How Does ASD Affect Mood and Anxiety?

Autistic people are often anxious. If you have ever been around an autistic person when they are overloaded, you will know that the overload brings anxiety with it as the autistic person cannot cope with something going on in their environment that they are expected to process. If you are the parent or caregiver of an autistic child, then you may have wondered if your child’s mood and anxiety levels are linked with their Autism Spectrum Disorder. The short answer to this question is yes. However, in this article, we will discuss the longer answer of why your child’s anxiety levels and Autism Spectrum Disorder are linked.

 

Anxiety and Overwhelm

One of the features of autism is a difficulty in processing information. Unfortunately, the world today tends to be full of information overload, and things which might not bother a non autistic person will most assuredly cause problems for a person with autism. For example, most people are not bothered by large crowds. However, a sufficient crowd can leave a person with an autism spectrum disorder overwhelmed and anxious. This excessive stress becomes extremely difficult for autistic people to cope with at times. When too many stimuli are thrown at a person with autism at once, especially if the stimuli are new, they may experience what is known as sensory overload. They may go nonverbal, feel overwhelmed, cry and try to get away from the stimuli that are causing the problem. With this sensory overload comes anxiety as they no longer feel as if they are in control of their environment and prolonged stress can actually diminish their ability to cope until the stressors resolve themselves.

 

Fitting In

Meeting social expectations can also lead to anxiety or depression for the the person with autism especially if they are a teenager when mood swings are common in most people. They may feel increased pressure to fit in if they attend a public school or are taught in classes with their non autistic peers. They may try to force themselves to make eye contact which studies have shown can cause a fight or flight response in the autistic brain. They may also hide any special interests that they have, especially if those interests are not ones that are considered age-appropriate for their stage of life. Further, they then may push themselves beyond the point of overwhelm to try to deal with the stress of fitting in in a non autistic world.

As if all of that is not enough, these individuals may have methods of self-expression that are not universally understood. For example, an autistic person may bounce or flap their hands when excited. Society takes this as a sign of developmental disorder or deviance and especially if the person with the ASD is a teenager, their peers may shun and ostracize them, leaving them feeling isolated, depressed and anxious.

 

Recognizing Emotions In Others

Another necessary component of fitting in successfully in society is the person’s ability to read the facial expressions of others for subtle social cues. People with autism have a lot of problems in this area due to the lack of development in an area of the brain used for processing facial expressions. . They can usually understand the stronger emotions showing on a person’s face, but more subtle emotions are more difficult for them to process. Due to misunderstanding the proper social cues, the person with autism may react inappropriately to the situation, though most people learn to figure out the context in other ways. Misinterpreting the situation can lead to a fear of social interaction or anxiety that they are somehow socializing improperly. The increased anxiety and depression can make them much more reluctant to socialize which then leads into a vicious cycle of wanting to reach out, not knowing how and having more and more anxiety and depression piling on.

 

There are a large number of ways that an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and a person’s mood and anxiety levels can connect. People with autism may have problems fitting in and expressing themselves in ways society deems acceptable. They may also find new situations, crowds and changes to their environment to be overloading and a large cause of anxiety. However, despite these connections, the situation is not hopeless. People with autism can learn valuable coping skills which they can use to fend off the anxiety and depression they may face as well as curbing the problems which caused the anxiety and depression in the first place. With some support and the help of coping mechanisms and possibly therapy, a person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can lead a happy and fulfilling life.

Do Spectrum Children Feel Emotion Like Everyone Else?

There are many stereotypes surrounding autism. One of the most insidious is that autistic people do not feel emotions. Many people see the autistic person as overly logical and even slightly robotic, and like the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie Rain Man, these people view them as an impenetrable collection of tics. As any parent with an autistic child will tell you, this stereotype is a fallacy.

 

The Science

Children on the autistic spectrum do feel emotions. They feel just as happy, sad, anxious, excited and elated as anyone else. In fact, there is not any external difference between an autistic person’s brain and a non autistic’s brain. However, there are certain emotions that they may have more difficulty with, such as shame, pride, and emotions that are more social in nature. One of the reasons for these difficulties with more subtle emotions is found in an area of the brain used for facial processing. In a non autistic brain, this area is very well developed and entrenched early in life. Studies have shown that in most autistic children this brain region does not seem as well developed. This lack of development in the brains of autistic children results in a seeming lack of motivation to socialize in some people and a difficulty in reading emotions. In addition, the amygdala, a brain area concerned with the processing of emotions is also not as well developed or modulated in an autistic brain. This means that autistic people, as opposed to lacking emotions may instead have difficulty thinking through and processing their own. This difficulty in processing emotions can lead to the autistic child becoming overwhelmed faster and more severely than a non autistic child would, which can cause them to shut down, go nonverbal and have other emotion regulation difficulties at times of stress.

