Anxiety and obsessions

I go through a lot of intense anxiety, as well as depression, and generally I'll be worrying to death about things I know I don't need to worry about it, or which I should put aside for now and deal with later. People have always told me I should be able to do this - choose to worry about something later, or dismiss worries from my mind - but this seems utterly impossible to me. 

Is this part of the obsessive way an autistic mind works? I know I obsess over mundane things too which don't cause me anxiety but which I feel compelled to do, and also I get pleasure from obsessing over certain interests. Do we just have to accept this worry as part of the obsessiveness?

  • I identify with what you write.  Thank you for articulating it.  In Cbt I was told that Fighting the fear makes it stay longer.  It peaks and passes if you let it. 
    I think I am powerless over certain obsessive thoughts and the first step in dealing with them is to admit I am powerless over them.  This allows me to begin to ‘not fight’ them.  I imagine obsessive things as beasts which are fed by attention; the resistance to them, the ‘fighting them off’ is their food.  If I ‘surrender’ to them and stop trying to get rid of them they die.  

  • Hi Roguelife

    Everything you say is very common for us - but you can just look for new and more exciting things to nerd-out over - new hobbies and interests - the other stuff fades when it's replaced with something new and shiny.   

    The old obsessions sometimes pop back up - but that's part of life - it's all in cycles.  Smiley

  • It’s interesting what you say about surrendering to the fears and having to admit they’re there. I’ve learned a similar coping strategy of acceptance. The woman I’m dating doesn’t agree with accepting difficulties, only in overcoming them, so I’m glad to be backed up by someone else’s experiences here. She’s a perfectly compassionate person, it’s just that she doesn’t know how fortunate she is. For certain people some issues will simply always be there to a degree, and I agree that surrendering to them is far better than agonising over an impossibly struggle.

  • I know the joy and release of discovering a new passion, but I feel like you can’t always find something intentionally, it’s more that I stumble across a new obsession from time to time. The last one was classic “Roguelike” video games (hence my alias), but I can still fall back on classical and guitar music, literature, sci-fi and fantasy, and all the old loves. Sometimes though I’m on a wave of anxiety or a trough of depression and guess I just have to ride it out.

    I’m glad to see others identify with what I’m talking about though, to know it’s not just me.

  • Hey Roguelife,

    Worrying is the mental reaction to our desire to be in control. Although it's uncomfortable for many of us to accept, we are constantly seeking to control both our immediate environment, and control the outcome of every situation we face. It's the brain's default setting and has served us well for 200,000 years. It's the reason we are still around as a species. 6,000 years ago, civilisation began to develop, eventually blossoming into industrialisation in the 1800s. Since then, we've come to need our brain's base control setting less and less as our environment has become safer and more predictable. But no one knows how to turn off our survival setting, or at least dial it down a notch of two. And so every day, regardless of where we are, who we are with and how safe we are, and how far we are from any existential danger, we continue the cycle of try to control, fail, worry, try to control, fail, worry again. Repeat.

    The result of all this habitual is that it can drain our mental and physical strength. It can also lead to other toxic habits, like blaming ourselves, blaming others, obsessional behaviour, paranoia, stress, anxiety, depression all the good stuff.  

    This is a gentle site for finding a little peace and quiet in our heads:

    https://www.headspace.com/articles/how-to-stop-worrying How to stop worrying 

     

  • I've read this thread with interest. I have wondered for a long time about obsessive thinking about AS and can relate to what you say. I have realised that I can have thoughts on repeat but they are not always necessarily worries. My CBT therapist said it could be to do with uncertainty. However I have identified that some of these repetitive thoughts are not about uncertainty. (One of them, I felt very certain about something and it was very positive but difficutl to stop thinking it).  I wondered if it was OCD but I dont do any behaviours to go with  any of the thoughts.  As another example, I know EVERYONE gets songs stuck in their head but I feel it's excessive with me. My mind is constantly whirring around. If it isn't worry it's repetititve thoughts about something or a song. I cannot switch off.

    The whole idea about "worry time" is absolutely ridiculous and I think for a lot of people who have GAD, it is unrealisitc. I think a lot of worries can stem from our emotional rather than rational brain. So to think about things rationally (Oh, I'll worry about that later) is difficult. What does help with me for worry is thinking about Schoedinger's cat. Is it dead or alive? You don't know till you look in the box. Similarly, you don't know the outcome of something until it's happened, so it could go one way or the other. Why should it always be the negative outcome? Easier said than done to think this way!!! But I'm getting there.

    My assessment report mentioned about getting stuck on thoughts. I don't know how to become unstuck. Sometimes I don't even know I am stuck on something but it makes me brain hurt haha. I have started doing mindfulness. I'm feeling the benefits already. It's helping me chip away at this.

  • Thanks for the link, and for the kind words. It's good for me to consider anxiety through the lens of objectivity, such as historical and scientific knowledge. Looks like you deleted your profile but if you end up reading this then I do appreciate your response. 

  • I identify with what you say, and I also struggle with the idea of 'worry time'. When something happens to make me worry I sometimes get a massive spike of dread and anger and all sorts of excessive negative emotions and thoughts. It feels like I will never control this, but I do try, and I use the techniques you've described. I know I wasn't always quite this reactive, there were times in my life when things didn't bother me quite this much. As a 33 year old I have concerns that younger adults and children don't have, but its not just that.

    This rating feelings on a scale of 1 - 10 can actually sometimes help me, so long as I think of it like this: if anxiety can be rated for most people at about 1 or 2 or 3 most of the time, and then something happens to make them more nervous or anxious, it will push it up to a 3, 4 or 5, but if someone is living their life at a 5 most of the time, and then something anxiety provoking happens, they will be pushed up to a 7 or higher, close to a panic attack probably. So if I can find some way to bring the normal level of anxiety down it might lower the intensity of my spikes of anxiety.  

  • Yes, I actually found it difficult to put my anxiety onto a scale as such because I felt there were different levels of intensity (techniques for anxiety such as breathing etc made no difference) and also depending on if I knew the source of what caused it. I also realised, during the safety of a buddhist yoga retreat where I decided not to mask, that what I thought was a 0 actuslly wasn't.  It was only at the retreat I discovered what 0 actually felt like.

    One thing which helped through CBT was getting out of the habit of trying to find a reason for the anxiety. "It's never usually just one thing".  Another, which was a massive help, was not to see it as good or bad days. If i think "great! Im having a good day!" itll set me up for a fall because it will come back. I see them now as days. If something happens,  then it happens. I know from my own experience of exposure therapy, which has given me my own proof, that anxiety will always eventually go down. These mindsets have helped even me out a lot more but it's taken my own exploration through CBT to learn it myself.

    Going back to the numbers, I think for people who have GAD and/or AS the base level from which we are starting is higher. Now, after CBT and further understanding of myself, I feel this base level has reduced somewhat relative to myself. So it can be done if you want to work at it. 

    I also think, and this might sound contradictory, that I have a higher threshold than others for putting up with anxiety until I do something about it. I think this links with alexithymia but also masking in that I just carry on with things because I think it's expected of me, or I don't know how I feel till its too late.

    As a 33 year old I have concerns that younger adults and children don't have, but its not just that

    Would you care to tell me more? I may be able to relate to it.

  • Unfortunately my OCD eventually morphed into psychosis when I had my second child - but I'm now on meds that fairly successfully treat my severe mental illness and my OCD - it's a shame that people have to get worse before anyone really cares.