Anxiety is a common emotional experience that can affect anyone. Feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension can characterize it. While anxiety is not technically considered a neurodivergent condition, there is a growing body of research that suggests that anxiety and neurodivergence are closely linked.
Neurodivergence is a term used to describe people whose brains function differently from what is considered “typical.” This can include people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and other conditions.
People with neurodivergent conditions are more likely to experience anxiety than the general population. For example, one study found that 50% of adults with autism and 80% of adults with ADHD also experience an anxiety disorder.
There are several reasons why people with neurodivergent conditions may be more prone to anxiety. One reason is that they may have difficulty coping with stress and change. They may also be more sensitive to sensory stimuli, which can lead to anxiety and overwhelm. Additionally, people with neurodivergent conditions may face discrimination and social isolation, which can also contribute to anxiety.
This blog post will explore anxiety neurodivergent in more detail.
Table of Contents
What is Anxiety Neurodivergence?
In the context of neurodivergence, anxiety refers to the experience of anxiety disorders in people with neurodiverse conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or other cognitive impairments. These illnesses can include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, or specific phobias.
These people may experience anxiety in different ways, frequently as a result of the way they view the world, interact with others, or process information. Their anxiety and neurodivergent characteristics may make it difficult for them to control and cope with their anxious emotions, which may affect their everyday lives, social relationships, and general well-being. Comprehending and managing anxiety in the neurodivergent population frequently necessitates customized strategies that take into account their unique cognitive profiles and personal requirements.
Types of Anxiety Neurodivergence
Anxiety neurodivergence is a term used to describe how people with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may experience anxiety differently.
Common types of anxiety neurodivergence include:
- Social anxiety: People with social anxiety may experience intense fear or anxiety in social situations. This can make it difficult to interact with others, go to work or school, or participate in social activities.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): People with GAD experience excessive and persistent worry about a variety of things, such as health, finances, and relationships.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD have unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) or feel compelled to perform repetitive behaviours (compulsions).
- Panic disorder: People with panic disorder experience sudden and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by intense feelings of fear or terror, accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath.
- Specific phobias: People with specific phobias have an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as heights, spiders, or enclosed spaces.
How to Know If You’ve Anxiety Neurodivergent
There is no single test to determine whether you have anxiety neurodivergence. However, there are some signs and symptoms that may suggest that you may be experiencing anxiety differently due to your neurodivergence.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of anxiety neurodivergence include:
- Experiencing anxiety in social situations that others do not find anxiety-provoking
- Feeling overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, such as noise, light, and touch
- Having difficulty coping with change or uncertainty
- Worrying excessively about things that are unlikely to happen
- Having intrusive thoughts or images that cause anxiety
- Feeling a need to perform repetitive behaviours or rituals to reduce anxiety
- Experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety, such as chest pain, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to a doctor or mental health professional. They can help you to understand your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.
Can You Become Anxiety Neurodivergent?
In the same way that you cannot develop a neurodevelopmental problem later in life, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), anxiety is not neurodivergent. However, if you already have a neurodevelopmental condition, you may acquire anxiety neurodiversity.
For instance, social anxiety may arise in an individual with ASD as a result of challenges with social engagement and communication. Alternatively, a person with ADHD who struggles with organisation and concentration may go on to develop generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
Additionally, if you have experienced trauma or abuse in the past, you may develop anxiety neurodiversity. Trauma can change the way the brain works, which increases a person’s risk of developing anxiety disorders.
It’s crucial to consult a physician or mental health specialist if you think you could have anxiety neurodiversity. They can assist you in comprehending your symptoms and creating a personalised therapy strategy.
Is being anxiety neurodivergent a disability?
Whether or not being anxiety neurodivergent is a disability depends on your perspective. Some people may argue that it is a disability because it can interfere with a person’s ability to function in daily life. Others may argue that it is not a disability because it is simply a different way of experiencing the world. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal opinion.
Regardless of whether or not it is considered a disability, anxiety neurodivergence is a valid and important experience. People with anxiety and neurodivergence deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. If you are struggling with anxiety neurodivergence, there are resources available to help you.
