Autism Challenges and Anxiety

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex lifelong neurological condition that affects the way a person interacts, processes information, and communicates. People with autism may have high or average intellectual abilities, or they may have some intellectual disability. There are no definite lab tests to confirm autism, and hence it’s called a spectrum disorder.

Anxiety is considered a normal part of human development. However, research has confirmed that people having autism, usually experience a heightened level of anxiety when compared to their neuro-typical peers. More than 84% of people having autism meet the standard criteria for clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders. Anxiety is often one of the biggest autism challenges faced by people on the spectrum.

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In fact, because of the characteristic difficulties in communication, a person with autism may suffer from severe anxiety problems but may have decreased ability in expressing it. According to eminent clinical child psychologist Patricia Howlin, the inability of people with autism spectrum disorder to communicate the feelings of anxiety, stress, or disturbance could mean that it’s often quite difficult to diagnose the level of the problem.

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According to experts, anxiety may manifest in a person with autism in the following ways.

  • Excessive worry and/or rumination
  • Social phobia
  • Obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Feeling of “shell shocked” or hyper-vigilance
  • Phobias
  • Resistance to change and adherence to routines
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Self-injurious and/or stimming behavior
  • Oppositional defiance and controlling behaviors
  • Emotional meltdowns

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