Anxiety and Autism
People with ASD always have some level of anxiety-period. It’s part of the condition of autism. Some people will say that it’s the cause of many of the behavior problems associated with autism. When you add confusion, over sensory stimulation, fear, negative thoughts and an inability to respond appropriately to a problem situation, that level of anxiety is going to hit the roof. This is often what happens to people with autism. Fear and anxiety and the inability to problem solve causes them to freak-out and do irrational things. Anxiety limits what people with autism will attempt to do in their lives, including job opportunities, new relationships, exploring their community and trying new things.
There’s a reason people with autism like routine and predictable situations, and why they hate change and anything they can’t control. Change and unpredictability can cause fear and anxiety. And most people with ASD are battling anxiety constantly-especially when they are outside of their comfort zone and interacting with others. As a result, many adults with autism are trapped in their own homes because they would rather stay in a safe place than attempt going out and dealing with their anxiety. Temple Grandin once said at a conference I attended that she takes medication for anxiety and won’t step out of her home without her taking her meds. That says a lot for what adults with autism are dealing with, and most of the adults with ASD that I know take some form of medication to relieve the anxiety in their lives.
Unfortunately, anxiety doesn’t just go away and stay away. People who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks need to learn how to control them effectively. Sometimes that requires medication, which we know many children and adults with ASD take on a regular basis. But medication isn’t always effective and furthermore, all medication has side effects. Although it helps, medication alone is usually not the answer when battling anxiety. People with autism need to recognize what causes their anxiety and learn to control it, or at least manage it to the best of their ability. That takes self-examination, acceptance and practice.
Later this week I’ll talk about ways to recognize anxiety and determine what causes anxiety for an individual. And then I’ll talk about ways to manage/control your anxiety. Anxiety won’t go away, and if not managed it can lead to depression. More on all that later.
Until then, stay positive!