I’m just going to be me, and they’re just going to have to deal with it.

This does not go well for you. When you fail to follow their dance-talk rules, these people freak out. Some of them are angry – how dare you insult me with your non-dance body language? Even worse, it turns out that some movements that you make entirely naturally which have nothing to do with conversation, or some aspects of your normal, natural body language, are actually grave insults in dance-talk. You can’t figure out which things you’re doing which are so wrong, and no one will explain it to you. Many people think you’re extremely rude. But some of them are scared or worried and are determined to figure out what’s wrong with you. You are quickly surrounded by “experts” who want to help you. After all, you couldn’t possibly survive without the ability to dance-talk. You obviously suffer from some kind of hideous disorder. You try endlessly to explain that you can talk just fine without the dancing, that there’s nothing wrong with you, but they won’t have it. If you talk without the dance moves, they ignore everything you say like it’s some kind of incomprehensible babble. If you can’t dance-talk, then you obviously have a disability, and you need to be cared for. You’re obviously not intelligent enough to communicate, so you’re automatically not intelligent enough to care for yourself. You wind up in an institution with the others who have been diagnosed with “low-functioning human disorder”, also known as “severe humanism”. The nurses look at you with pity in their eyes and don’t bother talking directly to you. You hear them talking (as though you’re not there) about the tragedy of your extreme human-ness, how terrible it must be to live that way, and what a burden you are to those around you. You try to scream: it wouldn’t be terrible if you’d just leave me alone! But your screams, lacking their accompanying dance moves, fall on deaf ears.

So let’s consider the other alternative. You can try to puzzle out the dance-language and see if you can fit in well enough to get by. Not everyone has this option – I mean, the dance-language is obscenely complicated, after all. But maybe you’re one of the lucky ones. Maybe you have a good memory for movements and are good at figuring out or guessing when to use each one. So you give it a shot. And after a lot of trial and error, you start to find some success. Your dance moves are still a bit off, and you get funny looks pretty frequently. Eventually, you get “diagnosed” with “high functioning human disorder” and told you should be fine as long as you put in enough effort. You ask that maybe someone teach you some of the dance moves, and you are rudely dismissed as being lazy or pretending to be disabled so that you can get more attention.

This is the same reaction you get every time you make a mistake. And of course, you will always make mistakes. There will always be days when your legs are simply too tired, and you have no choice but to stand on two feet for a while. Sometimes, when you’re trying to talk about something, you just can’t spare the brain power to count to ten over and over again, and you miss a few shoulder-touches. Sometimes you’ll get the wrist and elbow angle just slightly wrong and give entirely the wrong tone to a conversation. And sometimes you encounter a social situation you’ve never learned the moves for, and there’s no possible way for you to do it right.

Every single mistake is met with indignation. How dare you insult us that way? You apologize and try to explain that even though you’re pretty good at it, this dance-talk still doesn’t come easy for you. It doesn’t help. Your explanations are written off as lazy excuses. Everyone knows you are perfectly capable of using dance-talk. You do it all the time. The fact that you’re not doing it now obviously means that you are doing it on purpose. You are intentionally insulting those around you, and they don’t appreciate it.

The looks, the stares, the muttered insults, they eat away at you. You are doing your best, damn it. You are doing infinitely better than should ever have been expected of you. You put so much energy into the most basic conversations, you don’t even have enough left over to care for yourself. You haven’t been eating well, with no energy to cook. You suffer from constant anxiety – fear of the next mistake – when (not if) will it happen? How will they react? But no one appreciates that. No one helps. No one explains the mistakes you’ve made – and usually, you have no idea what you’ve done wrong. You’re expected to just figure it out on your own, and are punished for each misstep, because damn it, you might be technically human, but they’re not about to let you use your humanness as an excuse for rude or lazy behavior.

