AUTISM AND MENTAL HEALTH
So this week is mental health week whereby ad campaigns begin to be rolled out alerting people to be more open and start a conversation/dialogue around their current mental health state.
As some who has suffered from mental health issues in the past and is who is currently able to maintain and monitor it I thought that given that this was national mental health week I would provide information on how an Autistic person can manage their mental health on a daily basis.
Mental health and Autism
Even though mental illness can be more common for people on the Autism spectrum than in the general population, the mental health of Autistic people is often overlooked.
Anxiety disorders are very common amongst people on the autism spectrum. Research shows that 40% of Autistic people present symptoms of at least one anxiety disorder compared with just 15% in the general population.
The reason for this higher percentage is thought to be because of a combination of factors that come into play which can lead to stress, and vulnerability. It is these factors which explain why anxiety disorders are so common in Autistic people.
Researchers believe that biological differences within the brain structure and function of an Autistic person, along with a history of social difficulties (leading to decreased self-esteem and a tendency to think of threats as greater than they are) as well as having problems with finding flexible responses to apparent threats are all likely to contribute.
Many people on the Autism spectrum may have difficulty describing these symptoms that they are experiencing. A sudden change in behaviour could mean they have developed an anxiety disorder, even if there is no complaint of the typical symptoms.
It is very common to have times in our lives when we feel a bit sad or low. But it’s when these feelings last for more than a few weeks and eventually get in the way of our day-to-day functioning, this can indicate a period of depression. This is no different in an Autistic person than a non-Autistic person.
It is estimated that at least 20% of the population will experience a period of depression at some point but it is even more common in people on the Autism spectrum.
People who are depressed can experience a range of symptoms which vary from person to person in their combination, and can be mild or severe.
It may be especially hard for depressed people on the Autism spectrum to seek help because they might find change daunting and anxiety-provoking, feel worried that they will be blamed, or feel unsure about how to describe their symptoms.
Anxiety and depression can also make people more generally introverted, withdrawn and isolated.
Depression can have a big impact on daily life and can lead to suicidal thoughts.
“Is like having to play a game of Monopoly every day of your life, but the standard for everyone else when they roll the dice is that they get to move forward, but when I roll the dice, I have to move backward”
I am going to offer up some solutions to combating and working towards a healthier happier outlook for yourself:
- Take a nap.
- Listen to music.
- Watch television.
- Work on a personal project.
- Walk or exercise.
- For mental stimulation I highly recommend adult colouring books or solitaire.
- Schedule activities and make short-term plans.
- Keeping a diary or a journal.
- Listen to a podcast. One I regularly listen to is this one theretrocinema.com
- Sit outside in a quiet area of the garden and let the air enter your lungs, close your eyes and breathe.
- Here’s a great meditation. So you sit up against a wall and close your eyes, you then imagine that you are a rock in a rock pool, as you hear the water coming down from then water fall, it comes towards you and washes over you. The water in this instance is your worries and stresses being washed away.
- Keep in touch with friends. Alert them to what’s going on so that they can offer their support and if they offer you any type of advice or help take it.
- Don’t be expected to be depression free overnight, look it’s going to take some time and you may end up seeing a therapist. Seeking professional help is a great step in confronting head on your depression and finding and working out solutions to equip yourself with the tools and knowledge so that you can tackle it head on.
- Find an online support group. By locating one in your area, you can engage and find support with other Autistic people who are experiencing depression too. By joining one of these support groups you won’t feel so isolated and you’ll be able to get information on how they are coping and what they are doing to improve their mental health.
- Find bloggers online who have written about their mental health struggles one I use is http://reflectionsfromaredhead.com/on her website you’ll find that Janine shares her ‘journey’ with depression, anxiety, burn outs and recovery.
So my message is this
I would suggest going to see your doctor if you feel that you are unable to cope, as they may be able to prescribe you some medication and your doctor can provide you with a mental health care plan whereby you are able to get 10 free counselling sessions (you get 5 first then you receive the other five after).
Details about the mental health care plan can be found here along with links to resources available in your state.
If you keep your depression to yourself then no one can help you.
Opening up is hard, I know. But once I admitted that I was depressed and I had that burden lifted and I felt a sense of ease and relief.
Carry on the Conversation
How do you cope with your depression? What works for you?
Let me know in the comments below.
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Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.