Anxiety May Heighten Social Communication Challenges in Autism
Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.” However, what the definition fails to mention is the impact that an actual anxiety attack can create.
All individuals face everyday life situations or circumstances that can cause anxiety, including getting a flat tire on the highway and arriving late to a job interview – to name a few. However, the ability to reason and to cope is what helps individuals to calm themselves and realize that such things are inevitable, but life will go on. For an individual with autism, some everyday life situations or circumstances can be completely frightening and cause great anxiety. These anxiety attacks can cripple them the individual to varying degrees. “Autism and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Autism affects a person’s ability to communicate with others or to understand the world around him, and that’s bound to cause anxiety” said Dr. Tony Attwood, a clinical psychologist specializing in Asperger’s syndrome.
Situations or circumstances that create anxiety in one individual may not necessary impact another. There are, however, common stressors among individuals with autism. These include:
- Unstructured time, such as transitions throughout the day
- Academic situations, such as reading, writing, understanding what to do and how to do it, answering aloud in class, and tests
- Sensory issues such as bright lights, crowded spaces, loud sounds/noise, natural disasters, and smell/taste/texture of food
- Social situations, such as unplanned and unannounced events, outdoor activities, and large gatherings
- A break in daily routine (a few examples of routines include chores, meal time, and bedtime)
Read on for more information about anxiety in autism.