Flat Affect

I missed this one, I think!

I have been trying to learn if there is a link between Parkinsonism’s “mask” and Autism’s frequent reports of flat affect.

Flat affect is simply a lack of expressivity in one’s face and reactions.. the lack of showing emotion in one’s “presentation” to the world. Flat affect is reported as being frequent among autistic people.

I was quite surprised when the Doctor who diagnosed my autism said in the summary report that I “presented with flat affect”. I had always thought I was quite expressive both in my face and body, and in my voice! I certainly feel emotions, and was amazed that these emotions are not clearly visible on my face and in my reactions, etc in interactions with others, etc.

My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s while she was in her mid 50’s partly because she appeared to show “the mask” or flat affect that is known to develop with Parkinson’s disease… and knowing of her autism, I am now wondering if the flat affect due to her autism was perhaps attributed instead to Parkinson’s.

Flat affect might be one reason that autistic people are often accused of being cold.. our emotions may not be evident to others because of flat effect… NT people generally are very facially expressive of emotions and looking at one’s face is often a giveaway to one’s thoughts ( one being a person or an individual). When other people can not see our emotions clearly displayed on our faces, it is assumed that we are unfeeling. This is often far from the truth!

If you have been accused of ‘Not caring, being cold, being heartless, unreceptive, detached,” or otherwise unfeeling, yet you know you feel emotions sometimes desperately, perhaps flat affect is present. Did you know? I did not!

3 thoughts on “Flat Affect

  1. I did know but hadn’t heard it called flat effect. Certainly been accused of not caring, not being sorry etc especially as a child.
    I remember being very surprised when I saw the video of our wedding service because I thought I was smiling a lot and I didn’t appear to smile at all!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to the flat affect issue. I was not aware of this until recently. Now, I know that I have facial expressions which I am not consciously aware of, and that I have been told I am like Mr. Spock. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this post. I appreciate the clear, straightforward way in which you explain things!
    This has been enlightening for me. My dad always seemed to keep his emotions hidden, as I recall. He would have a neutral face expression when listening to others talk. There were only two “modes” where he would show emotion: when he was angry and when he was feeling playful or joking…which wasn’t that often. In retrospect, I think his anger was actually “autistic meltdowns “; and his lack of emotion the rest of the time was just good ol’ autism. His mom, my grandmother, had meltdowns and rigid behavior. This explains so much about my family history.

    Liked by 1 person

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