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Are there any mental conditions that could actually be mistaken for aromanticism?

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TW: something? maybe internalized acephobia? TW depression and other mental illnesses. 

I was just wondering this because I have horrible attachment issues with people (including in familial and platonic relationships), an avoidant personality, as well as depression and social anxiety, and was wondering if these or something else could be creating my aromanticism?

 

Note: I know this might be a touchy subject because a lot of aros, including myself, feel or felt "broken" at some point, and this could potentially throw their security in their romantic orientation into jeopardy, so PLEASE know that I believe one's romantic/sexual orientation is valid no matter what, even if it is caused by some outside force. Please know that I am NOT saying that aros are not "real" or anything, or that if you are depressed/anxious that you are not aro, or that if your aromanticism is caused by something that happened in your life/your mental health then it is not valid. Your identity is valid no matter what!

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It's OK to ask this question. :) Forums like these are the perfect place to ask potentially uncomfortable things.

 

This has actually been talked about before, somewhere... I'm not sure it's been talked about on these forums but I've definitely seen conversations about it on Tumblr and other social media. There are many aro folks here (myself included) who have a mental illness and/or are neurodivergent, disabled, etc. Not everyone has a mental illness - just like you said, being aro isn't a mental illness and just because you're aro or queer doesn't mean you're depressed. However, of the people who do, a small fraction (I want to say about 25%?) find that them being mentally ill interacts with their aromanticism. So you're definitely not alone in that!

 

I also think it's valid if the two are intertwined for you. Often, our mental health is dependent on our social lives and social health. And social health means something different to each society, each individual. In my Western context, for example, social health is equated with experiencing romance. So it's no wonder that, for some people, not having romance as a part of their lives can make them miserable. It's also possible to be mentally ill, and have that affect your social health. Often, mentally ill people shut down and shy away from people, isolating themselves. Emotions can also get either unmanageable or disappear entirely, so if you felt romantic attraction before and suddenly don't because you're mentally ill, then it could be true that being mentally ill has made it harder or impossible for your body to engage in the feelings that romance requires. Social life and emotional life are intertwined, and those things can be factors in both mental health and orientation.

 

As you said, identity is valid no matter what! It would be weird to say that your life experiences do not in any way influence your preferences to have certain relationships with people. Emotions are life experiences. That's my take, anyway, and that kind of fluidity of orientation is something the LGBTQ+ community has been talking about more and more lately. Orientation is probably one of those things that isn't entirely biological (being "x orientation from birth"). It's probably one of those nature + nurture things, like most human traits seem to be.

 

I can't make the decision about this for you, but I can tell you that it's valid to think about, and feel free to process your feelings with us.

First I would look into whether you very suddenly "became aromantic" (if I can use that phrase) and if that distressed you. Doctors use very sudden distressing changes as symptoms of disorders. Like, sudden loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, for example. 
That's not necessarily a be-all end-all method, especially because flux identities exist, but it's a start.

Next, I'd try to imagine where the mental illness(es) and orientation overlap. Are they completely overlapping and seem more like the same thing? Or do they have parts that are independent from each other? What about being aro makes sense to you, and do only the parts that fit with your mental illness(es) make sense?

 

Hope that helps a bit. Being aro is separate from being mentally ill, but unfortunately, with stigmatization against both existing, the experiences and 'symptoms' can overlap sometimes.

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13 hours ago, yester said:

I was just wondering this because I have horrible attachment issues with people (including in familial and platonic relationships), an avoidant personality, as well as depression and social anxiety, and was wondering if these or something else could be creating my aromanticism?

In general I'd say some probable candidates would be:

  • avoidant personality disorder
  • schizoid personality disorder
  • social anxiety (severe)
  • autism

  • asperger syndrome

 

I don't think depression has a connection with aromanticism.

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Internalising of phobias that directly conflict with romantic orientation could also possibly represent as Aromanticism. You mention internalised Acephobia but you can also include internalised Homophobia or even possibly internalised Transphobia. 

