Argumentative: ASD Symptom

This is another big sign that someone is on the autistic spectrum, even if only mildly. I think there are several reasons that people with ASD will regularly argue with others.

Their lack of perception will prevent them from recognising when and where is not the right time and place to get into an argument.

They have an inability to gauge possible outcomes, or even think of any consequencies at all. AKA Foot-in-Mouth syndrome. Most people who argue a lot do not think first how the other person will react. If they did stop to think, they often would bite their tongue.

People with aspergers in particular can be exceptionally pedantic and will often argue over subjects that seem important to them, but to everyone else appear to be very petty things.

When a heated argument takes place, emotions are high and control is lost. We have all witnessed people who continue arguing about the same subject, repeating themselves and just shouting over the other person. They each have no interest in listening; only shouting. Prolonged arguments of this nature are likely to be between two people with aspergers and/or ADHD.

Both types of people need to be heard and get extremely frustrated and hurt when they are not heard or respected. They will both want to have the last word, and get even more angry when their last comment has not resulted in shutting the other person up. What happens next is embarrassing, as each party sinks further and further into petty anarchy.

Sometimes these arguments need not involve shouting, but you can still sense the aggression and anger through snide comments and petty slanging matches. One example of this where I believe both parties have Asperger Syndrome, was one of the many arguments that took place between actor Anthony Cotton and sportswoman Fatima Whitbread while on the TV show “I’m a Celebrity; Get Me Out of Here” in 2011.

Because they both wanted to take control and had different ideas of the best way to do things, they clashed with each other. Fatima seemed to lack perception more than Anthony, and was hopeless at gauging the mood in the camp, while Anthony got stressed out very easily and let Fatima get to him. Anthony was more insightful but could still not resist having the last word in an argument. As they were both guilty of this, it would seem like an argument was coming to an end, but then one would make a “final” quip; prompting the other to do the same. And on and on it went.

I’ll try and find a better video to demonstrate this. I can’t find a video containing an actual proper argument between Anthony and Fatima at the moment, but from 3:00 – 6:00 in the above video, you can get a sense of how they are both feeling.

I felt sorry for them both, as I knew how difficult it was to be in a situation where you cannot be understood. But being a viewer, it was easy to see how these arguments could have been avoided by not letting the other person get to them, and to let the other person have the last word and just agree with them, to end the confrontation. That, of course, is easier said than done though, and the condensing of 24 hours into 45 minutes cannot truly portray to the viewer how participants are really feeling.

Another thing ASD sufferers who are argumentative are often guilty of, is failing to recognise that their opinions are just that; opinions – and not fact. Culprits will typically talk down to the other person in a tone that suggests they themselves are right all the time, and they don’t appear to question that they could be wrong.

Sometimes they are not as arrogant as they appear. They might be fully aware that their opinions are not facts, but sadly the way they communicate will often still make them appear that way.

When a person with Aspergers argues with a neurotypical person, the aspie will almost always win the argument or at least have the last word, because their nature predicts they will get their own way, more often than not. The other person will back down out if sheer exasperation, for a bit of peace. But two aspies would probably fight to the death if they could.

People  who are known for arguing most often fall into the category “Unable to Handle Stress” as well. While we all handle stress differently, those on the autistic spectrum get a lot more anxious than others. Even when they themselves think they are having a civilized discussion or debate, others will often see them as being confrontational and not letting go of a subject that could easily be dropped. It is linked to fragile egoes too, because the argumentative party will not be able to allow the other guy to win. The fact they see the conversation as a battleground in itself, is due to the fact that they are over-emotional but instead of being tearful, they get angry.

All the arguments, confrontations and outbursts I have found myself in (*Notice that? “found myself in”; not “started” – as if I was the innocent party!*) have always, without fail, been when I have been behind on my sleep. This is why I try to stick to a strict routine, because although everyone functions better when they are not tired, it is essential for people on the autistic spectrum to have a regular, healthy sleep pattern, simply to function as normally as possible. So many of us are unaware or forget how important this is.

