Anxiety in Asperger Syndrome
Anxiety is one of our normal human emotions that everyone will experiences some times. Many of us feel anxious, or nervous, when we have problems or stress at work, or before taking a test. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause so much distress that it interferes with a person's ability to lead a normal life.People with this disorder are worried and feelings of fear, uneasiness or panic are constant. These feelings can be overwhelming.
There are some common factors that could cause feelings of anxiety:
• Stress at work or in school
• Stress in a personal relationship such as marriage
• Financial stress
• Stress from an emotional trauma such as the death of a loved one
• Stress from a serious medical illness
• Side effects of medication
Research has shown that the rate of anxiety symptoms in children or adults with Asperger Syndrome is much higher then average. Over 75% of all children with Asperger also experience intense anxious feelings. For people without Asperger the disorder most often begins during their late teens and early adulthood but if it appears together with Asperger Syndrome it can be present even in young children.
This disorder can easily co-occur with Asperger Syndrome and make life even more difficult. To be diagnosed with two disorders at the same time will effect the quality of the child’s life specially when symptoms go unnoticed and untreated.
When your child or spouse is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome it might be wise to look for signs of anxiety disorder too!Learn more on how to help children or teens with anxiety and check out these books:
Some of the symptoms of anxiety in Asperger syndrome could be:
• Avoidance of new situations
• Preference for sameness
• Insisting on rules and routines
• Social withdrawal
• Somatic complaints
• Repetitive behavior
• Anger management problems
Off course the list of Asperger symptoms is longer and will overlap symptoms of anxiety. This is why this disorder in people with Asperger may go undiagnosed
Due to the characteristics of Asperger Syndrome such as being unable to cope with new situations or unexpected events makes it logical that feelings of panic appear. Individuals with Asperger will experience more stress in their lives. The unpredictable way other people behave, break rules or express their emotions makes those with Asperger feel unsafe. The typical mannerisms individuals with Asperger have such as flapping their hands, head swiveling, rocking their bodies, their preference to routines and rituals or their repetitive behaviors are all different ways to cope with anxious feelings. It helps those with Asperger to feel in control of the situation.
The typical repetitive behavior is to prevent feelings of uneasiness which occur when something new or unexpected happens. The need for routines, sameness and rules can also be related to avoiding feelings of anxiety. This repetitive behavior gives them a way to express their feelings of stress or anxiety.
When the situation becomes unbearable in the eyes of those with Asperger their typical behavior will increase. Some even say Asperger behavior equals stress or anxiety behavior. Their rigid thinking provides them with copings skills for these feelings. As long as their environment is predictable and filled with structured rules and regulations they can rely on, their anxious feelings will diminish.
What to do?
There are successful treatments for anxiety disorder such as:
• Psychotherapy: provides strategies for dealing with this disorder
• Cognitive behavioral therapy: helps recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors
• Medication: are used to reduce the symptoms
• Relaxation therapy: may provide techniques to calm down
However when your child has both Asperger Syndrome as well as anxiety disorder you can also:
• Look for information on Sensory Integration Therapy and find a qualified ORT that can help your child to calm down when feelings of anxiety appear. Go to sensory overload for more information.