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Rethinking anxiety and depression for autistic adults through personal narratives: mixed-method analysis of blog data

Petty, Stephanie ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1453-3313, Lambarth, Shauna and Hamilton, Lorna ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0526-8252 (2023) Rethinking anxiety and depression for autistic adults through personal narratives: mixed-method analysis of blog data. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research.

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Couns and Psychother Res - 2023 - Petty - Rethinking anxiety and depression for autistic adults through personal narratives.pdf - Published Version
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Abstract

Background
Autistic adults appear to be more vulnerable to anxiety and depression than their neurotypical peers. However, definitions of emotional well-being that are suitable for autistic adults are missing from this research, along with a missing complete understanding of what contributes to and alleviates negative emotions.

Methods
Autistic adults' experiences of emotions were systematically searched for within blog data from 26 autistic authors. The search strategy identified the context of emotions, without adhering to a priori definitions. Corpus-based and thematic analyses explored the most salient contributing factors and coping responses. Consultation with autistic adults directed the research.

Results
Negative emotions were most salient and were accompanied by qualifying descriptions of being intense and misrepresented by single-word labels. The impacts of negative emotions were pain and fatigue, disrupted self-care, housing and employment, and an accumulated toll on self-identity. Emotional regulation was achieved through monitoring physiological arousal, ownership of sensory and social stressors, investing in immersive activities, planning what to expect from daily life and rejecting deficit-based views of autism.

Conclusions
The findings offer some explanation for high estimates of anxiety and depression for autistic adults, by illustrating the unsuitability of neuronormative emotion concepts and assessment tools. There are significant implications for clinical practice, insisting on a formulation of difference rather than outdated practice that foregrounds deficit and disorder. We do not suggest that these views reflect the experiences of all autistic people. This study contributes a creative and participatory method to hear the viewpoint of autistic adults. A well-being resource is shared.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12729
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/9023

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