Tag Archives: illness

Is this illness or stress?

Autistic people tend to get quite stressed with sensory issues, changes in routine, the need to plan, anxiety build-up, and social communication all playing a part. Stress can and often will have a physical impact: this might be stomach pains, headaches, sickness and more extreme symptoms. I have found this out myself on more that one occasion. Headaches, feeling sick or having pains in my stomach is far from uncommon, and I know by now that they are all signs of an overload. When I was around five or six, before I was home-educated, I would have awful pains in my stomach and feel as if I were going to throw-up knowing that I would have to go to school the next morning. If anyone had seen me they would have thought I was ill, but this was something I felt every night and every morning before school. It was not an illness, it was stress and anxiety brought on by my hatred of school. In more recent years there have been two times when after a big event, for example, a talk or my book launch I have found myself racked with stomach cramps that have led to me being unable to anything, but lie down and wait for them to pass. These have not come on an hour or two after though; the first lot came the night after my book launch, and the second lot came the morning after my talk. I have not had anything like them at any other time, and despite how bad my stomach can get, this was much worse. The first time this came on after my book launch I knew I was going to be sick; it was around eight when I first started feeling the pain, and I was up till after four in the morning, throwing up four times. The next morning I was fine – they were gone as soon as they’d arrived. The second time I was not sick, but again the pain started when I woke up and I could do nothing but ride it out. By the end of the day I was almost back to normal.

It is my belief that these pains and the sickness were brought on by the build-up of anxiety and stress that led up to each event. Add to that the social pressure and sensory impact of the two events, and you can see why the stress and overload might be so great it has a physical impact on my body.

In fact sometimes it can be all too easy to put something down to stress or anxiety or overload. On Monday night I started to feel pain in my side and stomach again, not as bad as the two times talked about before, but the same kind of pain. I had been to two quite stressful and overwhelming appointments in the week leading up to this after months of not doing much at all, so I put it down to that. I had been trying to get back to normal after a long time of not doing anything and I had been doing well, but now my body was telling me not to push it. So when I woke up the next morning and the pain was still there I cancelled the appointment I had for that day, and decided to rest. In fact the pain lasted most of the week. I am free of it today, but it’s been there to greater or lesser degrees since Monday.

On one hand the fact that I was able to see when things were too much, and take a step back with out pushing myself too far is a good thing. In the past I have not always been able to do this, and although I was in pain this time there was no throwing-up, and the pain was not anywhere near as bad as it has been in the past. But it made me think; as soon as I felt that pain and the feeling of sickness that came with it in the first day or two my mind instantly said “stress and overload”. On the third day I thought about the idea that it might be a strain of some kind, but that would not make sense as I felt it in two places, and as I say it also came with a feeling of sickness. But I do wonder how do you tell normal pain and feelings of sickness from pain and sickness brought on by stress? I knew what I had been doing in the week leading up to getting the pain for the first time so I guess it makes sense that my mind would jump to that. But in doing so I run the risk of ignoring a real physical illness that could get worse the longer it’s left. It’s a hard call to make; you do not want to go running of to the doctors every time you have a bit of pain, and it is often good to let things resolve themselves on their own, but even if leaving something will not cause any harm and it does fix itself, I am still left with the question – am I feeling pain as a result of stress, or is there something else wrong?

The pain induced by stress can come in all forms, and sometimes last for days so at what point do I say there might be something else going on? When you add to that my high pain threshold, and the way I tend to get used to feeling a certain way it’s hard to find that point. When I talk about getting used to feelings what I mean is (and this might apply to other autistic people) I mean that I find myself getting used to feeling a certain way very quickly. This has often led to things going unnoticed for a long time in the past. I have talked in blogs before about the infection I got in my foot at one point. When I first began to feel the pain I brought it up, but then within days I was just used to feeling pain in that toe, to wincing every time it touched my bed covers, or I had to put my shoes on. As strange as it might sound I did not think about the pain in-between those moments; I was aware of it and aware that it had not always been that way, but it was weeks or perhaps even a month after first bringing it up that I thought to tell anyone that it was still causing me a lot of pain. Now of course that was nothing to do with stress, and I did not think for one moment at the time that it was. But you can see how it might lead to issues at some point; a pain starts and I put it down to stress, it stays for a few days but stress pains can do that so I leave it, and it would be easy for me to just adapt and not think too much about it from that point. I do know that this might not make any sense at all to some of you, but perhaps some other autistic people might understand what I am talking about.

