So what are some of the similar characteristics between OCD and Autism?
Obsessive and ritualistic behaviours are one of the fundamental traits that make up Autism. However, a growing number of people are being diagnosed with both conditions, and the existence of both co-existing together seems to be a recurrent theme in many individuals. Although there are many similarities between the two, it is important to recognise exactly how each effect you individually. The key difference between obsessive compulsive disorder and Autism lies in anxiety. Someone with OCD experiences intrusive thoughts, feelings and urges, whereby they feel an overwhelming urge to perform some behaviour to reduce unwanted feelings, whereas someone with Autism is likely to enjoy their routines, and in many cases it will help them organise and make sense of the world. Both obsessive compulsive disorder and Autism are classed as neurological disorders, in which the person experiences obsessive and repetitive thoughts, however, they are some key differences.
In Autism, there may be some impairment in language, communication or social skills. It is likely that a person with Autism will become incredibly upset if their routines are interrupted or not followed strictly. Although with OCD, social situations and relationships may become affected due to the constant need to perform rituals, there will be no impairment present. It is common for someone to be diagnosed with both OCD and Autism or Asperger Syndrome. The main difference is the level of anxiety the person experiences in relation to their behaviours. Someone with OCD feels high levels of anxiety and the ritualistic behaviour reduces those feelings, whereas some on the Autistic spectrum may get upset or distressed when routines are uninterrupted, but the levels of anxiety are not so chronic. Furthermore a person with OCD doesn’t enjoy their routine behaviours and compulsions, but feel an over-riding sense of urgency to perform them in case something bad happens. With Autism, routine can be a necessity within their world, and the person is likely to enjoy being able to fulfil their routine behaviours.
What are some of the key similarities?
- Both exhibit behaviours that are routine based behaviours and inflexibility around certain situations
- Often display obsessive behaviours around areas of interest
- Increased anxiety when a routine is uninterrupted or disturbed
- Participation in these routines fuel the condition itself
What are some of the key differences?
- An OCD sufferer are bothered by their thoughts, whereas some with Autism is likely to enjoy them
- Social situations- Those with OCD are likely to be ashamed or embarrassed about their rituals or routines, whereas those with Autism seem to have little worry about what others think of them and their behaviour
- Someone with OCD primarily performs compulsions to reduce anxiety, whereas those with Autism may reduce anxiety, but this is not overly important
- The obsessions in OCD often hinder and reduce the quality of the sufferers life, whereas for Autism those obsessions are likely to enhance their life, helping them to learn new ideas, find motivation and channel their interests
A little bit more about Autism
The problems that are associated with Autism relate to social skills, speech and language restrictions and restricted views towards activities and routines that make the person happy. Although there are often common themes that run through the Autistic Spectrum, how the condition affects individuals can vary greatly from individual to individual. Have you ever heard of the saying “I’m a little bit OCD about this”? or “I’m a little Autistic about that”? The fact is, parts of both disorders can arise in every one, and this can be a reminder that even if someone close to you may display some autism like behaviours doesn’t necessarily mean that the are on the spectrum. Normally a diagnosis will be based on the presence of multiple autistic symptoms such as communication, forming positive relationships, exploring, speech, independence and the ability to learn.
The three main types of Autism:
- Asperger Syndrome
- Pervasive Development Disorder
Common signs and symptoms of Autism
- A need to follow rigid routines. This can be applied to almost anything, such as watching the same episode of their favourite TV program very morning, or listening to the same song over and over again.
- If things change in their daily routine, it is likely to cause distress and result in some tantrum being thrown
- There can often be an unusual attachment to objects. Objects could include toys, a DVD, books, door handles, light switches, almost anything.
- Likes to have things in a certain order, such as lining things up in their bedroom.
- Tunnel vision about the things that they care about. This is likely to happen with things that include numbers or stats, such as the odds around a sports event, train and coach numbers or map reading
- Repeated behaviours, including hand flapping, rocking or twirling around. These behaviours are commonly known to help those with Autism relax and feel stimulated, rather than cause more distress.
It’s not always best to wait for a diagnosis if you feel that your child or someone that you know may have Autism. The best thing that you can do is to contact a specialist straight away. Often early interventions are the best way to reduce the symptoms and effects of Autism in children and young people. Other indicators that a person may be on the Autistic Spectrum can include sensory problem, such as over or under reacting to external stimuli like loud noises, emotional difficulties whereby they have difficulty expressing emotions effectively and so are likely to be overly aggressive and uneven cognitive abilities, in which symbolic or abstract thinking can be particularly difficult, yet they often excel using cognitions around memory or creativity.
How can our program help?
We have worked with many people that have both OCD and are also on the Autistic Spectrum. In our experience we have found that by identifying the key differences between the two, our clients can have some clarity about what is going on for them internally. This alone can often bring a sense of freedom and hope that life can be full of joy and happiness again. Whilst helping you to overcome obsessive compulsive disorder, we can teach you skills where you’ll be able to identify the key differences between OCD and Autism, and how to effectively change your relationship with intrusive thoughts and feelings. As our treatment is holistic, we’ll look at lots of other factors that also influence OCD too, including anxiety management, education around neural plasticity and how the brain can change and the importance of changing your behaviours.