Stunning Example of Lack of Empathy


Autism activists vehemently deny that people close to them suffer significant trauma from their lack of empathy, just as they deny that they lack empathy. The truth is that spouses, partners, children and siblings of individuals who have social disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) and high functioning autism (Hfa) suffer significantly. They are subject to chronic, repetitive psychological trauma within the context of their relationships with persons with AS. This is a normal stress reaction to the ongoing abnormal interactions within these relationships.

This stress reaction has been named Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (OTRS), AKA Cassandra Phenomenon (CP). It is a metaphor for the emotional and physical suffering of spouses and children of adult individuals with AS and high functioning autism, because they are typically disbelieved as they attempt to share the cause of their sufferings with others (Cassandra, the Greek mythological character, suffered because her capacity to predict the future was accompanied by the curse that no one believed her. She could foresee disasters, but could not convince anyone to forestall them. By analogy, family members of adults with AS experience great moral distress because they can predict calamities caused by the individual with AS, but they are not believed or validated by the very individuals to whom they turn for professional help).

Their suffering and trauma should come as no surprise when one considers life with a person who has serious limitations in their ability to engage in reciprocal relationships. People with AS do not exhibit reciprocity; do not show empathy or compassion; cannot put themselves in the place of others; have difficulty with mutual communication; do not recognize the NT partner’s reality and attitudes; cannot read others’ intentions and emotions; find it difficult to learn from experience; cannot assess complex situations; cannot nurture a relationship; cannot see their responsibility for their own actions; cannot negotiate, seek compromises or resolve conflicts; is extremely busy solely for their own needs; and has inadequate capacity for adult impulse control. It does not take an advanced degree in mental health to understand the emotional deprivation and extreme psychological stress that would result from ongoing interaction with such a person.

Symptoms include physical illnesses, stress-related health problems, depression, fear, loss of self-esteem, doubt of their own reality, loneliness, fatigue, involuntary social isolation, and more.

Many complain of emotional exhaustion, which occurs when an individual has exceeded their capacity for emotional stress. Some even say they have had a “breakdown,” a term which is often used to describe the mental collapse of someone who has been under intolerable strain. A stress breakdown is a normal reaction to a period of prolonged negative stress from enduring repeated violation of boundaries, betrayal, rejection, bewilderment, confusion, lack of control and disempowerment, with seemingly no means of escape and no support.

So how have people with AS reacted to the recognition of the detrimental effects of their disorder on those closest to them, and to calling these effects OTRS or CP?

With a stunning lack of empathy. 

Here is the cold and callous formal response from autistic rights advocates:

     Autistic rights advocates from ASAN New England are making it clear that the bogus concept of ‘Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder’ is discrimination based entirely on neurology and that the autistic community cannot stand for that…

It bears repeating that no legitimate research has ever been conducted to support ‘Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder.’ Maxine Aston simply made it up. Although it’s likely that she never would have gotten into print and would have been widely dismissed as a crank if she had made such claims on her own, her association with Tony Attwood over the years has enabled her to feed off his professional reputation and thereby gain an appearance of credibility.

And sadly, judging by Attwood’s continued unwillingness to repudiate the crankery and bigotry of Aston and FAAAS, it seems he’s a willing participant in their schemes.”

They dismiss the emotional suffering reported by neurotypical people who are close to them — and attempts to recognize and help them — as bogus, crankery and bigotry. There is absolutely no empathy in that, and the irony is clear — they disbelieve Cassandra Syndrome exists, yet the disorder is named Cassandra Syndrome precisely because spouses and children are disbelieved as they try to share the suffering they endure.

People with AS do not care about the suffering their loved ones experience; the only thing they’re able to be concerned with is that it makes them look bad. They are unable to know that they act with callous disregard of their family members; that is the very nature of their disorder.

What a blatantly clear and irrefutable illustration of their lack of empathy. It is stunning. Often, people with AS say that although they have trouble identifying the emotions of others, if we only tell them what we’re feeling they will be able to empathize. Obviously, it could not be further from the truth.

The author of “Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome/Cassandra Phenomenon (OTRS/CP)” writes, “Some spokespersons representing individuals with AS have raised concerns that inclusion of OTRS/CP in the DSM would somehow marginalize individuals with AS. This is neither likely nor relevant, in that OTRS is a no-fault diagnosis, and it is not a basis for excluding a true diagnosis. If anything, it would marginalize the neurotypical patient, not the individual with AS. Not all suffering requires a victimizer. If individuals with OTRS/CP suffer, it does not incriminate someone else. By addressing OTRS/CP as a form of psycho trauma that does not require a victimizer, it addresses the perceptions of the individual who is distressed by a situation that they can no longer manage. There is no need to label any other individual. The diagnosis is focused on identifying means for the patient to cope. In many cases, the patient perceives their experiences as being a victim of bullying.”


“The vehemence with which a person denies the existence of their difficult behaviour is directly proportional to the resemblance of that person’s behaviour to bullying.”

(Tim Field)

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