You feel the constant underlying threat all the time: if you can’t dance-talk like the rest of us, if you stop trying or make too many mistakes, then we’ll change our minds about you. We’ll change your diagnosis to low-functioning human disorder, and stick you in the institution with the others. We’ll never speak to you again. We’ll never look at you as a person again. You’ll just be a lump of flesh that we have to feed and bathe. So you’d better try harder.

The best case scenario you can hope for is that people will find out you’re human and say, “Oh, wow! You barely look human at all! You should be so proud of yourself.” Human is an insult. Not human is a compliment. That’s the world you find yourself in now. And sometimes you start to wonder – are they right? Is being human really a disability? Is there something wrong with me? Now you can add a fight against depression to the list of things you have to deal with. There are days when you wonder if the effort will ever be worth it. You feel hopeless and lost.

All because dance-talk doesn’t come naturally to you.

Now, disclaimer, here: this is a simplified analogy of how functioning labels can feel, and the ridiculous basis on which they are assigned. The reality is a little more complicated and there are more factors, some of which we’ll explore later. And as always, we repeat: everyone’s experience is different, and not all experiences are reflected here. This story is designed to help those who are not autistic start to understand what life is like for those who are. This really is how it feels for a lot of people, myself included. These are the choices I feel I have. I can relax and give up and just be “me” without apology, and then I am liable to lose everything – my job, my friends, my life. Or I can try to fit in and act like the others, at an enormous energy cost, and often not have the strength left over to take care of myself. They call me “high functioning”, but they’re ready to take that shiny little badge away at any moment – and they would have taken it away long ago if they saw how I am at home at the end of a stressful day.

A far, far better situation would be to do away with the functioning levels entirely. Judge each person based on their individual attributes, and try to understand that under other circumstances, they might be very different. Sometimes I can talk, and sometimes I can’t. Acting “normal” takes a lot of energy, and sometimes I don’t have enough left to do it. But I’m still able to live independently, and still have many strengths and abilities – many that “allistic” people typically do not have.

So please, when you’re thinking about writing an autistic character (and good for you! hooraaaayyyy!!!!), don’t think of them in terms of high- or low-functioning, in terms of “severe” or “mild” autism. Instead, think of a list of traits, what they’re good and bad at, what comes easy and what doesn’t. Your character is as individual as you are.

Happy writing!

-Mod Aira

anonymous asked:

Hey! I'm sorry it's a rather vague question, but I'm considering writing an autistic character that is mostly nonverbal. Would it be realistic to have them able to speak in two or three word phrases, or possibly from a list of like a hundred or so words? Would they be able to start using more over time?Would they be able to read something they'd written out ahead of time? Would being nonverbal affect their ability to write or text, ignoring complications with social interactions?

First of all, good for you for wanting to write a mostly nonverbal character!

“Nonverbal” is not necessarily a black-or-white thing, though it is often portrayed as such. Many normally verbal autistic people go nonverbal under stress (like me), and people who are considered “nonverbal” in general may be able to speak some words, or under certain circumstances. For example, there might be certain topics they find they can say more easily, or as you say, if something is written and rehearsed in advance, they might be able to read it aloud. Some people can also use echolalia, where they repeat all or part of what someone says back to them, as a tool to communicate. For example, if you ask them, “How are you?” they might not be able to answer, but if you say, “Are you fine?” they could use that to say, “I am fine.” This is all highly individual and depends greatly on the person.

As neither of the mods on this blog is nonverbal, we don’t want to give any overly specific answers here. It would be much more helpful if someone nonverbal wanted to chime in and give us a little more info based on their own experiences. Any nonverbal followers who are willing to give such feedback, feel free! We’d love to hear from you!

