Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disorders that can affect how someone communicates and interacts with the world. A person with ASD may find it difficult to regulate emotions such as anger and aggression.

Individuals with ASD may find certain social communications and interactions challenging.

Many people define anger as an emotion involving intense feelings of frustration or displeasure toward a person or object.

This article discusses autism anger in adults, how it may present, what may be the cause, and how to manage it.

Information for caregivers

As a person’s condition progresses, they may need help reading or understanding information regarding their circumstances. This article contains details that may help caregivers identify and monitor symptom progression, side effects of drugs, or other factors relating to the person’s condition.

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Autism anger refers to when someone with ASD acts aggressively or destructively toward another person or object.

An individual with ASD may have difficulty interpreting changes in their own emotions and the emotions of others. This can lead to a person with the condition experiencing emotional extremes.

Research from 2018 suggests that someone with ASD may take longer to process information and find it more challenging to process verbal instructions. This may lead to them responding with anger if they feel they are unable to understand.

Read about autism in adults.

According to a 2021 review, there is a lack of research into autism anger in adults. Most research appears to focus on autism anger in children and young people.

However, some examples of how autism anger can present in adults include:

  • verbally aggressive behavior such as shouting or name-calling
  • physically aggressive behavior such as hitting, kicking, or slapping
  • a person injuring themselves
  • biting, scratching, or headbanging
  • breaking objects, hitting walls, or smashing windows

Learn more about autism and its features.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Autistic Society, an adult with ASD may have difficulty understanding another person or getting others to understand them.

An individual with ASD may not be able to process information quickly or understand facial expressions and body language.

This can lead to the individual with ASD experiencing intense feelings of frustration and anxiety, which can present as anger and aggression.

Other causes of autism anger in adults may include:

  • excess sensory stimulation
  • having multiple tasks to complete at once
  • disruption in routine
  • relationship difficulties
  • stress

There are several ways a person can help recognize and manage autism anger.

Identify feelings

A person with ASD may find it difficult to recognize and understand the emotions they experience. It may help to create a visual stress scale with preset emotions that can help identify how a person is feeling.

It also helps to write down changes a person notices when they start to experience anger.

Avoid triggers

There may be certain triggers that cause someone with ASD to experience anger. These may include overstimulation, loud noises, changes in routine, stress, and difficulty following or understanding information.

Once a person with ASD can identify potential triggers, they can try to avoid them.

Develop a plan

Once someone with ASD can identify when they may be experiencing anger and what may trigger it, they can make an action plan. This may include:

  • learning techniques to distract from the situation
  • learning how to remove themselves from the situation
  • avoiding triggering situations
  • adjusting routines and environments

Talk with a trusted person

If a person with ASD is experiencing autism anger, they may want to speak with a trusted individual such as a friend, family member, or health professional. They can help them better understand the anger they experience and discover new ways to cope.

Get regular exercise

A 2019 study suggests regular physical activity can help a person manage emotions, reduce tension, and relieve stress. These activities can help ease angry outbursts.

Research from 2019 suggests that physical activity can have a positive effect on behavior in someone with ASD.

Use relaxation techniques

According to the American Psychological Association, relaxation techniques may help a person calm down when they are experiencing anger.

Some relaxation techniques for an autistic person experiencing anger can include:

Learn more relaxation techniques.

The stop-think technique for autism anger can help a person with ASD manage the feelings they experience.

When someone recognizes they may be experiencing autism anger, the stop-think technique can include:

  • stopping and thinking if the thoughts are accurate or helpful in the situation
  • challenging thoughts if they are inaccurate or unhelpful
  • creating new thoughts that may be more accurate or helpful in the situation before taking action

Below are answers to common questions about autism anger.

How do you calm an autistic angry person?

If a person with ASD is experiencing anger, it is important to stay present, calm, and patient with them throughout the experience.

Providing distractions, removing potential triggers, speaking clearly and calmly, and using strategies such as encouraging deep breathing can help calm an autistic person experiencing anger.

What happens when an autistic person gets angry?

When an individual with ASD gets angry, they may react with verbal or physical aggression, including shouting, verbal abuse, hitting, slapping, kicking, or damaging objects.

Autism resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on autism.

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Autism anger is when a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experiences feelings of frustration or aggression.

Autism anger in adults can manifest as verbal abuse and physical aggression such as kicking, hitting, slapping, and breaking objects.

A person with ASD may experience autism anger as it can be difficult to recognize and process emotions. They may also find certain situations overwhelming. This can cause stress and anxiety, which can lead to outbursts of anger.

Ways to manage autism anger can include regular physical activity, relaxation techniques, identifying emotions, and avoiding triggers.