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Anxiety and Associated Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors in People on the Autism Spectrum

 


“Can anxiety and/or OCD be the cause for my (ASD) husband's shutdowns?" 

 

Obsessive-compulsive issues (e.g., rituals, rigidity, perseverations, creating rules, black-and-white thinking, etc.) originate in the ASD person’s difficulty understanding the social world. This creates anxiety, which is the underlying cause for obsessive-compulsive behaviors. You, the NT wife, will see anxiety in many different ways depending on how your husband manifests it. 

 

Some people on the autism spectrum will show anxiety in obvious ways (e.g., frustration, anger, isolation). Others show it by trying to control the situation and bossing people around. Some may throw an adult temper tantrum. No matter how your husband displays his anxiety, you need to recognize that it’s there and not assume it’s due to some other cause (e.g., insensitivity, narcissism, not caring about the relationship, etc.).

 

Anxiety can occur for the smallest reason. Don't judge anxiety-producing situations by your own reaction to an event. Your husband may be much more sensitive to situations than you will be, and you may often have the thought that “there is no logical reason for his anxiety.” On the other hand, something that you would be highly anxious about may cause no anxiety in your husband. 

 

Your husband's first reaction to marital conflict is to try to reduce - or eliminate - his anxiety. He MUST do something, and one of the most effective means is to take all changes, uncertainty, and variability out of the equation. This can be accomplished by obsessions. 

 

If everything is done a certain way, if there is a definite and unbreakable rule for every event, and if everyone does as he wishes – everything will be fine. Anxiety is then diminished or reduced, and no meltdowns or shutdowns occur. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to do this in the real world.  

 

Behavioral manifestations of anxiety in your spouse may include the following:

 

  • Wanting things to go his way, when he wants them to - no matter what anyone else may want.
  • Tending to conserve energy and put forth the least effort he can (except with highly-preferred activities).
  • Remaining in his “fantasy world” a good deal of the time - and appearing unaware of events around him.
  • Reacting poorly to new events, transitions, or changes.
  • Preferring to do the same things over and over.
  • Lecturing others or engaging in a monologue rather than having a reciprocal conversation.
  • Intensely disliking loud noises and crowds.
  • Insisting on having things and events occur in a certain way.
  • Having trouble socializing - or avoiding socializing altogether. 
  • Having a narrow range of interests, and becoming fixated on certain topics or routines.
  • Eating a narrow range of foods.
  • Displaying some odd behaviors because he is anxious or does not know what to do in a particular situation.
  • Demonstrating unusual fears, and showing resistance to directions from others.
  • Demanding unrealistic perfection in himself – and others.
  • Creating his own set of rules for doing something.
  • Becoming easily overwhelmed and having difficulty calming down.


  
 
 
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