Man with a beard and angry face had rammed his head through a wall

50 Reasons why an Autistic Adult may be in a Bad Mood7 min read

1.  Maybe they’re too hot.  They may not be dressed appropriately for the weather, to be honest.  I struggle with this, having my favourite jeans that I’ll wear without thinking during a heatwave, and spend all day grumpy as a sad badger. 

2.  Maybe they’re too cold.  Heavy woolly jumpers can be anathema to autistic people, as can any rough material.  Some of us hate wearing coats.  We may need looking after with this, especially if we like the cold – we may not notice it’s now too cold!

3.  Maybe they really need a haircut.  Autistic people may avoid these devilish torture chambers from Satan’s bottom, but we really also need our hair not winding us up constantly.  Help us find a nice salon with ideally quiet staff.

4.  Maybe they need to shower.  Often showering can be a sensory nightmare, or if not, just overlooked as a waste of prime interest time!  But having a layer of dirt & grime can feel awful, too, so this is worth considering.  Be sensitive, too, for goodness sake. 

5.  Maybe they need to wear their sunglasses.  The feeling of glasses, perched like an unwelcome pigeon on the bridge of my nose makes me want to scream, so I avoid sunglasses, but sometimes I admit I could do with them, whenever brightness is worse than nose-feel. 

6.  Maybe they have ill-fitting clothes on.  This can be massive for me, as it doesn’t register apart from very slowly, throughout the day, as my rage builds because my trousers are too tight.  Favourite clothes can shrink, we can put weight on, this happens easily. 

7.  Perhaps they are over stimulated by stuff– still happens to autistic adults who may not notice until it’s too late.  This is a particular problem away from home when fewer recharge opportunities are available.  We need quiet spaces in towns nationwide! 

8.  Maybe they need the loo.  Seriously, it’s not just kids.  I can suddenly realise I need to go do my grim business with a kind of shock of awakening, especially if engrossed in something cool.  But it’ll make me irritable. 

9.  Perhaps there’s a really nasty smell around.  This can cause massive problems, especially if the smell is not easily identified and sorted out.  God, I’ve had dreadful weeks thanks to a hidden, subtle smell I couldn’t remedy before.  Nightmarish. 

10.  Maybe they’re embarrassed from a recent autistic act or trait display that they’re ashamed of for some reason.  You may not even have noticed, but they know what happened.  This, I think, is quite common.

11.  Perhaps they were right in the middle of thinking about something nice and interest-based, and you interrupted them with some request.  This may seem disproportionate, but it can be very annoying.  Sorry. 

12.  Perhaps they had nearly made a decision and were interrupted by someone asking what they had decided.  Patience is an absolute necessity when dealing with autistic people.

13.  Perhaps they’ve had too little time with their favourite interests.  This is extremely common in adulthood, as responsibility increases and time seems to vanish.  This can lead to burnout, I believe. 

14.  Perhaps their favourite interest has suddenly suffered some setback.  Like a new video game has been delayed, or worse is updating and unplayable…  Best avoid your autistic person if this is the case!

15.  Maybe they need to make a phone call or knock on someone’s door.  This can totally ruin my *week* if I’m not careful. 

16.  Maybe they found out some massive news that they’re struggling to make sense of, even to the point of not being able to explain it to anyone.  This can create real isolation. 

17.  Maybe they’ve found out some small news that they’re struggling to make sense of, even to the point where they can’t explain it to anyone else. 

18.  Maybe they’ve just remembered a really sad thing they saw once.  This is a thing, right?  Like, I get flashes of a little cat I saw on holiday once, and it always kills my mood. 

19.  Maybe they are feeling a certain emotion, and they’re aware you and others feel differently.  This can be disconcerting and upsetting, again creating isolation. 

Common at emotional moments like funerals, weddings, births, football matches….

20.  Maybe they found something really funny but no one else did.  Or vice versa.  Again, this can feel dreadful, as it highlights your difference, so an autistic adult may be a bit shaken or upset by this.  Especially if they thought something was really funny.

21.  Maybe a cat or dog has recently rejected them.  I’m deadly bloody serious, people

22.  Maybe it’s too noisy wherever you are.  Your autistic person may be extremely irritable or even angry, seemingly at nothing at all, if this is the case.

23.  Maybe they really need to do this particular thing right now and you’re not letting them– because, to be fair, you don’t know…  but arhggghhh, this thing needs to be done right now stop making me not do the thing!

24.  Maybe they need to be alone right now.  They may not realise this for themselves, which can make things difficult.

25.  Halfway there – phew. 

26.  Maybe they have tooth-, stomach-, head-, ear-, muscle-ache but haven’t realised it and thus haven’t taken any painkillers.  This happens a lot. 

27.  Maybe they have lost a bit of control over their finances and are scared or very worried. 

28.  Maybe they’ve gotten themselves into debt or something, almost by accident.  This happened to me years ago as I assumed it’d be easy to pay back.  Some autistic people can be quite *ahem* bad at money.  Others can be really anxious with any uncertainty or loose ends, even if they are great with money.

