Anxiety In People With Intellectual Disabilities: How Does It Affect?

Can people with intellectual disabilities feel anxiety? People with intellectual disabilities feel anxiety just like people without disabilities, however, they have difficulties managing and expressing this emotion.

Anxiety in disabled people

All of us, at different times in our lives, have felt anxiety. Anxiety is a basic emotion whose function is adaptive. It is activated in dangerous situations, setting in motion physiological, cognitive and behavioral mechanisms so that we are able to face that threatening situation. When the adaptive anxiety response is activated in non-threatening situations or disproportionately, it is called pathological anxiety. But how do they suffer anxiety people with disabilities ?

Can people with intellectual disabilities feel anxiety?

The people with intellectual disabilities can feel anxiety with the same intensity as the general population and, therefore, they have the same need to feel understood and to go to a psychologist.

In fact, the adults with intellectual disabilities They face continuous stressful situations that increase the chances of triggering anxiety disorders. These situations are:

  • Acceptance of differences among peers.
  • Incorporation into a job.
  • The death of a loved one.
  • Physical, sexual abuse or psychological abuse.
  • The change of residence.
  • The social stigma.
  • Go to medical consultations.
  • Social exclusion.

Likewise, in most of the people with intellectual disabilities They show serious problems in emotion regulation given their emotional lability, having great difficulty identifying, understanding and explaining their emotions and thoughts to others when they feel anxious. These limitations often cause your anxiety to increase even more.

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Anxiety and disability

If the person has difficulties explaining these emotions, this also leads to difficulties in finding adequate social and emotional support in the face of the anxiety situation experienced. The situation becomes even more complicated if the person cannot verbalize that they feel anxiety. This situation causes the person to develop behavioral problems to express the anxiety they present, aggressiveness, motor agitation with hyperventilation or low self-esteem. The context, the lack of adequate support and the failure to resolve internal conflicts are essential factors that increase anxiety in people with ID.

How do people with intellectual disabilities cope with anxiety?

The people with ID They use passive coping strategies more than active ones, so by using avoidance they reinforce their level of anxiety. As for active strategies, they tend to use those focused on solving the problem and not those focused on the emotional component. This is because these strategies require metacognitive skills, which are not usually highly developed in people with ID. . Thus, all these aspects must be considered by the psychologist to adapt the therapy to their abilities and needs, keeping in mind that they also have the capacity to learn to link feelings, thoughts and behaviors.