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To add a little different perspective also:
I tend to be emotional instable (I show some significant symptoms of borderline) and there is the assumption people with borderline are extremely afraid of losing someone and basically live in symbiosis with their significant other. While I do tend to feel intense about my friendships and do suffer (a lot) when I lose a close friend, I still don't fall in love and don't like the whole idea of exclusive (romantic) relationships.
Which seems rare for someone with BPD (I swear you have no idea how many articles and books I have read about the disorder where it's all about the relationship to a romantic partner).
I know this isn't exactly what you asked @yester but I want to illustrate you can have a mental condition and still be aro. With other mental conditions it can get really complicated to tell apart if you feel the way you feel because of mental health or because you are just that way - it's your orientation.
But either way it's important to accept oneself and I personally don't make a difference in what the exact cause for e.g. aromanticism is. As long as you don't suffer because of it (which is a safe sign something is wrong) I don't consider it as something you need to stress yourself about it. Just take care in general.

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Hm. 🤔 I’ve wondered this, too, actually. When I realized I was autistic (yeah, I’m self-diagnosed, please don’t hate, I did a lot of research) I wondered if my autistic wiring was the reason I didn’t understand romance. I’ve a natural disconnection with people. Feelings are hard to understand, for myself and others. But autistic folk are all different, cuz you know, we’re human; and we’re all different. Some autistic folk get super attached to people, some don’t. Just like aro folk who crave being with their loved ones while others don’t.

 

With the autism, though, I know there’s a lot of ‘autistic people are apathetic’ thing. But...don’t aros get that, too? Lol. 

But with autism, it’s like...mental and physical stuff. For me, putting myself ‘in someone’s’ shoes is not possible. I just can’t do that. However, if I experience something someone else has, well. Then I’ll understand. But...how do you explain feelings? Attraction? Those things aren’t really tangible? They’re in our head. So, emotions, feelings. It’s tough for me. (Explaining things is hard, too, so sorry if this doesn’t make sense.) 

 

For me, I don’t get attached to people. I get attached to inanimate/fictional things. Not people. Because people are complicated with their emotions. Lol.

 

That’s just me, though.

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On 2/10/2019 at 5:45 PM, DeltaV said:
On 2/10/2019 at 4:22 AM, yester said:

I was just wondering this because I have horrible attachment issues with people (including in familial and platonic relationships), an avoidant personality, as well as depression and social anxiety, and was wondering if these or something else could be creating my aromanticism?

In general I'd say some probable candidates would be:

  • avoidant personality disorder
  • schizoid personality disorder
  • social anxiety (severe)
  • autism

  • asperger syndrome

 

But don't we have to make a distinction here between, on the one hand, lack of intrinsic desire to make efforts to enter into romantic relationships (i.e. aromanticism) and, on the other hand, a lack of success at actually entering into them - despite making efforts to? For example, someone on the autism spectrum might struggle with the sort of social protocols that are typically followed to realise romantic relationships. But, I've heard of examples where such people were strongly motivated to get into romantic relationships and so invested a lot of time into trying to learn these sorts of protocols - to the extent that they eventually succeeded romantically. Me, on the other hand (possible mild aspergers): I realised at some point that I just don't care enough to learn and practice these things xD

 

So, I don't think anything in your list could create aromanticism (aside from the first two, arguably), as I think the base desire to get into romantic relationships is completely logically separate from any psychological hurdles that would make this more difficult. But all of them could probably be mistaken for it, yes (as per the title of the thread).

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5 hours ago, NullVector said:

But don't we have to make a distinction here between, on the one hand, lack of intrinsic desire to make efforts to enter into romantic relationships (i.e. aromanticism) and, on the other hand, a lack of success at actually entering into them - despite making efforts to?

Yes, but it was already conflated in the original question (title vs. text) and I did want to leave it at that.

