Anxiety and Neurodiversity - Article by

Anxiety and Neurodiversity

Key points:

  1. Neurodiversity and Anxiety: Individuals with neurodiverse conditions such as ADHD or autism often experience anxiety that can feel overwhelming and challenging to manage. Understanding how neurodiversity affects anxiety is crucial in developing strategies for relief.
  2. Coping Strategies for Anxiety: Identifying and understanding triggers is key to managing anxiety related to neurodiversity. Tracking daily moods and behaviors, engaging in calming activities like mindfulness exercises, and practicing self-care are effective tools for coping with anxiety.
  3. Resources and Support: Building a toolkit for anxiety relief involves exploring mindfulness techniques, practicing healthy coping skills, and managing difficult emotions. Additionally, accessing mental health resources, joining support groups, and considering cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can provide valuable support and guidance for individuals navigating anxiety due to neurodiversity.

I’ve been dealing with anxiety, while trying to keep it a secret, for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I didn’t talk about my feelings. At times I wondered what was wrong with me; especially during the pre-teen and teenage years when all the social cues that eluded me seemed to be so important.

I struggled with the outside world, especially crowded places. All the different noises came from everywhere, the bright light of the sun stunning my eyes and the air making them cry. I can smell a car exhaust pipe at quite a distance away or the perfume of a person even after they have long left the room. The people around me sometimes get too close and I have to hide my discomfort. When I was younger I used to imagine that I was inside a bubble. People I knew well were welcome in the bubble, but when people I did not know got too close it increased my anxiety significantly.

Throughout the years though I have become a master chameleon. I can fit anywhere and if I play my cards well, no one can see the turmoil that brews inside. When I was a teen all of this was so exhausting that I use to come home, get in my room, close the door, the curtains and cry uncontrollably in the dark until I got it all out. I use to call it my “Exhaustion” cries. Asking for help was extremely difficult for me at the time as I felt a sort of shame for being the way I was.

Help is available, you only need ask.

I am not alone in my battle with anxiety. Over the years a mix of medication, therapies and self help techniques have helped me overcome quite a lot. I can now drive a car and go to places within my hometown perimeters. However, I have always greatly struggled with public transport and I just cannot deal with these anymore on my own. I have my husband by my side though, he happily drives everywhere we want to go which helps hugely. I love being his passenger and he loves driving me around. He’s got an amazing personality that makes people instantly like him and has lots of skills such as creative origami and resin art-making! My husband has this larger than life personality that I can hide behind when I need to. Everyone loves him, he can make friends in a heartbeat, he is a master communicator and I love this about him.

I am in my mid-forties now I have developed coping mechanisms for decades. I cannot say that I know exactly what you are going through because everyone is different but I hope that in sharing my experience in this blog post I can help others who may suffer in silence.

Your Anxiety Toolkit: Coping Strategies for Neurodiversity

Anxiety and stress can be common for those of us living with neurodiversity. Whether it’s due to autism, ADHD, or any other condition that affects the brain and nervous system, anxiety can feel overwhelming and hard to manage.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is that there are ways to cope with these feelings in a healthy way. It all comes down to having an effective toolkit of strategies in your back pocket that you can utilise when things get tough.

In this article, we will explore some techniques for managing anxiety related to neurodiversity so that you can find the right methods for you. From deep breathing exercises to thinking positively, come along as we look at key coping strategies for anxiety relief.

What Is Neurodiversity and How Does It Affect Anxiety?

We all experience anxiety in different ways, and those of us who have neurodiverse diagnoses like ADHD and autism are sometimes more vulnerable to it. Neurodiversity refers to the wide range of variations in mental functioning and behaviour, including learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.

Neurodiverse individuals often find it more difficult to regulate their emotions than those with typical neurological function. This can lead to feelings of anxiety that are particularly challenging to manage. Anxiety sufferers with neurodiversity may also experience sensory processing difficulties that make their symptoms more intense or difficult to process.

Having a better understanding of the ways that your neurodiversity affects your anxiety can help you work towards developing strategies for managing it. With a toolkit of anxiety-relieving techniques—like mindfulness practice, cognitive restructuring, and emotional regulation—you can take control of your anxiety and find relief from its symptoms.

Identifying and Understanding Your Triggers

When it comes to managing anxiety due to neurodiversity, ADHD and autism, the key is being able to identify and understand your triggers. These triggers can be anything from a change in routine to feeling overwhelmed by social situations.

Recognizing these triggers is the first step in developing coping strategies that help you manage your anxiety. By understanding what causes your anxiety, you can develop strategies tailored specifically for the situations that are most stressful for you.

Some common tools for helping identify and manage triggers include:

  • Tracking daily moods and behaviours – Keeping a journal or diary of any triggers, events, or changes in your environment that led to an increase in anxiety can help you start understanding patterns in how your environment affects your emotional state.
  • Developing calming activities – Mindfulness exercises like deep breathing, grounding techniques or muscle relaxation can help you refocus and create space between yourself and a difficult situation.
  • Practicing self-care – Taking care of yourself on a physical level (plenty of sleep, eating well) as well as an emotional level (talking to someone you trust) is key for managing stress levels and preventing them from spiralling out of control.

