Anxiety is very difficult for many grown-ups with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism to over-come. It can affect an individual psychologically and physically. Anxiety can happen for a range of reasons, and adults with Aspergers can vary in their ability to cope with it.
Emotions are abstract. To understand emotion you need an imagination. One of the areas of difficulty for adults with Aspergers is not being able to imagine things, so understanding emotions can be difficult for them.
Anxiety can affect both the mind and the body, and produce a range of symptoms. The psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety are closely linked and so can lead to a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. The psychological symptoms of anxiety are:
- becoming preoccupied with or obsessive about one subject
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
- easily losing patience
- thinking constantly about the worst outcome
Its physical symptoms include:
- excessive thirst
- frequent urinating
- loose bowel movements
- muscle aches
- periods of having gas
- periods of intensely pounding heart
- pins and needles
- stomach upsets
If you do experience any of these symptoms, it is important to also get medical advice to rule out other medical conditions.
Once you understand anxiety and identify the things and situations that make you anxious, you can then take steps to cope with it. Strategies for managing anxiety include the following:
1. Any activities that are pleasant and calming such as taking a bath, listening to relaxing music, aromatherapy, playing on a computer may also help reduce anxiety. Some Aspies may find lights particularly soothing, especially those of a repetitive nature, such as spinning lights or bubble tubes.
2. Keep a diary. Try to understand the anxiety symptoms you display when you are anxious – and to look at the causes of your anxiety. Keeping a diary in which you write about certain situations and how these make you feel may help you to understand your anxiety and manage it better. Use the diary also to think about the physical changes linked to anxiety. Aspies often retreat into their particular interest if they are anxious about something. Use the diary to monitor this as well.
3. Create an “anxiety plan.” An anxiety plan is a list of things and situations that cause anxiety as well as solutions and strategies you can use to help manage your anxiety levels. The plan can be adapted, depending upon how well you understand anxiety.
4. Physical activity can often help to manage anxiety and release tension. Using deep breathing exercises to relax can be helpful, as can activities such as yoga and Pilates, which both focus on breathing to relax. Use a visual timetable or write a list to remind yourself when you need to practice relaxation.
5. Aspies can find it very difficult to relax. Some adults with Aspergers have a particular interest or activity they like to do because it helps them relax. If they use these to relax, it may help to build them into their daily routine. However, this interest or activity can itself be the source of behavioral difficulties at times, especially if they're unable to follow their interest or do the activity at a particular moment. Some Aspies may need to be left alone for short periods of the day to help them unwind.
6. Some adults with Aspergers find direct confrontation difficult. They may therefore be unable to say they don’t like certain things or situations, which will raise their anxiety levels. If they identify they are anxious, they could use a card system to let family or friends around them know how they are feeling. They could also carry a card around with them to remind themselves of what they need to do if they start getting anxious. Devise a stress scale that you can use whenever you find something particularly stressful.
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