Anxiety & phobias

Many on the neurodiversity s suffer from panic attacks, anxiety and phobias of various kinds. Probably due to having a  nervous system that is so receptive and finely tuned that it reacts as if it’s a matter of life and death to things which are not at all, or only mildly, stressful or frightening to the average person.

“Before I took Tofranil, my ‘engine’ was racing all the time, doing so many revolutions per minute that it was tearing itself up. Now my nervous system is running at 55 mph instead of 200 mph, as it used to. I still have nerve cycles, but they seem to go between 55 and 90 mph instead of 10 and 200 mph.”

“My body was no longer in a state of hyperarousal. Before taking the drug, I had been in a constant state of psychological alertness, as if ready to flee from nonexistent predators. Many nonautistic people who are also depressed and anxious also have a nervous system that is biologically prepared for flight. Small stresses that are insignificant to most people trigger anxiety attacks.”

Temple Grandin, HFA author from USA

Thinking in pictures may perhaps in itself be a feature that might add to anxiety and phobias by the vivid visualisation ability being so quick to conjure up unwanted images in one’s mind.

“Can it be that autistics have better visualisation ability, and if removing the necessity of it being reality-based, even better imagination?

  • Fear of thunder: sound sensitivity + hyperactive imagination = a vision of what may happen, even if highly unlikely.
  • Fear of crowds: light-, sound- & smell sensitivity + [physical discomfort being close to strangers] + lack of overview & manouvre space = stress + imagining what may happen = panic.
  • Fear of darkness: imagination may run wild and cause terror even if only about one’s own bedroom.
  • Claustophobia: physical discomfort + imagining one will never get out = panic.

These phobias are not as common in non-autistics, probably because they are less prone to worry about things that haven’t happened and are unlikely to ever happen.”

Micke, Aspie from Sweden

“I have had [phobias] but some have subsided on their own, others I’ve actively cured with different methods, on my own.

“My fear of heights is still there but I refuse to view it as a phobia. Sound feeling.

The reversed vertigo however, I cannot master. Totally irrational. I get really scared sometimes when I look up. If I stand on a balcony high up and look upwards, then it hits. Or if I’m close to a church tower or something like that and look up.”

– ‘vadloink’, male Aspie from Sweden

“I have anxiety every day but nowadays it comes more in waves (which often end when I stim, but my stims can also trigger anxiety) before I hade virtually constant anxiety… (…) before I had severe anxiety attacks (probably hade PTSD but the psychologist never diagnosed me, just treated me with EMDR). I hardly remember them because I usually blacked-out but people have described it as lying down and shaking, hyperventilating, scratching my neck bloody, hitting people trying to get close/withdrawing, swearing etc.”

– ‘rapchic’, female Aspie from Sweden

“Generally neurotic. Get panic attacks 2-3 times per year, but only in connection with strong anxiety. Often feel worried that the heart will stop etc.”

– ‘honeysquid’, female Aspie from Sweden

“Medium much [anxiety], which comes regularly. Get anxiety feelings daily, sometimes just mild, sometimes stronger and much more problematic. Only some days I get paralysingly severe anxiety. That last is a relief compared to how it was before (some periods constant). The last few years I’ve realised I will have anxiety. I’ve accepted that even if I don’t like it. One needs to be strong and find strategies to handle it. Both when it happens and before it happens (some proactive things). I’ve also learned to cope without using destructive behaviours to get rid of it. Works most of the time (even if it sucks having to tough it out) and I’m sooo glad about that.

– ‘TheBoxSaysNo’, female Aspie from Sweden

Treatments

To cure phobias, very good results have been reported by these treatments – if/when the person him/herself feels ready for it:

– CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) focuses on changing dysfunctional thinking about situations which cause anxiety, depression and distress.

– SDT (Systematic Desensitization Therapy) means desensitising one’s nervous system’s overreaction to specific stimuli in a series of safe steps and using relaxation techniques to learn to relax at each step.

I used to have severe arachnophobia and couldn’t even see one on film without having a strong reaction, but after I saw a TV program about desensitisation, I started catching spiders and with two small plastic cups to throw them out instead of killing them when one got into my home. In this process my nervous system eventually got used to being close to them without going into red alert mode and now they don’t bother me much at all.

Ing, site-author

However, forcing a sensitive person, or encouraging them to force themselves, into facing prematurely something frightening or stressful may traumatise them for life. Some people just are more sensitive, introvert etc. and will never be comfortable in all situations that most people can handle. Avoidance may for them be a necessary means of self-preservation.

