Meltdown is an autism spectrum related term that points to melting point. Meltdown is an inaccurate term, because sometimes it is used to mean both introverted and extroverted overloadings, sometimes they are divided into shutdowns and meltdowns. There is no unequivocal scientific backround to explain meltdowns, but we know that meltdown happen when stresslevels are high for too long, or rise very quickly.
Before meltdowns have been considered mostly as a symptom of autism, that usually is seen in a stressful situations. Nowadays also in Finland there starts to be understanding, that meltdowns touches also people with Asperger, HFA and ADHD. Previously people have been feeling shameful about meltdowns and have been hiding them, because they are easily seen as a rude behavior or as a sign of serious mental disorder. I myself have been trying for the last few years to raise more versatile image of meltdowns, and generally about challenging behavior. Often meltdowns have been seen as troublesome, or even intentional behavior of tedious people. It has been linked to emotional problems, inability to deal with one’s emotions or as a drama queen-act. I felt myself as a positive and different example of that, because I am known as a calm and rational person, who gets along with all kinds of people. Meltdown has nothing to do with one’s character, and isn’t a sign of mental disorder or becoming distorted.
What then happens in a meltdown? It is very individual, but there’s some aspects that are mutual to meltdowns. In this text I use my own meltdowns as an example and to rise some most usual typical symptoms.
At first, the reason. Usually the reason for a meltdown is stressfel situation, that is triggered by sudden change or emotional conflict towards something. Usually this happens in a situation, where one is already stressed about some other thing. How does it manifest? For me it usually starts as an unexplained irritation, which is connected with mild paranoia – for example I hear many things in a worst way possible, so if someone tries to calm me down, it usually makes everything even worse. When meltdown goes on it can manifest in two different ways: either its straight, exploding and confrontational, or frustration state with anxiety and anger. Often there happen one after the other. This lasts usually for about an hour and go away by itself.
About advantages and disadvantages
Disadvantage is of course that for a moment everything fall apart, and what ever you were doing at the moment is not done at that time. There’s also a problem is the environment doesn’t understand or recognize the situation. Meltdowns are often seen as a sign of troubled mind or problem of self-control, and person is seen as unpredictable or even dangerous. This is why meltdowns are often hided and felt ashamed of. Unfornately, this hiding and shame often leads to a situations where these states become more often and are more powerful. It’s the same logic as in Tourette’s: the more you try to push your symptoms away, the more sure they are to unravel with explosions you can’t take it anymore.
Personally I think that states of meltdown are not simply harmful, as one could easily think. Single attack usually solves many mental knots, and helps to structure things, feelings and changes. I often tolerate big chamges pretty well and with these meltdown I sort of like rewind normal processes I have to through during change. Big disappointments, life changes or conflicts can be over in an hour, when neurotypical persons think about the same for weeks, going throught all the phases of sadness.
I don’t think these symptoms should be hided or be quiet about, and most of all, no-one should be put blame on. Feel free and go get some melties!