*It is my hope that pathological demand avoidance is someday relabeled as the Pervasive Drive for Autonomy.PDA is a condition that is characterized by a strong resistance to everyday demands and expectations. This can include things like requests from parents or teachers, or even the expectations that come with social interactions. It can also include demands that people are putting on themselves. People will often have a deep-seated need to control their environment and their autonomy and they may go to great lengths to avoid demands that they perceive as being too challenging or stressful.
PDA is a subtype of autism, and it is thought to be related to difficulties with processing and regulating emotions. Although my theory is that it comes from autistic people constantly being presented with neurotypical expectations that don't work for them and that can cause them shame, and distress or force them to mask their autism to be accepted by others.
People with PDA may have a hard time understanding and managing their own emotions, and they may struggle to recognize and respond to the emotions of others. As a result, they may have difficulty with social interactions and may seem detached or aloof or end up being completely misunderstood. Their refusal to comply is not directed in a harmful or disrespectful way toward others but is a self-protection mechanism.
The most notable feature of PDA is the person's avoidance of demands and expectations. This can take many different forms, such as procrastination, refusal to follow rules, or refusal to participate in activities that are considered normal or necessary such as hygiene routines, school work, and household tasks, or for children there can be an absolute school refusal.
Treatment for PDA typically involves a combination of therapies and strategies to help the person manage their emotions, connect with others, help others understand them, help them to understand themselves, learn to cope with demands, and develop a greater tolerance for distress. But this needs to be done with absolute respect for the person's boundaries. It is also important for people to have a supportive and understanding environment, where their needs are recognized and accommodations are made to help them succeed.
It is important to note that PDA is a complex and poorly understood condition. However, with the right support and accommodations, people with PDA can learn to live lives on their own terms in a way that meets their needs while still allowing them to connect with others and achieve their goals in life.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing PDA, it is important to seek support from a neurodiversity-affirming mental health professional who can help to assess the individual's needs and work with them in developing strategies that are tailored to their specific needs. With the right support and interventions, it is possible for people to find their own unique and autonomous path through this world.