Mindfulness Techniques for Reducing Stress

One way to cope with the stress resulting from neurodiversity is to explore different mindfulness techniques. When faced with anxious thoughts or situations, try to take a step back and observe the situation, rather than reacting immediately. Spending a few minutes practicing deep breathing, yoga poses or mindful walking can help you to regain your sense of calm and perspective.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique helps to reduce the physical tension that often comes along with anxiety. To practice progressive muscle relaxation, lie down in a comfortable position and start tensing each muscle group for a few seconds, then releasing it and noticing the difference in sensation. For example, first tense your toes, then release them and feel the energy flowing throughout your body. Work through your body in this way until you reach your head and face muscles — that’s when you know you’re done!

Taking Mini Breaks

Mini breaks are a great way to recharge your day – if you feel overwhelmed or are starting to notice signs of stress, take five minutes away from the task at hand and do something else for a bit. Listen to some calming music, go for a walk, or just close your eyes for five minutes. You’ll be surprised how refreshed you will feel afterward!

Mindfulness techniques can help reduce stress related to neurodiversity by:

  • Allowing us take a step back from reacting instinctively
  • Teaching us how to connect with our physical sensations
  • Taking us away from our thoughts and into something else
  • Helping us access feelings of calm and relaxation

Practicing Healthy Coping Skills When Feelings of Anxiety Arise

It’s impossible to completely outrun your feelings of anxiety when you’re neurodiverse, but you can practice healthy coping skills to manage them. It’s all about finding the right balance of ways to cope. If you find anything that makes the anxiety worse or hinders your daily life, it’s probably best to avoid it. Here are a few go-to strategies you can use whenever anxiety strikes:

Take a deep breath

Deep breathing and meditation can help calm a racing heart, reduce stress, and help clear your mind. Try taking 5 slow and deep breaths by inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 8 seconds. You can add some positive affirmations in with each breath if it helps.

Get moving

Exercise is an incredibly effective way to relieve stress and improve mental health. Going for a run, taking a yoga class, or trying something else active are great options that don’t require any special equipment or complicated knowledge of exercise.

Talk it out

Whether you talk to friends or family members, having someone who’s willing to listen and support you is invaluable during times of stress. Or if talking to people close to you isn’t your thing, there are counsellors who specialize in autistic and ADHD issues who can provide guidance on how best to cope with your anxiety.

Practical Strategies for Managing Difficult Emotions

When it comes to managing anxiety due to neurodiversity, there are some specific strategies you can use. One of them is learning ways to actively manage your emotions. This is about having recognition and understanding for the fact that emotions, even when they are difficult, aren’t necessarily bad.

Instead of trying to suppress them, the goal should be to explore and practice ways of expressing those feelings safely and appropriately.

Calming Techniques

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by emotion, it’s a good idea to try calming techniques like deep breathing or meditation. Taking time for yourself to pause and process your feelings can help you increase self-awareness and gain better control over them. Doing this on a regular basis can help you develop more effective coping mechanisms for when an emotional moment happens.

Positive Affirmations

You can also try using positive affirmations and self talk as a way of dealing with anxieties or difficult emotions related to your neurodiversity. Positive affirmations are helpful for reminding yourself that those negative thoughts and feelings don’t have control over you. Instead, start focusing on what’s going well in your life; celebrate small victories; talk kindly to yourself; take breaks when needed; be patient with yourself; remind yourself that things will pass – all these strategies can be effective tools in managing anxiety due to neurodiversity.

Mental Health Resources and Support Networks

Navigating life with neurodiversity can be a challenge. That’s why it’s important to be aware of mental health resources and support networks. Whether you suffer from anxiety due to ADHD or autism, having access to the right resources can make a world of difference.

Find a Support Group

Sometimes it takes a village! Reach out to a support group in your area. Talking with someone who understands your struggles can help you feel less alone. There is also the potential of getting advice from others who have been through similar experiences.

Online Communities

There are plenty of online communities that provide an invaluable source of support and resources. These communities are typically based off mutual interests and experiences. They allow people to find likeminded peers with whom they can relate.

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is an evidence-based method for treating anxiety. It focuses on helping individuals become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours so they can learn how to better manage their emotions. CBT has been proven successful in treating anxiety symptoms due to neurodiversity.

By connecting with these mental health resources, you’ll have access to a whole host of professionals and peers who can help you manage anxiety caused by neurodiversity. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help—you don’t have to go through it alone!


Ultimately, it’s important to remember that no matter what neurodiverse condition you have, you’re not alone in experiencing anxiety. It’s completely natural and normal, and it’s something that can be managed.

Identifying anxiety triggers and learning strategies to cope with them is very important. You can start to take back some of your control and feel more confident in addressing anxious moments. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to managing anxiety. Don’t be afraid to keep experimenting until you find the right pieces for your own personalized anxiety toolkit.


  • “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig – This book explores the author’s personal experience with anxiety and depression. It delves into his struggles with mental health, societal expectations, and finding ways to cope.
  • “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson – This memoir explores the author’s experiences with mental illness, including anxiety. It combines humour with serious discussions about living with a mental health condition.
  • “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain – Although not specifically focused on anxiety, this book delves into the experiences of introverts and the challenges they face in a society that values extroversion. It touches on feelings of being different and struggling with social expectations.
  • “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund J. Bourne – This self-help workbook provides practical strategies and techniques for managing anxiety. It covers topics such as identifying triggers, relaxation techniques, and cognitive-behavioural therapy exercises.
  • “Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief: A Revolutionary Approach to Understanding and Healing the Impact of Loss” by Claire Bidwell Smith – While centered on grief, this book explores the connection between grief and anxiety. It addresses the experience of anxiety in the context of loss and provides tools for healing and self-care.

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