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 also wonder,and can kind of see after something which happened today, that my perseveration or anxiety or rumination etc can also stem from trying to work things out which others can do more intuitively. So again, it feeds into uncertainty but I think the root cause could be to do with AS and not fully understanding a situation.

  • I identify with this. I feel like I'm conspicuously slow thinking, but at the same time I'm intelligent enough to enjoy literature and art and other pursuits I'm sure people who are sharper than me don't seem to care about.

  • Yes. I still think about things from a few years ago cos still have no idea what was meant. Of course, non AS people ruminate on things but I think by now they would have let this one pass.

    Someone flirted with me at work once and it took about 5 years for me to realise. When Ive since recounted the story to others, theyve all pulled a disgusted face. It didn't even register with me at the time that it was a) obvious flirting and b) maybe a bit creepy.

    I think intelligence is different to social "intuition" and they're not mutually exclusive.

  • I think intelligence is different to social "intuition" and they're not mutually exclusive.

    Well said. I watch people very carefully and feel like I've learned to read people pretty well in most circumstances, although I guess I could very easily be wrong without realising it. But with flirting or being able to tell if someone likes you or not it's much much more difficult. It's so subtle. 

  • I think intelligence is different to social "intuition" and they're not mutually exclusive.

    Well said. I watch people very carefully and feel like I've learned to read people pretty well in most circumstances, although I guess I could very easily be wrong without realising it. But with flirting or being able to tell if someone likes you or not it's much much more difficult. It's so subtle. 

  • Not when they touch your hair and put their finger through it! I honestly thought "oh no I've got ear wax stuck in my hair....or crumbs from my dinner" - either is a complete possibility with me. So that happened and I just carried on my way! Totally oblivious. But other more subtle signs like a wink...haven't got a clue. Or it comes to me days or weeks or months later.

    I was thinking today on my walk...a friend said I had "too much emotional inrelligence" but I'm inclined to disagree. I think I'm very emotional. I think I have a good understanding of others which I think to a certain degree has come from observing and learning and bring open minded. I actually think im very good at perspective taking in some instances (better than some non autistic people I know) but sometimes needing time to digest. Then on the other hand, how I've been the past few days....I don't think I've been able to process my own emotions very well. I've felt a bit of a mess and have been struggling to understand why. Nothing major has happened though. Just unexpected changes....

    I can see how inertia comes into play and I read something about this on the forum a few months ago. I feel that I carry on, on my trajectory (eg a thought or expectation). But if something blocks that and I have to take a different path, I don't know what to do. This can cause frustration and confusion, but I don't feel it's anxiety. This is something I feel I will have trouble explaining when my mental health referral comes through. I think they want things to fit into a box of "anxiety" or "depression" etc 

  • Wow, you describe something so similar to my experiences. I also find that when I'm on a path I can work very hard and spend hours on a project, or at this point in my life I'm studying, and I can throw myself into that so vigorously, but then if some emotional disturbance pops up or something knocks me off course it's like it's a struggle then to even do the basics. 

    And yes I feel I can be more sensitive to other's emotions too, sometimes more than non autistic people, and that I'm really emotionally sensitive, to an impractical degree! It shows how much of a mixed bag these autistic traits are, especially if you're more mildly on the spectrum. And by mild I don't mean it doesn't effect me daily, and I don't know to what extent you're on the spectrum, I just mean in comparison to autistic people who've need support and sometimes personal care all their lives.

    Not when they touch your hair and put their finger through it!

    Okay yes that's not so subtle! 

  • Yes its "mild" but that doesn't mean to say it's easy! And that's the double edge sword. When you have a typical life, you're expected to just suck it up and get on with it.

    Yes,  inertia isn't just about difficulty starting things, irs also difficulty stopping. This to me doesn't just have to be physical tasks but also mental thought processes (ie obsessions). Sometimes it's good and can give you focus and drive.  Other times it can create despair and frustration.

    f some emotional disturbance pops up or something knocks me off course it's like it's a struggle then to even do the basics. 

