I am a firm believer that individuals of all neurologies can benefit from development tools and therapies such as CBT, hypnotherapy, Hypno-CBT, mindfulness and other focused attention work.
Some autistic individuals believe that these practices may not work for them, and I believe this may be because of a fear that the hyper-focus and rumination that autists commonly experience may lead them to focus too much on unhelpful cognitions, as opposed to helpful ones.
Firstly, let’s point out that anyone with unresolved trauma issues is best-placed seeking assistance from a professional talking therapist. It isn’t wise to try to deal with trauma issues oneself; trauma and PTSD should be addressed in a safe, professional space.
Tools like meditations and focused attention exercises, while being beneficial to aid ‘presence’ and calm one’s autonomic nervous system, are likewise no substitute for talking therapy. However, if an individual is undergoing therapy, or is simply embarking on a self-improvement path, mindfulness and focussed attention exercises can be additionally beneficial. (I am developing a database of free audio resources on this site, found on these blog pages).
I believe that the day to day issues that many highly sensitive and neurodivergent individuals experience that are connected with anxiety, excessive rumination (self-talk), issues of self-worth and social communicative issues can all be addressed with tools such as CBT, Hypno CBT, mindfulness and focused attention work.
Reducing anxiety and depression symptoms
Studies back up the fact that mindfulness helps – research shows that depressive symptoms and anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric concern for autistic individuals, and mindfulness-based work has widely been found to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression symptoms, in studies.
In terms of mindfulness, I have heard autistic people say things like: “I don’t want to be mindful of my thoughts – I am trying to get away from them.” However, I’d challenge this viewpoint. Yes, we autists can experience excessive self-talk – rumination; ‘looping’ thoughts, stuck record syndrome, you name it – but ‘escaping’ our thoughts, and of course dealing with them in other ways, eg. through compulsions or self-medicating, don’t necessarily help. From personal experience, the best way to manage ‘obsessive’ tendencies (remember, autists in particular may thrive on sameness and repetition), is to learn how to develop presence, observe our thoughts, and let them go. This is a learned skill, like riding a bike. CBT techniques can be especially helpful in this regard, and teach us to utilise more beneficial thinking styles.
Mindfulness can definitely help; do try this 14 minute, anti-anxiety meditation / focussed attention exercise; it’s designed to help individuals recalibrate and gain some presence. (Click the image and it takes you to the meditation).
If you’d like more info, please email Kathy on email@example.com to discuss your queries.
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