Anxiety is not specific to the neurodivergent community but it is a very common sensation for many of us. Anxiety suffered by autistics is an internalised state. It may begin with being in a stressful situation, maybe somewhere unfamiliar or with strangers. Unfortunately for us, in a world that has not been designed with our differing needs in mind, the number of situations that have the potential to cause stress is far, far greater for an autistic person. We may have sensory difficulties, executive dysfunction and communication and social differences, to name but a few potential minefields.

It could be something as seemingly straightforward as not being able to find your car at the supermarket, being in a crowded environment and feeling overwhelmed, having to make choices under pressure, sudden loud traffic noise, an unexpected event – the list is endless and unique to each person. All of these situations are stress points, which is bad enough. For non-autistics, stressful situations resolve, generally, when the situation is over. The problem for us is that we spend our whole lives, potentially waiting for the next every day stressful situation. It can be the tiniest thing. So, we live in a constant state of anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t go away when a stressful situation is over and that’s because it’s inside us, it isn’t situation-dependent.

The point is that anxiety is common and our responses to it can be unexpected, for everyone concerned. So much of our anxiety could be reduced if those we move amongst were better educated and more compassionate. Anxiety can have very serious consequences, from self-harm, meltdowns, shutdowns, selective mutism, fawning, and anger, with the practical consequences of potentially losing jobs, being in trouble at school, at home, losing friends or partners.

And all of this vast array of ballistic consequences often starts with anxiety, not eased by a lack of understanding of its impact on us, its causes and others’ accommodation.

You may find it helpful to read the glossary entry about stress, so you have a point of comparison.