How Can You Tell if It’s Abuse or Asperger’s

As tough as it is to look at the issue of abuse, it’s important. We aren’t helping our Aspies when we allow them to be abusive. Yes, they have sensory sensitivities. Yes, they lack empathy and miss important cues. Yes, they easily get confused and shut down or rage. But to allow the verbal abuse, or their self-abuse, is not OK.The answer to the question, “Is it abuse or is it Asperger’s?” is that it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the source of the abuse, it has to cease immediately. That’s always the first step.

The second, third and fourth steps require taking into consideration the source of the abuse and developing a treatment plan specific for the person. With Aspies it’s a blend of anger management (or domestic violence treatment), and the kind of coaching that teaches them the Rules of Engagement.

For the NT, as you can imagine, the treatment involves a protection plan, plus psychotherapy to restore your confidence and teach you skills to cope with life better.

Like I said this is a tough subject but it’s time to bring it up, isn’t it? That’s why we’re talking about this at our next videoconference.

If you’re a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join our videoconference on Thursday, December 7th at 9:00 A.M. The topic: Is it abuse or is it Asperger’s? We’ll discuss how to assess the situation when the diagnosis alone doesn’t help. In other words, let’s find practical ways to communicate and problem solve with your Aspie, even if you have to make it up!
(If this time slot if full, I’m holding another one of December 20th.)

If you’re not a member and want to join here are the qualifications: you are a NT trying to deal with life with someone on the Autism Spectrum. That’s it. If that’s you, request an invite. It’s free to join the group and it has a lot of perks, like this low-cost video conference or free international teleconferences.

If you’d like to learn more of the science behind Asperger’s Syndrome, download a free chapter from my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight. Or click the image below.

63 Replies to “How Can You Tell if It’s Abuse or Asperger’s”

  1. I would love to talk to someone about this. I am at my wits end. My husband is breaking me and our family and I don’t know how to help him anymore

    1. Please join our group Angel. Just click on the page for our Meetup group. You will find others there who understand.

        1. I am sorry. I didn’t see this message for some reason. I hope you found the link to join. All you have to do is click any of the Meetup red links on my website and it will take you to our group.

      1. I mean…. you said aspie’s dont have empathy. That alone shows you aren’t creditable.

        If anything they have MORE empathy.

        Also, if you are NT and therefore DO have empathy, it sure isn’t showing.

        1. I know it is confusing to understand empathy. It is not kindness, nor sensitivity, nor compassion. As Hannah Gadsby says, “Autism is a relation thing.” She has an inner sense that something is missing for “Aspies” in that “relation thing.” I think it is empathy.

        2. I find the most difficult issue to deal with is my daughters lack of empathy. Why do you say that? Lack of empathy is part of the characteristics. .

    2. Hi Angel
      I’m going thru a very similar situation .
      But, my husband is not just aspberger’s , he is also a sex addict. An abusive one .
      If you would like to chat, please feel free to write to me

      1. Hi Kristina
        Im in the same boat as you 🙁 and have no one to talk to as most wouldn’t understand, plus everyone thinks he’s great!

      2. Kristina, I am alone and need support. The emotional abandonment and neglect us destroying me. I need to find a support for up. Please write to me..

      3. I am going through this. I have been married to this man for 1.5 years. He dismissed me and focusses on women in the room
        Hids his phone
        Hides his tablet
        Tells me about women and can not wait to have me leave
        Its a sick reality and i am scared and emotionally exausted as he does not get help. I think its sex addiction st this point but emotional affairs for years.
        No emotional availability

    3. I am where you are. Luckily no kids and he isn’t allowed to see his kid due to his mental health as it was put. I can’t deal with this its constant abuse then constantly telling me im abusive. Today happened again and I was in bed. Still my fault and I’ve tried so hard but I can’t live the rest of my life like this. And currently stuck here

      1. I’m so exhausted from her abuse. Now I’m a narcissist and it’s a privilege to be in her life? She just got done telling me I’m the most empathetic person she knows. My head spins. I can’t take it anymore.

  2. My husband out of nowhere rages, throws things and yells. He blames… It was he who suggested he had Asperger’s (on the spectrum). I have read much about those with HFA and try to do the best to understand and accept that often he needs time each day to do computer things, or such. This summer he seems worse. Talking does nothing.. I am feeling pretty bad lately and starting to experience headaches, nervousness, etc…

    1. Dear Irene, please don’t accept the abuse, even if the reasons for it are ASD and sensory overload. Since your husband suggests he has Aspergers, it’s time to get him some help. Medication, diet, physical exercise and psychotherapy will help him. During this pandemic, those on the Spectrum are highly susceptible to meltdowns. Their bodies just can’t take the extra stress. But that doesn’t mean you should absorb it. And if you are not yet a member of our Meetup group, please join. We understand and support each other. You are not alone.

