Autism Spectrum and the Fear of Being Misunderstood

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash

Part of the "spectrum" in autism spectrum refers to the fact that struggles in the areas of social communication and awareness of others (or any other autistic characteristic) may look like "too much" or "too little" of that quality. For example, in the area of empathy, the autistic individual may feel very little in reaction to the emotions of others. Alternatively, he may show hyper-empathy, feeling quite overwhelmed by others' emotions.

In the area of social communication, the ASD individual may have little concern about communicating or being heard by others. In contrast she may feel the heavy and persistent weight of concern that others have misunderstood her. One person described it by saying "I have a phobia of being misunderstood."

The individual with this quality may frequently ruminate after an interaction and wonder what someone thought about her or whether they understood what she was trying to say. Sometimes difficulty reading the reactions of others intensifies this fear and feeds anxious concerns about whether everything in the encounter ran smoothly. Meanwhile, the other individual in the encounter never gave it a second thought.

ASD individuals who are bothered by social rumination may wish to take just a moment to check in with others a day or so later -- allowing for any clarification about the previous encounter if needed. This should be done casually, and, once the other person responds, it is important for the autistic individual to stop checking-in. She may wish to have a "one time check-in" policy to make sure she isn't checking so often that it hurts any good basis for relationship. Then distraction or calming strategies may help release those fears.

#autism #adultautism

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