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The Different Types of Meltdowns I Experience

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As someone on the autism spectrum, I’ve had my share of meltdowns. But not all meltdowns are created equally. In fact, I could even say there are different types of meltdowns, ranging from being slightly upset to what I’d consider to be a full-blown meltdown.

In my life, being slightly upset is very common. It’s a state I’m in almost every day. I may feel a little stressed out over some plans that fell through. I’ll be mad, try to hold back tears, take a few deep breaths, and then reassess the situation. It typically doesn’t last much longer than a few minutes.

Next, there’s what I might call a “mini-meltdown.” This is where I can feel it coming, and while I may cry a little bit out of frustration, I can prevent it from escalating with my coping skills. Mini-meltdowns tend to come in groups. So I’ll get upset, prevent it from getting worse, and then get upset again. This process can go on for longer because of the time it takes to cycle through each one.

Then I could have a meltdown. I’m upset, and I’m crying. I have either tried to prevent this meltdown and was unsuccessful, or it was very sudden and unexpected. For this reason, it is the kind of meltdown I personally might be seen having in public. I’m not flying off the handle, however.

Finally, I may have a full-blown meltdown. This is a more intense version of a meltdown. Besides feeling extremely frustrated and crying hysterically, I might scream. I also usually end up self-stimming, where I’ll rock myself or flap my hands to try and self-regulate. These full-blown meltdowns are very strong, and can last for as little as 30 minutes or as long as a few hours. While most meltdowns can make me physically and mentally tired, these full-blown meltdowns are beyond exhausting. After one is over, I’m usually unable to fully function for the rest of the day. Thankfully, they are not as common for me now as they used to be. This may be due to people understanding me more since my diagnosis.

While I wouldn’t wish a meltdown on anyone, I feel they are also important. They allow me to express emotions built up for long periods of time. If I don’t have a meltdown, I will eventually shut down mentally. That’s when I am so overwhelmed that I can’t process the world, so my brain just won’t let me think about what’s bothering me. That being said, meltdowns, no matter what type, can be hard to handle.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: March 29, 2023
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