The Dangers of Assuming All Autistic People Have Anxiety & How Anxiety Messes With My Life

Transcription:

Hey Humans , Lyric here. You may know me as the Neurodivergent Rebel and this week we’re going to talk about, one of the worst things, for me, about anxiety, is that it is a major killer of creativity, and for creative people, sometimes that means our ability to work.

If you would like to know more about this particular topic, please do stay tuned.

In my case, anxiety was this dark nemesis, this nameless monster in my life for many, many, years. It was whispering in my ear, telling me lies about myself, always managing to remind me of every possible thing that could go wrong, in any given situation.

Sometimes anxiety would send these alarms through my body, in waves of irrational panic, without warning or reason.

This was my very well hidden secret for almost 30 years as this monster lay waiting, hoping to be let out to play.

By the time I was diagnosed Autistic at the age of 29, I have been living with undiagnosed untreated anxiety for most ofAmy life.

 If we look, specifically, at Autistic people, It is estimated by the American Psychiatric Association that one in five, 19% of adults in the United States have some form of mental illness, and these numbers are, naturally, higher among Autistic and NeuroDivergent populations, which is  expected, because also according to the APA, minority groups are at higher risk for developing mental health conditions.

 If you are a member of multiple minority groups, and you are multiplying marginalized, You can multiply this risk for mental health issues, because of the additional pressures that are placed upon you by society.

In a study of 108 Autistic children, enrolled in trials for anxiety, most of them, 91% met the criteria for two or more anxiety disorders, and 41.7% having social phobia, and 25.9% in that group having generalized anxiety disorder.

 Although not all Autistic People are going to have a diagnosable anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common co occurring conditions with Autistic People.

 When an Autistic Person has another health condition, it is known as a dual diagnosis because these labels are separate to someone’s Autistic diagnosis or Autism diagnosis, but should also be included when thinking about how you can best accommodate and support that person.

 To the untrained, and actually even, unfortunately, sometimes the trained medical eye, anxiety can seem like a prominent feature in Autistic People, even though it isn’t necessarily going to be part of the diagnostic criteria for being Autistic.

Autism  is a neurodevelopmental difference. We are born Autistic,  and anxiety on the other hand is a mental health condition. 

Unfortunately many Autistic People are going to have, or develop and struggle with anxiety at one point in their life or another.

Hands up, as one of those people.

  The idea that Autistic People are anxious by nature, however, even though a lot of us do deal with anxiety, is very harmful.

 One, it’s sometimes can be used to deny Autistic People support for anxiety and other mental health conditions, if that person’s anxiety is just brushed off as “Autistic behavior”.

Air quotes around “Autistic behavior” I could do a whole video about why that’s an air quotes. Off topic.

  Instead of recognized as an independent issue, that the Autistic person is experiencing.

Also, we must be very careful,  not to continue to model Autism after Autistic People’s mental distress.

This can sometimes prevent Autistic People, who are in good mental health, or maybe not struggling, at a particular point in their life, from having access to diagnostic services, especially if we have medical and mental health providers who have never seen an Autistic Person without anxiety, or Autistic person who is in good mental health.

That could lead that person to, falsely, believe that some of the traits, associated with being an anxious Autistic Person, are inherent in being an Autistic human by nature.

Medical experts will sometimes claim that it is “not easy to recognize the presence of anxiety and Autistic People because overlapping, overlapping words, “overlapping symptomology, and altered presentation of symptoms”, that medical language – ewe!

 They claim that they “struggle to tell the difference between meltdowns caused by anxiety and those that are coming from other reasons to autism”.

Ooh.

So many problems with that, but I think often this is because mental health professionals are only working with, and are used to seeing, Autistic and NeuroDivergent People who are struggling or in distress, and they don’t have a very human angle of it.

For example, one that would include strengths and weaknesses, and does not rank NeuroDivergent People based, on how much they struggle through the systems that were set up by neuro-typical people.

Which is what many of us who teach NeuroDiversity are pleading for, though we still have a very long way to go.

 Now that I’ve put that little bit of a warning out there about profiling, Autistic People as all being anxious, let’s talk about anxiety in Autistic People for just a minute.

Autistic People, a lot of us, are more likely to have anxiety around a few things. Very specifically, one thing they’ll just do people have anxiety around that other people may not, is anxiety around sensory processing differences, because of the constant assault from a world that is designed with the NeuroDivergent sensory system taken into account.

Another anxiety, that is more common with Autistic People, is anxiety around, around communication and social interactions and getting communications wrong or being misunderstood.

Social anxiety, which is a diagnosis that I actually have, and just when I think it’s gone, it comes and rears its head and shows me it’s still exists.

