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Medical Aspergers and considering academia.

  1. Nov 10, 2012 #1
    Ever since I was younger, the thought of researching and teaching for a living was absolutely thrilling to me. For the past 8 years I've considered it deeply to the point where I quit one job to go to school, but was activated to deploy a few weeks in. After several years of serving in the military and web development, I'd like to give it another go...

    I've been diagnosed with Aspergers, and tend to get obsessed with whatever it is I'm working on. Over the years, I've lost almost all my friends and ended good relationships because my obsessions will keep me locked in a room while I focus on web development. It wasn't until my grandparents (who raised me) came to visit and I felt anxious/nervous around them that I knew my reclusiveness was getting out of hand and sought a therapist.

    Come to find out I also have PTSD.

    I was fired from work three weeks ago because I unprofessionally refused to work on an adult site. Because it's mid-semester I decided I would freshen up on Math in preparation. Immediately I felt the same fire (obsession) I felt when working on problems in web development.

    Here's my question:
    Is academia a bad fit for someone who gets obsessive. "Fortunately", my obsessions are pretty consistent - in other words, I'm not compulsive (I don't switch from one thing to another). My concern is that I will go to school and focus too much on certain classes and flunk out.

    My reasons for academia is that I love (LOVE) researching and teaching. The reason (I'm guessing) I was obsessed with web development was because the field constantly evolves and I get the opportunity to teach what I learn at conferences/meetups etc. I get a rush from it, from reading new things and then teaching it. I don't know why.

    I am considering Physics or Mathematics, but because of my GPA I will be attending a community college in an engineering program for two years until I fix my GPA and am accepted at a university. I'm in a rather fortunate situation in which I have a decent savings, school vet benefits, and a client base to do easy freelance work on the side while I focus on school.

    Is this something obtainable? Ideally I would like to "enter" academia within 10-12 years, less if possible.


    It's important to note that I have been attempting to go to school since I was 18 (I'm 2 months shy of 26) but I have always either been activated in the military or new work opportunities came up. Because of this, my GPA is sub-2.0 (possibly lower, way lower) with around 72 credit hours, due to my negligence (I could easily have prevented this had I simply kept open communication with my school with deployments etc).
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2012 #2


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    Hey there. I am an Aspie and I'm a combat vet with PTSD too. So I have quite a bit in common with you. First, I want to say it is very possible for someone who has Aspergers and PTSD to do well in academics. I did very well. However, I also want to say is that you just cannot go into this with no help.

    You need to do a few things.
    1. Receive treatment or therapy for your Aspergers
    2. Receive treatment or therapy for PTSD
    3. Make a plan that is reasonanble.

    In order to get better control of your life, seek help, start with your plan slowly, and find people that understand and will help you stay motivated. I'm not good at giving advice on handle Aspergers and PTSD, and everyone is different. I can say this.

    Whenever I met someone new, I make it a point to tell the person my issues. Generally it goes like: "Hi, my name is ____ and since we are going to be working with each other, I think you should know I have XXX and XXX. This causes me to do YYY and sometimes YYY. A lot of time it seems like I'm unaware of people's reactions, and usually I am, so please tell me if there are any issues, I am very open and willing to discuss anything. If you have more questions I will happily answer them!"

    Once people know they can talk to me about things I do that bother them, and that I'm able to receive their concerns, things go a lot better. People understand if I'm crabby at work or non-talkative or non-observant to certain norms.
  4. Nov 11, 2012 #3
    Whoa thanks, it's definitely good to hear I'm not alone!

    I never thought about telling other people my situation, I guess this would help. I zone out when people talk to me for more than 30 seconds so people tend to think I'm a jerk because I show no interest.

    When you say therapist/treatment what do you mean? I didn't know you could get therapy for Aspergers...when I was diagnosed all they said was I had it and that was it. I wasn't referred to anyone or anything. Is this something I can get help from through the VA or Vet Center?

    The therapist I'm seeing now is helping me with my PTSD, as I tend to get angry/anxious around groups of people - which is a problem if I'm going back to school.

    You gave me hope that I can do this, thanks.
  5. Nov 11, 2012 #4


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    If you want to find a community of Aspies, wrongplanet.net is a good place.

    I don't believe the VA will cover any cost to Aspergers, unless you're medically retired, but don't quote me on that. Since it isn't a condition that can be connected to your service, I am very doubtful they can help.

    A lot of the therapy is built around teaching your social behavior and communication techniques. There is medication that will help reduce repetitive behavior and irritability. Just talk to an expert and see what can be done.

    Good luck!
  6. Nov 12, 2012 #5
    Thanks brotha, I ran into one of the medics from my unit who is also a psychologist today and asked her about it. She told me pretty much what you said. She does "brain wave balancing" which is some sort of experimental therapy which is supposed to reduce anxiety among other things.

    It's free for vets so I'm going to give that a shot in the meantime as well.
  7. Nov 12, 2012 #6
    I'm not sure if anybody can give you a good advise, Carlos. We had a thread some time ago that touched upon the question, if asperger was more common amongst physisists and mathematicians. There was some evidence supporting that.

    But the more I read the less it seems that asperger is correctly defined. The obsessions, oh yes, if something appeals, you can soon meet the specialists on knowledge. The anxiety with people, I don't know, it could have to do with feelings of inferiority and/or fear to fail. I once held a presentation about a scientific subject for some dozens PhD's in their circle and I was very apprehensive at the start. But after a first -naive- question from somebody, I realized that I was the "teacher" and they were the "students" and that gave a tremendous boost to confidence and it went well from then on.

    Oh and I'm not asperger I think, but I recognise it. Just go for it and keep talking, communicating and posting.

    Anyway, Just my https://dl.dropbox.com/u/22026080/just-my-2-cents.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Nov 12, 2012 #7
    Thanks for the encouragement Andre!

    I've given a few presentations in various web development conferences. My first time I dry heaved into the mic twice back-to-back...once because I was so nervous and another because I realized I just dry heaved. I don't remember anything I said for the next 20 min, but I was able to play that off somehow and I actually won a client from it.

    I think my biggest challenge is the obsessiveness. Frankly, if I could hide in a room all day and just focus on whatever it is I'm working on I'd do it. Pay me in peanuts and as long as I can recycle the shells to pay the bills I'd be happy.

    The social anxiety bit I know I can get over, that's just a result of me becoming more and more reclusive. I've always been and will always be awkward, but when I hear of people like you going through it, I'm sure I can get over it as well.
  9. Nov 12, 2012 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    If you think you have asperger's or similar disorders you should be seeing a psychiatrist, a psychologist cannot prescribe the meds you need.

    Asperger's is part of the autism spectrum of psychiatric disorders and we cannot give medical advice or diagnose you. We have no idea what your illness is or what you can do.


    I do encourage you to find a good psychiatrist and that you find some relief.

    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
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