Coping with anxiety every single day

I have recently been diagnosed with autism and I am in my 40s. I have suffered from anxiety all of my life and before I knew about the autism, I have had several courses of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This has helped me with my social anxiety which is now not as bad as it used to be.

However, every since I was a child I have suffered from anxiety. It is worse in the morning when I often wake up feeling sick with anxiety. As I go through the day it does get better. Sometimes I feel very low levels of anxiety and at other times I can be extremely anxious for weeks at a time. I am often worrying about something that is going to happen later that day or even in a few weeks' time - for example a meeting I have to do, people I have to talk to, somewhere unfamiliar that I am going or just general uncertainty about what is going to happen next in my life.

I would really appreciate hearing from anyone who feels the same as I feel that I am quite alone. I have a job and a partner but the anxiety makes me very tired a lot of time time and it is difficult to live with. Does anyone have any good tips on how to manage chronic anxiety? 

People around me don't understand why I get so anxious. They are supportive but I think they probably can't imagine how I actually feel and what a burden it is to feel anxious a lot of the time. It takes the enjoyment out of life. The times that I feel less anxious are when I am with people I know doing something planned or familiar. For example, I love going to the cinema and I always feel great when I watch films. 

Any advice would be gratefully received. Thank you.

  • Hi Andrew,

    I was diagnosed 3 years ago, aged 56.  I identify with you all the way.  Anxiety is my default condition.  It never really goes away - though I find I can manage it now much better than I used to.  I think it's because I've learned so much, and can behave in a way that doesn't draw attention to my difference.  From my teens through to my forties, though, I was consciously aware of being 'odd' without knowing why.  That's bound to make anyone anxious.

    I tried CBT, too, and learned something from it.  But just understanding that my feelings may have false premises doesn't necessarily assuage those feelings.  I still wake up feeling that something bad is going to happen to me.  I still worry - in spite of a lifetime of surviving crises and realising that my fears are without foundation - that it's all going to come crashing down around my ears.  I can even jump in the car in the morning to head off to work and find myself thinking 'Supposing the thing breaks down on the way?  What will I do?  How will I cope?'

    Like you, too, I find any kind of narrative to be relaxing.  A story, say.  But as I find it difficult to read for long periods of time, my 'go-to' is the movies.  I can switch on a movie and get immersed in the lives of the characters, and for those couple of hours I'm out of my life and into someone else's. 

    People in general - NTs - don't 'get' autistic anxiety.  I get people saying to me 'That's not autism - everyone gets anxious.'  Yes.  But it's not on the same level.  With me, it's like a permanent culture shock.  Each new day - even in familiar surroundings with familiar people - is a challenge.  In some ways, I think we have to accept that people will never completely 'get' us, and will always think we're just being hyper-sensitive.  Which, in many ways, we are.  But we can't help it.

    You aren't alone!

    Take care,

    Tom

  • I agree with Martian Tom about anxiety being the default condition. I work very hard to disguise my anxiety but it is very tiring doing so.

    Have a look at the Anxiety UK website:
    https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

  • I am 40 and undergoing assessment for ASD at the moment. I have suffered from anxiety all my life. I have had lots of different courses of talking therapy including CBT but it doesn't seem to help me very much. I have a husband, two children and a career and on the outside no-one would know there is anything "wrong". I am constantly exhausted. It is very tiring to be anxious all the time. I don't really like films or the cinema but I do enjoy reading and I enjoy watching very familiar things that I have seen over and over again. 

  • Greetings! From someone else who also has official "chronic anxiety", yet in my case it is well founded and proved by actual experience (hence my UserName).

    This may not be helpful, or may seem bad, but this is how I myself deal with it - sort of...

    I usually imagine and plan for the Absolute WORST. In that way, I am either slightly prepared, or it can only be better than was imagined...!

    Things which cause anxiety are not (to be) ignored; they are considered deeply and are planned against. Things may not go according to thought or planning, but the main thing is that they are Expected. And, as I say, this is probably bad (...) but it is better than having lots of "unpleasant unexpected surprises".

    That is all from me, I think. (& Have a nice day!)

  • Hi Andrew, I am new here and am awaiting what I hope will be the final part of my autism assessment next week.  I am mid 40s and I think our experiences sound very similar.  I am married and have two children, my wife is wonderful in helping me understand my situation, and helping me to deal with others. 

    No matter how good a mood I am in when I go to bed, I wake up with the same feelings of anxiety, emptiness and worry that fortunately do seem to improve as the day goes on (or more probably when there is less of the day left to make it through).  If I have a particular worry this is much more acute, and takes precedence over everything else, is always there with me and is something I cannot shut off from.  On the odd occasions that I speak to people about my worries, I do generally feel better afterwards, but again this is short lived.  I don't take anything for anxiety, and in the past have been prescribed anti-depressants (though wonder now whether I had real depression, or whether it was something autism linked?).  I have never had a problem coming off these, and usually after a few months of going through a horrendous few weeks as they "got into my system", then a period of stability, I have decided to come off them, and done so with no problems, just one day I take them, next day I stop.

    Having a partner you can talk to is fantastic and a great step in managing the feelings you have, though sometimes there are things that sound too weird to talk about.  I manage to mask a lot of this at work, but am exhausted when I come home, and take the mask off.  When you are worrying about things, do you find you are planning multiple scenarios and possible outcomes?

  • Thank you so much for everyone who responded. It is probably the first time in my life that I have heard anyone say that they totally understand how I feel about my anxiety. It is a bit of a relief and I wonder if part of what I need to do is to accept that anxiety is part of me? I will also keep working on trying to manage it effectively. I do take antidepressants and have done so for a long time. They don't do much for my anxiety but they do prevent my mood from spiralling down into a very deep place. 

    The other thing I am realising more and more is that I am working very hard when I am with other people - which causes me to have extreme tiredness. I have to try and get the balance right as I do enjoy being with others and need to for my work but I also like a lot of time on my own.

    Thanks again everyone! 

  • When you are worrying about things, do you find you are planning multiple scenarios and possible outcomes?

    Yes - cos it stops you worrying so much once you work out what you'll do if X happens. 

  • Andrew I can relate as I have experience of your predicament. It sounds like you have Generalised Anxiety Disorder - the daily anxiety in your stomach first thing in the morning is a dead giveaway symptom. SSRI anti-depressants will do nothing for this as they don't act on the appropriate receptors in the brain to alleviate anxiety. Whatever your doctor tells you about CBT/SSRIs, neither will work for the chronic anxiety you suffer.

    Look onto Pregabalin or Gabapentin - the former is also known as Lyrica. It is approved for GAD relief and your doctor will issue it if you describe your symptoms and explain that your SSRIs do not work to relieve anxiety. There are some side effects but they will disappear after first few weeks - fatigue, balance issues and memory recall problems. The upside? Your GAD will be gone within 24 hours - yes they are that good. Over time they become less effective but overall the reduction is permanent resolution of GAD. You can take them alongside your SSRI's to keep depression at bay.

    Good luck my friend.