Why is autism sometimes misdaignosed as schizophrenia?
Written on 29th Aug 2017 by Alex Lowery
In October last year, I wrote an article about Autism & Child’s Play where I wrote about the kind of play I performed in as a child. You can view the link to that article here. One of the games I spoke about in the article that I used to play with my siblings was a game about a fictional Monster I made up by the name of ‘Scudder’. I mentioned in the article that there was a link between Scudder and my day-to-day battle with anxiety. I mentioned that I might speak about that topic another time. Well, the article on that topic is finally here. Today I am writing more about this character and the impact he had on me.
My siblings and I used to play games about this imaginary enemy of mine known as ‘Scudder’. He was a scary and evil Master Mind who liked to cause complete and utter chaos. In my mind, Scudder was basically the Bogey man. I used to have a lot of nightmares about things that scared me like wolves, jesters and skeletons that danced around my room. It goes into more detail about these dreams in my book, which you can find out more about by clicking here. Anyway, I’d claim that ‘Scudder’ was the one who was behind these scary nightmares and was fully responsible for my terror. For years, I’d talk about him like he was a real person.
You know something? In a manner of speaking, Scudder really does exist! I know he technically doesn’t exist in the sense that he isn’t actually a real person. However, I frequently feel like my battle with anxiety often feels like there is another person living inside of me. When I have anxiety, I feel like there’s a voice inside my head telling me I should be afraid – controlling my thoughts. Now, before you start posting comments claiming I’m schizophrenic… Let me just make it perfectly clear it’s not an ‘actual voice’ I can hear. It’s just these negative thoughts and fears I have that dominate me. I find that when my anxiety or anger takes over me, I’m like a different person. It’s like I’m Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. When I become anxious, all logic and common sense is thrown out of the window (figuratively speaking) and all I have is stress that’s controlling.
One of the ‘Scudder’ games I used to play with my siblings involved us pretending that Scudder died and we’d all go to his funeral, but then it would turn out that he wasn’t really dead. I don’t know how deeply I thought about this at the time, but that game almost sounds to me like a metaphor for anxiety. I often find that I’m always looking for methods and ways to eliminate my anxious thoughts. Sometimes it seems like I’m making progress and that maybe there’s a chance these thoughts (and Scudder who’s controlling my mind) will soon be gone, but I always find that it never goes away. I have some patches were I have less anxiety and others were I have a lot. But I am beginning to realise that I’ll never be free from Scudder. Anxiety will always be with me. I hope I will continue to find ways to cope, but anxiety is a part of who I am. I’m autistic so I live in a world that’s not really set up for me and as a result of this, I feel like anxiety is never something that’s going to go away. Have I learned coping methods that sometimes help? Sure, but anxiety is so different every time that they can only work in some cases and sometimes when I’m in ‘Scudder mode’ I have no desire or even consideration of using them.
I also find that my mind is frequently in conflict. I find that two sides of me frequently seem to be at war with each other. I feel like Gollum and Sméagol from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Perhaps that’s why Gollum’s my favourite character. Maybe I just see myself in him. I even sometimes have arguments out loud with myself. My anxiety often feels like a different person who speaks to me even though it is all in my head. I definitely don’t have schizophrenia or a split personality but I feel like the things I’ve mentioned could be misdiagnosed as either of them. I do know that there are many autistic people who have been misdiagnosed as schizophrenic. Autism was even once called ‘Childhood Schizophrenia’. The two conditions are extremely different, but I definitely have traits that I feel could easily be misunderstood by professionals and this is something I’d like to make people aware of. People with schizophrenia can also be very unsociable, withdrawn and may avoid eye contact, so when autistic people are that same way, but also describe the kind of things I spoke about today, you can see why they’d be misdiagnosed.
Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave me your comments down below and let me know if you can relate to what I’ve said. Please tell me how you experience anxiety if you’re on the spectrum.
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