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10 things that increase autistic symptoms

Research indicates autistic symptoms can be diminished in various ways, but one can also use this knowledge to increase autism symptoms, to decrease the ease with which you navigate the social world, and make being a symbiotic part of society that much more challenging. After all, life is really easy—especially for autistics [sarcasm]—so why not make it more of a challenge?

So below is a list of things to do to increase symptoms related to autism, written with the implicit understanding that you may want to do the exact opposite of the list below, unless you’re either brave or foolish.

If you want to increase your autism though, you may start by watching a lot of Star Trek. I never really have, but arguably I haven’t reached the pinnacle of autistic behavior because of it. [sarcasm]


★ How to increase your autism ★


01

Stop getting enough sleep

Research shows that symptoms of autistic people worsen with lack of sleep,[1]The relationship between sleep and behavior in autism spectrum disorder (ASD): a review particularly in the social domain.[2]Sleep problems as possible predictors of intensified symptoms of autism

So if you want to increase the challenge of social interaction as well as increasing challenges in all core domains of autism, I would start by getting 4 hours of sleep per night at most.

An illustration of an autistic boy in bed, having trouble sleeping.

Read more: Sleep problems pt. 3 – Effects

02

Keep your melatonin low

Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and awakeness, is lower in autistics than it is in neurotypicals.[3]Melatonin in autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review and meta‐analysis Because of this, a lot of issues relating to melatonin are reported in autistic people.[4]Melatonin in autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review and meta‐analysis

So if you want to undermine your sleep more in order to increase autistic symptoms, I would do everything to keep melatonin low. Maybe you find creative ways to do that, but I will offer a few relating to melatonin in this list.

An illustration of an autistic boy in bed, having trouble sleeping.

Read more: Sleep problems pt. 2 – Causes

03

Stay close to the Moon

The lunar cycle modulates human sleep and melatonin rhythms.[5]Evidence that the lunar cycle influences human sleep At full moon, melatonin levels in autistic people are at the lowest point, which leads to more sleep disturbance.

So besides not getting more than 4 hours of sleep per night, I would make sure to expose yourself to the full moon as much as possible in order to increase sleep disturbance, so even those 4 hours will not go uninterrupted.

I recommend chasing the full moon around to get exposed to it as much as possible each month. You can enjoy the full moon for 6 consecutive days each month, and an additional few hours if you chase the Moon.[6]What is the maximum possible length of time one can see the full moon if you were to travel around? | Dave Consiglio | Quora Good luck chasin’!

And of course, traveling around in order to chase the full moon is going to be highly conducive to sleep deprivation.

An illustration of a wolf crying at the Moon.

Read more:

The effect of Moon phases

04

Use blue monochromatic lights

Another way to keep your melatonin levels low is by getting as much light as possible—including the light from the Moon—and especially when you are supposed to sleep, as light suppresses melatonin in humans.

The strongest response to light occurs in the short-wavelength portion of the spectrum, at 446–77 nm, which appears blue.

Blue monochromatic light has also been shown to be more effective than longer-wavelength light for enhancing alertness, which in my understanding is more or less the opposite of sleep.[7]Blue light from light-emitting diodes elicits a dose-dependent suppression of melatonin in humans

So start replacing your ordinary light bulbs with blue monochromatic lights. The era of autism symptomatology has emerged!

An illustration of an autistic boy in bed, having trouble sleeping.

Read more:

Sleep problems pt. 2 – Causes

05

Mess with the pineal gland

The pineal gland is responsible for producing melatonin,[8]The Pineal Gland and Melatonin | VIVO and so one “easy” way to disrupt your melatonin levels is simply by messing with the pineal gland.

It might be preferable to destroy the pineal gland, rather than having to chase the Moon at night to suppress melatonin. Why suppress when you can prevent?

Surgery is expensive though. Is there no DIY way to mess up the melatonin production forever? Why yes! Mark a dot on the back of your head, and drive a needle through your skull—right through the occipital lobe until you poke through the pineal gland behind it.

Since the occipital lobe is the visual processing center of the human brain, fingers crossed that you don’t disrupt visual processing, as that would undermine sensory overstimulation. We NEED sensory overstimulation so that we can be more autistic, right? So find a way to damage the pineal gland without damaging the occipital lobe even more.

