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Are Energy Problems Common For Autistic People?

So I’ve been pretty lethargic for the past few days. It’s not for emotional reasons either. I’ve felt fairly stable this week, or as stable as an autistic person who’s always going to score high on “N” for the Big Five test can be. I didn’t have a strenuous weekend either. I just went to a gay club for this guy’s 30th birthday and watched him pass out at a diner.

I’ve heard a lot of autistic people have phases like that. Sometimes it’s because we’ve been using more energy than usual lately. Other times it’s just like a slow wave of sludge washing over us. We’re depleted. Out of spoons. Or, as a less-interested-in-social-justice type might think, languorously inert.

We live in a fast-paced society. A lot of people would think there’s something disgustingly indulgent about an able-bodied adult holing himself up in a basement playing videogames for a week. Or lying on an unwashed loft bed drifting in and out of consciousness while reading The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P. I’m not here to debate the virtues of hard work with you. But I can certainly see why this kind of sloth would piss off a hardworking American who doesn’t have the option of partaking in it.

I feel guilty for it, too. But some days I just can’t get out of my room. The person who re-diagnosed me last year said that’s because of depression. Several other autism professionals say the same thing. The world of psychiatry just doesn’t seem to recognize these brain farts. But has dedicated plenty of threads to low energy. As have the autism blogs. I’d recommend this post on

Sometimes low energy is actual fatigue. Other times it’s trouble concentrating. I try to have at least one day a week where I just rest. I use it to scroll the Internet, reread passages of easy books I’ve already read, pace, take long showers, etc. But I don’t want to waste that much time. I want to write and get published more. And get a part-time job. The thought that I’m living less life than other people is really disconcerting.

Thinking back, even my most energetic periods were slower than other people’s. During my junior year of college I was taking five classes (I usually take four) and I had a very popular friend who brought me out a lot. But I still spent a lot of weekends alone. I have an Asperger’s friend who’s taking a full load of grad school classes and has a 20 hour a week internship. Just thinking about all that activity makes me want to pass out.

I want to know how common this is. Do a lot of us need this much time to regroup? A couple of autistic people have told me that their “big meltdown” (a lot of us have had one) happened when they tried to do too much at once.

Also, how many of us are self-aware enough to see it coming? I’m not. But my boyfriend is. He always points out when he’s out of energy and needs to be left to his own devices for a couple of days.

I drink strong coffee, which helps a bit. I’ve also thought about getting another prescription for Vyvanse. Except it tends to tweak me out & doesn’t seem as effective if I use it frequently. The problem with caffeine and stimulants is that they make me manic. They help me do things, but I can’t sit still for long enough to do them well.

This is a rough bag for an ambitious person. It sucks making to-do lists every day and then being at the mercy of this capricious leaking steam engine that is Asperger’s. If you’ve got any tips, let me know.


*Image from pinterest.

Are Energy Problems Common For Autistic People?

Gwendolyn Kansen

Gwen Kansen is a mental health writer in New York. She likes food, karaoke, and smart-but-campy books & TV. She's hoping to capture a little sliver of life on here that might not be the first thing you'd see.

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APA Reference
Kansen, G. (2016). Are Energy Problems Common For Autistic People?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Jun 2016
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