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Attachmentdifficulties

Trauma

General personality differences and disorders

Disclaimer

Trauma, attachment and personality differences

  • Something that happens to you or those around you.
  • Adverse experiences/life events.
  • Having flashbacks.
  • Self-hate and blame.
  • A persistent negative emotional state.
  • Having a limited capacity to experience positive emotions.
  • Easily frightened.
  • Difficulties with sleep, or changes in sleep patterns.
  • Hypervigilance in interactions with others.
  • Ruminating.
  • Difficulty emphasising with others.
  • Difficulties with trust and building relationships.
  • Difficulties maintaining relationships.

  • Atypical sensory profile (including stimming behaviour).
  • Specific passions and special interests.
  • Austically social (still social, but not in the “usual” way).
  • Communication challenges.
  • Difficulties understanding relationships.

  • Struggling with feeling overwhelmed.
  • Emotional dysregulation.
  • Self-soothing behaviours.
  • Seeking predictability and control.
  • Displaying restricted or avoidant behaviours.
  • Hypervigilance around environmental triggers.
  • Obsessive thoughts and behaviours.
  • Concentration and attention difficulties.
  • Dissociating.
  • Derealisation.
  • Social interaction and communication differences.
  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

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What can autism look like?

Overlap

What can trauma look like?

Coventry grid

  • The potential presence of a traumatic event or adverse experience(s) for the person or family member.
  • Experiencing a dysfunctional relationship.
  • Showing limited positive emotions, or the converse, such as indiscriminately seeking affection.
  • Differences in how they seek connection and comfort from others.
  • Showing extreme responses to stress.
  • Using repetitive language and behaviours for reassurance.
  • There are different types of attachment styles, some leading to more difficulty than others.
  • Wanting to feel safe and in control.

  • Engaging in repetitive behaviours.
  • Echolalia.
  • Repeating words or phrases for pleasure.
  • Preferring familiarity.
  • Preferring parallel or solitary play.
  • Adhering strictly to the rules as they interpret them.
  • Saying what they mean and meaning what they say.

  • Engaging in repetitive behaviours.
  • Inflexibility.
  • Atypical play.
  • Challenges with social interaction.
  • Communication difficulties.
  • Emotional dysregulation.
  • Executive function difficulties.
  • Sensory integration difficulties.
  • Stimming.
  • Potentially seeming calmer when alone.
  • Creating scripts for stressful situations.
When trying to differentiate between autism and attachment difficulties, The Coventry Grid is a good place to start.

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What can autism look like?

Overlap

What can attachment difficulties look like?

Coventry grid

There is considerable overlap in signs between autism and certain personality differences, or disorders. This isn't an exhaustive list.There are also people whose general personality profile might overlap with some of these diagnoses, but that doesn't mean they meet the criteria for a personality disorder. Many people can have both autism and a personality disorder.

Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)

Avoidant personality disorder (AvPD)

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

Schizoid personality disorder (SPD)

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Personality differences and disorders

There is a lot of overlap between AvPD and high-masking autism. They share similar personality traits (low extraversion and high neuroticism), similar temperamental traits (difficulty with unexpected changes and change in general) and similar behavioural traits (inhibition and caution).

Emotionally unstable personality disorder - also referred to as borderline personality disorder - is a common misdiagnosis for autistic people. Challenging matters, both diagnoses co-occur at high rates and an autistic person is more vulnerable to developing emotionally unstable personality disorder.

This video, though designed for caregivers, breaks down the concept of autistic attachment in simple terms.Autistic attachment refers to the unique ways in which individuals on the autism spectrum form and experience emotional bonds and connections.

Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is characterised by a detachment and indifference to social relationships, interactions and engagements. People with SPD go to great lengths to avoid social interactions - arranging their whole lives in such a way as to reduce contact. While an autistic person may meet the criteria for SPD, if their symptoms are explained by their autism they should not be doubly diagnosed per DSM-5 criteria.

Simply put, trauma is something that's experienced due to an event or difficult relationship. Autism is something a person is born with. Autistic people are at increased risk of experiencing adverse life events, like bullying, victimisation and maltreatment. Co-occurring mental health issues are also common among autistic people, all of which can make them more vulnerable to trauma.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a mental health condition that causes an extensive preoccupation with perfectionism, organisation and control. These behaviors and thought patterns interfere with completing tasks and maintaining relationships.

Disclaimer

We encourage you to see this resource as an introduction to the many conditions, delays, and syndromes that overlap with autism - not an exhaustive list.

The categories we've used here are to convey the information effectively. We acknowledge and respect that individuals may view their condition(s) differently from how they're grouped, or labelled here. The information provided in this resource represents common patterns or trends. However, these are generalisations and will not resonate with everyone's individual experiences.