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What is happening to my DS: 'freezes', possibly triggered by anxiety?

(12 Posts)
H2FSbF6 Tue 27-Oct-15 11:48:19

Hi people:

I am hoping that this is something somebody else has some experience of. DS has a fairly long history or mental health issues without any specific diagnosis that I am aware of. She was receiving some support from her local healthcare team/psychiatric nurses, but this has been withdrawn owing to a cut in funding.

For the last couple of years, she has started to 'freeze up' for varying lengths of time; this seems to be triggered by stress. If you try to communicate with her during an episode, she will simply stare at you blankly; if she puts in extreme effort, she can speak, but her speech is very slowed, stuttering and quite basic. She will also physically freeze in place.

I have tried to ascertain from her and her partner what she has been told by MH professionals, but as far as I can tell they have either had no answers, or haven't taken them in. (Though I do know they ruled out any neurological causes.) Dr. Google hasn't been much help either.

I am concerned that this is a new phase in her illness which, unless treated appropriately, may get worse. I also would very much appreciate any advice on how to deal with episodes like this, as when I have tried to care for her patiently in the past/manage situations, she has become angry at my 'tone of voice' and it has made things worse.

Thank you in advance, if you're able to advise at all.

elementofsurprise Tue 27-Oct-15 13:28:30

It sounds like what I struggle with at points, when stressed.
A sort of dissociation, disconnecting from reality.
For myself I have wondered if I'm on the Autistic spectrum and this is a sort of quiet "meltdown", cause by brain feeling overloaded.

I'm sorry I can't be of more help but those might be avenues to explore.

PhilPhilConnors Tue 27-Oct-15 13:40:08

This sounds like an ASD shutdown.
Quite often women with a long history of unresolved MH problems are being found to have ASD, which can present differently in girls and women.

RealHuman Tue 27-Oct-15 13:43:20

Could also be a form of catatonia?

PhilPhilConnors Tue 27-Oct-15 13:45:08

This blog is quite a good starting point.

Many experts don't recognise ASD in women, and will diagnose MH, bi-polar and borderline personality disorder.

Apologies if this isn't helpful at all.

H2FSbF6 Tue 27-Oct-15 13:46:50

Thank you all- this is brilliant! All very helpful; I am going to go and look up more about ASD. Thank you. smile

H2FSbF6 Tue 27-Oct-15 13:47:14

(And catatonia, sorry!)

H2FSbF6 Tue 27-Oct-15 13:54:45

Am reading the blog, specifically the list of symptoms. And it seems to fit, almost spooky in fact. I can't believe that no mental health professional has ever screened her for this! Actually, some of this also applies to me, but less so than my sis. And, as we have Bipolar in our family, that has always been the first thing we've thought of- but her symptoms didn't fit that.

One thing, though- these freezes are quite new- can they start, or worsen, later in life?

PhilPhilConnors Tue 27-Oct-15 14:02:35

ASD symptoms can fluctuate I've found.
If all is well in the world and I am in control I have very few symptoms, my sensory difficulties (noise, smells etc) don't bother me.
When things are difficult and beyond my control I go quiet (although I don't freeze like your sister does - but I have heard of others doing this), sensory stuff becomes a real problem and is something else to be dealt with on top of everything else.

There are several "aspie" tests online, the AQ and RDOS are ones that spring to mind.

Even if she can't get a diagnosis, looking at strategies for coping can help, and finding online support is helpful, even if it only means knowing you are not alone.

PolterGoose Tue 27-Oct-15 22:04:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mummytime Tue 27-Oct-15 22:27:24

Basically the primitive part of our brain has 3 possible reactions to stress: Fight, Flight (running away) and Freeze.

If someone is ASD and stressed or anyone is extremely stressed, the primitive part of the brain can take over with one of these responses.

So if she has only just started to freeze, I would ask: Is there any reason she has become even more stressed/anxious (and this could be withdrawal of support)?
Also did she use to react in one of the other ways, or is now prevented from reacting that way - so has learnt to control an impulse to "fight" or is prevented from "flight".

H2FSbF6 Wed 28-Oct-15 10:20:34

Thanks, PolterGoose and mummytime.

I'll definitely take a look at the support thread/links. Re: Fight/Flight/Freeze, this is interesting because it was something I'd mentioned to her in the past. She is extremely non-confrontational (in fact, somewhat PA), so she wouldn't fight, flight is hard due to family circumstances, and this does leave freeze. Her support network hasn't changed greatly, and there's been no particular withdrawal on that front (that I know of- but then perhaps she wouldn't tell me anyway). However, her work situation is something that has changed- she has more responsibilities now, and on top of that started home schooling her youngest in the last year. I suspect that she used to mask her need for withdrawal with other things she can no longer do- like going to sleep, or drinking in the day time. I think she is also alone less of the time, so, if this is ASD no wonder she's overwhelmed.

The odd thing (in a way) is that ever since we were young it's almost as if she has sought out situations for herself where she is in the centre of busy family-like/communal groups, usually with people who have various issues themselves. Anyway. I will go and read the thread and see whether I can gain some more perspective from it.

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