There are, of course, the more general ways to support a person with anxiety disorder. Anxiety has been impacting people of all abilities and ages for years. A great deal of study and research has been done to enable professionals to offer a variety of methods to tailor their care. It is important to remember that each individual with ASD who experiences anxiety attacks will manifest it differently. Therefore there is not one method that can be used that can be a foolproof cure.Treatment and support takes "a village" of committed professionals and caregivers as well as a variety of methods.
Other more commonly described treatment options include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is very effective. It teaches those with anxiety and panic attacks how to identify their anxiety and how to change anxiety generating thoughts. The underlying belief with CBT is that it is not so much events that are a cause of anxiety but what we think about them. Dr. Storch of the University of Southern Florida states that "Cognitive behavioral therapy has worked very well for typically developing kids with anxiety (Nauert, 2009)".
Medication alone may reduce some anxiety but will not eliminate it entirely. Some of the anti-anxiety drugs are very potent and some produce severe side effects in some people. While medication can give short term relief to the symptoms, it is important that other strategies are used as well, including counseling and learning more about the condition.
The National Institute of Mental Health offers these reminders about taking medication:
- Ask your doctor to tell you about the effects and side effects of the drug.
- Tell your doctor about any alternative therapies or over-the-counter medications you are using.
- Ask your doctor when and how the medication should be stopped. Some drugs can't be stopped abruptly but must be tapered off slowly under a doctor's supervision.
- Work with your doctor to determine which medication is right for you and what dosage is best.
- Be aware that some medications are effective only if they are taken regularly and that symptoms may recur if the medication is stopped.(12)
Diet and Exercise
Physical fitness (dancing, running, biking, walking) and a good balanced diet are essential for emotional well-being. Many people find that doing something physical helps reduced the "keyed up" feelings often associated with anxiety. "For some people, high caffeine foods such as coffee and chocolate, can act as a trigger to panic attacks, probably because caffeine can cause bodily changes such as an increase in heart rate which can be misinterpreted as the start of a panic attack or a heart condition; the fear this causes can then trigger a real panic attack. (Autism Help)".
"These can be useful to reduce stress or to help you cope during an attack (Autism Help)". There are numerous books and tapes which can help you learn these techniques. Dr. June Groden is a pioneer in the field of autism and the director of the Groden Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Her primary areas of interest are stress and anxiety and procedures to reduce stress. Her focus has been on the development of relaxation and imagery procedures of individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
In an interview with Dr. Groden she describes the relaxation process that has been used with individuals with ASD. She states "that it does take time for the individual to understand and integrate relaxation into their day. Even the individuals who are more involved can learn relaxation techniques. "However; she goes on to say that "it may take a number of years of repeated practice, using visual cues for the individual to finally understand what to do when instructed to relax (Autism Research Institute, 1996)".
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Some individuals report that the use of herbs, vitamins, and homeopathy can be effective when used alone or in conjunction with other treatments, although there is usually the underlying question about whether they have proved to be evidence-based treatments or not (Autism Help)". Some alternative means include
- role playing
- drawing pictures
- sand play/therapy
- social interaction skills assistance
- incorporating their passions and interests
- experiencing soothing activities (e.g. horse riding, going to the beach)
- writing in a journal
The list could be endless. The chosen methods, ultimately, are those that are suited to the individual Page, 2009)".
Davis, K (2012) Anxiety and panic struggles. Retrieved from Anxiety and panic struggles.