Ways autistic traits impact my daily life #3
Sometimes I excessively count things. We’ll get to that in a moment.
but first, some background
Usually, excessive counting is associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For example, obsessing over making pictures on the fridge perfectly symmetrical, or feeling compelled to count candies.
But it also falls under the autism umbrella, because counting can a) help regulate stress (ie, if you count the number of times you tap something, your focus goes there instead of whatever’s stressing you).
And b) preserve sameness in your life (ie, counting the same number of stairs each morning helps you feel safe in your environment, because it’s the same environment).
So basically, counting things helps you feel more safe in your surroundings and helps turn your focus away from stress.
Contrast that with OCD, where behaviors are repeated to “keep bad things from happening,” as in, “if I count all the ceiling tiles, none of them will collapse.”
the main point
So yes. I excessively count things sometimes. Like when I eat certain types of cereal, I count how many puffs or O’s I get on my spoon. I count the number of marshmallows in my hot cocoa. I count stairs. I only put even numbers into the microwave. I count how many times I tap a pencil on a desk. I keep anything with volume on an even number.
Counting has the purpose of making things feel neat and orderly and safe. If I know how many stairs there are, that somehow makes me feel like I have a better grasp of a new environment–I’m less lost–and somehow reassures me that a familiar place hasn’t gone and changed on me.
If the volume’s set to 24 instead of 25, it’s a nice neat number and everything in the world is a little neater and nicer by extension.
If I eat 6 Cheerios instead of 7, my brain is more okay.
That’s ultimately what counting stuff is all about. If I can count it, I know I can count on it (that’s a cheesy wordplay if I ever did see one, but it’s still true), and things feel neater and nicer, and I feel more okay–a little less lost in the random world.