Cassandra affective deprivation disorder

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Cassandra affective deprivation disorder, sometimes referred to as "Affective deprivation disorder" or "Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome"[1][2] and abbreviated as CADD, AfDD, or OTRS, is a fictional currently unproven[3] disorder that is supposed to be caused by the "horrible nightmare" of having an autistic spouse. It is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Because why admit that you might have a role in your own marital problems when you can just blame it on your spouse's disability?

Anti-autism groups such as Families of Adults Afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome,[4] a group that encourages judges to discriminate against autistic parents in custody cases, have eagerly embraced the idea of this disorder.[5]

While earlier writings solely blamed autistic people for the disorder's existence, people with alexithymiaWikipedia (a personality trait involving difficulty understanding emotions) are now beginning to be blamed too.


Marriage counselor Maxine Aston invented the term after talking with wives who complained of having emotionally distant husbands. She later wrote a paper on her disorder, which cited websites and "common knowledge" instead of peer-reviewed evidence.[6]

How it supposedly works[edit]

Cause and symptoms[edit]

According to Aston, autistic or alexithymic people are just so unloving and unempathetic that it makes their spouses go crazy. (Never mind that many autistic people are shown to have plenty of affective empathy.[7][8][9])

Symptoms of CADD are claimed to include depression, sleeplessness, and maybe cancer.[10] Most of them sound exactly like seasonal affective disorder.


The scientific community has largely ignored CADD due to lack of proof, and autistic advocates have spoken up about its unfairness.

If an autistic or alexithymic adult tries to defend themselves or disprove CADD, they can be told that they simply don't have enough empathy to understand how much their lack of empathy is making their spouse suffer.[note 1]

It would also be reasonable to point out that many (though not all) marital problems aren't just the fault of one spouse. For example, if someone feels that their partner is not affectionate enough, they can just ask their partner to be more affectionate or say that they would like to be closer. Passive-aggressively self-diagnosing a disorder isn't how mature adults typically behave.


Claiming CADD could be a way to alienate and blame an autistic spouse if a marriage is struggling. This could further ostracize an autistic adult who may already be stressed (and potentially very confused)[note 2] about the aforementioned relationship problems.

The myth of CADD could also hurt the self-esteem of autistic people, particularly those who are or want to be in serious relationships. One autistic woman wrote about CADD and described staying with an abusive husband because he used her autistic traits to blame and manipulate her.[11] Considering that autistic people are at increased risk of abuse as-is,[12][13][14] the last thing they need is for the abusers to be given more tools to use against them.


Autistic and alexithymic people are capable of having healthy relationships. Neurotypical people are capable of having unhealthy relationships. The structure of someone's brain doesn't pre-determine relationship success.

Relationships struggle because of identifiable issues like different expectations about what the relationship should entail, lack of one-on-one time with each other, difficulty communicating, outside stressors like financial issues or a relative's illness, differences in boundaries, and other potential problems. A heart-to-heart discussion or couple's counseling may be able to help produce solutions for issues that are straining a relationship.

Relationships can be difficult sometimes, and this can make one or both partners unhappy. In cases like these, the healthy options are usually to:

  • Do the work to identify the issue, talk to your partner about how you feel, and see if you can work together on solving it.
  • Realize that the two of you are too different and decide to break up.

Notice that "resent your oblivious partner and tell everyone that they are an inherently unloving and unlovable monster" is not on the list. It's definitely easier, but it's not exactly kind.

Of course, there is such a thing as a traumatic relationship, and it's more frequently known as abuse. Abuse involves behavior like name-calling, belittling, threats, isolating, micromanaging, terrorizing, and/or violence. An abuser is capable of behaving non-abusively, but they choose to mistreat their partner. Since abusers rarely want to change, the victim's safest bet is to reach out to others and see if they can leave the relationship.[note 3]

See also[edit]


  1. It's like CADD proponents heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect and immediately latched on to it as a vehicle for ableistic nonsense (while completely failing to realize that they themselves are far better examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect).
  2. Many autistic people do not pick up on hints or other forms of indirect communication. This means that you might have to be assertive enough to say "I feel sad because X."
  3. Though this can be difficult and complicated. Contact a hotline if you or someone you know is or could be in danger.