        1. Since you have posted on my blog on my website, all you have to do is go to the page on Asperger Syndrome & Relationships. There is a description of the Meetup group with links to join. Hope to see you soon in our group.

      1. Hi Kathy, how can I join your group? I’m. Married to a 42 year old (Aspergers) who finally agreed to get diagnosed this year. He isn’t being treated and basically doesn’t think there’s anything different or wrong with his behavior.

        I’ve dealt with his abuse rages, punching holes in the wall, throwing things, spitting in my face, screaming at full volume an inch away from me. I tried getting an Autism specialist from San Francisco but he won’t attend appointments. I’m physically injured and I can’t get away. I’ve lost all friends and connections from being trapped with him.

        My husband has no friends, no hobbies besides excessive video games and anime. He doesn’t take care of himself physically. He has no love or happiness for anyone or anything. No dreams, no goals, no imagination.

        He goes from zero to enraged instantly. He didn’t like something that I said tonight and instead of discussing it with me he became enraged and told me to go kill myself. We were literally decorating the Christmas tree and watching a fun movie for the last few hours. I told him that its completely unacceptable for him to say such an awful thing to me when he is upset.. This is how he behaves with no alcohol or drugs involved. He will be angry so I hide away in my bedroom while he plays video games to soothe himself. Then tomorrow he will act like nothing happened.

        I am trying to divorce and leave him but I’ve become socially isolated I have no friends and no where to go. He threatens me and tells me that he will make divorce difficult and that I’ll get nothing. I desperately need one female friend that I can trust to be a roommate so that I can move out. I’m 39 years old and I have been exposed to this toxic autism violent behavior since I was only 17 years old.

        I shouldn’t be scared and writing to strangers on a holiday but here I am. I need help to get out because he is not getting help or improving. None of this is normal or ok. I have a therapist I don’t need to talk I need someone to help me get a strategy to get out, get my own place and mentally handle all the hate and evil things he is going to say and try to do to me during divorce.

        1. Dear Tabatha, please do join the group. You can find the links right here on my website. Put Meetup in the search box at the bottom of the blue box that you can find on every website page. You are not alone. You will find others here who understand exactly what you are going through.Plus we always talk about strategies to care for yourself — even divorce. One more thing — you are not the only one to post on Holidays. You will find many messages from other members too. I am so glad you found us. Dr. Kathy

          1. Hi there I have left the father of my child (it took a lot of ruse and manipulation to get him to think it was his idea) but I have a child with him and he is using that to control every aspect of my life, it is awful. I feel so alone and I worry about my daughter seeing me as a poor role model. I feel exhausted by the whole thing. I always thought there was something wrong with him but thought it was narcissism or another disorder , he totally fits the Asperger description and his father is exactly like that too. I need help….please can someone chat to me? It is so hard being a single mum in a foreign country but that on top of it all is just making things impossible and I worry I will get ill.

        2. I left my abusive Asperger’s husband a few years ago. I’m a clinical mental health worker & tried for years to support him but there was ni insight and was all my fault. He was military and we moved every 1-2 years so I became completely socially isolated. I divorced him with court battles still raging like his temper. At least now our 2 young children are less exposed but there is never any reason to put up with any abuse no matter what the diagnosis. You can do it good luck

        1. B it is vital that you seek professional guidance. When your will is destroyed it takes a long time to rebuild. Don’t wait. I hope you have called a therapist in your area.

    2. Mine gets angry just by using his phone and will start to swear in public places. He thinks it’s ok to say that I have a big waist line , even if I did not his place to say and laugh about it in public. He use to send me texts in a Sunday after heavy drinking, some really nasty I told him to stop and he as . I am always on tender hooks especially when he is drunk hate it . He knows he has Aspergers but totally won’t except it

  3. My husband , I’m convinced has aspberger’s. His middle son and mother also seem to be serious. He was always the most gentle person I knew….. until I asked him if he was cheating. Wow…. the abuse, the name calling, the breaking, holes in walls, making me believe it’s all in my head…. or due to my anti anxiety meds.. (yes, the often cause the other to think you’re not being faithful …. not), well, I caught him at a whore house, or massage parlour, if you will.. I’m still with him, but I cannot stand it anymore.
    He has been abusive , and calls me an abuser because I’ve hit him back twice.
    I would love to hear your thoughts on my sad story, I’m in the process of leaving him, but I need strength.
    Remember , hurt people hurt people..
    It is quite true
    Thanks for reading

    1. Addictions and abusive behavior are so hard to sort through. I always say it is never OK to allow abuse, but this is easier said than done sometimes. Seek professional guidance from clinics that specialize in abusive relationships. You are not safe going it alone.