Hmm. Hmm. In true fashion, just like other types of anxiety, you just think they’re, they’re gone, but they’re always there creeping around in the shadows.

Another anxiety that, I even I, and many autistic people experience would be anxiety around change and not knowing the future.

In general, I am someone who needs a lot of structure.  When I’m anxious, I experienced a lot more resistance to even minor changes in routine or surroundings because sometimes a plan is all I am holding onto.

Autistic people are also likely to have the following co-occurring conditions that can be tied to, or mistaken for, anxiety:

One GI stomach problems, IBS, tummy troubles check. I’ve got those.

Insomnia, and sleep quality problems, trouble falling, asleep, trouble, staying asleep, trouble, getting a good quality sleep check, check, check. I’ve got those.

Obsessive compulsive disorder, obsessive tendencies, and all of that lot. I’ll let you look over my page and decide on that one. How’s that?

We may also have specific anxiety related to the Autistic Experience of life in the neuro-typical world.

My anxiety has had ups and downs in my life, and luckily- knock on some wood -I am in a period of very low anxiety right now, except for related to a very few specific triggers, that I am avoiding.

 I do hope this lasts, but I’m not going to take this moment for granted, just in case.

I have been working very hard to keep things under control, but I know that life is not always that simple, especially with mental health.

 I did want to share with you just a few things that, for me, can be hints that my anxiety is getting bad, or flaring up. Some side effects and signs that I am having anxiety and what having anxiety does to me and how it interferes, hinders, and can get in the way of my daily, personal and professional life.

 Some of my own, personal red flags, that my anxiety might be taking me for a ride, would include:

 It can make me avoid things.

When I’m anxious, I may avoid certain tasks, certain places, or even certain people, and situations, because I am trying to avoid being anxious, because being anxious doesn’t feel good.

Another problem, with being anxious, that seems to be worse if my mental health is slippin, would be intrusive thoughts. 

I’m not willing at this time to share specifically what some of my reoccurring intrusive thoughts tend to be, only that they tend to be about myself and no one else. That’s as much as I’m willing and comfortable sharing at this point in time about that.

Another issue I struggle with, when my anxiety is taking over control is fleeing from situations, feeling the urge to run away from my life responsibilities, quit my job and vanish off the face of the earth.

 Feeling  this need to flee.  It’s that fight or flight. It’s the flight and I have this extreme urge to run away away from everything, despite that not really being how I feel, if I were in a better head space about things.

 When you get to that  mindset, where you want to run away, and you feel like everything is too much, another, harmful thing that anxiety can do, and my anxiety has done to me in the past is caused me to self sabotage good things in my life.

 This sucks to do, when you have something good and all of a sudden anxiety is telling you that you are not good enough and you do not deserve that thing in your life, that is so good.  So you ruin it, because you’ve believed the lies that your anxiety has sold to you about yourself and what you deserve.

One that a lot of people know about with anxiety, panic attacks.

Oh, the worst suckiest part of anxiety, maybe it would be panic attacks,  or as an Autistic Person, if I am anxious or my mental health is not doing as well, I am more likely to have more meltdowns or shut downs, which are in some ways similar to panic attacks, they suck just as bad as panic attacks and having more meltdowns or shutdowns is often, for me, a really big sign that I am not doing too well.

That’s why earlier I said, ” be careful not to profile what an Autistic Person in distress, having more meltdowns and shutdowns and say, this is a definition of an Autistic Person”.

This is me when I’m struggling. This isn’t me in my everyday life. When I’m doing well I have very few meltdowns and shutdowns. They become far and few between, but when my mental health is not doing well, if I am more anxious, there are a lot more of them that, and potentially outbursts if I feel trapped.

 Another thing that anxiety does to me is makes me second, guess myself a lot.  If you are in a patrol long period of being anxious, over time, it can have an impact on your sense of self-worth and self-belief, from all of the constant doubting and second guessing.

Most people live with anxiety, know that anxiety can cloud your mind, and impair your ability to make sound judgments, especially if you are in the middle of a panic attack.

For example, I make conscious effort not to make decisions, if I realize I am spiraling, or am anxious.

 If you don’t have a lot of experience with anxiety, you may not realize that another, very obnoxious, aspect of anxiety is that it,  in my experience, totally kills my creativity.

My anxiety, when triggered can interrupt my ability to think clearly and creatively.

 Because I depend on my creative ability to be able to work, anxiety can literally prevent  me from being able to work.

Learning from experience, being rejected, failing, or scolded repeatedly by people in your life for being weird, or too much, or not enough, depending on the situation, can really take a toll on your self-esteem and can make you second guess yourself and your self-worth.