17 comments on Argumentative: ASD Symptom

  1. Sorry for leaving comments here and there, I would write a proper e-mail if I could, but my mind is flying everywhere at the moment. I really want to congratulate you for finding out so much about yourself, and thinking of the “impossible”, creating this blog to share your thoughts.

    Nothing is impossible in my mind, and I want to share my own opinion. When I talked to people about some of my conditions (like I may have BPD, or aspergers, or whatever it is I thought I had), they were alarmed, disconcerted, and urged me to find medical help.

    People were “helpless” and they thought an expert could’ve done better when I only wanted an open, understanding listener. I have always wanted help, but I don’t trust the doctors. I know how this world works, and once you’re labeled “insane” it will not be possible for others to trust you.

    Anyway, the main point is, I asked these people who asked me to get help a rhetoric question, and answered my own doubt why I don’t get help when I really needed it this way:
    The reason that I don’t trust experts is, why are experts experts? Except that they have read more than we did, had perhaps more interactions with various “patients”, they may understand a certain aspects of various different types of disorders, but “some of them experts” will always lack the compassion and empathy to know what it is like to actually have the conditions that people have or symptoms that “patients” are exhibiting.

    I started reading because I thought there was no one who was going to know me better than I do myself and love myself more. It was perhaps the best decision I could’ve made all of my life. I wish I can share with others how good it feels to finally cut yourself some slack and not take everyone else’s opinion, especially those who don’t understand you, so seriously as the only right answers.

    I’d to thank you again for doing all your hard work. Please let me know also if you agree or disagree with some of my thoughts at my e-mail if you have the time. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for your comments on my blog and your kind words. I think your comments are interesting and I do agree with you about doctors and so-called experts. No-one can know everything, but some people certainly think they do! I appreciate you taking the time to write.

      Take care and Happy New Year

  2. I’ve been married to a man for over a decade and I now realize he is very likely an Aspie. All this time I’ve wanted to divorce this odd, argumentative, uncooperative, oppositional, negative, critical, intolerant, emotionally immature , childish and often highly unpleasant man. But I’d stay because he’s brilliant, incredibly talented, versatile, funny, loves animals and science and psychology like I do and I’m dysfunctional and co-dependent anyway. I couldn’t understand why he was so inept at flirting and acted so strange when I’d initiate affection and sex yet he’s a skillful lover once you get past his oddness and initial objections. He would lash out at people and be a jerk and then later his version would have the other person attacking him. He denies saying and doing things. He tries to tell me the problem is not him or his behavior, it’s my perceptions. Why is he so wonderful when he’s good and so horrifying when he’s bad? Then I discovered sites like this one.

    NOW, my question is, do I tell him what I think I know and how do I do it? He’s a software engineer and always finding some interesting article on the web. Several years ago he took the AS test “for fun” and sent me the link to take it. He said he scored higher than the average male. I scored higher than the average female. While this new knowledge just may save our marriage because I do feel some relief that he isn’t just a jerk with major psych issues, I feel like I need to be able to discuss it with him. My guess is he will be VERY defensive, as usual and get angry, deflect it, say I’m again trying to say something is wrong with him (one counselor told me he’s like a narcissist and that came out in an argument).

    Any advice on how to broach the subject with an Aspie? I have an article that suggests a link between engineers, intoverts and Asperger’s, I’ve though of just casually sending it (we trade articles all the time)…?

    1. Hi, thanks a lot for your comment. That’s a tough one. I would be inclined, like you say, to casually send the article, then ask him what he thinks. If he dismisses the idea, that might mean he would not react well to your theory that he is most likely an aspie.

      The person you are describing is just like a friend of mine for many years, who often used to exasperate me and I have dumped other friends for less. But he is also a very honest, kind and talented person, so I know what you mean. Every time he says something insensitive now, I don’t get wound up like I used to, because I know he can’t help it. But I have chosen not to tell him that I’m certain he has Aspergers, because he would be the same. He would get all defensive and take it as an insult, when actually it is quite a big compliment. Aspies are nearly always above-average intelligence, often creative artists or sometimes technically brilliant nerds/engineers!

