Defense Mode is one of the 4 core pillars of the AE Model. This is a state in which someone with Asperger’s is scared, frustrated, or angry, as well as shut down and & withdrawn. In Defense Mode, everything is harder because you are constantly trying to protect against an imminent, perceived, but extremely vague threat. The perceived threat creates the same anxiety as a true life threatening situation. Fortunately, the vast majority are not actual threats, but merely signals that the brain perceives as threats.
In scientific terms, what is going on is a complex biological, neurological & psychological rat’s nest of “problems” that all compound on each other (but have roots in low vagal tone). Simply put, there is simply too much to process at once. Most of it is internal and unseen.
From an outside perspective Defense Mode can look like someone who is unmotivated, unwilling, uncooperative or “rude”. I’ve heard it called Oppositional Defiant Disorder, PTSD, lack of motivation, video game addiction and all sorts of other names.
With limited understanding, all of those are accurate to a point. They miss, however, the key understanding of Defense Mode: People with Asperger’s and Autism are in Defense Mode and shut down because they are scared, upset and/or angry, not because they are trying to spite you, or be rude, or defiant. And yes, it sucks as much as you might think. To complicate matters, it is scary to be angry with the people who support you when you are in are in Defense Mode. Add a fear of abandonment to the mix and it gets really complicated.