 

So to correct it:

 

Might cause aromanticism or could be mistaken for aromanticism:

  • avoidant personality disorder
  • schizoid personality disorder

Could be mistaken for aromanticism:

  • social anxiety (severe)
  • autism

  • asperger syndrome

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On 2/17/2019 at 10:02 AM, DeltaV said:

Yes, but it was already conflated in the original question (title vs. text) and I did want to leave it at that.

 

So to correct it:

 

Might cause aromanticism or could be mistaken for aromanticism:

  • avoidant personality disorder
  • schizoid personality disorder

Could be mistaken for aromanticism:

  • social anxiety (severe)
  • autism

  • asperger syndrome

I'd like to add in the "might cause" list: antisocial personality disorder, particularly psychopathy

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Yes - I have been wondering this as well. I had a person in my life who identified as ARO. But also suffered from childhood neglect and he described himself as emotionally unstable and not being able to feel his emotions (happiness, sadness, excitement) and if he did he said he did feel it in a normal way.

 

I personally don't think this side of him has to do with being aro because romantic people can also be emotionally unstable but... 

I haven't seen many places where it is talked about. I know romantic people can have fears of being emotionally close and intimate with people/vulnerability (friends/family/ etc..)

So I wonder if it could be the same for an ARO person when they have a queerplatonic relationship/connection?

 

I am asking this because he told me that the way he feels his emotions and how he generally doesn't feel things has affected his relationships with people including his friends. To me, it seems like there was a little alexithymia there but...I feel that could be completely independent of being aro...

 

I just think all humans can problems with being vulnerable and emotional closeness.

 

Outcome:

He ended up pushing me away because he couldn't handle/wasn't ready the connection between us.

He shut down/stop communication and out of my care for him I gave him what he said he wanted and I walked away.

But I feel like...

I lost a friend.

 

I am demiromantic/sexual but I have trust issues and relationship anxiety and to me, this has nothing to do with my orientation but with my life experiences.

 

Any advise/insight would be appreciated. 

 

On 2/10/2019 at 6:01 AM, running.tally said:

It's OK to ask this question. :) Forums like these are the perfect place to ask potentially uncomfortable things.

 

This has actually been talked about before, somewhere... I'm not sure it's been talked about on these forums but I've definitely seen conversations about it on Tumblr and other social media. There are many aro folks here (myself included) who have a mental illness and/or are neurodivergent, disabled, etc. Not everyone has a mental illness - just like you said, being aro isn't a mental illness and just because you're aro or queer doesn't mean you're depressed. However, of the people who do, a small fraction (I want to say about 25%?) find that them being mentally ill interacts with their aromanticism. So you're definitely not alone in that!

 

I also think it's valid if the two are intertwined for you. Often, our mental health is dependent on our social lives and social health. And social health means something different to each society, each individual. In my Western context, for example, social health is equated with experiencing romance. So it's no wonder that, for some people, not having romance as a part of their lives can make them miserable. It's also possible to be mentally ill, and have that affect your social health. Often, mentally ill people shut down and shy away from people, isolating themselves. Emotions can also get either unmanageable or disappear entirely, so if you felt romantic attraction before and suddenly don't because you're mentally ill, then it could be true that being mentally ill has made it harder or impossible for your body to engage in the feelings that romance requires. Social life and emotional life are intertwined, and those things can be factors in both mental health and orientation.

 

As you said, identity is valid no matter what! It would be weird to say that your life experiences do not in any way influence your preferences to have certain relationships with people. Emotions are life experiences. That's my take, anyway, and that kind of fluidity of orientation is something the LGBTQ+ community has been talking about more and more lately. Orientation is probably one of those things that isn't entirely biological (being "x orientation from birth"). It's probably one of those nature + nurture things, like most human traits seem to be.

 

I can't make the decision about this for you, but I can tell you that it's valid to think about, and feel free to process your feelings with us.

First I would look into whether you very suddenly "became aromantic" (if I can use that phrase) and if that distressed you. Doctors use very sudden distressing changes as symptoms of disorders. Like, sudden loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, for example. 
That's not necessarily a be-all end-all method, especially because flux identities exist, but it's a start.