    I can identify with this. I think that's been my problem this past week. Certain aspects of my life have remained fairly steady but then a few things knocked off this balance. It was restored (in my mind) toward the end of the week and now I feel ok. One of the things I identified, was that it's almost like I'm addicted to a particular thought. (Which actually has caused me a great deal of anxiety in the past). Can you relate to any of this? Events this week meant the course of these thoughts had to change and I felt myself a bit at sea and it was this which caused me discomfort and overwhelm. When balance was restored, I felt happy that I could continue with the original thoughts which I feel compelled to think. Even though they cause anxiety but this is preferable to the overwhelm I've felt this week when the thoughts temporarily changed.

    Omg that's a bit waffley isn't it. 

    Anyway, I'm really glad you started this thread. It'd been very helpful to get some thoughts out and also see other perspectives.

  • It's okay, I can waffle for England.

    Can you relate to any of this?

    Yes, I even said to my brother once that I feel like I'm addicted to thinking. But you're right, it's specific thoughts isn't it - good or bad - that we're compelled to think. Compulsions have been something I've struggled a lot with, it's taken me many years to stop drinking compulsively, and I still feel that compulsion. I even fell off the wagon after lockdown ended, but I'm nothing like the way I used to be. It's taken a lot of discipline. I also talk compulsively, and have to try really hard not to bore people to death!

    This kind of unceasing energy for particular activity can be a good thing sometimes though. If I'm doing something creative which gets me into a flow state I can be going for hours. Today I spent about eight or nine hours working on editing a music video, and it didn't feel at all like work, and it didn't become tedious. In fact it freed me temporarily from all the dreadful worries bombarding me at the moment. Made me realise I need to try and aim towards work which will suit this kind of compulsive action, because I can be incredibly productive.

    I'm also glad to chat to yourself and others about these issues which usually seem so unique to me. Nice to not have to feel like an alien for once. 

  • I even said to my brother once that I feel like I'm addicted to thinking

    This is why I think meditation is important.  I had started to build in 20 minutes breathing exercise every day whenever I remembered to. It's tailed off the past few weeks for certain reasons, but that's ok I'll get back on it. It's helped create a bit of space in my head. I never thought I'd have space. I have definitely found a benefit to it. Similarly, when I've tried a low dose of shrooms, Ive noticed my mind is totally on the present and there's no ruminating. I feel the benefits a few days after as well.

    I think as it takes discipline, willpower and strength to control compulsive drinking or addiction, it has to be the same for thoughts. I do think we can change, our brains are flexible but I do think there's an element of this which will always remain to a certain extent.

    That sounds great that you can get into the zone with your music. How does it maje you feel? I can get like that with lesson planning at work. Although it's not particularly enjoyable, I seem to slip into this other world. If you could get a job doing the video editing, that'd be amazing! I do feel a bit lost at the moment in the sense that i wish I had a physical  hobby that would keep my attention and hands busy. 

    I came across Eckhart Tolle today who I've heard of but didn't really know about. Here's a short video about addiction to thoughts and he has a well known book which I might investigate called The Power Of Now.

  • I meditate when I'm not too far gone with depression and anxiety. I hope I'll get some benefit from it one day, I remember a few years ago I got to the stage where I was really successful with it, but even when I can keep it going for a couple of months now I never get back to that stage. I think life happened to be a bit less chaotic back then. I hope to improve my attention span with meditation eventually.

    Yes that's it, you don't have to enjoy the thing really, it's more a neutral state of flow which keeps you away from worry. It's all still there but you don't notice it, like finding a successful distraction when you have a headache. 

    I'm a musician so when I write music or perform, or sometimes when I run music activities for vulnerable adults, which is my main job at the moment, I get into this flow state then too. Writing can get me there as well. It tends to be around creative activity for me. Maybe you could try creative writing or sketching. I've also done stuff like alphabetise my books which keeps the obsessions at bay.