    2. I got exactly the same about being called an “abuser” because I pushed him once after 10 months of him screaming “fucking cunt “at me in front of my baby girl (as if she was not there). You are not alone but it is very wrong ….

      1. They have no empathy and really don’t know or care that much how you feel. They don’t bond or form the kinds of attachments that NTs do. You have to leave them even though it can be hard.

        1. Many NTs are traumatized in these relationships because of the ASD lack of empathy. However, it is not necessarily true that those with ASD don’t care, or don’t feel emotional depth. The problem for Autists is that they are unable to understand where you are coming from, and do not respond to your inner world. They don’t “connect” in NT parlance, and leave the NT feeling invisible to their loved one. Of course the Autist is puzzled because they feel love in their heart. But love unexpressed isn’t received is it?

    3. My husband has also hit me recently and calls me four letter words. He goes from zero to 10 in a second and he screams at me very loudly! My nerves are getting so bad from it, I am now stuttering! He doesn’t even notice how I am being affected nor does he care. I want to run away and hide somewhere. I don’t feel respected as a
      retired 65 year old woman should feel. He has absolutely no empathy or compassion for me. I didn’t know people like this even existed! Aren’t husbands suppose to nurture and protect their wives? Are men on the spectrum incapable of real love? Why do they pretend while dating and then discard you after marriage and show their true colors? He tells me he just didnt like anything about me but married me because he didnt want his mother to view him as a loser! Its been 36 years now and I will tell you that they dont change! It does not get better! I wish i would have left right away while I was young! Run, Run, Run and never look back! They are CRAZY and will make you CRAZY also!

  4. Hello, I think I am very confused…My boyfriend has aspergers, and years ago it seemed easier. Now even with a therapist and his health Doctor aware of things, It seems he is more distant from me, more resentful of me, and very verbal towards me. Things go up and down in minutes, but then he says its me causing the problems. i am exhausted and feel like I am a bad person for feeling sad, mad, and lonely. Why can’t I end this relationship? my stomach hurts.

  5. I love my partner very much and she loves me. Regular disagreements fly off the handle with her unable to listen to my side. She’ll repeat her side at an aggressive volume and tone. If I ask her to take it down a notch she yells louder ad get meaner bringing in other old arguments or digs she think will hurt me alongside her point. Her father is the same and she hates it and feels as bad as me when it happens but still does it to me! She usually later apologises. Those apologies can disappear in an instant when she’s angry again. I’m so sad. I’ve applied for emergency housing to get out. The thought of leaving her alone is heartbreaking bc she’s so much healthier now since we’ve been together and will regress. I do all the house stuff and she works from home ever consumed by her digital art which is a fine trade off until the mean fights where I have to leave the room because she won’t stop or drop it. I’ve become very fat and depressed and she’s become healthier which is so hard. I poured myself into helping her too much at the loss of me. I feel like if she won’t change and work on herself (touchy like most others described above), I have to leave bc I will loose me. She‘s trans as well which doesn’t help. Makes her moody often bc she hates herself in the mirror. 🙁

    1. This made me a bit emotional to read as I was coming here for help and when you said “She‘s trans as well which doesn’t help. Makes her moody often bc she hates herself in the mirror. 🙁” I’ve never related to anything more. My girlfriend becomes bitter and angry because of her body dysmorphia. My girlfriend breaks things, throws things, and punches things, and herself. It hurts so bad to watch.

  6. My boyfriend and I started dating a year ago. His meltdowns started two weeks in. At first it reminded me of past relationships where I was with abusers. It felt off, but I knew he wasn’t like them. It wasn’t until recently that he took a test and saw his score was 26. His mom and brother both have ASD. so I’m pretty sure the test is accurate enough. He does go to therapy but it’s online. I don’t think he could truly be diagnosed with it, and be put on meds. I could be wrong… either way I have been questioning leaving recently. Not because I don’t love him. Not because I don’t think he’s a good guy. He just doesn’t respect my boundaries. Being that I grew up around abuse I can’t take the name calling, the screaming, the rage. I have ptsd and it triggers me. It makes me feel worthless and as if I did something wrong. Even when I bring this up to him he gets upset. Which he eventually apologizes for…. I don’t know I feel dumb for saying that he’s trying because I know that sounds like I’m making excuses to stay. But he really is trying. I see him getting better but then out of the blue he snaps again. I don’t know what to do. I feel so alone. I’m so afraid to let him go. What if he just needs more time? Is it worth it? I’m so confused. I feel so lost. I feel so. F-ing. Alone.