 

In Practice

The difficulties autistic individuals can have processing their own emotions and reading the emotions of others mean that there are a number of challenges an autistic child must work around. For example, autistic children will overload under stress faster than a nonautistic child will, and they may not be able to communicate what is happening. As a friend or family member of an autistic child, watch for signs that they are becoming overwhelmed. They may cry, cover their faces, go non-verbal or try to back away from the situation. If at all possible, give the child time to process any new information or stimuli that may crop up.

Some autistic children also have difficulties understanding social and emotional cues. They may have trouble accurately reading facial expressions for more subtle emotions and may mistake a scowl of concentration for anger for example. They also may have difficulty telling when you are really angry versus when you are pretending anger as a joke. Be careful to make sure that the autistic child understands what you are trying to communicate.

 

Understand Their Emotions

Be sure that you understand their emotions. Ask the child to tell you how they feel if that is appropriate for the child and their situation.. Help them learn feeling words and facial expressions. Even nonverbal children can learn to draw pictures or write words to tell you how they are feeling. Be patient. It may take longer for an autistic child to pick up a concept than a non autistic child and getting frustrated at them for not getting it right away will only make things worse.

 

Autistic children are generally not like the Rain Man stereotype and the fact this myth has remained so prevalent is unfortunate. Autistic children are suffering from people’s belief that they do not have emotions and their unwillingness to engage with them. Autistic children have the same emotions as anyone else. However, emotions such as shame, pride, and embarrassment are harder for them to understand or read in the faces of other people. On top of this, autistic children have a greater difficulty processing their own emotions. This means that it may take them longer to tell you how they are feeling than it would for a non autistic child. Patience is necessary. If it is at all possible, give them time to process emotions. If you are impatient, you run the risk of overloading the child. Overload may lead to meltdowns or the child going nonverbal. This is not a pleasant experience and it will make the child far less likely to want to tell you anything about how they are feeling in the future. If you are patient and make sure to explain clearly what you are asking and what you want to know, as well as helping the autistic child to understand more subtle emotions, you can go a long way in helping them to navigate a non autistic world much more effectively.

Is Texting Bad for your Health?

Before you pick up your cell phone to send your next text, read this article. Texting may be harming your health in some surprising ways. We all know that texting while driving is not safe, and may cause unnecessary accidents as drivers are completely distracted by their phones, even those who say they can still react fast enough in an emergency. But there are other ways texting is negatively effecting your health, and some of them may surprise you. If you are curious, keep reading. There are things you can do to mitigate these problems.

 

Text Neck

Many people, when texting, bring their faces down toward the device in their hands. Leaning their heads forward, they round their shoulders. This is very poor posture and may result in text neck. If you have ever had a stiff, achy neck or upper back pain after an extended text conversation, then you know the condition. The human head weighs ten to twelve pounds. When you have good posture, your spine can carry that much weight. Leaning down to look at your phone puts sixty pounds of pressure on your spine and the base of your neck. This pressure can, if it goes on long enough, lead to pinched nerves in your spine. Pinched nerves cause numbness and tingling down your arms and in your hands. To avoid this problem, bring your phone to your eyes. Be aware of your posture and sit straight, with your shoulders back.

 

Cell Phone Slumber

Cell phones may be causing your sleep problems. Not only do they emit radiation which may cause insomnia in some people, but they also emit blue light. This color of light tells your brain it is time to wake up. If you text in the dark, use a blue light filter on your phone. This does not interfere with your ability to see the device but it does dim the light intensity. To avoid the sleeplessness, ban your phone from the bedroom. If you have no choice and need your phone beside your bed, cut out screen time an hour before sleeping. This will allow you to sleep much better overall.

 

Repetitive Strain Injuries

People who spend a lot of time texting each day and looking down at their phones are prone to sprains and strains of the joints in their upper body. These repetitive motion injuries are caused by texting excessively, sometimes for hours on end and by bad posture and can be quite painful. Try to limit the amount of time you text each day. If you have to make a lot of texts at a time, make sure to keep good posture. Look up often and take breaks to move around. Also, most phones tend to have dictation services which will allow you to dictate texts to your friends and family. That way, you can still keep in touch.

 

Texting can be very bad for your health in surprising ways. It can cause injuries, eye strain and car accidents. But with a little prudence these dangers can be avoided and you can still keep in touch with the people you care about.

How Much Sleep is Enough?

