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'?
Well, it seems to me that Evan isn't getting the level of help he deserves, which is pretty commonplace nowadays, what with the terrible underfunding of the mental health sector in the NHS. Going private would be extremely expensive, of course, and perhaps there would be travelling issues involved too. Having said all that, at least Evan is receiving some form of therapy, which I suppose is better than nothing and I think he needs to persevere in trying to 'get through' to his dodgy therapist because it might be a case of developing a deeper understanding and communication relationship with him (her?). Maybe it's best to look upon the whole thing as a learning experience for both parties involved and, hopefully, things will improve. I think this approach is more positive than focussing too much on the shortcomings of the situation.
The point here, I think, is that CBT is an ongoing process that aims to change one's habitual pattern of negative thoughts that has proved to be unhelpful in the past and, gradually, replace them with more constructive patterns of thinking. This takes time and effort but through determination can be achieved. We have to work with what we have and never give up trying.
What level of support does Evan deserve? Is the support he deserves different from the support he needs? Sorry, that’s a bit confusing to me.
What makes you say ‘going private’ is extremely expensive? Are you talking about private therapists who work with people specifically with autism to support them in their day to day life? I guess as well you would need to specify what ‘extremely expensive’ means as that will be different for everybody as well.
Some form of therapy, however much it may be lacking, may be better than none for some people and you sound very confident that that is the case for Evan. I can only assume you two have been discussing this elsewhere to have known that, which would explain how you know that his therapist is also dodgy. I’m not sure what you mean by that, it’s not clear from what you said but it makes sense if you two have been discussing this in more depth. But out of curiosity, what is a ‘dodgy therapist’? It doesn’t sound very safe to me but I’m not sure what it means so it may not be as scary as what it sounds to me.
I think most traditional therapies are an ongoing process which for me, didn’t result in much understanding or in any solutions, other than short term improvements. CBT sounds like an awful lot of effort though, becoming aware of our negative thought patterns and swapping them out for more constructive patterns of thinking. I’m curious to know how CBT helps a person to the swap the thoughts? Are you saying it teaches what thoughts to think and how to think them? Determination sounds like hard work as well, I can’t quite describe how that words feels to me but it’s kind of like a tight fist, so tight that the fist won’t let go. Does CBT teach you how to get the determination first and then it helps you swap the thoughts?
As well as the other very helpful responses in this thread, I wondered if you might want to show your therapist the page from the NAS 'Too Much Information' programme about sensory overload, since it might help distinguish between overload and a panic/anxiety attack if they are unfamiliar with ASD (since they are indeed very different!). The page is here - http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi/stories/sensory.aspx - and is made up of four people with ASD telling their stories of dealing with sensory overload and how it affects them.
Ross - mod
Fabulous Ross, thank you. That will be helpful for me as well. I don’t know why but I never seem to think for myself to go to the information on your site yet by following a link that you or another moderator gave the other day to someone regarding eating, I finally (after 50 years) understand my problems with eating and I’m now trying a new solution. I’ll check out the links. Thank you.
lostmyway said:Having said all that, at least Evan is receiving some form of therapy, which I suppose is better than nothing
That's my thinking, insomuch that this CBT doesn't seem to be what I really need, but it's gotta be better than nothing right?
The Therapist is a nice enough chap, and seems well-intentioned. I just find he (quite naturally) has no idea as to what living with autism is like, and he's got this existing neurotypical CBT model that he's desperately trying to fit me in to, as he has no other template to offer.
He told me to "keep it simple" when he asked me to identify the little marks on the top of the kidneys, and I went off about the adrenal medulla and adrenal cortex, and the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system etc. I now wonder whose benefit that was for. Likewise, I had to bit my tongue when he was talking about the 'fight or flight' response and said, "of course we can't fly, but we have to use that word as nothing else rhymes with fight." Bless him.
Ultimately, I just can't afford to pay for private therapy, period. So, I have little choice than to try and educate my existing Therapist, and hopefully try to communicate my perception of the world.
Ross-Mod: thanks for the link, as it may be useful. It's a shame, as my Therapist has given me 'homework' to do on panic attacks, despite my insistence that I don't suffer panic attacks. Rather, a major problem is actually sensory overload and shutdowns. Unfortunately, I suspect the poor ol' Therapist may just be to busy to do any homework I assign to him!
Which leads me back to topic - can anyone think of the clearest and most concise way to explain the difference between a 'panic attack' and 'sensory overload'? I don't think handing him a load of links or reading material is going to be a realistic option...