      So I chickened out of telling my friend, but then again I don’t have to live with him. I doubt it would be as easy to stay diplomatic if it were a partner. But even if your husband does react badly, that might only be the initial shock. If he has an interest in psychology, he might be more open to the idea over time. Then it might prove to be the best thing that happened.

      Good luck!

    2. Hi,

      Thanks for your comment. Please can you tell me how that worked out. I am in exactly the same situation and on the verge of leaving my strange, funny amazing man who just will argue over absolutely anything, even that he’s not arguing! I try to see the funny side but it’s draining sometimes and my health suffers each time as it’s quite hard.

  3. Hi, thank you for this article I found it very interesting.

    I have an eleven year old son who has autism and ADHD. One of the the major ongoing issues we have is his argumentative nature. He cannot see that he should speak respectfully to his parents and not raise his voice. He will argue with us the same as he might with his peers and when we try to explain to him that he can’t speak to us in that way he will argue that he has a right to defend himself. You mentioned them liking the last word and that is so true, it’s almost like he just physically cannot stop himself saying something even when he has been told not to say another word he’ll have to say “fine” or something similar. Unfortunately my husband is a bit like him so the two of them arguing can be pretty explosive and go on and on, its draining for me to listen to and even gets my younger son down too. I try to keep in my mind how confusing I find him is likely the same way he feels about us but it’s not easy. He gets extremely frustrated and feels everyone is against him and no one is listening to him, even though he has said his piece if we don’t agree he will shout and cry that we’re not letting him explain. It’s like he needs to “explain” until we agree he is right even if he isn’t. These outbursts can happen once a day or several times a day and it gets everyone down, my husband and I often argue over the children and our different approach to discipline which puts a strain on our marriage. Really I’m wondering if you have any advise on how to handle the argumentative nature? I try to walk away but he will follow me and go on and on until I agree with him. Many thanks!

    1. Hi Las20, thank you for your story.

      It must be very hard for you and your husband to communicate with your son. My heart goes out to you.

      While there is no quick fix, there are some little things you can do in order to ease the situation. You are right, in that he should not talk to his parents like that. But it takes a lot of patience to fix the problem. A neurotypical person will know that people in authority need to be spoken to with respect. But with ASD and ADHD children, they cannot differentiate between ranks of people. That is the reason your son is talking to you in the same manner as he does with his peers. They have an inbuilt sense of justice, and inherently believe all people are equal and they treat as they find, whether it’s a friend, a shop assistant, a parent, a teacher or the Queen! They will treat them the same way they believe they are being treated by the other person. That’s not to say they are right, of course. And they need to believe they are respected first, before they will respect others. Parents and teachers traditionally believe children should respect them first and foremost. And will often use strict discipline to create fear in order for the child to comply. But those forceful methods have proven to exacerbate the situation. With your son, he needs to feel respected by you, before you can begin to improve your commuication.

      So if you prevent your son from doing something he wants to do, for example, he might feel that you are disrespecting him. And this could lead to the bad attitude and explosive arguments.

      One way to get him on your side could be to take time to explain to him in a friendly and grown up way, every aspect of why you have made your decision, ensuring he understands every step. Perhaps you won’t let him go on a trip, because funds are tight, or if you do, then your other kids will want the same treatment and you can’t afford to do it for everyone.

      Most parents would simply refuse to let them go, and the child would inevitably think the parents are just being difficult. But situations like this are rarely that simple. Even if you wrote a 1000 word letter explaining why you came to that decision, it still might not cover everything. But I would recommend you do tell your son all that information. Yes, I would recommend you speak the way you would speak to another adult. But that’s the beauty of this method. He will see that you have taken time to explain to him all the facts, without talking down to him, and he will feel respected. Once you’ve established a friendly conversation, and he disagrees with something, ask him in a non-confrontational way if he can think of a different win-win scenario. Keep pausing and asking if he can see your point of view. That will help him know you care about his feelings.

      This method alone is unlikely to work, as he has most likely already formed the incorrect belief that you and he are on opposing sides. So it’s the little things you do every day that will make him see that you do love him, and are on his side. I know it’s not easy, especially if you both work, but if you can both spend quality time with him, and also separately, each provide him with one-on-one time, and take an active interest in what he likes to do, he will feel that he is being listened to. Play games, be creative, and even let him be in charge of a set task or game (then he can see how being the boss isn’t always that easy!)