Next, I'd try to imagine where the mental illness(es) and orientation overlap. Are they completely overlapping and seem more like the same thing? Or do they have parts that are independent from each other? What about being aro makes sense to you, and do only the parts that fit with your mental illness(es) make sense?

 

Hope that helps a bit. Being aro is separate from being mentally ill, but unfortunately, with stigmatization against both existing, the experiences and 'symptoms' can overlap sometimes.

Yes - I have been wondering this as well. I had a person in my life who identified as ARO. But also suffered from childhood neglect and he described himself as emotionally unstable and not being able to feel his emotions (happiness, sadness, excitement) and if he did he said he did feel it in a normal way.

 

I personally don't think this side of him has to do with being aro because romantic people can also be emotionally unstable but... 

I haven't seen many places where it is talked about. I know romantic people can have fears of being emotionally close and intimate with people/vulnerability (friends/family/ etc..)

So I wonder if it could be the same for an ARO person when they have a queerplatonic relationship/connection?

 

I am asking this because he told me that the way he feels his emotions and how he generally doesn't feel things has affected his relationships with people including his friends. To me, it seems like there was a little alexithymia there but...I feel that could be completely independent of being aro...

 

I just think all humans can problems with being vulnerable and emotional closeness.

 

Outcome:

He ended up pushing me away because he couldn't handle/wasn't ready the connection between us.

He shut down/stop communication and out of my care for him I gave him what he said he wanted and I walked away.

But I feel like...

I lost a friend.

 

I am demiromantic/sexual but I have trust issues and relationship anxiety and to me, this has nothing to do with my orientation but with my life experiences.

 

Any advise/insight would be appreciated. 

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On 2/13/2019 at 10:43 PM, NotHeartless said:

To add a little different perspective also:
I tend to be emotional instable (I show some significant symptoms of borderline) and there is the assumption people with borderline are extremely afraid of losing someone and basically live in symbiosis with their significant other. While I do tend to feel intense about my friendships and do suffer (a lot) when I lose a close friend, I still don't fall in love and don't like the whole idea of exclusive (romantic) relationships.
Which seems rare for someone with BPD (I swear you have no idea how many articles and books I have read about the disorder where it's all about the relationship to a romantic partner).
I know this isn't exactly what you asked @yester but I want to illustrate you can have a mental condition and still be aro. With other mental conditions it can get really complicated to tell apart if you feel the way you feel because of mental health or because you are just that way - it's your orientation.
But either way it's important to accept oneself and I personally don't make a difference in what the exact cause for e.g. aromanticism is. As long as you don't suffer because of it (which is a safe sign something is wrong) I don't consider it as something you need to stress yourself about it. Just take care in general.

Yes - I have been wondering this as well. I had a person in my life who identified as ARO. But also suffered from childhood neglect and he described himself as emotionally unstable and not being able to feel his emotions (happiness, sadness, excitement) and if he did he said he did feel it in a normal way.

 

I personally don't think this side of him has to do with being aro because romantic people can also be emotionally unstable but... 

I haven't seen many places where it is talked about. I know romantic people can have fears of being emotionally close and intimate with people/vulnerability (friends/family/ etc..)

So I wonder if it could be the same for an ARO person when they have a queerplatonic relationship/connection?

 

I am asking this because he told me that the way he feels his emotions and how he generally doesn't feel things has affected his relationships with people including his friends. To me, it seems like there was a little alexithymia there but...I feel that could be completely independent of being aro...

 

I just think all humans can problems with being vulnerable and emotional closeness.

 

Outcome:

He ended up pushing me away because he couldn't handle/wasn't ready the connection between us.

He shut down/stop communication and out of my care for him I gave him what he said he wanted and I walked away.

But I feel like...

I lost a friend.

 

I am demiromantic/sexual but I have trust issues and relationship anxiety and to me, this has nothing to do with my orientation but with my life experiences.

 

Any advise/insight would be appreciated. 

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