These tantrums or outbursts are actually autistic meltdowns. These collapses are present in both children and adults with autism. Yes, I am an adult and I still have fits!
Often the whole thing is triggered by a very trivial and minor element such as hunger, thirst, fatigue, a headache, not finding my keys, the computer running slowly, an unexpected event, a daunting task, injustice in any form, not being understood and having to repeat myself, cleaning up and not knowing where to start, grocery shopping on a crowded Saturday, going at the dentist or the hairdresser, a dog barking and making me jump, confusion, unexpected physical contact, etc.
I quickly find myself in sensory overload and from this moment, I feel overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness. I lose control of my words and my movements. Anger seems to take all the place in a disproportionate way with the trigger. There is no dimmer. The anger switch is open at maximum power.
Ready to explode
Inside, extreme tension weighs on me andthe breaking point occurs. I am dizzy. The thoughts in my brain burst into small fragments. I have a headache. It's as if you had just hit a mirror with a club and it split into a thousand crumbs. It's maddening. The urge to scream, to scream, to bang my head on the walls is stronger than anything. It is impossible for me to think. I no longer have access to my hard drive. It's total blur. I have difficulty breathing. I feel a strong pressure in my chest. It's internal chaos and I feel like a time bomb waiting to explode.
This is how, without prior warning, the tone escalates to shouting. Contemptuous, hurtful and sarcastic words without purpose or logic can be said. These are just words spoken with no malicious intent. As if these inappropriate words were meant to be a means of externalizing bad emotions. Objects can sometimes be thrown at walls. We are witnessing a surge of frustrations and stimuli accumulated and stored in a kettle held by a pressure valve for too long a time.
Calm and aware
Once the storm is over, inner calm and peace sets in. Sometimes I quickly forget everything that just happened. Serenity and good humor are back. Sometimes I feel like a monster and ashamed, I would like to disappear into the floor. I am fully aware that my words and gestures were totally out of context, disorderly and exaggerated.in relation to the trigger itself.
Autistic meltdowns are not related to behavioral disorders, mood disorders, or chemical imbalances. From a neurological point of view, there are significant differences between the brain of a non-autistic person and the brain of an autistic person. The emotions of autistic people are therefore often experienced in a raw and unfiltered state.
Beyond the emotion of anger that seems to invade the autistic person, there are strong emotions of fear and sadness from which emerge feelings of panic and helplessness. These immeasurable emotions inhabit the autistic person throughout their body and they just struggle in an environment often not suited to their distinct neurology.
How to do?
It is possible to learn to channel and better manage the expression of our intrusive emotions by avoiding situations that put us in sensory overload and that inevitably risk leading us to autistic collapse. We can, for example, support young children early in a crisis in a benevolent way, put words to emotions, draw up a list of triggers, avoid sensory overload, listen to ourselves and respect our social limits.
We can learn to tame these emotions without feeling overwhelmed and scared; thus, over the years, we can weather the storm with confidence and in full possession of our faculties.