The Trauma that Comes with Being Autistic

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We recently learned that people with autism are more likely to develop trauma disorders. Let’s talk about it.

We’ve been diagnosed with autism since we were 14  years old, and it has been something we have constantly struggled with. We’ve had many nights where we cry ourselves to sleep because somebody called us stupid or told us that we were “too much” or used our autism to take advantage of us. We’ve met many people who have misunderstood (sometimes purposefully) our words and twisted them to use against us, putting words in our mouth that we’ve never said. We’ve had family members (mainly on my dad’s side) who have invalidated our experiences and even make fun of our autistic traits while also denying that we have autism at all.

On top of also having DID, it’s a lot to deal with.

According to research, people with autism are around 60% more likely to develop a trauma disorder than neurotypicals are. A lot of this has to do with several factors, such as the person with autism having difficulty with how they perceive danger or difficulties with self-regulation and being able to make sense of something. People with autism are also more likely to become traumatized by things that are considered “mild stressors” to neurotypicals. This in particular is mildly funny to me, as I don’t even know what a mild stressor is because I’ve never been mildly stressed by something. I am either 100% stressed out by something or not at all.

Even the simple act of socializing can be severely traumatizing for autistic people. Not only can it trigger feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, but it can also trigger the fight or flight response. We personally have been so traumatized by social interaction that we physically shake at the thought of socializing with others. Even now while I’m typing out this blog, I shake. I constantly think “what if I say the wrong thing and the other person misinterprets it to mean something else?” or “What if I take what this person is saying too literally and now they think I’m an idiot?”. I’m constantly hypervigilant. I have to constantly read over what I type or take forever with my verbal responses to make sure nothing I’ve said or could say could be misinterpreted and twisted. People (especially cis men) take advantage of us because of our “manic pixie” personality, use us in order “fix” them, and then discard us because suddenly we’re “too much” for them. We’re told “oh, you should just be your authentic self,” and then we do just that we’re told “oh no, not like that. You’re just weird.” Then we’re made to feel guilty just for being ourselves.

Autistic people are also more likely to experience interpersonal traumas (i.e., bullying, physical and sexual abuse, etc.) than neurotypicals are because of the way our brain works. We do not process danger the same way neurotypical people do and that causes others to take advantage of us. On the inverse of what I said about people discarding us, some people instead of discarding you will gaslight you into believing you’re the problem in the relationship. You are now stuck in a cycle of mental abuse and might resort to the fawn response in order to please the abuser and avoid said abuse. (Please, if you are in this type of situation, get help immediately. The abuse will only get worse, it will never get better.)

Not to mention the sensory overload that autistic people experience. Sensory overload is not just overwhelming, it is painful. Sensory overload literally triggers the pain receptors in our brain. It can lead to hypervigilance and heightened anxiety making it difficult to concentrate on normal everyday tasks that neurotypical people can do no problem. Which can also affect your ability to cope with the everyday stressors. This can cause a lot of autistic people to become agoraphobic, feeling like the only way they can truly protect themselves is to isolate themselves from society. Which isn’t fair, but that’s the way it is for a lot of us.

We’ve been talking to our therapist about this topic, and we are in agreement that more than likely our autism contributed to us developing DID. Especially since we are a late-diagnosed autistic. Late-diagnosed autism can cause greater mental health difficulties than it does for those that are diagnosed before the age of 12. People who were diagnosed after the age of 12 are reported to be three times more likely to have developed psychiatric conditions than their early diagnosed counterparts. Not to mention the fact that a majority of therapists who specialize in treating autistic people only work with and offer autism assessments for children, usually in their early childhood.

This is mostly a rant post, but I also wanted to raise awareness to the correlation between autism and trauma and how easily a person with autism can be traumatized. I also think that there could be a correlation between autism and developing DID because of the fact that one of the factors to developing DID is repeated early childhood trauma, which autistic people definitely experience in abundance.

Much love and stay safe,
Luna Evanstar

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Les_fractals_de_la_neige
1 day ago

Thank you for this post!!

Our system is not officially diagnosed with autism, but it runs heavily in our family (officially diagnosed in a multitude of cases), but several therapists and doctors have attested that our experiences line up with being autistic as well as having adhd, and this entire post just…resonates very, very deeply.

-Gabriel

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