-Mod Aira

A few thoughts i’d like to add:

  • As Aira said, verbal autistic people can go nonverbal under stress, but also when they’re tired, overwhelmed, drunk, sad, or even without specific reasons. Someone can be verbal part of the time and nonverbal part of the time, without definite triggers. Every autistic person is very different from the others, but can also be very different from themselves at some other moment. The ways our traits presents can change a whole lot from one moment to the next.
  • There are several types of echolalia : directly repeating back what someone said can be one of them, but another is indirect echolalia, which is repeating things that have been heard at some other time. Some autistic people tend to communicate using quotes from movies, advertising, songs… The content of these quotes can be quite obscure, but it is usually used with the intent to communicate even when the meaning is not immediatly obvious. For example, someone could ask “Who put this here ?” and the autistic person could reply “I am your father” in the voice of Darth Vador. While this reply doesn’t seem appropriate at first, it could simply mean “it was my dad”. Of course that’s a silly example I just made up on the spot. Just to say that what seems to us the easiest way to express something is not always the most straight-forward or easiest to understand (this is also true of non-echolalia communication).

And yeah, any nonverbal autistic person, feel free to chime in!

-Mod Cat

Welcome to ScriptAutistic!

Hi! We’re ScriptAutistic, here to help you write autistic characters. We’ll write masterposts about important topics related to autism, and of course we’re here to answer your questions. Our ask box is open!

We are two mods, Mod Aira and Mod Cat. You can read about us on our individual intro posts. We have decided to run this blog together because every single autistic person is unique, and we can only answer your questions from our own perspectives. We are very different and have some very different opinions on some key issues - and we agree that it’s best to have more than one perspective out there. We may in the future welcome other autistic people to share their own perspective with you!

Now, very quickly, we would like to reiterate that this is a blog for writing advice. This is not the place to ask us to “diagnose” you, or to give you real-life advice for any situation. We could get in trouble for that, guys. There are loads of places to look for real-life advice, and we definitely plan a masterpost of resources in the near future, but this blog is to help you write autistic characters. And we do hope you write autistic characters, guys! There are so few of them to be found, and the ones which exist are normally based on exaggerated or even totally false stereotypes. We want to get those unfair stereotypes out of people’s heads.

We also wanted to thank the script family a whole super lot for adopting us, especially @scriptmedic for starting this whole thing and @scriptshrink for recruiting us. We’d like to thank all of you, but there’s too dang many! We’re glad to be a part of this and we hope we can be of use!

-Mod Cat and Mod Aira


A collection of secular music from the High and Late Middle Ages (1000-1400). The mix features songs in vernacular from many different areas of Western Europe, as well as a few songs from the Byzantine and Islamic Empires.

De Fortune me doi Plaindre et Loer | Guillaume de Mauchaut (1300-1377)
Ach Owe, daz Nach Liebe Ergat | Meister Alexander (1247-1288)
Mîzân Qá'im Wa-nisf | from the Nuba Ushshaq, (13th c. Arabo-Andalusian Anon)
Worldes Blis ne Last no Throwe | English Anon. (ca.1265)
Bailemos Nós já Todas | Airas Nunes de Santiago (1230-1289) 
Adiu, Adiu Dous Dame | Francesco Landini (1325-1397)
Ey Dervişler | Yunnus Emre (1238-1320)
A Chantar M'er de So Qu'eu no Volria | Beatriz de Dia (1140-1212)
Ecco la Primavera | Francesco Landini (1325-1397)
Bache, Bene Venies | from the Carmina Burana, (11-13th c. Anon)
Cel que no Volh Auzir Chanssos | Raimon de Miraval (1165 - 1229)
The Nightingales of the East (Ta Aidónia tis Anatolís) | Byzantine Anon. (14th century)
Tant M’Abelis | Berenguer de Palou (1160-1209)
Willekomen si der Sumer Schoene | Brunwart von Augheim (1250-1300)
Esperance | Guillaume de Mauchaut (1300-1377)
Laude Novella | from the Laurdario di Cortona, (13th c. Italian Anon)

Photo: Illumination of a Christian and Muslim playing ouds,
from The Cantigas de Santa Maria (13th century Spain)

anonymous asked:

Hi! This blog looks so great I'm really excited by it. In a story I'm writing (it's fantasy), there are elves, and as well as being off folklore/mythological elves, they're also based off autistic people but I'm struggling to figure out what an only autistic society would be like, do you have any ideas?

