Anxiety

Wise people of internet, I hope someone will be able to explain the issue I have.

I’m not diagnosed but I’m on the waiting list, referred 2 years ago (I was told last month I’ve got one more year of waiting ahead of me)

I’ve got big anxiety issue.

I don’t know if it is linked to autism or is it completely different and has nothing to do with possible ASD.

But it’s getting worse and worse with age, mainly because of accumulation of bad experiences.

It’s quite bad.

Basically I have awful anxiety each time I think I won’t know what to do, say or what’s going to happen.

Some examples:

1. There’s open plan office at work and I was absolutely petrified and unable to enter the office (I don’t normally work there so I don’t have to do it very often) until I asked someone to draw me detailed plan, with all the desks and who is sitting where. Then I was able to enter the office (but I’m still very uncomfortable there, even though I’ve been working for the same company for over 5 years)

2. I was supposed to go to the therapy sessions (I don’t go to therapy anymore as I was told by my therapist that I was being uncooperative) in the local library room and I entered the library and panicked, didn’t know what to do and run away after few minutes. Emailed the therapist and she said what I’m supposed to do next time step by step (go to the reception, say you’ve come to see me and so on) and next time I did this, no problem (still a bit uncomfortable though)

3. I’m unable to enter the restaurant by myself. I don’t go anywhere but sometimes I have to (work parties, like Christmas party) and I had to ask one of my coworkers to wait for me near the entrance (she’s left recently so I’m worried and anxious already about upcoming Christmas party). Once I’m sited inside I’m fine, silent and uncomfortable, waiting for party to end, but fine.

4. Basically I go into “panic mode” if I have to do anything, go anywhere, talk to anyone. Using public transport? I’m extremely anxious- how much does it cost, how long the journey will last, which stop is my stop, even which seat should I choose? Driving is even worse, nearly impossible when I don’t know the route and I’m not sure if there’s parking space available. I need to how much does the parking cost and so on. Every possible detail for every possible scenario.

5. I’m afraid to talk to people because I often mishear them or I’m not sure what do they really want from me and I start to be really anxious unless I know exactly what I’m supposed to say and what they supposed say. Or if I know that’s ok to be silent so I won’t feel pressure to talk.

Basically going anywhere and doing anything petrifies me unless I know exactly what to do because I’ve done that before in that exact place.

I need to be directed like a small child : go there and there , you’ll see this and that, say this and this, do this and this etc.

I’m suspecting some unspecified anxiety disorder?

I don’t know.

Learned helplessness?

With avoidant personality traits?

I don’t know if I’ve got some separate mental health issue.

Maybe I’m not autistic at all, maybe I’m just crazy (I do have issues with communication and reading people though)

Is there anything I can do about it? Exposure doesn’t help much because any change and I go back to square one and start flipping over. And then I’m aware of my weird behaviour and get even more stressed.

I don’t even know if it has anything to do with possible ASD or not. I don’t understand my own behaviour.

  • Don't worry, It is a very common autistic trait to need a structured routine, to know in advance what is happening and when, otherwise extreme anxiety will set in.

    Examples for me:

    If i am going to an unfamiliar place I trace a route on google street view for example. If I am going somewhere new, or even to an event where I know people I will often hover in my car until I see someone else going in so I don't have ot walk in alone. If going in say a restaurant with 3 other people I'll let them go first. I rehearse phone calls/conversations with people.

  • You're certainly not alone, and you're not just going crazy. As said, this is very common for autistic people - it seems that our brains often have a desperate need for everything to be known to the last detail before we're comfortable acting on anything, and that we often can't abide any kind of ambiguity.

    I need every trip out of the house to be planned with military precision, and panic the moment the slightest thing doesn't go to plan. I spend hours devising scripts for every way that I think a conversation might go, and endlessly analysing what might have gone wrong afterwards. I'll check the route, times, and costs of travelling a dozen times, and even then be incredibly nervous that something might still disrupt the plan. I eat the same few choices of meal every day so that I can do my food shopping exactly the same way every time, and god forbid that the shop has moved its stock around or has run out of something. When I feel that I have to socialise, I have to have an escape plan worked out beforehand, and I'll follow a friend around the whole time like a lost puppy so that I can let them break the ice and do most of the talking.

    The root cause of it is what's known as the "executive functioning" part of the brain - the bit which handles making decisions and acting upon them - partly because this part of an autistic brain commonly functions differently than for most people, and partly because difficulties with reading other people's minds means that it has less information to go on when we have to make a decision. The anxiety and helplessness aren't really conditions in their own right, just natural consequences of experiencing this deeper problem and a lifetime of every little time we got it wrong all adding up.

    Can it be helped? Yes, I think so, at least to a certain extent. Having a diagnosis can make it much easier to accept that we're not at fault for having these problems, and can make it easier to be honest with people that we struggle with these situations and might need a little help and understanding. It can also take the pressure off us to do things that we're really not that comfortable with (e.g. going to Xmas parties). And anything which helps with stress and anxiety will help too - for example, getting plenty of resting time, interests to distract from anxiety, meditation, etc. - those work differently for everyone, though, so it may take a little time to work out what works best for you personally.

    Finally; you said that your counsellor accused you of being uncooperative. You're not alone in that. either; I've experienced the same, as have other autistic people I've spoken to. Unfortunately, not many counsellors are experienced at dealing with people who have neurological differences like autism, and autistic traits can interfere with their usual way of working with a patient. That's not to say that counselling is a dead loss, it can be very helpful for dealing with anxiety, but it can be pot luck finding a counsellor who appreciates that our different way of thinking means that the causes of our anxiety are different, and much deeper rooted, than for most other patients.

  • I need to be directed like a small child : go there and there , you’ll see this and that, say this and this, do this and this etc.

    Greetings. A short answer from Myself... as Bagpuss7 says about common autistic traits. & Keep "pestering" your GP or whomever, to get the Autism diagnosis. And meantime, collect evidence about Yourself and others about "weirdness", and during the assessment, be honest and state all such concerns/examples.

    With regards to what I quoted there, for example, for Myself, in certain social situations, I ask what is expected to be accomplished - they give an answer - and I follow it to the letter... and the thing is, to remember and learn from all of that when it goes right or wrong, and be confident of what is *true*, in challenging if things go wrong despite following directions precisely!

    (If they refuse to explain, or bully You, then persist in asking why.)

    I have "Anxiety" Myself, all the time, even posting here. The thing is to start upon what You Yourself know how to do Best, and what is true, and build more and more in that knowledge. You know Yourself better than anyone else, no matter what anyone else who is not You says.

  • I just want to thank you all for all your replies.

    It made me feel better somehow, even though part of me feels a bit guilty about feeling better because it looks like reading about someone else’s problems made me feel better. And I don’t want to feel better just because someone else has similar issues. 

    But anyway, it made me feel a bit better, so thank you.

  • It's very smart and switched on of you to realize that this is probably ASD. I do nearly all the above things you mention and I didn't even know what autism was so I labelled myself a 'diva' and 'highly strung' and even 'a bit shy'.' I used to do things like arrange to meet a friend, get in a panic because I didn't know where to park, and then call off the meet up with the friend! Anyway, I now realize it's the Aspergers. I'm only recently diagnosed. I am an ex-HR Manager so I would like to suggest, if you feel able, that you tell a trusted manager that you need reasonable adjustments and support at work.

    It is of course entirely possible to have ASD and anxiety and they may or may not be linked. Medication like Lexapro can help and your GP will be able to chat about it with you. All the best.

  • This was all helpful for me, too, thanks! I will check out that book. Things need to get better around here...