“I regret going to Stockholm alone and using the subway. I got severely traumtised and still have nightmares even though it was 10 years ago. Some things one will do best not trying. I was so very forward when I was younger, challenging my fears and got trauma after trauma in my struggle to become an independent person. Good self-confidence can be a curse when combined with a weak psyche and, what should one call it…different perceptions.”

sugrövmanövern, female Aspie with sensory processing differences

– EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is reported to cure even severe phobias and anxiety in minutes by tapping certain points in the body in a specific way, and combining it with a little NLP for lasting results. Would probably be extra suitable for non-verbal autistics, but anyone with an emotional or other imbalance may be helped by it. It is very easy to learn and a free manual can be downloaded from the EFT website. Just be aware that the mild tapping on specific points of the face and upper body can feel intrusive, stressful or even painful to a person with tactile hypersensitivity, so for that reason it may not be suitable for everyone. But it is easy to do on oneself.

– EMDR

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is another gentle and very effective technique for dealing primarily with post-traumatic stress disorder but also with anxiety, phobias etc.

Phobia-mimicking physical reactions

Sometimes a child, non-verbal autistic and even an animal, will be misinterpreted as having anxiety or fear (= an emotional response) when they are actually in physical pain, discomfort or disgust, due to innate sensitivity, sensory processing differences, allergies or hypersensitivities etc. If a dog, child or autistic shows sings of stress, panic or has a meltdown, for example by a car ride or being around a vacuum cleaner, motorcycle, helicopter, boat engine etc., it is very likely the noise or vibration that is hurting its sensitive body and ears. If seeming scared and confused in traffic or by stairs, it may have scotopic sensitiviy and lack depth perception, see the flight of stairs flowing as a waterfall or be afraid to fall due to balance problems. If it refuses to enter certain vehicles, rooms, houses or other places, it may be the lighting, smell, colour, design, atmosphere or other feature that feels overwhelming/repulsive/uncomfortable/painful. Such reluctance/refusal/or apprehension is a perfectly healthy self-preservation against pain & discomfort and should be respected and treated for what it is (a sensory problem) and not as a phobia or trying to be difficult.

Reminds me of a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers cartoon where Fat Freddy’s cat is being taken along for a car ride and going bonkers in the back seat.

“Look, Freddy! The cat is scared, hehe”, says one of the brothers gleefully.

“Not scared, you idiot, I’m sick!”, thinks Fat Freddy’s cat, and promptly barfs in his lap…

“I think Aspies with phobias often seem to have more perception problems. If you have a sensory processing disorder, it is not given that what you’re suffering from is possible to treat. There is this view that all phobias can be desensitised through training. It can go very wrong and induce even more terror.

“I’m sure I could become less afraid of insects if I was forced to live near them, e.g. with a cockroach breeder. But the perceptual factor would still be there.

“I’m very afraid of deep waters, of being under concrete bridges with lots of noise, driving over bridges etc. But I have no problems going on mad merry-go-rounds that go up and down a hundred meters. Because I’m all tied up and secure, no risk of falling off from that high altitude. No demands on balance, I’m fixated to the seat and cannot fall. But I can’t climb a ladder without swaying, because my balance fails me, even climbing stairs is difficult for me. But that’s not phobias, it is something truly wrong with my brain, which cannot calculate where I am and where the stairs are.”

– ‘sugrövmanövern’, female Aspie from Sweden

LINKS

Anxiety Wikipedia

Phobia Wikipedia

Panic attack Wikipedia

BOOKS

The Tapping Cure: A Revolutionary System for Rapid Relief from Phobias, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and More

Beyond Anxiety and Phobia: A Step-by-Step Guide to Lifetime Recovery

The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It

Natural Relief for Anxiety: Complementary Strategies for Easing Fear, Panic & Worry

4 Comments »

  1. Dianne Johnston said,

    At last I have found a site that explains to me the difficulties my adult children are having in their lives. Why the anger, why the brain never turns off, fears, anxieties etc. etc. Relationship failures- all because of no understanding. Now maybe we can seek treatment and relief. Thankyou.

  2. Nichol Zicker said,

    People all over the world in developed, Western nations suffer from panic attacks and naturally want to know the causes. Panic attacks are a tricky thing to have to endure, and sometimes establish, for a number of reasons. It is a hugely complex medical issue involving the person’s psychological state as well as physical condition. There is a good deal of resemblance and cross-influence happening within the mind and body. Those states only tend to make everything more troublesome to endure, form a variety of viewpoints.”

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  4. […] to regain controllable directions. If left unresolved such anxiety obviously cannot eliminate external occurrences they can help shape your responses can be noticeable and helpful coping mechanisms that positively impact your work […]


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