Most people talked about being obsessive about things. These obsessions, which included hygiene, health, exercise, safety, animals, computers, people, cars, DVDs and, in one case, Kate Winslet, could dominate people’s lives. The intensity and type of obsession varied over time but remained, for most people, a consistent feature of their lives.
Sam’s obsessional thoughts are all consuming and he is unable to concentrate on anything else.
Obsessions were often linked to people’s special interests (see ‘Activities and interests’) and the line between interest and obsession could be difficult to draw. One man, for example, was obsessed with clean books; he felt that ‘it’s almost rape’ if someone writes on a book. He was also compulsively punctual and became hysterical if he was late for anything. Steven said that his wife called his special interest, autism, an ‘obsession’ but he thought that people on the spectrum go into great detail which can be interpreted as an obsession.
Peter can leave dirty plates in his house but is obsessive about DVDs and videos being lined up…
Mary has been obsessive since the age of three or four. Her first obsession was about food and…
Kate Winslett was Mary’s most extreme obsession and this lasted for eight years.
A few people were diagnosed with OCD as well as autism. Mary reflected on how OCD was interconnected with Asperger syndrome; ‘I know not all people with Aspergers have OCD but I think for me, it’s kind of just all part of the same thing, considering I’ve always had it all my life and it’s combined with all these other things’.
Daniel has OCD and worries about saying the wrong thing to people.
Daniel describes some of the systems he uses to order his life including counting his breaths on…
‘Milton is my best friend’
Some obsessions related to fear and were about health, hygiene and safety. These are discussed in ‘Fears, anxieties and anger’. Cluttering was another type of obsession discussed; one man, for example, said that his house was full of newspapers because he collected obituaries. John’s psychologist lumped together obsessional thinking, difficulties in organising things and hoarding as part of Asperger syndrome.
John hoards electrical goods and books. He was surprised to find out that hoarding was linked to…
Obsessions could become more or less severe at different times in people’s lives and some people related the severity to periods of stress, insecurity or feeling out of control. Mary, for example, found that her obsessions became less severe when she had a friend. The distraction of a friend helped her to become less obsessive.
‘Obsessions get in the way of simply living a normal life’
Obsessions could cause people considerable difficulties in their everyday life. Several people talked about how their obsessional behaviour interfered with their employment or relationships.
Julie and her sons have adapted their lives to include Tim’s obsession with exercise or he can…
Obsessional thoughts could also interfere with interactions with other people (see ‘Communication and Interaction’). Ian’s obsession with respect could lead him into fights with people.
Ian has a new obsession about people respectfulness and will hold grudges against people who are…
Other people were able to use their obsessions more productively. Mary used her Kate Winslett obsession together with her obsession to memorise books, to help her concentrate at school and she was able to go on to university which she hadn’t expected.
‘The adult autistic mind grows more wary of all the dangers’
People had found ways of trying to manage their obsessions although, as Russell said, as he got older he’d become more aware and more cautious of potential dangers.
Russell tries to avoid obsessing about things that could go wrong when he is away from home.
Simon sometimes finds his obsessions comforting. Computer games for example, are more predictable…
Many people said they needed routine and order in their daily lives. They disliked change, particularly sudden change. A few people knew that routines were not necessarily a good idea, because they could be disrupted, but tended towards routine anyway. One woman said her husband was very, very precise about the way he ate his food and would always go round his plate in the same order. Another woman had made a daily routine for herself, looking after the house, which she could cope with.