Here you can find out about dysregulation, distress and anxiety through the autism and social communication lens.

Monitoring, evaluating and modifying the intensity and rationalising of one’s emotional response is a life skill which develops through childhood for most individuals. Autistic individuals are likely to need more time to learn these skills. The development of these skills involves both interpersonal and intrapersonal processes that are responsible for controlling one’s emotional reactions in order to meet one’s goals.

Autistic individuals may need more time to learn to recognise their emotions (through their interoceptive sense) which means they will then also need more time to learn to identify and describe their emotions (finding this difficult is referred to as alexithymia).

When a person is still learning to recognise their emotions, they may respond to situations in an unexpected way. They may experience dysregulation as a result of experiences that others would not find as challenging. They may respond with a fight, flight or freeze response as their brain is telling them that they may be in danger; at times when a person whose emotional responses are more developed would be more easily accessing the area of their brain which enables them to quickly rationalise the experience and identify that it is not a danger after all. To support the development of self-regulation skills, individuals may benefit from explanations of this response.

Autistic individuals are more likely to need longer than others to build their understanding of their own feelings and emotions and to learn which strategies help them to regulate and to maintain their regulation.

Sensory processing differences are likely to increase the likelihood of an individual becoming dysregulated due to the volume of sensory input they are receiving becoming overwhelming.

Anxiety disorders are more common for autistic individuals than in the general population. 10-15% general population vs 40-50% of autistic youths (van Steensel, Bögels, & Perrin, 2011), they are most often generalised anxiety, social anxiety or phobias.

Although anxiety and autism affect and possibly aggravate each other, it is important to know that anxiety is not simply a by-product of autism, which means that anxiety can be addressed and treated in its own right.  Mindfulness and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy activities have been proven to support many autistic individuals to regulate their anxiety.


  • Little Meerkat’s Big Panic: A Story About Learning New Ways to Feel Calm by Jane Evans
  • The Disappointment Dragon by K.I. Al-Ghani
  • The Green-Eyed Goblin by K.I. Al-Ghani
  • The Panicosaurus by K.I. Al-Ghani
  • Starving the Anxiety Gremlin: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Anxiety Management for Young People (CBT Workbook) by Kate Collins-Donnelly
  • Starving the Anger Gremlin: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Anger Management for Young People (CBT Workbook) by Kate Collins-Donnelly
  • Banish Your Self-Esteem Thief: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Building Positive Self-esteem for Young People (CBT Workbook) by Kate Collins-Donnelly
  • The Homunculi Approach to Social and Emotional Wellbeing: A Flexible CBT Programme for Young People on the Autism Spectrum or with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties by Anne Greig and Tommy MacKay
  • The Essential Guide to Using Mindfulness with Young People by Tina Rae, Jody Walshe and Jo Wood
  • EXPLORING FEELINGS Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to Manage ANXIETY by Dr. Tony Attwood
  • Help! I’ve Got an Alarm Bell Going Off in My Head! How Panic, Anxiety and Stress Affect Your Body by K.L. Aspden