    1. Dear Hailey. You are definitely not alone, and neither is your boyfriend. Since you found this blog, you know there are others with this experience and these heart wrenching feelings. Regardless of how hard your boyfriend is trying, his behavior is still abusive and he needs treatment. Why should you put up with abuse just because his intentions are not to harm you? Start your recovery by joining my support group through Meetup. The link is on this website,

    2. Hailey,
      I understand what you are going through. Be gentle with yourself because you are only human in your desire to see someone’s efforts and feel hopeful that change will occur.
      Trust me, I’ve been there, it is so hard because you can see the changes and they are really trying but their best efforts barely satisfy the minimum requirements needed for a healthy relationship.
      Things may change in the short term but they always fall back to their true self. It is really hard to watch and harder to leave, for good.
      I think those of us who grew up in abusive households subconsciously connect with these types but it doesn’t matter because abuse is abuse and no one deserves it. Keep your head up.

  7. I have been dating an Aspie for years. Its very confusing because things can go from great to bad in a moment. I was yelled at alot, experienced things being broken or thrown if I questioned something that did not add up or did not make sense. I dont know who he is anymore and he acts like I will always just be there. I decided after trying to get truths from him that I cant, I just had to block him and delete him. No amount of talking changes the pain and strangeness you start to feel.

  8. Hi Kathy
    This is an old post. It I came across this now in 2021 and I really wish I joined the conference. I missed dit. Do you have a recording?


    1. My aspie husband recently told one of our dinner guests that he’s not happy with the way I’m aging. I’m age 66 in December and try and look my best always. He’s far from handsome but I would never complain about his looks. It’s completely shallow and rude. Today I asked him about it in a kind and patient manner. He completely denied it and accused me of lying. I then dropped it and left for a walk.

      1. What is so confusing about this gaslighting is that both people may be correct. Those with ASD are not asking themselves how others may feel when they say anything. Since he denied criticizing you, it is possible that his comment was about a minute detail of your appearance. “Aspies” can’t see the forest for the trees. He actually may think you are beautiful, but doesn’t like the gray hair at the temples, or age spot on your hand. He thinks he’s making an observation, but we NTs take it personally because in our world it is rude and unkind to mention these observations.

  9. I have a 27 yr old niece whom I adopted when she was 17 after her mother my sister killed herself or as police told us her boyfriend my niece’s father may have done it, that was 10 yrs ago. She was dx with Asperger’s as a child, I stayed home with them as my sister worked. The issue now is she is 27 has a child who is 19 months she has no mothering skills at all, I have tried to get her every type of help known to man she doesn’t show up is late gets kicked out, I got therapy for her( I got therapy for her and her sister immediately after her mom’s death and they state din it for 2 yrs) I got classes for her, she has become extremely verbally abusive to me, to my mother, my father, she lives with us. She has become very promiscuous she doesn’t know who the father of her child is there are 3 possible men. she has nothing to do with any of them, she has sex constantly with strangers, she is obsessive-compulsive. she swears at me and calls me horrible names unless she wants money or babysitting. I want to go for custody of her son and we want to send her to a home for women but where. this has been happening too long I have cancer and cannot take it anymore I have had a nervous breakdown

    1. please take care of yourself Michelle. You cannot cure such severe mental illness by yourself, especially since it spans generations. Thee are a few clinics that treat entire families, even multi-generation families. You could also try DBT clinics. DBT is very effective in helping traumatized people learn to self regulate. But the bottom line is your life is valuable.

  10. Kathy,

    I would like to sit in on your meetings with your support group. Are they still available? May I utilize the same link and directions provided above?

    Thank you, kindly,

  11. A partner with Asperger’s is a partner with pathological narcissism, I am convinced.
    I cannot take anymore of the screaming, being blamed for every problem, have every past argument brought up in the current argument, having my character attacked, the arrogance, complete dismissal of my life and challenges faced.
    It is a relationship that is about one person only. If you are the type of woman who is ok with becoming invisible and silent, a verbal punching bag, you will enjoy this personality type.

    These types of people need to be sent to an island to ruin one another. I don’t care how intelligent and talented they are. They are walking nightmares who will destroy your life (then blame you for it)
    I’m done and it is time to heal, rebuild myself.

    1. Hello Josephine, I posted on this in the past. I can’t believe how long I keep giving this relationship second chances? I keep going through the same cycle with him. I know this is empty, but yet, I unblock him, He says his story, and how wonderful I am, Then another argument arises, where he blames me for being overwhelming? It’s like he wants my undivided support, but he does not give it back. This extreme behavior causes so much mistrust too.