Do you have a friend who says they can function on four to six hours of sleep? If so, you might have wondered if this is true. Can people really get by on so little sleep? How much sleep do humans need to function optimally? The short answer is seven to nine hours a night. People who get less than seven hours of sleep a night for even one day report more mood problems and difficulty concentrating than those who get a solid seven to nine hours. However, the long answer is much more complex than that and varies depending on a number of factors including age, pregnancy, sleep deprivation and quality of sleep. Before you jump right into finding the number of hours of sleep you need, however, there are a few simple questions you need to ask yourself in order to make sure that you get the correct amount of sleep tailored to your needs.

 

Questions to ask Yourself

Before you set about finding the number of hours of sleep that you need in a night, start by asking yourself these questions. They will provide a baseline which will then give you somewhere to start from. How many hours does it take you in order to feel productive? Can you manage without caffeine on seven hours or does it take you nine before you feel truly awake? Do you have any health problems such as heart disease or being overweight? Do you have sleep difficulties such as insomnia? Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day or are you frequently sleepy while driving? These five simple questions will help you form a rough idea of how much sleep you actually need.

 

Age

Once you have a baseline for how much sleep you actually need, then you can see where your age fits in. If you are a younger adult, ages 18-64, experts recommend that you get somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep per night if you are healthy. However, if you are over sixty-four, the experts recommend 7-8 hours per night for healthy individuals.

 

Pregnancy

If you are a pregnant woman, you need more sleep. Your body is undergoing very important changes and your baby is growing. Neither of these things happen very well if your sleep is compromised. Be mindful when planning your time. It is very important to remember to get enough sleep to function efficiently and to be prepared that you will need more than usual.

 

Sleep Deprivation and Quality of Sleep

If you have been sleeping poorly or missing out on sleep for a long time, it is quite likely you are sleep deprived. Sleep deprived people and those whose sleep are frequently interrupted need more sleep than normal. They may sleep up to eleven hours as opposed to the seven to nine that most adults need to function. However, as these people start getting better sleep, their need will lessen till it is back within normal levels.

 

It is very important to get the necessary amount of sleep. If you do, your efficiency and health will increase, and that is something that everyone wants.

Supporting a Loved One Through Breast Cancer

When you have a loved one who is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is often hard to know how to help. You may feel lost, hurt, angry or fearful while feeling you have to keep it together for them because they are going through so much. Knowing what to say can also be hard, as things you mean as comfort can come off as anything but. So how do you proceed in this possibly terrifying new world you have found yourself in? How do you comfort and support your loved one? Keep reading, as we discuss some ways in which this can be accomplished.

 

Check Your Own Feelings

If you are not sure how you feel about cancer, it is likely that you will say something thoughtless when faced with it. Cancer is a terrifying prospect, and one we as a society are not taught how to properly deal with. Before you try to be there for the other person, then, stop and take a moment to think. Think about your past experiences with others who were diagnosed. Are you afraid? Angry? Unsure? Anxious? Recognize your emotions and keep them in mind as well as what the person with breast cancer may be feeling.

 

Listen

Above all, it is necessary to listen to what the person is telling you. Sometimes the only support a person needs is someone to vent to or rant with, someone they know has their back and can be a person to lean on until they can face the world again on bad days or someone who will let them celebrate the victories when things are going well. Be sure to show you are listening. Ask questions if you have them, and paraphrase what the person is saying to make sure that you understand. This is not the time for advice.

 

Offer to Be There

Cancer diagnoses are isolating. Offer to go with your friend or loved one to their doctor’s appointments. Appointments can be very overwhelming both physically and emotionally with a lot of information being flung at the breast cancer patient all at once. Take notes for them, to prevent information from getting lost.

See what else you can do- in practical terms. If your loved one has children, perhaps you could cook a meal for the family occasionally, help the children with their homework or do something else concrete to support them.

 

When In Doubt, Ask

No two people are alike, nor are any two breast cancer cases. If you know or have known two cancer patients, do not assume that your friend or loved one with breast cancer has the same needs or wants as the other person with cancer you knew. This should go without saying but when people are trying to be supportive, sometimes they forget to ask what sorts of support the cancer patient actually needs. Breast cancer makes people feel as if their life is spinning out of control, especially at first. Give that person back as much control as possible by listening to their wants and needs and doing as they ask.

 

Breast cancer diagnoses are difficult, both for the person diagnosed and their friends and family. Friends and family may be left feeling unsure, shut out and with no idea what exactly they can do to help. This article is not a definitive guide. However, it will give you a starting point, and ideas for supporting the breast cancer patient in your life.