January 21, 2021

Autistic overreaction

By rosieweldon

‘You’re overreacting.’

‘You are making a big deal out of it.’

‘Stop making a mountain out of a molehill.’

How many times have I been told those things? I have lost count. It is possibly the most frustrating thing to be told as an autistic adult.

What does someone mean by it? I guess they mean we are taking a situation and choosing to have an unreasonable response to it – purely because they did not, or would not, have the same response.

Imagine a family in a room, ages ranging from baby through to adults. If a balloon suddenly popped there is a high chance the baby would start crying. The baby has a response of shock and fear that triggers a crying response. However, the adults in the room may startle but be relatively unphased by the sudden noise.

Is the baby overreacting? Of course it isn’t. We don’t tell the baby to stop overreacting, we soothe and calm them, we reassure them they are safe.

If the room had a veteran that panicked at the sudden loud noise, would they be overreacting? No, of course not.

All sorts of things affect our natural response to events. From our age, to our life experiences and health.

Autism means our brains are wired differently. Just like the baby reacts differently as it hasn’t developed an understanding of balloons and the veteran responds due to an association with noise and danger. Autistic brains are wired with our own responses to things.

I have hyper empathy. It’s another reason people like to say I ‘overreact’, because I am quick to cry. I am not a child seeking attention. Many times, I have desperately tried to hide the fact I am crying because I do not want to be, and I certainly do not wish to be seen crying.

Autistic brains struggle. Most of the time to be honest, and with all sorts of things most people will never understand. And sometimes things get too much. Sometimes our brains explode, and it may seem like an ‘over reaction’ to someone who has no idea what that feels like.

If I am crying over something that I know most people wouldn’t, I am not doing it to ‘overreact.’ It is something I can not control. My mind reacts to things I can not stop it from doing. I feel emotional responses to things others do not.

To accept that autistic brains take in too much information, live in the extremes, struggle to comprehend, have heightened senses and heightened emotions, yet say we overreact – it makes no sense. It just doesn’t.

We do not overreact. We react. How our brains are wired to. If we have a seemingly big reaction, I guarantee you it’s not nice for us. Please just support us through it or sometimes even just look away and let us deal. Talk to us about how we would rather you react. Sometimes I need support, sometimes I know I just need to see it through.

Our brains are different. We are going to react differently sometimes.  It is not an overreaction.

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