List of things which cause anxiety.

Direct demands.

  • being asked to get an item for someone
  • asked to do something for someone. ie pass on a message, make them a drink/meal, tidy up, look after a child, etc.
  • being asked to move, speak, smile, ask/answer questions


  • ‘can you make me a cup of tea’. (I might be busy, not know how you like your tea, may be in an unfamiliar place and so not know where the cups/tea bags/spoons are, I might be wanting a hot drink too but am not ready for one yet and feel stressed at having to make two drinks separately when it makes more sense to me to make them together when I am ready for one)
  • ‘can you pass me the falafal’. (I don’t know what that is, where it is, I have problems with directions so may end up looking in the wrong place and get flustered trying to find something I can’t see, I struggle to ask for help and get so flustered that my speech makes no sense)
  • ‘tell x I will meet him at 2 at y place’. (I struggle to speak to people normally, I struggle to remember people’s names so may not know who to speak to, I am likely to forget the message specifically who sent the message and what the time and place was, I don’t have the answers for follow-up questions, I will panic if I cannot find the person in order to pass on the message, I am unable to actually call most people by their names and so would be forced to say excuse me, which is useless in a busy social setting, I hate being the centre of attention)
  • ‘sit down/find somewhere to sit’. (I never know where the correct place to sit is, wherever I choose usually ends up being wrong as I end up seated away from everyone else almost as if no one wants to sit next to me, I feel anxious in case someone sits next to me smells strongly (pleasantly or otherwise) or invades my personal space (or talks to me when I’m not ready))
  • ‘can you watch x for a minute’. (I never know how to respond to children/what to do with them, I’m scared of being left alone with a child I don’t know because I simply do not know how to deal with them or what they want from me, I usually can’t understand a word the child says)


Indirect demands.

  • being expected to participate in a conversation
  • being expected to act appropriately in a social setting
  • being expected to help out without being asked
  • being expected to leave a place or situation
  • being expected to dress/look a certain way
  • being expected to behave a certain way
  • being challenged or expected to explain myself

Most of the problems I have with these requests are a lack of understanding of what is expected of me. I am never quite sure how I am supposed to perform the demand, when and for what period of time, how I stop performing the request and what to do if the demand is changed and how the demand will be received. I also have an issue with being praised which makes me anxious about fulfilling a demand if I am likely to be complemented or praised afterwards. Even more anxiety inducing is false complements or praise given after completing a demand. If someone asks me to do something then falsely praises me for doing it then I will be less likely to ever perform a demand for that person again.

Everyday demands that I struggle to accomplish without feeling anxious and/or resisting them:

  • taking a shower/bath.
  • doing housework.
  • food/clothes shopping.
  • interacting with family.
  • checking online bank account.
  • getting dressed.
  • making/eating meals.
  • choosing something to watch on tv.
  • making plans to go out (or any plans at all).
  • choosing/doing a leisure activity.
  • and many more.

Sometimes I’m not even sure what I feel anxious about in regards to a demand. It could be difficulty choosing the ‘correct’ choice, not knowing how people will perceive/react to me performing the demand, not knowing how to perform the demand, anxiety around not being able to accomplish the demand to my high expectations, a sensory issue which impacts my ability to perform the demand (I struggle with dusting as I cannot stand the smell of the chemicals on my hands), anxiety about what the kids will get up to while I’m distracted by the demand, etc etc.

Most days I am able to ignore the feeling of anxiety, especially if my anxiety levels and sensory levels are low to begin with. This means I can accomplish the demands but it feels uncomfortable for me and it adds to my overall stress levels. If you think of anxiety levels as a cup containing water, with each demand adding a spoonful of water to the cup then depending on how much water you start of with each day, it only takes so many spoons before the cup becomes full and starts to overflow. Now imagine there is a live cable next to the cup, when the water levels reach the top of the cup the person will start to avoid demands in order to stop adding to the cup, because they know what will happen if the cup overflows. If the cups still continues to be added to then eventually the water will spill over, the cable will spark and set on fire, causing an explosion.

3 thoughts on “List of things which cause anxiety.”

  1. This is a helpful list.

    I consider myself autistic and more towards the PDA end. My wife is undiagnosed autistic but not PDA. In fact, she appears to lack fear that is healthy by NT standards (blind to risk).

    Daughter is diagnosed ASD / PDA.

    This list is helpful. While I tend not to struggle with everyday tasks such as showering, uncertain tasks such as investigating a faulty headlamp on a car carry with them a strong aversion. There are too many ‘don’t knows’ involved. Making cups of tea for others also induces anxiety, especially if I am being watched.

    I suspect having a very sensitive anxiety mechanism and low threshold (genetically) are key factors in PDA.

    I have coped on the whole through compliance, although that has been hard. It comes with less enotional cost than disobedience.

    Compliance was my daughter’s strategy until she was 12, when even that was not sufficient to mitigate her growing anxieties.

  2. This list is very helpful, thank you. My daughter did her best to be compliant, too, until she was around 13. Since then, she’s been depressed and anxious pretty much constantly. The GP has no idea what is wrong. Im really suspecting PDA although she doesn’t explode outwardly; her frustration goes inward. All the best to you.

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