      Ask him lots of questions about his interests, joke about them with him over dinner, and ensure that this positive interaction makes up at least 50% of all your dialogue with him. He will naturally feel resentment towards you if most dialogue is him being reprimanded or disciplined.

      You say the situation at the moment is “draining” for your family. Don’t be afraid to confide this information to him and let him know you are human. Also remind him that his behaviour affects his younger brother too, and how would he feel if he were him? He will trust you more if you are open with him. Compare this draining feeling to him, with something he feels that is similar, such as extreme tiredness. Example: “The other day you were shouting down from your bedroom because you were exhausted after your hectic day and refused to do the chore we asked you to – well that’s how your Dad and I felt today. Imagine feeling that exhausted and wanting to chill in front of the TV, but you won’t stop arguing with us. Can you understand why that would make us feel grumpy? And how that isn’t really very fair?”

      When he says he has a right to defend himself, he’s right; he does. But so do you! The less he sees your conversations as a battleground, the less he will feel that he needs to defend himself.

      Him saying his piece until you agree with him demonstrates how he is unable to see your point of view at the moment. Once he feels that you do hear and respect him, he will hopefully be more open to listening to you.

      Good luck

  4. My husband will argue and threaten Devorce over the littlest things I.e kids winning fish at the fair, with a goldfish bowl, and I’m in the wrong for letting them bring them home I’m the disrespectful one and I’m stupid !!! He works Shifts whilst I have to get up for work at 5am but it’s my fault that he wakes me up by coming to bed with a bowl of cereal or similar and putting the tv on at 2am, even though theres one downstairs and I get called everything under the sun, the tv remote gets thrown across the room because I dared to raise my voice after asking 10 times for the tv to be turned off and I’m the one who speaks disrespectfuly to him even though I’m a cunt bitch etc and the next day he’ll refuse to talk to me, I just want to forget about it and move on but he will continually state I’m the one to blame and I should apologise even though he knows I have a sleeping disorder, which according to him I don’t, but I’m currently on meds to help me sleep I finally nod between 10-12am for him to wake me up but he doesn’t see this as an issue I then struggle for hours to get to sleep again then my alarm goes off I just don’t know how much longer I can take this for!!!! Is this a sign of asperges ?

  5. Crystal: I empathise and sympathise so much! My partner was diagnosed with Aspergers, ADHD and several other mental health conditions several years ago and you could be describing him in your post. Your husband shows a complete lack of empathy for you and your situation when you are trying to sleep and that, in my experience, is certainly an Aspergers trait. His angry outburst can also be an Aspergers trait. My partner is exactly the same, he sleeps with the radio on and I hate it. After years I got him to agree to turn it down low but he often (deliberately) forgets, when that happens and I ask him to turn it down he launches into a nasty tiraid of explatives and abuse. If I respond to this it just turns into a full scale argument, or rather him screaming at me. It is very very hard to tolerate this. My partner is just about to start undergoing specialist CBT with a Psychologist who specialises in Aspergers and also Social Skills Training amongst other things. He is lucky enough to live in London with access to the best Behaviourial Genetics Clinic at the Maudsley. The problem is that it has taken almost 5 years to get the funding approved! I hope it helps him considerably because although I know that a lot of this is outside of his control it is extremely difficult to live with someone in a situation like this. Personally, if his upcoming treatment does not give him the help he needs I know that I will not be able to deal with it any longer and I have been with him for almost 20 years. Sadly, I know that I will have to leave because my own health has been destroyed over the last 5 years with the stress. You really need to get your husband tested and hopefully treated because, negative as it sounds, this kind of relationship can be so destructive to you. I wish you the best.