I have no idea when I start to feel pain if I have hurt myself some how, if there is something else going on, or if it’s due to stress. So I have a day or two of relaxing to try and de-stress and the pain goes away, but who knows, perhaps that is just coincidence? Anyone could feel stress-related pains from time to time, but when you are autistic they happen – at least in my case – quite a lot, and to make things more complicated they do not always feel the same. Sometimes it’s feeling sick, sometimes it’s headaches, and sometimes it’s feeling dizzy or faint, and much more. In the worst case scenario this could lead to me putting something down to stress that is in fact a symptom of something physical. But even if that never happens it is still very irritating to never know the source of any pain that I might feel, to have to make a guess and hope that it is right.

Does anyone else find this hard? Do you know when something is down to stress, and when it’s physical?

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

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The sensory impact of a cold.

I have talked in the past about how in the days before coming down with some kind of illness I can be prone to meltdowns, almost as if I am reacting to the illness before I even know I am ill. When I say illness this can apply to anything, even a simple cold like the one I woke up with this morning. But I have not had any meltdowns for some time now, and I felt fine in the days leading up to this, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about in this blog. As I say I don’t always have a meltdown before I come down with something, but having a meltdown or being stressed-out/ grumpy with those around me can be a sign I am coming down with something. But what I noticed this time that I have not thought too much about in the past, is how much worse my sensory issues tend to get when I have a cold.

I find it so much harder to be around others (I have spent most of today in my room) and I think this has quite a bit to do with the sensory impact of a cold. Most colds don’t come with any pain (if you are unlucky you might get a headache) but they do hit your senses. Take the one I have today – no pain at all to speak of, but a blocked nose, a fuzzy feeling in my ears, and a constant strange taste in my mouth. At times I find myself getting hot and starting to sweat, and at other times my eyes start to water. I have noticed today more than ever before how stressful those things can be. It feels as if I can only spend a few minutes around other people before I have had enough, and I start to snap at them, or just have to go and be on my own again. That’s not because of how bad I feel, as I say it is only a cold, in fact if I were in pain I know that I would cope much better. I have a high pain threshold and can keep quite calm when in pain. But I think the key thing about a cold is how it hits all your senses.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s as if my body is having such a hard time processing all this extra sensory input that I hardly have any space left for any more sensory input, such as people talking to me.

I tend to find that pain is much more easy to deal with; it might be bad but it tends to stay in one place, and it’s easier to cut off from the rest of my body. Even when I have been in the worst pain of my life I have been much more able to sit and talk with people, and process what they have to say to me than I am when I have a pretty normal cold. So it’s not just a case of me feeling sorry for myself. But when all your senses are working overtime, thrown off balance and struggling to keep up with what is going on it’s hard to have any space/ability left to cope with other day to day sensory inputs. This is something I have never thought much about before, but when I talked to my Mum about it she said that she often feels the same thing. Because I am autistic I do not process sensory input in a passive way, and therefore the more inputs I have to deal with the harder my mind has to work to process them all. Processing what someone is saying to me takes a lot more active engagement for me than it would for someone who was not autistic, and when I am thrown off balance by strange sensory input (such as feeling suddenly very hot, or having a blocked nose and the strange feelings that come with that) it seems to have very little energy left to engage with, and process anything else.

You could make the argument that if you feel ill, even if it’s only with a cold, then you are going to be more irritable and less able to focus anyway, but as I say this is something I have noticed specifically in relation to colds.

As soon as my nose starts to clear, and my ears no longer feel as fuzzy I can get on with much more normal stuff again and spend time around people, but when I am fully in the grip of a cold I can barely even be around others for a few minutes before I am overloaded, and need to get away from them. I find myself much more able to keep working through pain than I am to work with a cold, and overall colds are much more disruptive to me than just about anything else. I do think there is a link between the sensory effect of a cold on the body, and my lack of ability to deal with day to day sensory issues such as people talking to me when I have one.

I wonder if any of you have noticed the same thing? Does a common cold have more of an impact on you than feeling real pain would? And if so do you think that impact is due to the sensory impact of a cold?

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Autism, Illness and Meltdowns:

The signs are all there – so why can`t I recognise them?

I normally have an outburst before I get ill.  It doesn’t mean I get ill every time I have an outburst, but it does mean that if ever I am coming down with something, in the days before it fully becomes apparent that I am ill, I will have some kind of meltdown or outburst, or at the very least be snappy, and even more short tempered.

I find it hard to recognise when I am feeling ill.  And so where a lot of people would say that they are not feeling too great and perhaps adjust what they were doing to suit that, I just carry on as normal and my negative feelings come out in other ways.  It might seem strange; how can you not know if you are feeling ill?  But what you have to understand is that with autism comes stress and anxiety, and with stress and anxiety come physical traits that can be similar to being ill: stomach pains, headaches, and tightness of the chest, nausea and dizziness.  These are all common, sometimes daily, occurrences for me and other people who have high anxiety levels.  So how am I supposed to know when they grow worse that this is actually down to me becoming ill?  I also, as I have discussed before, have a high pain threshold.  This has a lot of bonuses of course, but also means that things like infections can take hold and become serious before I even notice I`ve got them.  It is not uncommon for me to be ill for several days before I actually realise it.  And in those days I tend to have an outburst (meltdown) This happened again recently.  I had an outburst and was short tempered for the next couple of days, and then I became ill.  The same old pattern.

