What is PDA?

PDA stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance. It is a condition that is part of the autism spectrum. It was first discovered in the 1980s by a professor called Elizabeth Newson.


Everyone on the autism spectrum share some of the same difficulties. These are:

  • social communication and social interaction difficulties

  • restrictive and repetitive behaviours

  • sensory issues

In addition, everyone with a PDA profile also has an overwhelming need to resist and avoid daily demands. This is caused by a high level of anxiety and a feeling of not being in control. This extreme avoidance isn't just for the unpleasant tasks. It can be anything from the most basic demands of everyday life to even activities one might enjoy!

What are the key features of PDA?

  • Resisting and avoiding ordinary demands of life

  • Using social strategies as part of avoidance

  • Appearing sociable on the surface

  • Excessive mood swings

  • Impulsivity

  • Being comfortable in roleplay

  • Obsessive behaviour that is often social in nature

Resisting and avoiding ordinary demands of life. Someone with PDA may try and avoid everything from getting dressed and brushing teeth to going out or completing a job. If a simple avoidance strategy doesn’t work the more anxious the person may become and the more extreme the avoidance strategy may end up being – such as shouting, hitting or breaking things.

Using social strategies as part of avoidance.

Someone with PDA doesn’t want to have to say no, as they may want to please someone. But, if they don't want to do the activity they will try to avoid it, by using a polite social strategy such as making a joke, or an excuse, or deferring for later. If this doesn’t work, they may try to say something they know will affect the person, like pretending they feel ill or are already busy on that day.

Appearing sociable on the surface.

It can be hard to tell if one has PDA as they have quite good social skills. Someone with PDA may smile, give eye contact and say the right thing for the right social situation. But they may struggle with a deeper understanding which can lead to misinterpreting people’s intentions or meaning.

Excessive mood swings.

Someone with PDA can go from a really good mood to really low mood and everything in between all in one day. They may have an extreme meltdown but then five minutes later act as if nothing has happened and that everything is fine.


People with PDA can be very impulsive. They get a thought in their head and then will go ahead with it without thinking it through.

Being comfortable in roleplay.

Some people with PDA like to pretend or imagine they are someone or something else. They may copy accents off the television and pretend they are playing a part that it becomes almost as if it’s real.

Obsessive behaviour is often social in nature.

People with autism generally like to pursue an interest to an excessive degree. They don’t like to be interrupted from the thing they most enjoy doing. With PDA the interest is often social. It can be becoming very obsessed with another person they like spending time with. Or it could be a particular interest in things relating to a social matter such as reality TV shows.

The first bullet point is the main feature for all people with PDA. However, different people will have more or less of the other key features.

Feel free to let me know what you think!

© 2019 My Life with PDA by Ida Anderson. Proudly created with Wix.com

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