Day 2 – 10 things you didn’t know about PDA

Day 2 – 10 things you didn’t know about Pathological Demand Avoidance


Well, being pedantic, I don’t actually know what you, the reader, know about Pathological Demand Avoidance. You could be brand new to the condition so know next to nothing about it, or you could be a PDA veteran and already know everything I’m about to write. I presume most people reading this have some knowledge of PDA and so will know most of the basics, so I’ll be writing the 10 things most people might not know about PDA based on what I think people might not know.

You can let me know whether you did or didn’t already know all these things if you want to 😉

1 – PDA was discovered by Elizabeth Newson in Nottinghamshire. She didn’t originally think PDAers were on the Autistic spectrum. We now know that PDA is an Autistic sub-type.

2 – Many believe anxiety is at the root of demand avoidance, this is because anxiety is prevalent in PDAers and seems to trigger avoidance. Anxiety is actually a symptom of demand avoidance which adds to demand avoidance making it harder to do things. Intolerance of uncertainty, sensory issues, social difficulties, difficulty transitioning and many other factors along with anxiety add to demand avoidance making it harder to comply with demands, but if you take all these away you are still left with demand avoidance. This is what makes PDAers different from Autistics.

3 – The trait of Language Delay that is listed as a PDA traits is actually an Autistic trait. It’s easy to mix up Autistic and PDA behaviour, there’s no clear cut divide between the two because PDA is a variation on Autism. However, we can figure out what is Autism behaviour and what is PDA by comparing PDAers and Autistic non-PDAers. Since Newson didn’t originally believe PDA was a type of Autism she mistakenly thought that language delay was a PDA trait. Not all PDAers will exhibit language delay just like not all Autistics will exhibit language delay.

4 – Impulsivity in PDA is actually a coping mechanism. If you act quickly enough you can bypass demand avoidance, acting without planning is less stressful as there hasn’t been time to consider what might go wrong and many PDAers struggle with memory problems so acting on impulse means tasks are more likely to get done, before they forget.

5 – Role play isn’t always obvious, sometimes in PDAers it can be as subtle as imagining being watched or recorded by CCTV while acting a part. Some PDAers pretend they are being filmed for TV and they have to pretend to be someone else like a cleaner or actor playing the part of parent. So if you can’t see your child pretend playing or acting, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t doing it, they might be be acting out a role in their head.

6 – Most PDAers don’t know they feel anxious everyday, upon finding out about PDA they are shocked to realise just how often they are anxious. It seems that PDAers feel anxious so often that they stop paying attention to the lesser feelings of anxiety, it’s only when it’s pointed out or they learn what anxiety feels like that they realise they have been feeling it all along. Many have said they used to believe they never felt anxiety. Since most other people only experience anxiety every so often PDAers don’t equate what other people feel with their own everyday feelings.

7 – Many PDAers mask their difficulties in certain situations. They fake ‘normal’, hide their differences, hold in all their frustrations, sensory needs and stimming until they feel safe (usually at home). For some, masking is an intentional coping mechanism they have employed upon realising that the way they are isn’t liked by others and they are much better received when pretending to be someone else. Not all PDAers mask deliberately or even knowingly, a large amount of PDA people mask from an early age, they don’t know they are masking until it’s either pointed out or they learn what masking is, they have no control over masking and struggle not masking or stopping once they’ve started masking in a situation. For some, masking is an instinctive reaction to the world, one they have little control over and is just as harmful to the self-esteem as it is helpful in protecting themselves.

8 – PDAers seem to mature and become self-aware later than most other neurotypes. Many PDAers found they only started to understand themselves and have more control over themselves in their late 20’s/early 30’s. While most non-PDA people will start to even out their life and become more aware and capable as they mature into adulthood, PDAers will still be struggling for a number of years yet.

9 – While some adult PDAers struggle with the basics of life and have unfortunately ended up in prison/institution/care home/etc, many manage to live fairly independent and active lives. A large amount of PDA adults have relationships, family, work, live alone, own their own homes, run their own businesses, have qualifications, etc. PDA people can be quite successful and have experience in many areas of life. Quite often it’s the basics PDAers struggle with, cooking, cleaning, organising, paying bills, etc, and even then they have figured out some ways around these.

10 – PDA can come with many positives: PDAers can be creative, hard working, independent, intelligent, fighters, caring, peacekeepers, fair, unbiased, kind, funny, original, and many more.


  1. Very well written. The only thing I’m worried about is my son being independent? Whether or not he can. He has been further damaged from lack of early intervention and wrongly treated at school triggering severe social anxiety! I’m hoping it will improve over time but he’s 13 now and no improvement. I wish I had taken my son out of school much earlier than I did!!


    • That sounds tough 😦 PDAers are quite resilient, hopefully he’ll bounce back. I wouldn’t worry about lack of early intervention, most of us haven’t had that either and yet we’ve managed so much. I’m sure you did the best you did with the information you had. onwards and upwards 🙂


  2. Love this post, makes lots of sense to me and some of it was new to me despite thinking I know a fair bit about PDA! Will share, thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 😊 it took me ages to think of what to say lol I think I took the ‘what you didn’t know’ part a bit too seriously 😂


  3. Lady Nym

    An interesting read. We’re a whole autistic family and I thought my eldest had PDA for a while but actually I just think he displays the amount of demand avoidance you’d typically expect from an autistic child (if that makes sense).

    My husband certainly has PDA, though, and the realisation really helped me understand him. There have been times in our relationship when I’ve been baffled by his behaviour but looking at it with an awareness of PDA, it all makes much more sense (in much the same way my own thoughts and behaviour make more sense now I look at them through an autistic lens).

    I think he’s also found it massively helpful to realise there’s a reason he is the way he is.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Autistic demand avoidance can be so similar to PDA demand avoidance that sometimes it’s hard to know which one it is. I’m glad you found my post interesting, thanks for commenting 😀


  4. Brilliant list – I think there’s still a lot unknown about PDA even from the autism community. Super helpful! Thanks for linking to #spectrumsunday

    Liked by 1 person

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