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No worries mate!

Some of you will quickly recognise the photograph, as well as the phrase No worries mate ! Rest assured that I will not be talking about the replacement of Crocodile Dundee or how to hypnotise wild animals!


But if there's one thing I can tell you about it's worries, or better saying, worries. My days are spent in the middle of them and that's why it's important to be able to understand them better. Not only their nature, but also what they mean for the people themselves and for those who come into contact with them. Because a worry for me doesn't mean that it's also a worry for someone else! And also because of this we have the emergence of other worries that follow on from these initial worries. Complicated? No worries mate!


And if on the one hand I think there are people who very often see or feel worries, there are others who have lives that I don't understand why they don't have more worries! This is the case of adult autistic people!


Either because they have always lived with worries or situations that cause worry. I don't understand people! or I feel that people don't understand me! But also because these multiple and varied misunderstandings generate themselves situations of suffering or abuse (e.g., bullying). But also because there are other people in their lives who wonder why they (autistic people) do not seem to care about certain things. Or why they systematically, constantly and insistently worry about the same things. Either way it seems that the worry is always there, whether it is the person's or the other's, because it is present or absent!


As I mentioned before, when I think about adult autistic people, I wonder why they don't worry more! Because what I observe is that they have many and varied reasons for that. Yet it is important to help people to know how best to address this worry factor. It is also important to validate the worry itself and the source of this worry and what it means to the person.


But if we think that autistic people since very early in life have a whole set of challenges and adversities in their relationship with the world, with others and with themselves. Besides the multiple challenges felt throughout the whole process of compulsory schooling and later on in Higher Education, both with the syllabus, but also with the teachers and colleagues. As well as the tremendous difficulty in entering the labour market and staying there. In addition to the situations of other associated psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety, among others. As you can see, there is no reason not to think about how adult autistic people have no justification to be worried. But I stress again, that it is still fundamental to help people to better deal with this worry factor. Even because worry is something found very often in what are these diagnoses and clinical pictures, whether of the autism spectrum, but also of depression and anxiety.


Adult autistic people commonly experience anxiety and worry, although knowledge about how worry presents itself and the content, extent, and experiences among autistic adults is limited. And as such, adult autistic people often face a range of challenges in life, many of which can be exacerbated by mental health differences that, in turn, can negatively affect quality of life.


Worry as a behavioural manifestation of human beings is adaptive, just like other manifestations of sadness or joy. However, when its level and other characteristics become pathological, it takes on an impactful and significant expression in the person's life, and it is this worry that needs to be helped. The common content of pathological worry includes deep or considered thoughts about the future (e.g. potential misfortunes and how they can be avoided, situations with mostly catastrophic outcomes, etc.) or past events (e.g. the implications of past behaviours perceived as mistakes).


But if on the one hand we can recognise the existence of a concern that may be seen as pathological in adult autistic people. It is also fundamental to deconstruct and demystify the concerns of adult autistic people. And if you think you will find some atypical or bizarre answers, you are wrong.


For example, if you think about the following questions, What does worry mean to you? Do you feel any worry? What does worry feel like (e.g., in your body, in your mood)? What are the types of things you worry about? What is your feeling of worry? How often? With what intensity? Are there specific times of the day when you worry most? Are there specific situations that cause you the most worry What is the impact/affect of your worry?


That I am not a good father. That I won't be able to defend my child. My relationships. People will know that I am different and will judge me differently. That I will let people down. everything. That my life has no purpose. I don't have a personality. My health! What will happen when I can't take care of myself. Traffic and driving. My future!


As we can see, the concerns of adult autistic people are largely similar to those of adult non-autistic people: And those who are not, focus largely on what are the difficulties experienced by themselves in the interaction with others and the world.


It is true that we can observe a more ruminative behaviour and that works as a maintenance factor of this more disturbing concern. And when the adult autistic person has an above average cognitive profile, this seems to function as a risk factor. And it will be no coincidence that some people describe these moments of thinking in relation to worry as endless periods involving overthinking, where thoughts seem to circulate in the mind throughout their daily lives. But also being worried about how others perceive them, or how they will react to their person or initiative, also seem to be a source of worry. Which may have to do with the desire and/or need to belong to the community. And clearly, worrying about new and uncertain situations leads to many autistic people becoming over-activated and their worry index increasing significantly.


As many of you may already know and have experienced, approaching a person with worry and telling them not to worry, i.e. No worries mate, does not work. And it will most likely get the opposite result to what you want. But we can think that adult autistic people, like any adult person, have their worries. And it is important to help them to understand their worries and how to deal with them and all the other worries they might avoid or better anticipate. Understanding and accepting that worries are an integral part of life seems fundamental to me. Not that I want to give you a prescription, far be it from me. But it seems fundamental to me to learn to accept worries and not to fight against them systematically. Even those who have already done so realise that the worries seem to win most of the time. It is necessary for the person with worries to be able to allocate the necessary resources, cognitive and emotional, to deal precisely with the worries. And thus be able to provide a more adequate response, both to the worry and to themselves. And perhaps this is what is at the basis of this so-called Aussie philosophy (meaning Australian), for the phrase No worries mate!


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