Dynamic Duo Series: Aggression
Updated: Mar 23, 2019
Part 4 of the series exploring the Dynamic Duo and related issues more in depth
Aggression is perhaps one of the most challenging topics to write about when blogging about autism. It's uncomfortable to admit that it happens, to admit that autistics sometimes get aggressive and even violent. It's especially uncomfortable to share personal examples. But I feel it's important to discuss why it's happening and how one half of the Autism Dynamic Duo, zinc, can help with it.
I'm reluctant, even ashamed, to admit I had my share of aggression, especially when I was a pre-teen. I was never truly violent, or physically threatening, but there were times when I was verbally harsh. My sister, who is two years older than me, bore the brunt of this. We would get into fights, and I would get really irritated when my routine was disrupted.
So where is the aggression coming from? As with some of the other issues, it's coming from an overactive fight-or-flight response.
As discussed in other posts, there is extra dopamine floating around in the system. Dopamine gets made into norephinephrine, and from there into adrenaline. So extra dopamine also means extra adrenaline.
Adrenaline increases heart rate, blood flow, and dilates the pupils. It's designed to help us respond to threats. It also causes negative emotions, including fear and aggression. But extra adrenaline means we're ready to respond to a threat when there is no threat. So those negative emotions, especially aggression, need an outlet.
For some, this leads to violent behavior. I won't go into specifics, but I've read many stories of autistic children being violent toward their families, themselves, or their surroundings.
Because the extra dopamine is a probable underlying cause of the aggression, zinc may be able to help. Zinc helps correct the extra dopamine, which can help with the extra adrenaline. And it's not just me saying this. Studies for decades now have found that zinc deficiency has been linked to anger and aggression that lead to violent behavior. With a quick Google search for "zinc deficiency and aggression", I've found articles as old as 1975 and as recently as last year reporting this.
While I don't have issues with aggression or violence in my adult life, I've found that zinc definitely helps me be a calmer person that is easier to interact with. I believe that everyone, not just autistics, can benefit from having enough minerals in their diet, especially zinc. And zinc has many more benefits than just helping aggression and mood, including helping the immune system And I highly recommend zinc in autism, which is why I've named it as one half of the Autism Dynamic Duo.
Note: If you're considering a zinc supplement for your child, please consult your doctor, especially about proper dosage.
Zeliadt, N. (2014, November 19). Diverse dopamine defects found in people with autism. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/diverse-dopamine-defects-found-in-people-with-autism/