Behavioural / Mental Health conditions
Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome (PDA)
What is Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome?
Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome (PDA) is a condition that falls under the autism spectrum. Those with PDA have extreme anxiety about everyday demands and expectations, such as social interactions, changes in routine, or schoolwork. As a result, they may go to great lengths to avoid these demands, which can lead to significant conflict and disruption.
PDA is thought to be relatively rare, affecting an estimated 1-2% of the population. However, its prevalence may be underestimated due to challenges with diagnosis. PDA is often mistaken for other conditions, such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD). It is important to seek a professional evaluation if you suspect your child may have PDA. With early intervention and support, many individuals with PDA can lead happy and productive lives.
Causes of Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome
The exact cause of PDA is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some research suggests that PDA. may be caused by a disruption in the normal development of the brain’s anxiety system. This system is responsible for regulating our fight-or-flight response to stressful situations. In individuals with PDA, this system may be oversensitive, causing them to avoid all or most demands in order to reduce their anxiety levels. PDA is also thought to be caused or exacerbated by trauma, such as neglect or abuse. Individuals who have experienced trauma are more likely to develop PDA.
Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome can be a challenge to diagnose because some of the symptoms overlap with other conditions, such as anxiety disorders. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have PDA, it is important to seek professional help. A professional can conduct an assessment and rule out other possible conditions. Early diagnosis and intervention is essential for managing the condition.
How Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome affects Children
Children with a PDA profile can present with increased social understanding and communication skills and are often able to use this to their advantage. However, these apparent social abilities can often mask difficulty with processing and understanding communication and social situations. Children with a PDA profile are likely to need a lot of support. The earlier the recognition of PDA, the sooner appropriate support can be put in place.
The distinctive features of a demand-avoidant profile include:
- Difficulties in processing language
- Resists and avoids the ordinary demands of life
- Uses social strategies as part of avoidance, for example, distracting, giving excuses
- Appears sociable, but lacks some understanding
- Experiences excessive mood swings and impulsivity
- Appears comfortable in role play and pretence
- Displays obsessive behaviour that is often focused on other people.