  6. So, here I am leaving a VERY late response.
    You recommend many many ways to manage a relationship with an argumentative aspie, and I applaud you for your suggestions.
    It does, however, lead me to think that you have NO IDEA what it is like LIVING with this type of person. WHAT AN ENERGY DRAIN! Constantly pandering to someone who won’t change. And I can hear you say “Can’t change.” But I have seen my ASPIE son be very responsive to those he wants something from. Everyone else can cop whatever attitude he wants to dish out. It drives me bananas! Somewhere there is a choice that ASPIE’s make to be responsive or argumentative and this choice factor is often overlooked by aspie experts. Not good enough I say. And I say this because it deprives the ASPIE of the opportunity to change, to recognise they CAN be responsive. And it leaves the responsibility for the relationship squarely on the shoulders of the NT – too hard!

    1. Not too late a response for some though Solomon!
      I think they can ‘choose’ to react in different ways in different situations as I have seen this. ‘Hurting the ones closest to you’ springs to mind. Unfortunately we are told to change ‘us’ to accommodate ‘them’ but as you say, its totally draining and can lead to bad health outcomes for the NT who only wants to support and help.
      Most conversations turn to arguments with my partner, with him blaming me for arguing, when i’m not. My only solution is to side step at every slight indication of the escalating argument, back off and go to bed/out of the house. Nothing gets resolved – ever! He is never wrong, never apologises and has no desire to have that conversation again (unless he is lecturing me – even if he knows little of the subject). So, we cant talk. Period.
      But, i have seen him have the same discussions with his sister and even she ended up saying “I’m not attacking you”. She is far from stupid! Difference here being that he backed off her when he had continued to bully me on the same subject.
      Trouble is, when they’re pretty bright on some subjects, people tend to assume they are wise on every subject and this causes problems down the line. They need to be told when they’re wrong and called out on their manipulative tactics. It’s usually those closest to them that do this though.
      Think i have a huge bs detector now but it really doesn’t help when you voice this to an aspie. Maybe they were told they were bright as a child when they should have been called out more often. Thats my summary on mine anyway.

      The insult is, they try to make you out to be the problem, when the only problem is their inabilty to acknowledge that other people can have a valid viewpoint too.

      I find, “so, you’re blaming ME when you’re at fault? yeah, nice try!” works. Then i get a wry smile – he knows exactly what he’s doing then!!!!

  7. I’m sitting here reading this article and responses with tears streaming down my eyes. I have been with my husband now for 3 years, however, we’ve only been married for 5 months. This man….. oh this man….. I deeply and passionately love this man, but in the same sentence…. I just can’t with this man. Every argument is a fight, and he will argue until “he is right.” We can never agree to disagree and move on. Every argument has to be who is right and who is wrong. I try to explain to him that most arguments/disagreements are based on one’s feelings and emotions. He doesn’t get that. He has never apologized for “hurting my feelings.” There are only right and wrong apologies. You were right, I was wrong… Feelings and opinions and emotions don’t come into play. While dating, we never really disagreed about anything. However, it’s like a switch went off once we got married. I say married…. we are actually now getting a divorce. All over a petty argument that escalated out of control to where he said he was right and I was wrong and the ONLY apology he would accept was for me to tell him “you are right and I was wrong.” However, I 1000% believe I had every right to “feel” the way I did when his action hurt me. It’s so hard to have to tell someone they are right (all of the time), when you are losing pieces of yourself each and every time because they always have to win. I could not back down from this disagreement. I apologized for the pain, etc., that was being done to our relationship. I sent him flowers at work, apologizing for hurting him/us and how much I wanted to work this out. However, the only apology he would take from me was for me to tell him “he was right, and I was wrong.” I could do that, for the sake of “this” argument, but….. what about down the road? I told him that I was entitled to my feelings. He actually told me that I was NOT entitled to my feelings. After not speaking to me for days on end… only to ask if I was ready to apologize…. I had to tell him no. I have since filed for divorce. Even after filing, I have asked him to please let’s use the time we have left to try to figure out how to effectively communicate…. to figure out how we can get better at conflict resolution. He says there is too much damage done and there is no reconciliation. This sucks! Like someone said above, this man has so many redeeming qualities, we are best friends, great lovers, but we do not know how to “fight fair.” I even mentioned that to him, told him that we needed to learn to “fight fair.” No shouting, name calling, no stonewalling…. he said, “I don’t know what fighting fair is…. I only know what is right and what is wrong.” I’m so incredibly devastated.