But it raises questions.  The biggest and most obvious of which is `if it is the same old pattern and it has been going on for years, why can`t I spot it?  The honest answer is I don`t know.  I think it is a combination of things.  As I`ve said before, symptoms get lost.  I don`t feel pain the same way other people do.  But also I think I get so caught up in the short term impact; if I am feeling ill then things such as noise, or other sensory stuff will affect me much more than they normally do.  So I need to deal with this.  In the moment I can`t stop and think `why can I not handle so much talking? ` I just need whoever is talking to shut up so that is what I tell them to do.  My Mum tends to react to that, but I still need her not to talk so I tell her again, and things escalate from there generally.  We can both see this perfectly when we look back at it, but in the moment neither of us seems to be aware.  It is something that we both need to work on.  But I am sure you can see how difficult it is trying to spot illness in somebody or even in yourself, by how they/you speak or react to things – days before any symptom of the actual illness become apparent.

Have any of you ever experienced anything like this?  And if not how does illness impact on you, if you are autistic?

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

And here`s the link to our new E Book Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

Anxiety & Stress, and the physical impact they can have.

We all know by now that autism and anxiety come hand-in-hand.  Anxiety can be provoked by even the smallest of things because to autistic people these things are not small.  It might be knowing that you have to go out, or worrying because your routine has been changing. But what kind of impact can this high level of anxiety, day to day, have on your physical health?  Well I can’t talk for everyone, but I can tell you the impact it has had on me over the last few years. First off I need to point out that with starting university, and some serious family issues my stress levels have been higher in the last two years than they ever have been before.

Normal physical reactions: What do I mean by normal? Well it`s common to feel some level of physical reaction when you have anxiety.  For example if I know I have to go out at eight at night then from around five I will start feeling cold inside, have pains in my guts and maybe even get a headache. I am more than used to this by now as I have had it all my life. When I used to have to go to school (I was home educated after age seven) I would feel sick all night and all morning before I got there.

That might be the case for everyone autistic or not, but being autistic I feel anxiety more than most. In fact anxiety affects me daily, as it does a lot of autistic people. But what about at times of high stress and anxiety? How severely can anxiety impact on my physical health?

Loss of sight: A little over a year ago, as I was coming to the end of my first year at university, I woke up one morning and tried to walk to the bathroom. As I walked across the landing I could feel myself growing weaker to the point where, when I got in to the bathroom, I had to lean up on the wall to stop myself falling to the floor. As this was happing my vision was also fading to be replaced by blackness. For a good few minutes I could only lean there dripping in sweat and unsure if I was throwing up or not due to the fact that I could not see a thing. This lasted for approximately five minutes, and once it had passed I of course went to A&E. and the doctors there said it was caused through stress and anxiety. Now I did end up getting very ill with an infection around the same time. But the view of most of the people I talked to was that this would not have brought on the loss of sight, but high stress might have. Having talked to someone who used to lose their sight quite a bit due to stress as a teenager I do think that stress/anxiety had a large role to play.

Chest pain: A few days ago, and around a year after the loss of sight, I woke up and got out of bed again only this time instead of my eyes it was my chest that was the issue. I had sharp pains around where my heart is, and when I sat up on the side of my bed they only got worse. I dressed, but when I bent down to tie my shoes I found I could not due to the pain that it caused me. This lasted for a while, and then only returned twice that day, with one-off sharp pains. All in all I had pains like that for four straight days. So how do I know it had anything to do with anxiety and stress? Well I did go to the Dr and was told it might be stress, or something to do with my muscles. But I think it was stress. I have had pains like that before you see, but only once or twice. The first time I got one I was in the middle of a meltdown, shouting and highly stressed. I had two sharp pains in my chest. Over the past week or so there have been a lot of meltdowns, and a lot of stress. I don’t see it as any coincidence that the pain came back worse than ever during those four days when I was extremely anxious and stressed.

When you live with high levels of anxiety and stress almost every day of your life you are bound to be impacted by it in some physical way. The human body can’t take that level of worry without reacting somehow, even just as a warning to you that you need to change something. After the pain in my chest I decided to take a short break, and then come back with a new plan, and routine to try and make my days less stressful.

Have any of you had your anxiety/stress impact on your physical health?  If so what have you done, if anything, minimise the chances of it happening again.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762