29.  Maybe they had to make a snap decision earlier, and they’re still grappling with the ramifications.  This might weigh on their mind for ages. 

30.  Perhaps they’re exhausted but completely unaware of this fact, as they may feel energised by their hyperfixation.  This can be a recipe for misery very frequently.  I’ve had nights playing GTA: San Andreas at uni until 5am without realising how knackered I was. 

31.  Perhaps they’re not sleeping very well.  It can be very common for autistic adults to have various sleeping issues.

32.  For autistic people who menstruate, hormones and periods can be particularly difficult, especially if their sensory issues are worsened or stress levels are raised. 

33.  Maybe a plan has suddenly changed and there’s no time to re-evaluate or prepare.  This is bad for autistic children and autistic adults pretty much equally.  Trouble is, neurotypical adults are often fine with changing plans at the drop of a hat.

34.  Maybe they’re struggling to get themselves understood.  If they’re speaking, this might be because they can’t find the words or clarity; if they’re non-speaking or non-verbal, it may be because their means of communication is limited, and they’re unable to get across their thoughts. 

35.  Maybe they’re masking twice, three times.  They could be desperate to communicate that they’re nonbinary, trans, gay, asexual, demi…  but far too scared to say anything. 

36.  They may, however, just need a bag of crisps or an apple as there’s every chance they will have forgotten to eat.  Or drink. 

37.  It’s possible they may be nursing some injury or illness that they haven’t communicated to you, thinking it’s nothing, or that it’ll sort itself out.  So maybe they’re experiencing considerable pain or discomfort. 

38.  They may have been mocked or bullied by someone.  The bullying of autistic adults is pretty widespread and is a huge problem.  Autistic people can react in a self destructive way to this, as it damages their already probably shaky self-esteem.

39.  They may be replaying a conversation they had earlier in their head, terrified that something went wrong that they hadn’t realised at the time, worried they’ve put their foot in their mouth– or worse. 

40.  They might be in burnout. 

41.  They might be lonely but not realise it, assuming they don’t need human contact when actually they do. 

42.  They may be really upset about things happening in the wider world, especially in the current political climate. 

43.  They may have realised that something they were planning intricately in their heads won’t work for some reason and are frustrated.  This is often related to hyperfixation. 

44.  They may have eaten too much and are feeling dreadful– I can’t be the only autistic person who struggles to regulate portion sizes.  This is due to poor interoception.

45.  Maybe there’s an earthquake or tornado coming– autistic people can detect such things, like horses. 

(This one’s a joke, sorry.  I just can’t help myself.)

46.  Perhaps they need to listen to some music.  Music can be very soothing but it seems autistic people, even those who love music, sometimes forget it’s a thing.

47.  Perhaps they promised something they couldn’t quite deliver as they tend to overestimate their energy levels and now feel silly or inadequate…?

48.  Maybe they were quietly looking forward to something; but, now that it’s here, they are overwhelmed by a combination of fear it won’t be as good as they hoped and panic that something could go wrong.  I hate this feeling. 

49.  They might have recently had someone touch them.  For many autistic adults, most touch will probably be unwanted, especially from strangers or mere acquaintances.  Shaking hands, that kiss-kiss thing posh folk do– all a bit much. 

50.  Maybe they misunderstood something you said and are upset, even though no harm was meant. 

Pete Wharmby

Pete is a secondary English teacher who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2017 at the age of 34. Since this time he has become very active online, writing a blog about his experiences as an autistic adult and regular threads and videos on Twitter that add some insight into the autistic experience. He has written on a large variety of topics, including autistic burnout, autistic identity and masking, autism and parenthood, autistic humour and autistic interests. He is a keen writer and illustrator, though Lego is perhaps his biggest obsession. Subscribe to Pete's Patreon here, or buy Pete a coffee.
Pete Wharmby

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9 Comments

  1. Every one.  Still distressed over that time two years ago when my friend’s dog gave me the cold shoulder.

    1. Sometimes dogs get overwhelmed or don’t feel very social, just like people.  It’s possible that you did not do anything wrong.

  2. Absolutely.
    Here’s a hint I learned from my autistic nephew — wear your undies inside out!  Then the seams won’t irritate!  Wear your socks inside out too.
    If you are like me, avoid anything polyester like the plague.

  3. Maybe people kept asking over and over “what’s wrong” because they assume you are upset of angry even if you are not, to the point that they really piss you off!  Well, facial expressions and moods are a match now.  Mission accomplished!

  4. “Maybe they’re masking twice, three times.  They could be desperate to communicate that they’re nonbinary, trans, gay, asexual, demi… but far too scared to say anything.”  As with everything you write, this is so incredibly perceptive.


  5. Please add bisexual to #35 (we freq get left out :/)


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