    1. Its unbelievable feeling to see that there are others struggling with the same issues…and its so difficult to know what to do…to learn to live like this forever and accept him the way he is or is it not worth it….Its like everything he is or does is 100% full gas on…loving/fighting, caring/critizising, cleaning/living in a mess, sleeping 15hours/not sleeping at all…I could continue forever…Which makes him a man from the movies (doing everything in his power to surprise and make me happy) that everybody dreams of…its like 50 shades of grey, just the problem is in a different form…Today I am still thinking that I love him so much that I am not able to give up, because he can do things in a way I think nobody else can…make me feel loved…but it hurts so much the other times when he is again ready to give up, move out because of “my behaviour”…every time when I conciusly try to tell him smth calmly that I didnt like what happened then he ALWAYS playes it in a way that I am a fool, I make things up and its my own fault and its unbelievable how I always blame him etc…
      Crazy isnt it…but if I know that he is like this because he is not capable to be different then maybe I can accept it, although it sometimes hurts a lot…
      But thank you all, its so good to know and see others in the same situation and lets be happy because we also have the best men in the world…you dont need to watch a romantic movie, you are living one…

  8. Hi everyone
    I am in the same position. Been together 4 years been married and living together for a year.i too find myself on here in the hope there is something different with my husband ie adhd or aspergers. That i am just not understanding.
    He is argumentative about anything we disagree abou, and makes an issue out of the tiniest oglf things. This then always goes into a huge argument.He does NOT listen to what i say even if i say to him yes your right. He is too busy repeating himself and asking me the same question over and over.
    It is so unfair as i can admit to my faults or if i have been wrong but he can never ever back down. Or never ever say sorry or acknowledge the hurt he causes.he twists things and lies during all arguments to deflect any of the wrong onto him.
    He is also so selfish towards me .ie he doesnt care that i have to get up at 5am for work. Where he will make as much noise as possible or wake me up at 1am to continue arguing. One of many selfish acts i have to live through.
    He has a daughter who stays with us on alternate weekends….now when she is asleep he is so quiet he is like a different person . And will never hurt or upset her in any way. Even correcting her for bad behaviour.
    So how can he be so different to me?

    Im at the end of my tether. I took my vows serious in sickness and health. But i am so unhappy and it is making my health suffer too.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    1. It sounds like he’s behaving differently towards you because he takes you for granted. And something about the way you’ve communicated with him in the past, makes him think he can get away with treating you like this. I’m not blaming you. Far from it. He should still treat you with respect. But it’s possible he shows more respect for his daughter because he doesn’t want to risk not seeing her.

      Maybe if you put the idea in his head that you might not always stick around if he continues to treat you this way, he might be more thoughtful and stop taking you for granted. Maybe even take a break from each other, if possible. Hope you manage to work something out, good luck.

  9. Aspies I know often think that they are the arbiters of what is correct and more logical than pretty much everyone else (regardless of any circumstance imaginable). They often lack the critical abilities of: 1. seeing the forest from the trees and 2. quickly realizing when they are full of crap or have lost a debate.

    For some reason, maybe self-protection, they take not “getting others” as a sign of their own superiority. Also, if you disagree with them it makes them more sure they are correct (“this person doesn’t agree with me, therefore they are wrong, therefore they are dumb compared to me, therefore their points have no merit”).

    So, aspies, please know that there exist neurotypicals that are just as or more logical and intelligent as you, and the smart neurotypical brain can outperform and defeat your “logic”. Stop grasping at straws to make yourself feel better over not getting along with others and pissing people off.

    1. Yes, true in many cases.

      I certainly always blame my ASD for all my faults lol! But I hope I don’t come across as superior. Like Temple Grandin I believe I have become “less autistic” with age, because I have had to learn what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t. I still get it wrong of course, but I’m better than I was.

      I also think it’s worth mentioning in response to your comment, that extreme Intolerance and Opinionated-ness(!) are also symptoms of ASD. You might . You might have it; you might not, but don’t be quick to assume you are neurotypical!

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