Possible Causes of anxiety neurodivergence
The exact causes of anxiety neurodivergence are not fully understood. However, several factors may contribute to its development, including:
- Genetics: Research suggests that there is a genetic component to both anxiety disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders. This means that people with a family history of either of these conditions are more likely to develop them themselves.
- Brain development: Differences in brain development may also play a role in anxiety neurodivergence. For example, people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have differences in the way their brains process social information. This can make them more vulnerable to social anxiety.
- Sensory processing: People with neurodevelopmental disorders may also be more sensitive to sensory stimuli, such as noise, light, and touch. This can lead to sensory overload, which can trigger anxiety.
- Trauma: Trauma, such as abuse or neglect, can also alter the way the brain functions and make people more susceptible to anxiety disorders.
Can people who are anxiety neurodivergent be successful?
Yes, people who are anxiety neurodivergent can be successful. Many people with anxiety neurodivergence have achieved great things in their careers and personal lives.
Here are some examples of successful people with anxiety neurodivergence:
- Dan Harmon: Creator of the TV show “Community” and co-creator of the TV show “Rick and Morty”
- Greta Thunberg: Climate activist
- Mel Brooks: Actor, director, producer, and writer
- Susan Boyle: Singer
- Temple Grandin: Animal behaviourist and autism advocate
These are just a few examples of the many successful people who are anxiety neurodivergent. While anxiety neurodivergence can present challenges, it is important to remember that it is not a barrier to success. With the right support and strategies, people with anxiety neurodivergence can achieve anything they set their minds to.
What are some things I can do to support someone who is Anxiety neurodivergent?
Here are some things you can do to support someone who is anxiety neurodivergent:
- Educate yourself about anxiety neurodivergence. The more you know about anxiety neurodivergence, the better equipped you will be to support your friend or loved one. There are several resources available online and in libraries.
- Be patient and understanding. It is important to remember that everyone experiences anxiety neurodivergence differently. What works for one person may not work for another. Be patient and understanding with your friend or loved one as they try to find coping mechanisms that work for them.
- Offer practical support. There are several practical ways you can support someone who is anxiety neurodivergent. For example, you can offer to help them with tasks that they find difficult or anxiety-provoking, such as going to the grocery store or attending social events.
- Validate their feelings. It is important to validate your friend or loved one’s feelings and let them know that it is okay to feel anxious. Don’t try to minimize their experience or tell them to “just calm down.” Instead, let them know that you are there for them and support them.
- Please encourage them to seek professional help. If your friend or loved one is struggling to manage their anxiety on their own, encourage them to seek professional help. A therapist can teach them coping skills and help them to develop a treatment plan.
symptoms of Anxiety Neurodivergence
Anxiety neurodivergence is the experience of anxiety in people with neurodivergent conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Neurodivergent people may experience anxiety in different ways than neurotypical people (people without neurodivergent conditions).
Here are some common symptoms of anxiety neurodivergence:
- Excessive worry and fear about everyday situations
- Difficulty controlling worry and fear
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feeling tired
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle tension
- Stomach aches and headaches
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling lightheaded or spaced out
Treatment of Anxiety Neurodivergence
Some common treatments for anxiety neurodivergence include:
- Therapy: Therapy can help neurodivergent people to understand their anxiety, develop coping mechanisms, and manage their symptoms. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that is particularly effective for anxiety. CBT can help people to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their anxiety.
- Medication: Medication can be helpful for some people with anxiety neurodivergence. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms. However, it is important to note that medication is not a cure for anxiety, and it should be used in conjunction with therapy.
- Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet can also help to reduce anxiety symptoms.
In addition to these general treatments, some specific treatments may be helpful for neurodivergent people with anxiety. For example, people with ASD may benefit from social skills training and sensory integration therapy. People with ADHD may benefit from executive functioning coaching and time management training.
It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for anxiety neurodivergence. The best treatment approach will vary depending on the individual’s specific needs. It is important to work with a qualified mental health professional to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.