Only families with children or grandchildren with Asperger Syndrome know how frustrating this can be. Is it a meltdown or is it a panic/anxiety attack? Do they really have a stomach ache or is it anxiety worrying about a test that’s 3 days away? Are they really still hungry after eating a meal or is it the anxiety telling them that??
It is estimated that up to 80% of children with Asperger Syndrome also experience intense anxiety symptoms. Anxiety Disorders such as OCD, Social Anxiety, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder commonly co-occur with Asperger Disorder. Little is known about what anxiety symptoms look like in children with Asperger Syndrome, the following symptoms, which overlap with Anxiety Disorders, indicate anxiety: avoidance of new situations, withdrawal from social situations, irritability, somatic complaints…
What are somatic complaints you ask … well here goes: Somatic complaints are those that have no medical explanation. They generally consist of gastrointestinal problems, constipation, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, colitis, migraines, headaches, back aches, and skin disorders. It is thought that these problems, although real to the person that has them, may be brought on by stress or emotional factors. Somatic complaints are difficult to treat because there are no underlying medical issues that are causing them.
What causes these anxieties? Reflecting parents’ anxiety – children pick up what their parents are feeling (fear, anger, etc.) Bullying – whether on purpose or accidental – unkind words and actions. Over responding to stress – did they forget a pencil or book or the least little thing. Unhealthy lifestyle – diet, exercise or lack thereof can all lead to anxiety – and this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It’s a fine line we walk trying to figure it all out and most days I wonder if the “doctors” have it figured out. I think sometimes it’s by trial and error there too.
Children with both Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety Disorders experience a more limited world than children with only one disorder. They could have difficulty in adapting at home and in school by avoiding opportunities to make friends, join clubs and break their usual rituals to try something new.
Other anxieties may be seen and may be unique to children with Asperger Syndrome are increased insistence on routines and sameness, increased preference for rules and rigidity, increased repetitive behavior, increased special interest (electronics, etc.), anger outburst more easily, and acting silly at times. Silly – as in just plain silly no matter what the circumstance is, behavior that is not appropriate.
It’s a crazy world we live in and trying to get answers is oh so frustrating to parents/grandparents…. thinking about that we have to realize the kids are just as frustrated as we are most of the time.