Anxiety and Autism

I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This basically means that I worry about everything; there is no one thing that causes my anxiety. I have found a medicine that allows me to control my anxiety most days. It is my understanding that anxiety is a co-morbid condition with those who have autism. The last research I read stated that at least 40% of people with autism also have some type of anxiety. I would think it would be a lot higher percentage than that. Why are these two conditions often seen together? I have my theory.

While there are many different definitions for anxiety, they all have one thing in common, a fear or uneasiness about something. So why would a person with autism have a fear or uneasiness? People with autism don’t always fit in; actually we usually stick out like a sore thumb. We are the weird person, the quirky girl, the odd guy, or the strange one. In our effort to not draw attention to ourselves, assuming we have realized that we are “weird,” we develop a fear of everything we do, everything we say, every move we make, and every word we utter.

I can’t say this is true for every person with autism, but it certainly is true for me. I have spent my life being told to stop acting so weird. Only, I wasn’t acting. This is me. Being me, however, didn’t get me much. I had one friend in elementary then a different friend in middle school. I had only acquaintances in high school. In my need to be accepted and loved by someone, I married the first person I ever dated and stayed in a loveless marriage for 12 years.

Only when I started to explore autism and anxiety did I realize why my life had been so horrific to me. I was trying to fit in so badly that I was making myself miserable. I realized I had to be true to myself. If someone was going to be in my life, they would have to accept me for who I was. No more trying to be “normal.” And that is the day my life started turning around. I got divorced. I found the love of my life. I found the career I love. My life is being lived on my terms and I’ve never been happier.

My anxiety still rears it’s ugly head. I think that because I lived with anxiety for 30 years, my body doesn’t know how to exist without it. So now it’s just a part of who I am and I’m ok with that.

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