For those of us whose differences are invisible, being fully supported and empowered can literally be the difference between success and failure and having the willingness to try new things, even if we are uncertain of the outcome.

Getting out and trying things, even if I am not sure if they will be successful, has been one way that I have been working to fight my anxiety. Every now and then I do get in over my head and I might have to back out of something. I at least try, and I pushed myself to try new things, even if new is scary.

Another change that I’ve had to learn is to stop seeing failures, and instead looking at things that don’t go the way I had planned as growth opportunities.

 I know this sounds really cheesy but I am a recovering perfectionist and workaholic. I solve this by telling myself that I need to look at situations, and think about what I have learned from them.

“What would Bob Roth say? Happy accidents.”

Nothing is a failure if you can learn and grow from it. 

This is harder than it sounds, especially if you’re a perfectionist, but it has been something that has been very worthwhile with dealing with all of the anxiety in my life.

I don’t know how that video got so long. If you are still here after 20 minutes of me rambling about anxiety, thank you for hanging out with me for 20 minutes of your day. I know your time is so valuable, so I am extremely grateful that you chose to spend your time with me today.

If you managed to stick around for the full 20 minutes, don’t forget to subscribe, if you haven’t done so already, and turn on notifications, so you don’t miss a video.

I put out new videos at least once a week, every Wednesday.

Every now and then there’s a little bit of a bonus video, so if you’ve got those notifications turned on, you won’t miss when that happens.

A very special thank you to the subscribers on Patreon, YouTube, and Facebook.

Now who do that little bit of a monetary subscription,  you get a bonus and get videos like this one early.

I shot this on June 16th and  it’s going to come out sometime in, probably mid July, late July.  I haven’t looked at the calendar yet to see when this will go out.

I shoot these videos in advance and Patreon subscribers and YouTube channel members, you do get these videos extra. Also in the Facebook group as well for the Facebook, , monetary subscribers, just as that little thank you for the help you give.

I am so grateful for helping me to continue to put out high quality videos and high quality content on a regular basis. I could not do it without you.

Thanks, all of you humans for being here, whether you are giving video ideas, asking your questions, sharing, commenting. I’m grateful for each and every one of you. I couldn’t do any of this without you. So I will talk to you, all  next week. Goodbye.

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With gratitude, – Lyric

One thought on “The Dangers of Assuming All Autistic People Have Anxiety & How Anxiety Messes With My Life

  1. Thank you for posting such an informative and (to me, at least) topical essay.

    My own experience has revealed that notable adverse childhood experience trauma resulting from a highly sensitive and low self-confidence introverted existence, amplified by an accompanying autism spectrum disorder, can readily lead an adolescent to a substance-abuse/self-medicating disorder.
    It’s what I consider to be a perfect-storm condition with which I greatly struggled yet of which I was not aware until I was a half-century old. Nonetheless, I believe that if one has diagnosed and treated such a formidable condition when one is very young he/she will be much better able to deal with it through life.

    I understand that my brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammatory stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. It is quite like a discomforting anticipation of ‘the other shoe dropping’ and simultaneously being scared of how badly I will deal with the upsetting event, which usually never transpires. Though I’ve not been personally affected by the addiction/overdose crisis (in B.C.), I have suffered enough unrelenting ACE-related hyper-anxiety to have known and enjoyed the euphoric release upon consuming alcohol and/or THC. The self-medicating method I utilized during most of my pre-teen years, however, was eating.

    Since so much of our lifelong health comes from our childhood experiences, childhood mental health-care should generate as much societal concern and government funding as does physical health, even though psychological illness/dysfunction typically is not immediately visually observable. The pain — which unlike an open physical disability or condition, such as paralysis, a missing limb or eye — is very formidable yet invisibly confined to inside one’s head, solitarily suffered. But should not a psychologically and emotionally sound, as well as a physically healthy, future be every child’s foremost right, especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter?

    Not surprisingly, I’d like to see child-development science curriculum implemented for secondary high school students, and it would include neurodiversity, albeit not overly complicated. It would be mandatory course material, however, and considerably more detailed than what’s already covered by home economics, etcetera, curriculum: e.g. diaper changing, baby feeding and so forth. I don’t believe that the latter is sufficient when it comes to the proper development of a young child, mind as well as body. To quote Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint (Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School):
    “This is the most important job we have to do as humans and as citizens … If we offer classes in auto mechanics and civics, why not parenting? A lot of what happens to children that’s bad derives from ignorance … Parents go by folklore, or by what they’ve heard, or by their instincts, all of which can be very wrong.”

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