First of all, having a whole, non-human race be autistic can be quite problematic in terms of representation. See Mod Aira’s thoughts on non-human autistic characters here.

Since elves look a lot like humans, and are usually positively described as a race equal or superior to humans, that might not be that much of a problem, but you should still give this issue some thought and make sure this is really something you want to do. This is not a decision I can make for you.

As for the specifics of an autistic-only society, this is where things get fun !

Here are some ideas in no particular order. Of course I can’t cover everything and other autistic peeps are encouraged to pitch in as always!

  • Everyone is stimming freely and openly. This is seen as a completely normal thing. I don’t know how modern your universe is, but people are allowed to stim in school or in their workplace. Shops have whole “stim toys” aisles. There are sensory rooms available throughout cities for everyone who might get overwhelmed.
  • Social norms are completely different. Making eye contact is seen as rude, people are expected to explain their jokes and sarcasm. Actually, communities might write down and edit regularly their social rules so they are explicit and available to all.
  • Kids are taught in schools strategies to cope with sensory overload or to get stuff done with executive dysfunction. They are encouraged to work on their special interests and it is used as a medium to teach them other things. There is highly individualized teaching and varied teaching styles since all kids have different needs. They would also be taught (either by caretakers or educators) many life skills, such as self-care, taking care of a home, taxes… more explicitely.
  • In our society, there are things that are seen as “basic needs” that everyone shares such as be well-fed, warm enough, not be in pain, have enough time to sleep… In a workplace or school for example, those needs are supposed to be met. The other needs, the ones not everyone has, are seen as “accomodations” when they are met, and are often more begrudgingly met. In an all-autistic society, meeting needs such as sensory needs or break time when you are overloaded wouldn’t be considered as making accomodations, but as meeting basic needs and as a normal thing.
  • Autistic people are very diverse and sometimes our needs are conflicting. For example, some might be hurt by loud noises, while some may need to stim and regulate themselves by making/ listening to loud noises. So it is probable that people with similar needs would gather in communities.
  • Since a lot of autistics are nonverbal at least some of the time, I think all verbal people would also know a nonverbal language such as a sign language they could use to communicate with nonverbal individuals or when they go nonverbal themselves. Communicating via AAC wouldn’t be seen as unusual or surprising.
  • Art and culture would probably be very different. Autistic people are often creative, but they create different things from what allistics create.
  • I feel like emergencies such as fires would be handled differently. I don’t think loud alarms and blinking lights would be the most efficient. I don’t have ideas for an alternative system though.
  • Lots of autistic people have trouble driving and I feel like it would have an impact on the most commonly used means of transportation. Either, for a more primitive setting, horse riding would be a huge thing - since horses are sentient they can take care of some of the “looking around to make sure we don’t run over someone or collide into something” - or, for a modern setting, automatized transportation means would have been developed sooner than in our world.
  • There would be more focus than in our society on precise planning and available information. Navigating administrations wouldn’t be so chaotic, or else no one could deal with it. There would be early on a need to get stuff organized in a very clear, explicit way.

That’s all I can think of for now. I hope this helps!

-Mod Cat

There are some great ideas here and I can think of a million more, but I will restrain myself! I just want to add a couple of things as food for thought:

