The Care and Feeding of your Aspie Uncategorized

Care and Feeding of your Aspie: Part 39 – Anxiety and Acting Out

The following is a description of anxiety according to the May Clinic:

“Anxiety happens as a normal part of life. It can even be useful when it alerts you to danger. But for some people, anxiety persistently interferes with daily activities such as work, school or sleep. This type of anxiety can disrupt relationships and enjoyment of life, and over time it can lead to health concerns and other problems.”

Anxiety is a part of the normal response to fear and danger. It is something that we inherited from our ancestors (whether they be cro-magnon man, cave men, or monkeys) and is a natural function of mind and body in the Neurotypical brain and body. This is, of course, when it is functioning properly.

I have written about it before in my piece of co-morbid conditions and Asperger’s Syndrome (found HERE), but I think that the subject could use a few more words thrown at it. You see, everyone experiences anxiey from time to time… but your Autist will, most likely, experience it more often than the NTs around you. It is a part of every day life for Aspies and often, our pet NTs will dismiss it as us just being nervous or upset about something in our life.

I would like to take a moment to put it into perspective for you. You, as an NT have had an anxious moment or two in your life. Think about that time you were out after dark and you heard that sound that you couldn’t identify… That moment before you are truly frightened – that is anxiety. When your hair stands on end, your heart thunders, you start breathing rapidly and shallowly, and start sweating… That is the moment of anxiety before your fight or flight instinct kicks in.

That is anxiety… It’s unpleasant, and many Autists live with it every day.

What is odd about this is that there are many stories about Aspies and Autists being fearless in dangerous situations. This next statement is merely supposition on my part – I believe that we have a malfunctioning fight or flight reflex. I don’t think it kicks in when it is supposed to. I also don’t think that it kicks in when it would be advantageous. The fight or flight reflex releases neurological pressure that builds up in the psyche. Without this pressure release, all that is left is the anxiety without anywhere to go.

As I stated in a previous issue of this series:

“Anxiety Disorders are a common problem for Autistic Spectrum individuals. Most anxiety disorders aren’t diagnosed in Autistic Spectrum individuals. The reason for this is that the symptomology of Anxiety Disorders over laps and can be explained by the Autism diagnosis itself. Anxiety Disorders may be indicated by some or all of the following symptoms.

  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts
  • Repeated thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences
  • Nightmares
  • Ritualistic behaviors, such as repeated hand washing
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • An inability to be still and calm
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Dizziness

Anxiety Disorders have been reported to occur in between 11% and 84% of Autism Spectrum individuals. The wide range in this case is due to differences in methodology of studies.”

 It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because your Autist suffers from anxiety but doesn’t have the vocabulary to adequately explain what is going on in their head. And without the pressure relief valve of Fight or Flight, that anxiety builds.

Inappropriate Laughter… am I right?

It has to go somewhere… Sometimes it can be expressed as laughter (inappropriate laughter in the case of Autists) as discussed HERE. Other times, it just comes out as frustration, spastic motion, hand flapping, outbursts or meltdowns.

I have been told by several of the female NT friends that sometimes they need to work out, take a walk, or just dance. My male friends will spar with me (martial arts is something I have been practicing my entire adult life), lift weights or play video games… All of these thing provide a pressure release for the NTs in question.

With the mis-wiring of the Autist brain, it becomes very difficult to let this anxious energy dissipate. Due to the neural tracts being so diversified through the Aspie brain, as revealed with High Definition Fiber Tracking and discussed HERE – at times, anxiety can and does seem completely sourceless to the Autist. As with NTs the energy has to dissipate some way.

When you look at the unfocused nature of the neural tracts it is easy to see why the releases of neural energy that are necessary to rid the mind of anxiety are not the same in your Autist as they are in NTs. Laughter, outbursts, yelling, flapping hands… these things are necessary for the mental health of your Autist. Let them happen.

Speaking as someone who tried to restrain these actions and behaviors for almost a decade… they ARE necessary… Since I had no other way to work out my anxiety…I had a complete mental breakdown that I almost didn’t recover from. It put me in a mental hospital for 8 weeks and did a great deal of damage.

So, please… let us vent in the only way we can. You get to… don’t keep us from doing it.

Images in this issue SHAMELESSLY stolen from the following sources:

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