There are many reasons autistic people can feel anxious.
For example, dealing with social or sensory challenges, changes and unpredictability, or difficulty understanding and regulating emotions.
Research shows that compared to non-autistic people, autistic people are 4 times more likely to experience anxiety.
Physical symptoms of anxiety are different for everyone but can include:
- a fast heart rate
- feeling short of breath, shallow breathing, breath holding
- feeling easily irritated
- feeling distressed
- shaking or trembling
- feeling sick
These are some behaviours you might see when an autistic person is very anxious
- needing reassurance, asking lots of questions (for example: about what might happen)
- meltdowns, emotional outbursts
- Shutdowns –withdrawing from interactions; being unable to speak
- avoiding the trigger – such as refusing to go to school, refusing to eat certain foods
- Ruminating or overthinking – thinking too much or thinking unrealistically – for example, about the worst thing that could happen
- needing routine and sameness- which to others can seem obsessive
- repetitive physical behaviour – such as rocking, flapping, fiddling with fingers
- running away
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