  • Sign language isn’t speaking, but it is still verbal (the brain still processes it more or less the same as any other language), so many people (including me) are not able to sign when nonverbal despite being fluent in a sign language. However, many autistic people find signing more comfortable than speaking, so I definitely agree that more people would know how to sign, and it would likely be a second language requirement.
  • I have to be honest here… Although I have many autistic friends online, I don’t have many that I see regularly face to face. I think there is a reason that autistic people make up a minority of the human race, rather than the majority. For all our advantages, we often have conflicting needs, and we are not at all specialized for living in large groups the way allistic people are. Even though I like my autistic friends a lot, I don’t like spending a lot of time with them in person because they… get on my nerves. I mean in specific ways - for example, we have completely unrelated special interests, and they infodump about theirs for ages, and I have no interest whatsoever but don’t want to interrupt and seem rude (since I hate it when people do that to me). Or they stim and it bothers me. I’m extremely hypersensitive, including to movement, so if someone (besides me) is rocking back and forth or doing another repetitive motion near me, I can’t even open my eyes or I get overloaded. I love my autistic friends and I love the fact that I’m autistic, but I would not want to live in a completely autistic society - I’d have to hide away from other people and I’d become socially isolated even more than I am in this world. Note that this is my personal point of view and NOT true for all autistic people. But there WOULD be people like me who couldn’t deal with being around other people’s stimming, and we might not all get along as well as you might think.
  • On the positive side: all the things that are considered “disabilities” in this world with regards to autism would be seen as the norm. Not being able to speak some or all of the time would be considered a normal personality trait, like being good or bad at sports or drawing. Suddenly getting up and leaving a conversation due to overstimulation would be perfectly normal. It would be a given that normal respect for other people includes maintaining a quiet and calm environment as much as possible.
  • Another issue regards public spaces. There is something called “selective attention” which allows people to block out background sensory information and focus only on what is relevant to them at the moment (for example, listening to what one person is saying when there are other conversations happening nearby). In autistic people, this is usually very weak or completely nonexistent. It’s not possible for me to filter out background noise. If I need to meet someone for a conversation or work meeting, it MUST be in a quiet place. I am incapable of following a conversation when more than one person in the room is talking. I literally can’t unscramble their words from the words of other people and it just becomes a jumbled mess of gibberish that rapidly becomes painful. So how would things like restaurants work? Cafes? Parties? Assuming many or most people can’t hear what someone is saying when ANYONE else in the room is talking, how could you have spaces like that? Would they exist at all? Would their be some kind of magic (in a fantasy world) or tech (sci-fi) that can block out all sounds outside of the group you’re in? 

Not trying to poke holes, but trying to point out possible issues that you should think about when creating your society. And as Cat mentioned, be very careful about painting a non-human race as “like humans but autistic”. Being autistic is not an inhuman state, and it can be very damaging to describe it as such, even if your intentions are good. I would be much more comfortable with a human all-autistic society than a non-human one. Maybe consider making the humans all autistic and code the elves as allistic. :P

If you keep all this in mind, I’d be interested to see what kind of society you might come up with. Good luck!

-Mod Aira

inlookingglass  asked:

hello! this is... kind of a silly question tbh. but. what does it *feel like* to be (hyper)empathetic? like are there physical symptoms when you... catch stuff (?) from other people? do sad feelings from seeing someone else cry feel different from feeling sad in general? does it hurt & if so, how? i don't experience empathy at all bc brainwierd but have a couple autistic characters who range between moderately & hyper empathetic and im *constantly* second guessing their reactions to things...

and this didn’t fit in the last ask but thank you very much for putting the time & effort into this blog !

And thank you for reading!

We’ll be doing an empathy masterpost soon. For now, as a hyperempathetic person, I’ll try to give a brief answer (and fail, because I’m incapable of being brief, apparently).

I am so sensitive to the emotional states of others that it often eclipses my own emotions (and I’m often unable to identify how I actually feel). It can be debilitating, though it can also be very pleasant, depending on the situation. Here are a few examples of real-life implications:

