Cassandra syndrome – what it is and how it manifests itself

Cassandra syndrome – what it is and how it manifests itself

Cassandra syndrome (also called Cassandra complex) is a relatively “young” concept. Check what exactly this term means and who it most often affects.

The name of Cassandra syndrome refers to the mythical story of Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, to whom Apollo gave the grace of clairvoyance in the hope that she would reciprocate his advances. However, this did not happen. The rejected son of Zeus decided to take revenge and cursed his beloved. He made people stop believing in her predictions.

Cassandra syndrome – what is it?

So what is Cassandra syndrome? This is the phenomenon of compensating for deficits (“compensating for deficiencies”) in the functioning of a loved one, as well as mentalizing (imagining) their emotional states. These types of roles are taken on by spouses or partners (mainly women) of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, they encounter many difficulties along the way. They are not understood by their surroundings (just like the mythical Cassandra). As a result, their bonds with friends and family members become significantly looser and sometimes even severed. There is a feeling of isolation, loneliness and, at the same time, unfulfillment. The “other halves” of people with ASD cannot meet their needs in a relationship with their partner. They become “hostages” of the relationship. Staying in this situation gives rise to many negative emotions. Anger, powerlessness, frustration, etc. appear. The accumulation of tension contributes to the occurrence of various types of mental disorders.

How does Cassandra syndrome manifest itself?

The Cassandra complex can manifest itself in various ways. Its most common symptoms include low self-esteem, anxiety, difficulty falling asleep, mood swings, decreased libido, reduced immunity and chronic fatigue. Partners of people on the autism spectrum often take on double responsibility – for themselves and their “other half”. Psychologists and psychiatrists indicate that they often develop symptoms characteristic of posttraumatic relationship stress syndrome (PTRS). This “version” of PTRS even has a name – ongoing traumatic relationship stress syndrome (OTRS). It is accompanied by many cognitive distortions, as well as a mechanism for rationalizing the behavior of a loved one with ASD.

Consequences of Cassandra syndrome

Cassandra syndrome increases the risk of various health problems, including depression, eating disorders and anxiety disorders. They are secondary in nature and arise in response to the difficult family situation of the partners of people on the autism spectrum. Where can relatives of patients with ASD seek help? First of all, see a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Making the right diagnosis plays a very important role in the therapeutic process. Identifying the problems of a given individual makes it much easier to define and achieve therapeutic goals.

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