And for God’s sake don’t poke through the cerebellum as well!


06

Stay away from oxytocin

The oxytocin receptor gene has been associated with autism.[9]The oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is associated with autism spectrum disorder: a meta-analysis The administration of oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in social bonding, has been shown to temporally mitigate autistic social behaviors in experimental settings.[10]Clinical and neural effects of six-week administration of oxytocin on core symptoms of autism

Oxytocin is thought to optimize the social circuitry and enhance social reward and motivation to engage socially. So if oxytocin mitigates autistic social behaviors, then to increase your autistic behaviors, you ought to stay the hell away from oxytocin. This stuff is not for you!

“Staying away” from oxytocin might be a challenge when you don’t know what your enemy looks like. So perhaps block your oxytocin receptors by injecting yourself with GSK557296 or L-368,899, which have both been used successfully* on rats[11]Inhibition of ejaculation by the non-peptide oxytocin receptor antagonist GSK557296: a multi-level site of action and mice.[12]Oxytocin receptor blockade reduces acquisition but not retrieval of taste aversion and blunts responsiveness of amygdala neurons to an aversive stimulus Fingers crossed it won’t have any adverse effects on humans!

However, blocking oxytocin receptors can lead to a decrease in social anxiety[13]Oxytocin Receptors in the Anteromedial Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis Promote Stress-Induced Social Avoidance in Female California Mice and reduced affective empathy.[14]Oxytocin Enhances Amygdala-Dependent, Socially Reinforced Learning and Emotional Empathy in Humans

Since autistics tend to have increased affective empathy, it could be said that a reduction in both these aspects effectively means a reduction in autistic features, so you will have to find the right balance between asocial behavior (which is arguably autistic) and “psychopathic” behavior, which is what you would get if you reduce affective empathy.

By successful, I mean by blocking the oxytocin receptors scientists managed to inhibit ejaculation in rats. Isn’t science wonderful?


07

Reduce myelin

Research indicates there is less myelin in some regions of the brains of young autistic adults.[15]White-matter relaxation time and myelin water fraction differences in young adults with autism

Myelin insulates nerve cell axons to increase the speed at which information travels from one nerve cell body to another, and is essential for normal motor function (i.e. movement such as walking), sensory function (e.g. hearing, seeing or feeling the sensation of pain) and cognition (e.g. acquiring and recalling knowledge).

Furthermore, research indicates autistic people that had the lowest myelin levels also had the most severe social interaction difficulties.[16]Method reveals thin insulation on neurons in autism brains | Spectrum[17]White-matter relaxation time and myelin water fraction differences in young adults with autism

So if you want to be more autistic, you can target the thalamus, the cerebellum, and the cingulum, or you can attack the myelin, which is what causes differences in these brain regions, which in turn have been implicated in autism.[18]White-matter relaxation time and myelin water fraction differences in young adults with autism

How do you attack myelin? Well, normal aging has been shown to cause degenerative changes in the myelin sheaths, so one way to do it is by just living another day. But I know how impatient you are to become more autistic. Might there be other ways?


08

Stop walking

Research indicates that exercise can lead to changes in gene expression, which is the process by which the body produces proteins based on the genetic code within our DNA, and the methylation process seems to contribute to this.[19]Acute Exercise Remodels Promoter Methylation in Human Skeletal Muscle

Why is this relevant? Because research suggests that a decreased capacity for methylation may contribute to the development and clinical manifestation of autism.[20]Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism

Also, a meta-analysis from 2012 on the effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance found that although the effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance were generally small, there was a positive effect; and exercise duration and intensity were also relevant factors—as well as what part of cognition was tested.[21]The effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance: A meta-analysis

Now, I don’t know if it can be substantiated that walking and exercise diminishes autistic symptoms, but it can alleviate stress, release anger, and generally has a small but positive effect on cognition. There probably is at least an indirect positive influence of exercise on autistic symptoms; and exercise may just promote methylation, which is already an issue in autism.

So if you want to prevent a decrease in autistic symptoms, you better stop working out; and if you want to increase autistic symptoms—including anxiety and neuroticism—you better stop walking altogether unless it promotes autistic symptoms in some other sense.

