Predisposing factors put a person at risk of developing a disorder. For Daniel Tammet, being male is the first reason that might have contributed to his autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because boys are more likely to develop this condition than girls. Social factors such as poverty and lack of scientific knowledge and awareness about developmental disorders at the time could also increase the risks for Tammet as they prevent early interference and therapy. For instance, he was characterized by continuous crying as an infant, but the doctors attributed this symptom to a case of colic. Later, Tammet became surprisingly quiet and self-absorbed, which was mistaken for an improvement. His parents could not understand what their son was experiencing, and a behavior change did not alarm them.
Precipitating factors can cause the emergence of symptoms or worsen the case. Tammet began having seizures at the age of four, which led to sleep problems and the use of medication to treat temporal lobe epilepsy causing these symptoms. As a result, he was diagnosed with savant syndrome and synesthesia. Tammet has no intellectual or language disabilities, but he has experienced difficulties with socializing and connecting with other people since childhood. He describes other children as a background to his own experiences and reports. Poorly developed relations with peers worsened Tammet’s condition because they made him feel like an outsider.
Perpetuating factors maintain the problem and disabling symptoms in people. For Tammet, they include the inability to understand his emotions, obsession with routines, and anxious behaviors such as flapping his arms or banging his head against a wall. Besides, as a child, the boy could run home if he began feeling overwhelmed at school. Such reactions made social interactions even more difficult for Tammet. In adult life, he experienced difficulties with job interviews, unusual situations, and thinking about abstract, theoretical problems.
Protective factors are the strengths and assets of a person that can ease the symptoms and promote health. For instance, Tummet was obsessed with studies that did not require social skills, such as history. He also showed amazing abilities in math and languages, which made him famous in the media and brought him recognition. Support from his husband is another factor that helps Tammet socialize more effectively and improve his communication skills. Besides, Tammet started an online program teaching different languages, which allows him to feel secure and enjoy his daily routine. Attending church and rituals also show a positive effect on his ASD.
Shades of “Abnormality”
3/4. There is a significant disturbance, and Bob needs treatment because his symptoms made him stop working and lose some independence. As no physical causes are found, there is a need for psychotherapy to resolve his somatic symptoms resulting from conflict with his parents.
4/4. There is a severe disturbance, and Jim needs hospitalization because his symptoms made him lose normal functioning and life. His abnormal behavior is a sign of a progressing mental disorder, and interference is required.
2/4. There is a mild disturbance, and Mary should consider psychotherapy because her past relationship causes anxiety and stops her from forming new relationships. Her daily life and functioning are not affected, but the symptoms might develop and turn into depression.
3/4. There is a significant disturbance, and Larry needs therapy because social pressure and factors affecting LGBTQ+ people stop him from being confident and comfortable with himself and his colleagues in the hospital.