Meltdown: The Aftershock

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Meltdown: The Aftershock

Did you know that even though a meltdown has finished, the shock to the system can still affect the individual for days afterwards?

Let’s go through briefly what a meltdown is…

It’s a loss of control, an overwhelming feeling of rage that can envelope you to the point of no longer being aware what you are saying or doing.

A person in meltdown mode has hit the point of no return and full fight or flight mode has kicked in, a rush of adrenaline that for me manifests as pins and needles all over my face and butterflies in my stomach.

An individual may seem to target loved ones in this state with hurtful actions and words without consciously meaning to.

person-850800_1920This is because they feel safe to do so and are unknowingly confident the recipient will understand.

It can also be a feeling of devastation and overwhelming sorrow rendering thoughts of self harm and the belief the world would be a better place without you.

In this state the person is best left if possible to process, rage or cry it out and regulate.

Only restrain someone in this state if they are in danger of hurting themselves or another person.

Someone who has lost all conscious thought and is in this vulnerable state may bolt into the road or unknowingly endanger themselves or others, that’s the time to restrain.

There are cases where individuals seek comfort of pressure is a hug or a weighted blanket and want that reassurance, to find out, gently offer but do not be offended or take it personally if they do not want to be touched.

For me a touch in an angry meltdown feels like a shock and is intolerable.

A hug in a sorrowful one for me feels repulsive.

A meltdown can be due to frustration or rightful anger, and it may explode over something so seemingly trivial that all in the vicinity of it are baffled as to where it came from.

An autistic can hold things in all day, sometimes for weeks only to lose control over misplacing their keys, missing a phone call or inadvertently having a disagreement they had been avoiding.

The Aftershock.

Psychical symptoms may manifest as anxiety attacks, vomiting and diarrhoea.

A feeling of all over aching may also occur.

The individual may suffer sensory overload more easily triggered by  things they could normally tolerate to a degree.

Again adrenaline rushes and a shutdown type state of being to function but in a numb light headed mind space may occur.

earth-1023859_1920Also in this state a person may swing between tearful and resentful, towards themselves for having the meltdown with a sense of embarrassment that they could not hold back what they feel was an unreasonable response.

They may also, if they are empaths feel so much more then they would absorb from others normally.

Things that may help:

Do not attempt to debate a person in a meltdown state.

Do not tell them to stop, shut up or get a grip.

Walk away if possible.

Understand this is their issue not yours, depersonalise the meltdown.  

It’s not your fault unless you directly caused it and even then once it’s in flight all you can do is wait.

A warm drink for after if needed.

Listen quietly and be there for them afterwards as they may need hugs, weighted blanket and reassurance.

A meltdown is never intentional, please understand that.

Understand that a temper tantrum can lead into a meltdown, the difference being a tantrum is to invoke a  reaction from you whereas in a meltdown the person will no longer be aware of what you think or feel.

Loudly verbalising pacing up and down or repeating a phrase over and over are all good indicators of an incoming.

Lastly no one would want to feel this way,  please understand it’s not intentional.


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  1. Jules Akers  November 28, 2015

    Very important article and nicely written in a readable and logical order. Just what I would expect from an aspie 😉 The pacing and verbalising makes sense, it is like your brain is trying hold it together before it bursts. I might add that they manifest very differently in different people but it is all the same thing.

    I love that you are talking about the aftermath as I had one yesterday (I should have known, I started the day with chest pains which is a clear warning but I went ahead unwisely with a series of social obligations which did not go well and then I am waking up in my front room several hours later.) In the absence of any caretaker I need to look after myself properly today, pace myself, don’t take on too much etc.

    This article and yesterday’s experiences suggest to me that many autistic people need to make their own care plan for meltdowns. Not in the actual event, once it has kicked in it will just carry on until it stops and it is out of anyone’s hands. More of a ‘before and after’ type of thing. To be aware of your triggers, early warning signs (the physical symptoms you mention for example), how much interaction you can deal with (and with whom), also perhaps who should be aware of them (people you would trust with your life, not just anyone- we could show them this article for example!) and what you need to do safeguard and calm yourself afterwards. They will still happen but a plan could make you safer and recover quicker.

    Everyone is different and experiences meltdowns differently, plus many of us simply do not have the option of shutting themselves away while we recover, but all of us need to look after and care about ourselves in whatever situation we found ourselves.

    Great article, very thought provoking and informative as ever.


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