I’ve been doing some thinking (actually I never stop thinking haha my brain doesn’t have an off button), is anxiety really at the root of Pathological Demand Avoidance? Or is there something else.
A couple of years ago, if you’d asked me if I ever felt anxious I’d have laughed and said “nope, I never feel anxious”. Ironic no? Not when you consider that for a long time I could only ever describe my emotions as either being Good or Bad. Even now I still struggle with feeling, describing and understanding my own emotions (Alexithymia). It was only after learning about PDA and actually googling what anxiety feels like that I realised I was feeling it literally every day. It took a while for this to sink in.
The thinking around PDA is that Demand creates Anxiety which leads to Demand Avoidance (D=A=DA). What doesn’t fit is when I cannot identify any anxiety around a demand, in fact, sometimes I don’t have any feelings at all about a demand, it might even be something that is fine for me to do, but I have a knee-jerk reaction to avoid said demand. It’s like it goes Demand leads to Demand Avoidance with no emotional reaction in between (D=DA). These demands are often ones I try to talk myself around to meeting, this is then when I start to feel anxiety, sort of like Demand leads to Demand Avoidance then me trying to Comply which creates Anxiety which leads to more Demand Avoidance (D=DA=C=A=DA).
I’m not the only one here, other PDA adults have said they don’t always feel anxiety when faced with a demand. So are we so used to feeling anxious that we only notice it now when it peaks? Or is anxiety merely a symptom of demand avoidance? Is our ausome autism getting in the way of our noticing when we feel anxiety? Does anxiety only show up when we are either pushed to comply or when we know we’ll struggle to meet the demand? Is anxiety what happens as a direct consequence of us being physically unable to do anything needed/wanted straight away?
From the start it’s been noted how anxiety must be at the root of demand avoidance, why else would a person feel the need to avoid everything around them. So can emotions happen without a cause? Because often there is no real reason to feel anxious, why would picking up a book to read make me anxious? Why would going to the toilet, something I’ve done a million times before, all of a sudden make me anxious?
Some say it seemed like their PDA child was born angry at the world, that from a young age they avoided things. It would take a while for a child that young to develop anxiety around things, especially things they have no understanding of. So how could anxiety be the cause of their demand avoidance? Or is anxiety triggered by literally anything, even before we have any understanding of the things triggering it?
So many questions. Maybe if we were able to scan PDA brains in an MRI machine we would be able to tell if demands always trigger an emotional reaction or not. Maybe if I knew more about the way emotions and the brain/body works I would be able to answer some of my own questions. We may never truly know what happens at the point of demand avoidance, but for now, we do know that anxiety plays a large part in demand avoidance, and so we will continue to use strategies which work around anxiety, because it seems to help and it’s all we’ve got.