Just wondered if anyone else has difficulty working out which are physiological feelings and which are psychological feelings? For example I might have a headache but don't realise it and just think I am in an angry mood. Only when someone who knows me well points it out that I might have a headache and I take some ibuprofen and it goes away (and the anger subsides) do I realise it was a headache. Also vice versa when I am anxious I sometimes interpret this as having a cold or some sort of virus as it makes me feel lethargic and I ache. Only when I realise the trigger for it and the anxiety passes do I realise it was anxiety....
This inability in its self stressed me out as I never really know what is wrong until afterwards.
Not fully effective, but I found flow charts starting with prominent symptoms helped. E.g. I get irritated a lot, drink water and wait 20-30 minutes, if it helped then dehydration headache-drink more, if not sit somewhere quiet and/or listen to stairway to heaven, if that helps it's an overload issue. If neither of these do then I'm either angry about something or low in potassium, so I eat some nuts/a banana etc and think over last 2 days.
Thanks sounds useful I will give this ago with what I know of myself so far.... I guess you have worked this out because you experience similar difficulties.
Yes, I have exactly this problem, too, and when it was brought up at my autism assessment, the psychologist was very helpful in explaining it to me, and giving me some hints about what kind of things I should be looking out for, which a therapist later elaborated upon.
Like many autistic people, I have rather severe "alexithymia" - I struggle not only to talk about my emotions, but even to know which one I'm experiencing. I had long been mystified by other people expressing their concern that I seemed stressed out when I'd had no idea that I was at all. I also have pretty bad "interoception" - the ability to read signals from my own body. I often get hungry or thirsty without realising it until my tummy is rumbling like crazy and my lips have gummed themselves together. If I get really hyper-focused on something, I quite often "come to my senses" very literally - I might have a dead leg from sitting with them tightly crossed, or my bladder might feel like it's just about to burst. I'm hardly aware that my mind inhabits a flesh and blood body at all sometimes (which may be part of the reason that many autistic people have tactile stims - they can help to centre our mind back inside our body).
The way the psychologist explained it to me is this: Reading our emotions has two components. Firstly, there's a psychological part for reading the context of the situation; e.g. is your heart racing because you just saw something scary, or because you're sat opposite someone you really fancy. The second part is the ability to read the changes in your body that an emotion causes. The parts of the brain which handle emotions and the parts which make us consciously aware of them don't talk to each other directly; the "message" gets sent by the brain releasing chemicals which do things to our bodies, and then we have to pick up on those physical changes. For most people, this happens automatically with no effort whatsoever; but if the connection isn't very good, then this ability doesn't develop properly when we're growing up.
A lot of scientific evidence is now coming to light which seems to show a strong link between poor interoception and alexithymia - those of us whose bodily senses work differently to "normal" are often the very same people who struggle to identify their emotions (sadly, there aren't many easy to read articles if you Google for "interoception and alexithmia" - most of them are very technical science papers that you have to pay to read). A lot of alexithymic people that I've spoken to have found that this explanation fits their experiences very closely.
But, as Autistic Entrepreneur suggested, there are ways that you can strengthen your ability to read these signs. I was very fortunate to have a little counselling with an autism-aware therapist who understood this. I now have a little set of "checklists" that I run through whenever I'm not sure what my body is trying to tell me. Rather than relying on "instinct", I put aside a few moments to ask myself what my body is doing - Is my heart beating faster than usual? Am I breathing steadily or in gasps? When did I last eat or drink? What situations have happened recently which might make my body do this?
I doubt that I'll ever have the kind of emotional awareness that most people do, but these exercises have really helped me to control anxiety a lot better - once I've identified it, I know what to do; I just wasn't able to sense it early enough to nip it in the bud (or not until my supervisor at work popped over with some friendly advice not to panic so much!)
I do, but I find it very hard to develop systems to help myself. Generally find it much easier to find someone with similar problems, find a way that helps them and transfer it to myself. This originated in helping a friend's girlfriend if I recall, self care was not her strong point for other reasons and I often took her through similar checklists.
Thanks that makes so much sense to me... And it is good to know i am not alone... The current situation that gave rise to this was complicated because I have a friend who is very ill and I can't go visit them if I have a cold. I didn't know weather my tiredness and lathergy was because of emotional stress or a common cold. Thank goodness I have started sneezing and coughing now so I can identify it is just a cold.... And not feel so bad about what could have been a wrong assumption that meant that I didn't go visit after all.