    2. Wow, you have put into words how I feel about my own adult son. I’m walking on eggshells all the time, verbally abused constantly, and he once pushed me so hard I got a fractured hip. His view is the only view and everything has to be his way or he goes berserk. His father was exactly the same until he deserted us without a penny. I just found this, reading these comments makes me feel less alone but still helpless.

  12. Omg I feel this so deeply,
    Its so frustrating that it makes
    me think the worst of them and their intentions.
    Ive been so angry I’ve said some pretty hateful shit
    I tried and understand so hard and for so long.
    Try as i might to be mindful and not let it affect me but my brain isn’t wired like that.
    What do intentions matter if the effect is the same.
    Don’t let it change you into something you’re not.
    Dont let it turn u into them.

  13. I am going through this with my 28 yr old niece , she lives with us with her 2 yr old son ..she is horribly verbally abusive she doesn’t care where or when and she’s loud she calls me horrible names in public to horrible to mention .
    Shes short with her son .she has major temper tantrums. She’s on her phone Constantly she has ” relationships” with men she doesn’t know who the father of her son is .she’s abusive to my father and mother .somedays I’m sad to say I wish she wasn’t here it gets so bad .

  14. “Yes, they lack empathy.” Not all Aspie’s do. I have Asperger’s and I can empathisee.
    I am abused though, no longer physically as my partner is now too ill, but still verbally and mentally.
    I am always wrong, because “Asperger’s”, and I always will be, as long as there are articles like this to throw at me.

    1. Thank you for your post. I am so sorry if this blog retraumatized you. Certainly those on the Autism Spectrum experience abuse too. Human beings can be terribly cruel to those they perceive as different. It’s so difficult to discuss the ins and outs of Empathy Dysfunction without contributing to the suffering. However, my goal is to shed light on the different consciousness of those in NeuroDivergent relationships.

  15. I’m hoping to get some advice and help with this topic. My 20yo daughter has been in de facto with an Asperger’s ADHD male 20 yo also. The have a 2yo son together. My daughter is in a trauma bond relationship with him Wher he physically and mentally abused her. She tries to cover and hide the fact he is abusing her. She has a black eye atm. He speaks to her like dirt he spends all her money. He plays video games all day every day. Never worked a day in his life apart from community service. My daughter says she loves him but it goes a lot deeper than that. The abuse and manipulation is that severe she’s been forced to believe it’s love. Impossible to live someone that abuses you on a daily basis takes all your money. Does help her with child raising housework or anything. She serves him like he’s the king and she’s the servant. Won’t let her out of his site. Smashes her phones every 3-4 months. He man’s her phone constantly. She bought him his own iPhone and 1-2 weeks later he’s said he swapped it for marijuana.
    He has no respect or manners. Does not give anything to the relationship apart from stress worry and a whole heap of drama and bruises.
    Smashes and throws items in his violent rages and tantrums with no regard to anyone’s safety. Theres always drama. He had not intention of working or helping provide for his son. He just takes takes takes. Leaving my daughter with no money just 2 days after her payment arrives. She rarely sees her friends and has no social or quality of life with him. If they go out somewhere on a rare occasion my daughter pays and organises it all. Unfortunately she won’t open up to me completely as we have all called police numerous times during his violent outbursts.
    Therefore she is not getting any support. Unfortunately police won’t take out DVO for abuse to protect her as she won’t admit to it to them. Hopefully I can connect her with some of your support.
    Regards Lisa .

  16. It’s reassuring to read the posts here & know I’m not alone. I’ve requested an invite. I had an emotionally unavailable and abusive mother, & then chose the one guy who replicated those qualities in my first husband. We had 2 sons but I had to leave him due to his lack of empathy. He was a GP. Fast forward to our younger son being 17 he disclosed he thought he had Aspergers. I contacted my ex who said “I got better as I got older”. Subject closed. I was protective & supportive of both my sons & they are very successful, but, appallingly, during the pandemic my younger son, with the support of his dad cut me off entirely even though we’d been very close. I’ve not heard from him in 3 years. It’s practically destroyed me because I remained in the UK to bring my sons up nesrbtheir father. My supports were in Australia. I’m devastated that my family has been ripped apart by Aspergers & emotional abuse, & worried for my younger sons partner who is also from overseas. I fesr history is very likely to repeat. I’m backnin therapy but the trauma & ptsd of the abuse is very raw. Thank you for hosting this important group I’ve only just found.

    1. Dear Louise, as a mother who is estranged from my daughters, I fully understand the heartbreak. It never goes away but we are here for you.

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