You better start planning where you will walk to on what day and what the shortest way to it is, or how to avoid walking as much as possible. Incidentally, getting obsessive about your walking schedule may itself promote autistic behavior—and arguably it is autistic behavior, especially if you neatly organize everything in a binder.


09

Eat too much dairy

What, dairy can make you more autistic? Maybe. There are reports that—although dairy won’t alter your brain wiring—it can exacerbate autistic symptoms.

When caseinone of the proteins in dairy—mixes with stomach acid, it produces something called an exorphin, which binds to the opioid receptor sites, which can lead to a myriad of issues, including brain fog, spaciness, inability to concentrate, and a numbness to pain.

Some report that when autistic people removed dairy from their diet, they began talking more, their hyperactivity was reduced, and bowel problems were resolved.[22]5 foods that can make autism worse | Amen Clinics

However, a systematic review from 2009 of gluten-free and casein-free diets in the treatment of autism reported a lack of empirical evidence for the effectiveness of these diets[23]Gluten-free and casein-free diets in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review—as did a systematic review from 2014,[24]Evidence of the Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review as well as one from 2017.[25]Gluten- and casein-free diet and autism spectrum disorders in children: a systematic review So there is a chance that eating or drinking a lot of dairy products is not going to increase autism symptoms, but make you smell of milk.

It may be the case that rather than there being a link between dairy and autism, there may be an underlying issue such as sensitivity to dairy which is present in some autistic people, and does have an effect on their autism symptoms. So if you are one of the “lucky” ones, you may be able to exacerbate your autistic symptoms by consuming dairy after all!


10

Gluttonize that gluten

We just saw that several systematic reviews of gluten-free diets yielded no evidence in support of it as a treatment for autism. However, it’s quite likely that rather than gluten being an issue for autistic people, it is an issue for those with gluten neuropathy,[26]Neuropathy associated with gluten sensitivity and there is evidence for cognitive impairments improving on a gluten-free diet in other conditions.[27]Cognitive impairment in coeliac disease improves on a gluten‐free diet and correlates with histological and serological indices of disease severity

A study from 2018 has also identified markers for gluten intolerance in autism and Down syndrome.[28]Markers of gluten intolerance in children with autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome

The predominant form of gluten intolerance in children with ASD and DS is sensitivity to gluten, which can be identified in 40–50% of patients.

Celiac disease, an autoimmune form of gluten intolerance, can be diagnosed in single cases, although predisposition to it is identified in 41.9% patients with ASD.[29]Markers of gluten intolerance in children with autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome

Furthermore, gluten seems to particularly negatively affect the functioning of the cerebellum.[30]Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain[31]Clinical, radiological, neurophysiological, and neuropathological characteristics of gluten ataxia As autistic people often have decreased functioning of their cerebellum, consuming gluten can make symptoms worse, including attention deficits and functional implications for cognitive and motor systems.[32]Differential Effects of Developmental Cerebellar Abnormality on Cognitive and Motor Functions in the Cerebellum: An fMRI Study of Autism[33]Consensus Paper: Pathological Role of the Cerebellum in Autism

So if you want to increase autistic symptoms in the cognitive domain (thinking) and motor function (movement), be sure to incorporate a lot of gluten in your diet. And if you eat enough to upset your bowels, you may exacerbate autistic irritability as well.


Other methods

There are likely more things you can do to increase autistic symptoms. For example, some report that sugar is a pro-inflammatory, which means it could worsen certain symptoms often associated with autism.[34]5 foods that can make autism worse | Amen Clinics While I have not been able to substantiate that claim with research, there is research that suggests there is potential for a diet without highly refined sugar that can treat autism, although it’s based on a rodent model.[35]Elimination of high-refined-sugar diet as treatment strategy for autistic features induced in a rodent model

There have also been studies that show that GABA reduction could cause developmental issues, and potentially autistic symptoms in general,[36]Dysfunction in GABA signalling mediates autism-like stereotypies and Rett syndrome phenotypes so perhaps suppressing GABA or consuming a lot of sugar will also get you the desired results. But this should give you something to start.

Unfortunately, while there is plenty of research on negative autistic symptoms and how to decrease them (or indeed increase them, as I have shown) the research on how to improve positive autistic symptoms is a little scarce. But follow the instructions of this post, and you might just become a very disordered autistic.


