How do you tell your Therapist...?

I'm giving Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) another go - albeit again I'm becoming disheartened by the process. These so-called professionals really aren't geared to deal with an autistic perspective at all.

The Practitioner specialises in 'anxiety issues', and readily admits he has no idea about autism - saying I'm the 'expert' (god help me). He seems intently focussed on the issue of 'panic attacks', even though I say to him I don't consider myself as ever had one. Yet he focuses on anxiety issues with the attention worthy of an autistic! Okay, I do suffer anxiety with the best of Autistics, but for me (cognitive/sensory) overload is far more of a problem. If anything, as a defense mechanism (or attempt to redistribute internal resources) I tend to go into a catatonic state when suffering from overload (unless persistently exposed, whereby I can reach 'meltdown' and lash out), rather than the hyper-aroused state I would assume is a panic attack.

Part of the problem is that I'm having trouble explaining to him the difference between 'panic attacks' and '(cognitive/sensory) overload'. Indeed, I'm seemingly just not getting across to him just how complex and deafening the autistic mind can be, and how exhaustion results from trying to process the sheer volume of thought, rather than a build up to a panic attack.

Does anyone have a clear-cut and concise way for me to explain the difference between a 'panic attack' and '(cognitive/sensory) overload'?

Parents
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  • I just wrote this as a first draft. Does it sound right to anyone?...

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                                                                 Difference between a Panic Attack and Overload

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    "... Both involve activation of the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system – the classic ‘flight or fight’ response – and associated physical manifestations.

     

    However, the cause of the activation of the body’s hyperactivity is notably different.

     

    With ‘panic attacks’ there is a perceived fear (either real or supposed), often with an intense impending sense of doom or dread. These can be accompanied by physical manifestations such as a tight chest or even a feeling of dying. With panic attacks there remains a certain degree of lucidity with regard to thought-strands.

     

    With ‘overload’ the body is not in a state of hyperarousal due to fear, but stress. This is due to either too much sensory input, too strong an emotion or external stressors (bearing in-mind how autistic individuals have a different perceptual and neurointerpretive relationship with the world). For me, this is almost experienced as feeling 'suffocated' by an 'tsunami of stimuli', even to the point of feeling 'burned' by sensory compression. Here, thought processes increasingly become less clear and rational - and even less prominent - whereby for those with autism, continued (sensory-cognitive) ‘overload’ can result in either ‘shutdown’ (akin to a catatonic state), or ‘meltdown’(whereby the usual rational thought processes may be bypassed, and the individual lashes out in a rage or anger) – until neurological homeostasis is regained..."

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Children
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