What Triggers Symptoms of Anxiety In People With Autism?

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Written By Charlotte Miller

Every day, all of us experience several circumstances and situations that can cause anxiety for us. It can be anything like arriving late for a job interview, sitting in a traffic jam, or even something really silly like not getting the joke that others are finding extremely funny.

Yes, all these examples are not life-threatening. Individuals who are experiencing these types of situations can calm themselves just with their abilities to see and season the whole picture.

You just need to breathe and accept the fact that these things happen and life goes on.

This scenario is a lot different for individuals who are suffering from autistic spectrum disorder or ASD. Some commonplace situations can be enough to cause anxiety for them.

A lot of people can experience stress, anxiety, or frustration in everyday life situations. At the same time, there are also some individuals, who learn how to cope with those situations with time, and as a result of that, they end up getting less impact of anxiety and stress in their lives.

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What Triggers Symptoms of Anxiety In People With Autism? 

Now, when it comes to individuals with ASD, anxiety, and stress can cripple them to varying degrees. Any situation that causes anxiety to a particular individual might not work for another. So, it is crucial to understand the common stressor of anxiety among individuals with ASD.

Unstructured Time

Unstructured time, which has no particular activity or rules that develop boundaries or limits, can actually be really challenging. Here are some examples of unstructured time.

  • After and before school time.
  • Waiting for and riding the school bus.
  • Lunch or cafeteria.
  • Transitions throughout the day, person to person, place to place, topic to topic.
  • Physical education.
  • Recess.

Academic Situations

Following are examples of academic situations that trigger anxiety in individuals who are suffering from autism spectrum disorder or ASD and can hinder their academic performance greatly.

  • Tests.
  • Answering aloud in class.
  • Presentations in class.
  • Grades,
  • Organization.
  • Reading.
  • Writing.
  • Breaking down tasks.
  • Understanding who needs to be done and how it needs to be done.

Social situations

Individuals who are suffering from ASD always find social situations really challenging. It often increases anxiety in a particular moment or even in anticipation of any particular event that is coming up.

Here are some examples of social situations that can trigger anxiety in autistic people.

  • Initiating a conversation with a peer.
  • Young children are pretty unpredictable in several ways.
  • Large gatherings, like family gatherings and school gatherings.
  • Outdoor activities, such as recess, picnics, and concerts.
  • Adjusting personal interests with family plans or class.
  • Changes in the plan, like family plans, changed or daily school routine interrupted.
  • Novel events- unannounced and unplanned.

Sensory Issues

Sensory issues can actually be too triggering for autistic people anywhere or any time on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter whether someone is experiencing an anxious moment or not; sensory integration challenges have the capability of overpowering the ability of an individual to control themselves.

Here are some of the sensory situations that might provoke anxiety.

  • Haircuts.
  • Food- texture, smell, taste, sight, and sound when eating.
  • Smells- restrooms, markets, colognes, paints, cleaning materials, cafeteria.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Noise or sound.
  • Space- too smelly, too loud, too bright, too crowded, too large, etc.
  • Crowds- grocery store, field trips, concerts, school assemblies, etc.
  • Brushing teeth.
  • Clothing- scratchy, too tight.
  • Bathing, showers (some people have said that showers hurt their bodies).
  • Dental, medical issues.


After a day at their school, where the child with autism was capable of maintaining body control, completing activities, appearing composed, and listening, going home and having a lot more expectations, including those typical routines, might increase agitation and anxiety.

Here are the most common routines that can trigger anxiety in children with an autism spectrum disorder or ASD.

  • Getting ready for school.
  • Bath, meal, bedtime routines.
  • Chored.
  • Doing homework.

For all of us, all these things, along with a lot of others, seem harmless and are completely safe situations which occur in daily living. However, when it comes to an individual with ASD, those same situations can be completely frightening and also create great panic or anxiety.

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Get The Right Help!

ASD can not be cured completely, but with proper treatments, the symptoms of autism can be managed or handled. When you are opting for any treatment program for your autistic child, you also need to ensure that you are considering their mental health condition as well via therapy or other alternative supplements that may aid in their neurological development.

Only visiting a therapist might not be helpful in most cases. It is crucial to opt for a therapist who has prior experience in handling autistic patients because therapists might need to adapt the approach, particularly for autistic people.