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Anger rumination and autism – what is it and how to help For neurotypical individuals, it’s usually easy to see what causes them to explode with rage as there tends to be a very short … Read More
Anger rumination and autism – what is it and how to help
For neurotypical individuals, it’s usually easy to see what causes them to explode with rage as there tends to be a very short lag time between the antecedents and the reaction. Of course, there are exceptions, such as the cumulative effects of a bad day, but even in these situations, there is typically one final event – the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. However for individuals with autism, it’s not always so obvious, and this unpredictability can often be a hindrance in the workplace, especially with untrained colleagues and supervisors.
What is anger rumination?
To someone without experience or training, it can look like people with autism suddenly lose their cool and enter a rage like state for absolutely no reason. For people with neurotypical brains, this makes no logical sense and makes the individual with autism seem strange and makes them untrustworthy. However, it’s likely to be a manifestation of anger rumination, a common symptom of autism.
Anger rumination is defined as the tendency to dwell on negative or frustrating experiences, and to recall other similar events that feed into the anger spiral. It affects people with autism to a greater degree as they will get “stuck”, or perseverate to use the correct terminology, on a particular grievance and will find it hard to let go. In the workplace, this could be an unkind comment from a peer, a piece of negative feedback from a supervisor or simply a failure at a routine task. This perseveration can take different forms, from only talking about the event that they can’t get past, repeating a set of actions endlessly or simply shutting down with all of the repetition happening internally. Eventually, like a pressure cooker left unattended, the anger rumination can get to the point where they explode, often with no obvious cause.
How employers can help
The after effects of a loss of control from anger rumination can seriously damage the employee with autism’s standing at work. While their colleagues will already know that they are different, this outburst only serves to highlight these differences, while what all autism employment agencies advocate is for them to assimilate as closely as possible into the culture of the workplace. To help avoid anger rumination, employers can try some of these strategies:
It’s easy to see the common thread among all of these strategies to help break the cycle of anger rumination in employees with autism i s to distract and change the focus of the individual. While supervisors will want to debrief and discuss the issues at hand, as they would do with a neurotypical employee, this approach is often not worth trying with individuals with autism as the focus on the negative situation can set the anger rumination cycle spinning again. Allowing them to simply move on from the negative incident will lead to greater success in the long run.