Anxiety is something that can affect anyone. It can cause feelings of nervousness, fear and stress, as well as making those that suffer from it physically ill. Anxiety can come in small amounts, or it can be so extreme that those affected can not bring themselves to leave the house. It`s well known that people with autism suffer from anxiety far more often than non-autistic people. But why is this?
There is more to worry about – Autistic people generally don’t like their routine being changed, and enjoy having a plan for their day. Any change to this might provoke extreme anxiety. Things such as going out half an hour later than planned might not bother someone who is not autistic, and the same can be said for thinking about the changes that take place when going from weekday to week end, or even going away on holiday. But for people with autism all of these can lead to feelings of anxiety – in fact anxiety becomes almost a daily thing. It`s very rare that a day would go totally to plan, and this can lead to spikes in anxiety levels.
Struggling to understand feelings – because autistic people can find it hard to understand their own feelings anxiety can often become a go-to response. How ever much someone with autism is looking forward to something there will often be feelings of anxiety there too. When someone finds it hard to know if they feel happy or sad, it`s understandable that a sudden burst of feelings can make them feel anxious and worried.
Knowing they stand out – this is said to apply mainly to teenagers with autism, but it could affect any autistic person; if someone knows that they stand out and are different than those around them then the anxiety of interacting will be worsened. For example most young people find the idea of going to a new university scary, but if someone with autism knows just how hard it might be for them to make friends, and fit in, then this can be even worse. Autistic people can become caught up in the fact that they are not like their peers, and from this comes the anxiety.
So it`s likely that people with autism will also have issues with anxiety at some point in their lives. Anxiety is common anyway, but in people with autism it is even more so. It has been said that autistic teenagers are one of the most likely sets of people to develop issues with anxiety. It is so common that almost everyone with autism will report feeling high levels of anxiety at least once every few days, even if they lead a happy life.
The next article in this series will look at some of the effects anxiety can have on those who suffer from it, before the third article addresses what can be done about anxiety.