  • When I see someone upset, I can’t comfort them. It’s too overwhelming. To even look at them makes me feel overcome with whatever sad emotions I imagine they’re experiencing. (And this is important: I’m not psychic. I am reacting to my *perception* of how they feel - and due to my sensitivity, I know that I tend to overestimate the severity of other peoples’ feelings, which causes me to feel more strongly than I probably should.)
  • I can’t comprehend teasing, bullying, or any kind of hurting another person intentionally. If I called someone a name I knew would upset them, I would hurt myself even more than I’d hurt them. The idea that someone would feel strong by putting down someone else is completely foreign to me. This also prevents me from understanding why anyone would tease or bully me.
  • I can’t watch a sad scene in a film or hear sad music without crying. I can’t talk about my feelings without crying. I can’t talk about anything emotional without crying. This can be very embarrassing. For example, I might be trying to tell the parents of one of my students that they really worked hard that day and I could see how proud they felt about their success– and whoops, I’m crying again. I actually have anxiety about watching films with other people, because there is always at least one moment at the climax of the film where emotional music plays, and–yep, you guessed it. Crying. 
  • When I see children playing happily, the world can melt away. When they get excited over some mundane thing in the world, I get excited, too. I turn into an excited little kid all over again.
  • I can’t get angry at my students, even if they’re behaving atrociously. If I make them feel bad - well, you get the idea.
  • I wind up a very easy target for abusers and have, unfortunately, been in several emotionally abusive relationships. They don’t have to threaten me. I can’t break up with someone, because I’ll hurt them. I’m not afraid of what they’ll do to me - I’m afraid of how bad I’ll make them feel. All they have to threaten me with to control me is “but I’ll be so sad” and I’m defeated. (It takes the support of many friends to get out of a situation like this.)
  • I tend to reflect people’s personalities back at them. In a way, I become like the person around me I identify with the most. My accent changes quickly when I’m talking to someone, matching theirs (a problem when I’m teaching English to non-native speakers). My mannerisms change. If I watch a film or read a book, I act like the characters for a while afterwards. My speech patterns, movements, energy levels, even my sense of humor changes to that of the character. This has the advantage of making me a good actor, and of helping me “blend in” and “pass” so people don’t realize I’m autistic (which can be advantageous at times), but it can also be very confusing. It’s easy to lose track of who I actually am.
  • I tend to prefer suffering or letting myself be hurt to allowing others to be hurt, because my perception of their pain is actually worse than my own real pain would be.
  • Watching horror movies is inconceivable. However, watching inspirational movies fills me with so much ambition that I go a little nuts for a while after, filled with energy and making big plans to change my whole life (which last until the next time I see someone feeling unhappy).
  • I sometimes actually feel the physical pain I imagine others are experiencing. This isn’t something my body does, but something my brain does. It perceives physical suffering and then I feel it - or, I feel what I imagine they feel, which is probably much worse than what they actually feel. I can’t tolerate even the slightest amount of gore or violence.

That ought to be more than enough for a start. Again, watch for a masterpost in the near future, where we’ll go into more detail about empathy in autistic people (and include a lot of the excellent feedback we got from all you guys in our informal survey the other day).

-Mod Aira

For me, hyperempathy presents itself quite differently to Mod Aira’s.

I have trouble understanding my emotions in general (this is called alexythymia), and as I like to describe it, i’m a kind of “emotional sponge”. Some also talk of emotional contagion. Which means that when i perceive that someone feels something, I will feel it too, except most of the time I can’t differenciate between my own emotions and those i’ve “caught” from others. So all of a sudden I’ll be feeling very bad and won’t know why, and it’s actually because I think someone around me is in a bad mood.

Seeing someone cry makes me cry. Seeing a sad movie - or any movie with some kind of emotional scene - makes me cry. Feeling something a bit intense makes me cry. I spend half my life crying. I don’t care. I can watch movies with people and they can see me cry.

I don’t feel others’ pain as intensely as Aira does, and I am usually able to take myself out of a bad situation even though i strongly prefer not to hurt anyone. I can see the long-term benefits for me to do so in some situations.

I don’t feel people’s physical pain.

Horror movies are awful to watch but i like it somehow.

I wouldn’t say i feel people’s pain more strongly than my own, it’s about the same or more…vague somehow?

So I think we can say there are several degrees of hyperempathy, and it can feel more or less intense depending on the person.

-Mod Cat