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Why people with Asperger's wont shower (and insight into other hygiene issues)

Danny Raede



Why do people with Asperger’s often struggle with hygiene issues?

It’s not that they aren’t motivated. It’s not that they don’t care. Often, it’s just that they are so deep into Defense Mode that they don’t have enough energy to care. Their energy is completely spent just getting through the day, and defending against the world in general.

Hygiene is on their priority list! It’s just #27, and they only have enough energy for #1-3, which would be basic life functions (eating, sleeping, etc), getting through the day (school or work), and keeping it all together. Often there simply isn’t enough energy left to do anything else.

But assuming you are already helping someone with Asperger’s get out of Defense Mode, what are some things you can do to help them specifically with their hygiene?

First, do deep listening to understand their concerns and experiences when it comes to hygiene related events. Once you truly understand what the underlying concerns and root issues are it will be much, much easier to actually solve the problem.

Then, troubleshoot with them to co-create a plan to address the root causes of their complaints and concerns. Remember, co-creation is key! This a two-way conversation.

Finally, help them gain a better understanding as to why hygiene might important to them. That may mean helping them understand the science of brushing teeth, or using shampoo. It’s very important to do all of this without shaming, guilt tripping, or insulting them. If your Influence Circles are not aligned during this process it WILL backfire.

Start with 1 particular hygiene issue, then work from there. Don’t try to tackle every single issue all at the same time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and compassionate. As they see that by working with you there is a solution to be achieved, they will start to trust you and the process more and more, and be more open and willing to engage in the process a second and third time.

The good news is that once you start to implement the hygiene process, things can change. There is hope.

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So happy to find a safe place to ask my question. I am in a serious relationship with a 69 year old man with AS. Hygiene is a major issue for me, but he says his own hygiene just isn’t important to him, thus it remains low on his priority list. We also struggle with Defense Mode challenges. Is there a resource I can access to help me understand the most loving and helpful ways to interact with the almost-70 year old Aspie that I love?

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This sounds like my partner's 11 year old daughter, she doesn't brush her hair and throws a fit when he makes her take a shower, no matter how bad she smells. 

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Kathleen Hardy


My 23 year old grandson is also anti hygiene. He would go 3-4 weeks without showering if we let him. Showers cause him to feel sick and have triggered seizures.  He also has gum issues due to poor brushing habits. Sensory issues along with lack of energy effect him. 

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Elizabeth Free

Posted (edited)

@Kathleen Hardy - His energy issues may been a connected but not cause/effect issue.  I had chronic low energy for years.  After doing tons of research in medical journals I decided to try the ketogenic diet (suggested for many aspies with seizures), and drank exogenous ketones so that I would not have a horrible time with the transition (aka Keto Flu).  My energy is through the roof now and the motivation/executive function problems I have are markedly less severe, because I don't feel the anxiety of energy starvation all the time.  If we wanted to talk of this in Spoon Theory terms, I have an extra 6 or 7 spoons now! Everything is improved across the spectrum.  I would love it if my aspie son would try it... alas he has a sensory aversion to fatty/moist foods.  I think it would help him more than he knows.

Edited by Elizabeth Free
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Aye Adams


 MY 32 year old son would not go near a shower, never! He does not smell, he stinks! It is extremely difficult to be around him. No one else has the courage to tell him. He says he does not care how others perceive of his smells. When I ask him not to enter my bedroom, he gets very angry and almost aggressive. He has a very good understanding and knows clearly why hygiene is important but simply does not want to. He says it’s traumatic. Tooth brushing, though, is not such a problem. He has naturally sweaty feet and it is becoming a nightmare. We have tried to discuss this very gently for over a decade, with no results. 

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I'm really grateful that you are addressing an issue that is common for my son. He'll go literally 8 weeks without showering. At the moment, we are still waiting for the assessment, so no diagnosis yet, but when I talk to him about showering, he just refuses to respond. 

I'd love some suggestions about how to talk to a teen who refuses to co-create or even talk about difficult issues. How can I listen when he refuses to communicate?

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I had a hunch for a long time that hygiene issues were part of the autism spectrum (my ex-husband and teen son are both Asperger's) but it's a relief knowing that I'm not alone in my frustrations. I'm lucky if I get my son to shower once a week, and it takes a ridiculous amount of effort to convince him to get a haircut (right now I think it's been 3-4 months since his last one.) Don't even get me started about trying to get him to clean his room! I am constantly at my wit's end and have just about given up. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!

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