Autistic Meltdowns, Shutdowns, & Tantrums, oh my!

We’ll start with tantrums to get them out of the way. They are the most common and are what most people think of when they see a screaming child in public. Tantrums are intentionally thrown by children and sometimes adults in order to manipulate a situation. The outburst is all about control and is a tool for the person to get what they want.

To the untrained eye, a meltdown can look like a tantrum, but the reality of what is happening to someone having a meltdown is very different. Meltdowns and shutdowns can be a result of sensory overload, physical and mental exhaustion, triggered by acute stress, or depleted energy reserves.

An overloading of the circuits and a rush of electricity, pieces of the mind start shutting down bit by bit. The disturbance is uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing.  It’s too much. Everything is too much. Overwhelmed and out of control, the person lashes out in an explosion of emotion. There is no time or ability for manipulation, the brain is too flooded with adrenaline for the person to think clearly.

Shutdowns are less spoken about, possibly because they can be invisible. It starts like a meltdown, with systems shutting down one by one. The word begins to feel far away as the person implodes. They may cry or sit stuck, frozen in place, like a frightened animal.

When it’s all over, the person may feel a range of emotions – drained, relieved, heavy, sick. Many people report feeling tired and being in need of rest.

This video shares the difference between an autistic meltdown and a tantrum in just over 2 minutes.



11 thoughts on “Autistic Meltdowns, Shutdowns, & Tantrums, oh my!

  1. Can’t say I’ve ever had a meltdown, but shutdowns – plenty. I literally shut down: unaware of my surroundings and unresponsive to communication. For those who don’t understand the situation it can be quite frightening. Sometimes it’s mistaken for a stroke.

  2. I do not see my daughter as being ill but has a condition and lacks confidence and has had plenty negative experiences. I took her away from care and they tried to make out she had no capacity. A team of professionals who do not seem to have any understanding wish to take control. They will stop at nothing as I have been outspoken. Such professionals can manipulate, coerce, isolate that person from their family and this is what they have tried to do with us. The law seems to protect such professionals and as a mother who was the nearest relative they have threatened me with huge costs – that I would lose in court if I did not pull out. They have tried to silence me speaking out by safeguarding. They put words in my daughter’s head about “you don’t want your mother to see the files” – they then play on confidentiality but all the time she is sharing information – in the files are a pack of lies saying she has an alcohol problem, she has multiple drug problems she has a personal history of self harm. They have tried to label me as “we believe that a MHA assessment should be carried out on the mother using her GP” – this is because I am writing about things and keeping records just like they are. My daughter is like “putty” in their hands and it is abuse what they are doing. This is social services who want to keep my daughter forever trapped on a CTO. It is not surprising she had anger issues but she is starting to settle down in the community. I do not like the way my daughter is being treated and the way doctors are ignoring that the drug she is on has caused a rash. I too write on a blog and I am highlighting what is going on. Not only is my daughter being ripped apart with an unscientific degrading insulting label such as “personality disorder” but so are anyone who dares to stand up to these people. I think that anyone who has been diagnosed with “Aspergers” should have someone with them at meetings and no meetings should go ahead or assessments because this is how these people can destroy someone vulnerable and argue in favour of control and mental capacity when professionals who do not have a clue misinterpret, solicitors misinterpret – now she may have difficulty in communicating as is expected but she has been dreadfully abused under their “care” and I took her away from it and I would fully recommend that everyone who has such conditions educate by doing what you are doing and writing about matters. Well done.

    1. @sbev2013 That’s awful. I hope your daughter will be alright. You’re a wonderful mother to be fighting so hard for your child. *Sending some positive vibes your way. * ❤

      1. Thank you so much. I’m so sorry Ive not replied sooner. The team certainly do not regard me as a good mother but one they wish to get rid of and think nothing of spending a fortune in public money on doing so which enforces the need for change in the MH system.

  3. I sure know about it! Besides segregation from family and “friends” because of my depression, I’m being even more alienated due to the sensory overload implied in using public transportation lots of Mexico city’s traffic, poor bus service, and overcrowded subway system. I hope you can stay well.

  4. Reblogged this on Fantasy Books 411 and commented:

    This blog post, written by the wonderful neurodivergent rebel themselves, explains the key differences between an Autistic Meltdown, shutdown, and the general tantrums we see every day. #actuallyautistic #blogging

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