Anxiety and autism

Someone with un-diagnosed autism can provoke anxiety in the people around them.  If you are aware of the fact that the family member is autistic, but they are not aware that they are, anxiety can be a huge part of the interaction.  It can also distort the problem even more.  When you are the only person aware that there is a problem and the autistic person is in denial about their condition, it can and often is anxiety producing.  The autistic person is misjudging the social cues.  If they have already decided that they do not like you or that you don’t like them, they will only see you as such.  They will misjudge your facial expressions, body language, tone of voice or what you do or do not say.  They do not pick up on any of the social cues because they do not have a fully functioning frontal lobe.  Also remember that what they think becomes fact to them, not just opinion.  They will also express that opinion as fact, not just another opinion of the situation.  Knowing this creates tension because now you are watching your every move trying not to do anything that can be misconstrued.  Anxiety producing.  The autistic person is feeling your anxiety and misconstruing it as something else if they do not like you.  Chances are other people in your family are hearing about it because the autistic person is talking about how horrible you are being to them as a fact,  not their opinion.  If the other people do not agree with the autistic person there can be a temper tantrum and withholding of affection and love until you comply to whatever it is they want.  Now we have a situation where the autistic person has placed someone or several people in the middle asking them to side with them against another family member.  It is called triangulation.  The autistic person is not doing this on purpose,  they do not understand that there is a boundary that they just crossed by talking to others instead of the person directly involved.  They also do not understand what comes next.  They do not understand that what they did and said has caused the conflict and disruption in family.  The people involved will be making a choice between one family member over another.  The rock and a hard place.  No one should have to be placed in that position.

There is nothing you can do if you are the person who is now being disowned by one or more of your family members.  Confronting it will only make it worse, remember, no empathy for your feelings.  If you have not been able to talk about what is wrong because of denial of the other person, acceptance of the situation is your only option. Less anxiety provoking too.  Unless or until the autistic person is able to own their problem and find help in understanding it, you can do nothing.  Relax, take deep breaths, grieve the loss of the relationship(s) you’ve lost and move on.  Remember though, it is not just the relationship, it is also what ever thoughts, feelings and dreams you’ve had about those relationships. Especially if it is your child.  It is not easy, grieving is a life long thing.  You will find a way to move forward without them, without bitterness, anger or un-forgiveness.  The pain will get less heavy on your heart.  It will never go away, only lessen.  Relax, take deep breaths, heal.


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I became a therapist in an attempt to understand my own childhood and what happened there and how it made me who I am, exhibiting the behaviors that were not always positive, very often self-destructive. I used Art Therapy to help me understand things in my past that were stopping me from making better decisions in my present day. I used Behavioral Science to help me understand underlying causal factors, roots to the present day behaviors that I was seeing in myself. Both help me to change those behaviors/thoughts that were causing me to make self-destructive decisions that were causing pain in life. I have been a therapist since 1985 and have an undergraduate degree Art and behavioral science (double major) from the University of Maine. My graduate work was done at Marywood university and I have a degree in Art Therapy. I have certificates in Forensic Interviewing and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior therapy. I have 22 out of 30 credits toward a degree in Trauma Therapy from Drexel University. I started out as a Community Support Worker, Program Manager/Clinical Supervisor, Family therapist and Outpatient therapist.

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