Anxiety can have a huge impact on the lives of those who suffer from it. It often goes hand in hand with other mental health conditions, and can also have a physical impact on anyone who has to live with it; affecting their physical and mental health as well as their social life, and the ability to enjoy the world around them. Below are some of the most frequent effects of anxiety on autistic people.
Physical: When anxiety is extreme it can result in physical pain, and discomfort for those who experience it. Stomach ache is common, and can often occur before something that is anxiety provoking. Headaches can also occur at this time, but both can be felt throughout the day, even at times when there is nothing obvious to be anxious about. Once the feeling of anxiety has settled it stops being related to real things, and just becomes a near constant state. But anxiety can lead to stress, and stress can have much worse physical effects. An overload of stress can lead to physical weakness, pain in the chest and arms, and in extreme cases collapses, and even temporary blindness. This says nothing of the fact that a build up of stress and anxiety can make people more vulnerable to strokes, and heart attacks. This is not to say this will happen if someone is just a bit worried about having to go out for example, but like autism, anxiety is a spectrum, and different people have different levels.
Mental health: Anxiety can have a long term impact on peoples mental health. It can lead to panic attacks which, as anyone who has had one will know, are extremely unpleasant to go through. This can become a cycle as people are so anxious to avoid the attacks they end up bringing them on. It can also impact on the autistic person`s feelings of self worth, and in the long run can lead to the onset of depression. It`s normal to feel anxiety at times, but when someone is prone to anxiety they can feel it at all times; a feeling of fear and worry all day long that worsens when ever they have to do something, or go somewhere, even something as small as leaving the house. Having feelings like this for a period of time can have a extreme and long lasting impact on the person`s mental health. Anxiety is bad on its own, but one of the worse things about it is how it can open the door for other mental health issues.
Anxiety, and the effect it can have on those who suffer with it can be extreme, and sadly people with autism are prone to feelings of high anxiety. But there are things that can be done to, if not completely remove it, at least to cut down on its impact. The next article in this series will take a look at what these things might be, and try to provide some help to those who might be struggling with anxiety