What it feels like to have Aspie Anxiety

When I'm Feeling Anxious

By Robert Shmus

When living on the autism spectrum, such as having Asperger’s, there are a lot of struggles that can come your way.

One of those struggles, especially for me is anxiety. I’ve always had to struggle with anxiety, and what makes it especially difficult is it comes in waves.

For instance, in the morning I can feel very happy-go-lucky and even jovial. However, later on that day, my anxiety will kick in. My heart will start racing, and I’ll stutter, shake, and get very paranoid to the point of being scared to death. Most of this has to do with certain social situations.

Due to me having Asperger’s, it can be hard for me sometimes to do well in social situations.

At times, especially if I know people, I feel fine and I can enjoy myself among company. However, there have been times in which I would feel afraid even when there’s no danger to be seen. It’s as if I’m going to medieval battle with no armor, no sword, only my flesh and blood. Yes, it can be that scary.

anxiety image

There have been times in which it has gotten so bad, I would be afraid to go to social events, even though I really wanted to.

No matter what day it is, this anxiety can creep up. However, I have been testing things to help me with this.

First, I take deep breaths. Although this might sound very simple, it has helped me to calm down.

Second, I recite sayings to myself, mantras if you will. These sayings could be, “you are in good company,” or “you are going to do great today.” No matter how I say them, they are reminders for myself in times of anxiety. So far, they have been very helpful both at work and in the social world.

I’m still learning more tactics to help myself get through these challenging moments.

I guess what I am saying is for those on the spectrum with this issue, and even for those who are not autistic, there are times when anxiety may creep its head around the corner. But there are ways you can fight it, and most importantly, you are not alone.

If you have suggestions to combat anxiety please comment below.

Header meme courtesy of My Little Superheroes.

Robert Shmus

Robert Schmus is 30 years old. He resides in southern New Jersey outside of Philadelphia. He currently works as a licensed social worker at a residential house for adolescents with developmental disabilities. He helps the youth who are going through crisis to maintain stability. He does this through individual and group counseling, in which he educates them on utilizing coping skills. Being on the spectrum himself, he is also a self-advocate and advocate for adults, who are on the autism spectrum. He has been part of numerous advisory boards and has done public speaking events. Robert currently has an LCSW license and is working on also becoming a motivational speaker. He can be reached at +1-609-280-7863 and/or schmus898@gmail.com.

2 Comments

  • I’m also Aspie with diagnosed Panic Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I work with children who are school phobic. Most of them do not have an ASD, but all of them suffer greatly with anxiety and panic attacks. I think my personal experience has lead me to this career because it is not only easy for me to empathise (yes, I have excellent empathy skills) with them but also because I have been through counselling and CBT so I can give them practical ways of coping that I know work.

    My main strategies for getting through every day – I used to have about 7 panic attacks a day, now I’m down to 3 a week – are to think about my three main worries and ask myself ‘is this an actual problem or a What If?’ Usually it’s my head running lots of scary scenarios. If there is a real problem, I then ask ‘Is it my problem or somebody else’s?’ I often taken on other people’s worries. This usually calms me right down and I can then get out of the door to my car.

    If I do have a panic attack, I have a set response. I am not good at recognising them – so as soon as I realise the signs: sweating, heart racing, pins and needles in my hands – I start by pushing up my sleeves. This feels like I am going to fight the panic. Honestly, it’s really good psychologically. Then my mantra: It’s only a panic attack, it can’t harm me, it’ll be over soon. The hard bit is not trying to avoid what is making me panic. I sit still and allow myself to feel overwhelmed and wait for it to pass. After a few minutes I am usually able to get on with my day. Obviously the first time I did this it took about 20 minutes – felt like several hours – for the attack to stop. I don’t allow myself to use my phone or distract myself because this actually prolongs the attack. It’s been working for over a year now. I feel like I am in control of my life and not my panic.

    Looking forward to reading other’s comments.

  • One might look to the Vagus nerve. The tenth cranial nerve, which, with its branches and sub-branches informs and receives signal from every major organ and the stomach and intestinal tract; the lungs heart and even facial muscles; salivary glads the eyes and ears and hearing to say the least.

    The vagus is divisioned into the parasympathetic and sympathetic autonomic nervous system. These inform an enteric nervous system which works autonomically and run the gut and digestive tract.

    The whole science is call the polyvagal theory, and as autists, one might inform and educate oneself on its…conditions. Its nature to fight/flight/panic and freeze-up –especially in the ASD individuals.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvagal_theory

    It is the brain child of the illustrious and rather brilliant Dr. Stephen Porges. A gifted thinker who over the course of four decades has developed the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)…a working and ongoing system to better inform the autonomic nervous system which can be becomed overactive and debillitating with the autistic.

    https://integratedlistening.com/ssp-safe-sound-protocol/

    An intervention process to intelligently interacts with this vagal system to guide it to a more holistic and thriving human. A growing human. a human less burdened with the problems of arrested development.

    Anxiety, stress, autism can be brought under control to allow the individual to reach a greater health, thriving and growing under a learned stress resistance. A form of heart and gut control that leads to profound improvement.

    This along with exercise, clean water and pure diet, abstenence from stimulants toxins and street drugs enables an autist to lead a more fulfilling life from the usual cyclical meltdowns and let downs of a different neuro-type.

    I do relate to your description of yourself — controlling the heart rate and breathing is a beginning. But sound also plays a part, as does something that goes on within you without your asking.

    We are simply colonies or organisms that have come together, with a mega mind on top to control its animated actions. Its voice and expression. The tenth cranial nerve is the highway of communication between self and its body.

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