This is Erik Johnson. Today, I want to talk about the three main reasons Asperger’s people have extreme anxiety. So, first of all, people with Asperger’s – 65% of them live with anxiety 24/7, and they can remember all the way back to their childhood, that they were always in a state of fight or flight and total anxiety.
So it’s really a struggle for a lot of us, and a lot of us turn to self medication. We turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, sugar, you name it, we probably have done it just to divert our attention away from our pain of our anxiety.
So here are the three main reasons Asperger’s Have Anxiety:
Number One: Anxiety from Socializing
People with Asperger’s are constantly trying to figure out how to socialize, it’s more of like a chess game than it is just a natural intuitive thing that normal people do. People with Asperger’s lack social cues. We don’t really understand what the other person is feeling.
A lot of the time we’re not even thinking about the other person, we’re just trying to figure out how to act around people – and that can be very exhausting to constantly wonder if we’re doing a good job, if we’re fitting in, are they thinking that we’re weird? It’s exhausting.
The other thing is that we lack the appropriate expressions during a conversation. In fact, it was only a few years ago that I just learned to nod when people were talking to me, because I literally was asking my girlfriend at the time, what do you do when you’re listening to someone? Because I thought that my mom smiled when people spoke. My mom’s an incredible lady and she’s very sweet, so when I used to watch her listen to people my mom would smile when she was listening to people.
I tried doing that and my face would crack, my smile would crack , my eye would start twitching because I’m trying to smile and be like my mom listening to people. Then, when my girlfriend and I went to Peru, I noticed that no one smiled, unless they were genuinely happy, but they look like they’re gonna kill us when we were going through a small town to get to our retreat.
They’re all just like this (frown) but then when they cracked a smile, when they genuinely laughed, it was the most beautiful thing ever. But they didn’t feel like they had to smile, it’s almost like an American culture thing that you know we’re supposed to smile at all times to show some type of, you know, perfectionistic lifestyle or something, and it’s just a lot of pressure for people with Asperger’s.
So, even around my parents I know I’m going to be exhausted because I want to act normal around them when they come visit and I try to smile when my dad’s talking and he’s like, what, what’s wrong and I’m like nothing, I’m smiling. So obviously I’m not doing it right. It doesn’t look like a smile, it’s not genuine. So, there’s a lot of pressure just on socializing for us.
Number Two: Anxiety from Over-Sensitivity
So, noises, lights, and smells. We are bombarded by sensory overload every single day. We do not like sudden noises, we don’t like alarm clocks, we don’t like silverware hitting plates. We don’t like hearing people, we don’t like hearing people snore.
I get irritated just hearing our cat lick himself. I mean it’s just incredible what I can’t handle. Even at night, I have to wear earplugs because any slight sounds are going to just wake me up, I sleep light, and I need eight hours of sleep a night so it’s very stressful.
We always have to have a fan or an AC unit going, there has to be white noise constantly, right now there’s a heater going, and that white noise is making me feel more at ease, but if it’s a completely quiet room, like when I go visit my parents, they have no white noise. It drives me through the roof.
Number Three: Anxiety from Unpredictability
Aspergers plan and predict everything, even as children we had an image in our mind of what we wanted to accomplish with our play, you know, even when we were in the sandbox we probably had a plan in mind what we wanted to do, what kind of castle we wanted to make, and if a kid comes around and starts messing with our castle, we’re gonna get stressed out.
And that’s still the same thing today as adults, I constantly have a plan in mind. I have a short term plan. I have a long term plan. I know what I want to be doing a year from now, five years from now, tomorrow and, if something changes that plan, I get very overwhelmed, I get stressed out. I need to know what’s going on.
Normal children like collaboration, and they like being spontaneous. Children with Asperger’s need predictability and control. My dad was a control freak. So growing up under my dad, we went to bed at eight o’clock when I was 12 years old. When I was older It was 10 o’clock. We had dinner exactly at 6pm every single night. We had breakfast exactly at 7am, every morning. That is how I was brought up.
So now, living with my fiance’s family, they do whatever they want, they can eat dinner at 8pm at night or 9pm. I want to be in bed by 8pm so it’s very, very stressful sometimes, and I just have to take a deep breath and let it go with life.
Instead of fighting the stream I have to just let go and drift down with the stream, just go with the flow. I know that sounds easier, it’s easier said than done. It’s very hard to go with the flow. But it’s killing us by fighting the flow, by fighting the rhythm of life, and I’m working on it every single day. I’m 48 years old, and I am catching these things every single day. I’m just a control freak.
The other reason why we want to control is because we don’t feel safe in our environment and when you don’t feel safe in your environment, guess what, you try to control every situation. You don’t want other people to provide feedback. You don’t want other people to come in and start changing things that you want to stay a certain way, because to us it’s a serious threat, because we have a plan in mind.
In fact, I preplan all of my communication. The night before, I will literally if I know I’m going to talk to someone tomorrow, I preplan the conversation. It really comes down to that. It’s so automatic for me I don’t even know I do it anymore.
For instance, if I need to go out and work on what I’m going to make for the day but I know that Misha’s sister’s out there, I plan how I’m going to talk to her sister, before I even get out there. I just need to know what I’m going to say because I don’t want to fumble, because if I mess up my words it causes tremendous stress, because it’s off script, and when I’m off script I’m like, oh no I have to be spontaneous and people with Asperger’s cannot be spontaneous.
They can pretend to be spontaneous, but they probably have a good idea what’s going to happen, or they have three to five scenarios that might play out. They thought about each one, and they’re okay with it. Okay, that’s the type of spontaneity that we work with.
The last thing which is kind of like a bonus anxiety tip is that we feel a lot of anxiety from guilt and shame, from being different. We know that we’re different, and we feel a lot of guilt and shame that we can’t just socialize and be like normal people. Asperger’s is a social and emotional disorder, mainly. So, we are just stressed out that we can’t be like other people, and just be all easy breezy with our communication, or our emotions.
You know, one minute I’m happy, the next minute I’m on the verge of tears, and it’s a roller coaster every single day – and that can create a lot of guilt and shame, which then creates a lot of anxiety, the rollercoaster of emotions creates a lot of anxiety, and we want it to stop and that’s why we turn to self medication. That’s why I rocked back and forth for 40 years probably 45 years if you count the rocking horse and the rocking chair.
My dad was the same way – growing up under an alcoholic. My dad was terrified of his life, his dad was a rageaholic. He was drunk. He brought out a shotgun one time and scared the heck out of my dad. My dad was scared of his dad and then I was scared of my dad, even though he wasn’t a drunk he was more like a dry drunk, and he raged, and it scared me. I hid from him. I hid in my room. Then I started hiding from life, and I just hid behind alcohol and drugs, sex, sugar, whatever.
Now it’s all coming to the surface and I’m getting to the bottom of it. I’m doing hypnosis, I’m doing inner child work, and I’m trying to do some more self talk, positive loving affirmations, because it’s okay, it’s all okay. You can relax, you can just relax and take a deep breath. It’s okay. You are loved. Okay. Love yourself. I love you, I love myself. Forgive yourself.
Reasons Asperger’s Have Anxiety
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Erik C Johnson