Why I Feel Anxious as An Autistic Person

I have lived with anxiety all my life. I didn’t understand why I was so anxious all the time until I received my autism diagnosis. Receiving the diagnosis helped me analyze my anxiety issues in a different light and understand why I couldn’t get over them by thinking “rationally” - because they were not as irrational as I had assumed earlier, but were rooted in very real challenges. I have identified that my anxiety is caused by challenges in the following areas -
  1. Executive functioning
  2. Sensory processing
  3. Social communication

1. Executive functioning challenges:

Difficulty with -
  • planning and organization
  • focus and concentration
  • analyzing and processing information
  • managing emotions and behavior
  • remembering details
  • managing time
  • multitasking
  • problem-solving

2. Sensory processing challenges:

Difficulty with -
  • sensory sensitivities
  • understanding and predicting environment
  • balance and movement
  • motor coordination
  • gross and fine motor skills

3. Social communication challenges:

Difficulty with -
  • understanding figurative language
  • understanding ambiguous language
  • understanding inferential language
  • understanding body language or facial expressions
  • understanding the contextual meaning of what is said
  • understanding social rules and cues
  • communicating in ways that are appropriate for the particular social context

Now that I know what my challenges are, I am able to make accommodations for myself so that I am not crippled by anxiety in situations that I find difficult.

Here are examples of accommodations that I make for myself to manage my challenges -

Executive functioning challenges: planning ahead, making lists, setting reminders, writing down instructions to myself, breaking down tasks into sub-tasks, focusing on one task at a time, giving myself more time to complete tasks.

Sensory processing challenges: taking care of my sensory sensitivities by wearing comfortable clothes and footwear, using earplugs and sunglasses, not wearing makeup or accessories, not using perfume, carrying tissues to clean hands.

Social communication challenges: asking for clarifications, asking people to repeat what they’ve said, asking people for time to think about what they’ve said, asking people to communicate directly and clearly, telling people that I haven’t understood what they’ve said, telling people to let me finish what I’m saying without interruptions.


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