    I listened to an audiobook of The Power Of Now. I found Tolle's life story interesting and from what I can remember the overall message is a good one, but it's basically a self help book which is a genre I'm not that keen on. I watched a few of his talks as well though and he can be quite therapeutic to listen to.

  • Yes I've been listening to that book on Spotify.  I'm not sure if it's him reading but it's very repetitive and gets me to sleep. It's helped me a lot this week actually. My report mentioned I can get fixed on detail rather than the bigger picture. I think that's what's happened this week and has contributed to the ridiculous anxiety I've had. So now I need to work on looking at the bigger picture. I think this will help. It's helped talking to my partner because he's very level headed. Do you have anyone to talk to?

    I started on the meditation a few months ago when I wasn't in a particularly stressed state. In the past I did it only when things were bad and it was a bit like firefighting. It has helped this week.

    What instruments do you play? Your job sounds fulfilling, doing something you enjoy and working with vulnerable adults.  I wanted to do a creative writing course for mental health with my local adult centre but couldn't attend.

  • That's good that you have someone to talk to. There are a couple of people I can talk to to some extent but no one who really hears me when it comes to a lot of the issues I experience.

    I play the guitar and a bit of piano. That's a shame you couldn't attend the course. So are you a teacher? You mentioned lesson planning. 

    I meant to ask about your experience with shrooms. Was that recreational or through one of these trials? I saw a recent documentary about these psilocybin trials helmed by Professor Nutt (brilliant name), where they use psychedelics to treat mental illness such as depression. I actually signed up and was accepted myself a few years back, however by the time they got back to me a good few months had passed and I'd started taking the antidepressant mirtazapine, and so they said I was no longer eligible. I actually took shrooms when I was 15 or 16, but typical of my excessive nature I scoffed about seven and had an absolutely terrifying trip. Not a good memory. 

  • It's good to have people you can talk to...I understand what you mean about *really* understanding it though.

    What sort of music do you like to play? Yes I'm a teacher of adults. Do you still take the medication? I came off my SSRIs because I felt they were not really helping. 

    It was recreational. Yes I saw that documentary too. I have "followed" Nutt and Carhart-Harris for a while. Nutt has some really good podcasts on youtube and Spotify about a whole range of how substances can be used to treat mental health.  I think it's been one of my interests in the past 18 months! Check out ThirdWave or Double Blind too. That's cool you could have done the trial!

    Ive had a LOW dose a few times. Set and setting is important to have a good experience. I had the most AMAZING day all on my own last autumn. It was only on my way home, I realised I hadn't thought while I had been out about anything which had been troubling me. I was just purely in the moment, the present. Appreciating everything. I felt really connected to those walking past with their dogs. I came home and felt really connected to my partner. For a few days after, I noticed I was only eating when I was hungry (ie not comfort eating or just for the sake of it). I felt more productive without realising it could be an effect (I attempted making home made crumpets the day after....!) and just got really in the zone in my online drawing class. I noticed I wasn't perseverating as much either. 

    Obviously I'm not advocating anything, but these fungi, alongside CBT, my diagnosis and mindfulness I have found a cumulative benefit with all of these things. My experience with them has helped me be more empathetic and  understanding of others. This has reduced anxiety or stress in some situations. I'm sure everyone has different experiences though.  

  • That's really interesting. I'd seen interviews with Nutt before and read articles about his research and his views on alcohol, but it was great to see the work in action. I'll continue to do my own research and take note of your recommendations. Maybe if I could get hold of some again it would be worth a try. The shrooms I took were actually legal when I had them as a teen although I know they aren't anymore, but I know people who use psychedelics so I could probably get my hands on some. I've often used alcohol and occasionally drugs, most often to deal with depression and anxiety as much as anything. Alcohol in particular has been a big issue in my life although I'm a lot better now and rarely drink.

    Funnily enough I play in a psychedelic influenced band. We have a single coming out within the next few months and it's been good to get back to playing gigs again, even if it's a bit of an extra stress.