What is anxiety?
Anxiety and feeling anxious is something everyone experiences and this experience is physical and psychological. Here are some of the physical and psychological difficulties that might happen when feeling anxious;
physical symptoms of anxiety:
◊ Increased heart rate
◊ Increased muscle tension
◊ Tingling in the hands and feet
◊ Hyperventilation (overbreathing)
◊ Difficulty in breathing
◊ Wanting to use the toilet more often
◊ Feeling sick
◊ Tight band across the chest area
◊ Tension headaches
◊ Hot flushes
◊ Increased perspiration
◊ Dry mouth
◊ Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
◊ Thinking that you might die
◊ Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
◊ Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
◊ Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
◊ Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
◊ Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you
◊ Thinking of multiple scenarios that could happen next
For Autistics the world can be a confusing and an unpredictable place with difficult environments, that are overwhelming for some Autistics. I think that this can cause some Autistics to feel anxious constantly.
How feeling anxious is missed or not understood;
If we think about the psychological and physical difficulties in the lists that are experienced, then think of how this might be expressed. Let’s look at some of the difficulties and consider how that could be expressed, then how this could be misunderstood. By the people that are supporting or around Autistics, it might not be identified that they are feeling anxious, or experiencing anxiety.
◊“Jelly legs”- If we think how this physical difficulty might be expressed, the person might not want to get up from sitting, they might refuse to walk or participate in activities. This could look like the person is being difficult and refusing to corporate. Unrecognised, misunderstood anxiety.
◊ Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation- If we think about how this physical difficulty might be expressed. The person might keep getting up and down if they are sitting, they might like to stand near the exit of the room. They might hide under a table, or even run out of the room. This person might look like they doing this on purpose, and not doing as asked. Unrecognised, misunderstood anxiety.
◊ Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you- If we think about how a person might look while expressing these thoughts. They could be looking all around their environment not fully engaged, any change in the environment might make them withdraw from what they were doing. To some people this could be interpreted as though the person is not listening, concentrating, and distracted. Imagine feeling this way then being told to do work or to stop looking around, stop worrying and get on with things. The looking around and withdrawing from the environment is a way of protecting yourself, and regulating the anxious feelings. unrecognised, misunderstood anxiety.
◊ Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down- If we think about how a person might look while expressing these thoughts. Could we really see this? I think this could be even harder to recognise. All this anxiety is inside floating around, the person could look fine, and you might not see the difficulties. However, further interaction and communication with the person could then prompt the difficulties to show. The person might be short tempered, ask to be left alone or be very slow to respond. As their mind is full of anxious thoughts, and by communicating overload happens. These thoughts for me feels like there is a scratching in my mind, like an irritation that just won’t stop, I am focused on this and trying to process it and cope with it. If someone then talks to me i find it so hard to focus on what is being said. I will get frustrated and quite often snap at the person (not meaning to or wanting to) it’s a really horrible feeling and feels out of my control. Unrecognised, misunderstood anxiety.
Imagine having all these physical and psychological difficulties when your Autistic, and most Autistics do experience anxiety. Anxiety seems to be felt in a heightened way by Autistics, when compared to how neurotypical people seem to cope with it. (not all of course)
my thoughts on this are that Autistics process information differently, it affects our systems in a different way. So there is more to contend with, leading to more confusion or misunderstanding of situations. For instance if you think about sensory processing difficulties, this will cause anxiety to become worse, as loud noises could activate that feeling of fight or flight. Anxiety is so poorly misunderstood and recognised, everyone is expressing difficulties for a reason.
Please consider why Autistics are expressing what they are!
Girls Autistic Journey ♥