Bonus

Autistic people tend to share particular traits to more or lesser degrees. Based on that, you could argue that when you elevate particular traits that correlate with autism, you effectively “increase the autism”.

And that opens up a lot of possibilities. For example, since irritability is quite common in autistic people—especially when not getting enough sleep—if you are low on irritability you could in a sense become behaviorally more autistic by elevating that trait to the appropriate level.

So have a look at all the traits that make up autism, and cultivate those. One example is lower inhibition, which means we have a greater tendency to become addicted. Read more on that here:

Autism & addiction

So if you consume any of the things mentioned in this article with such frequency that it can be said to be an addiction, then the addiction or obsessive nature with which you approach these foods or behaviors could itself be said to elevate at least some of the symptoms often seen in autism. Are you actually increasing autism then? Very arguable, but you could use this as a rough hack if you insist.

And as described in my post entitled Why is autism seen as a disorder?, autism is a disorder because it adheres to the three Ds of disorder: dysfunction, distress, and deviant responses. So increase your executive and general dysfunction, increase your distress, and increase the abnormality of your responses (vague as that may be), and you may just become a bit more autistic. Or at the very least more disordered.

An illustration of Spock(’s head), as a stereotypical symbol for autism, and the increase of autistic symptoms.

References

1The relationship between sleep and behavior in autism spectrum disorder (ASD): a review
2Sleep problems as possible predictors of intensified symptoms of autism
3, 4Melatonin in autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review and meta‐analysis
5Evidence that the lunar cycle influences human sleep
6What is the maximum possible length of time one can see the full moon if you were to travel around? | Dave Consiglio | Quora
7Blue light from light-emitting diodes elicits a dose-dependent suppression of melatonin in humans
8The Pineal Gland and Melatonin | VIVO
9The oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is associated with autism spectrum disorder: a meta-analysis
10Clinical and neural effects of six-week administration of oxytocin on core symptoms of autism
11Inhibition of ejaculation by the non-peptide oxytocin receptor antagonist GSK557296: a multi-level site of action
12Oxytocin receptor blockade reduces acquisition but not retrieval of taste aversion and blunts responsiveness of amygdala neurons to an aversive stimulus
13Oxytocin Receptors in the Anteromedial Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis Promote Stress-Induced Social Avoidance in Female California Mice
14Oxytocin Enhances Amygdala-Dependent, Socially Reinforced Learning and Emotional Empathy in Humans
15, 17, 18White-matter relaxation time and myelin water fraction differences in young adults with autism
16Method reveals thin insulation on neurons in autism brains | Spectrum
19Acute Exercise Remodels Promoter Methylation in Human Skeletal Muscle
20Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism
21The effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance: A meta-analysis
22, 345 foods that can make autism worse | Amen Clinics
23Gluten-free and casein-free diets in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review
24Evidence of the Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review
25Gluten- and casein-free diet and autism spectrum disorders in children: a systematic review
26Neuropathy associated with gluten sensitivity
27Cognitive impairment in coeliac disease improves on a gluten‐free diet and correlates with histological and serological indices of disease severity
28, 29Markers of gluten intolerance in children with autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome
30Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain
31Clinical, radiological, neurophysiological, and neuropathological characteristics of gluten ataxia
32Differential Effects of Developmental Cerebellar Abnormality on Cognitive and Motor Functions in the Cerebellum: An fMRI Study of Autism
33Consensus Paper: Pathological Role of the Cerebellum in Autism
35Elimination of high-refined-sugar diet as treatment strategy for autistic features induced in a rodent model
36Dysfunction in GABA signalling mediates autism-like stereotypies and Rett syndrome phenotypes

Addiction, Casein, Cerebellum, Cognition, Dairy, Diets, Down syndrome, GABA, Gluten, Humor, Inflammation, Insomnia, Kryptonite, Lunar cycle, Melatonin, Meta-analysis, Moon, Motor functions, Myelin, Occipital lobe, Oxytocin, Pineal gland, Sleep problems, Systematic review


Martin Silvertant

Martin Silvertant

Co-founder of Embrace ASD, autism researcher, writer, ironically silver award-winning graphic designer, and type designer. I am also autistic, and I fight dodecahedragons during sleep onset.

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