Autism and mental health facts
What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD) comorbidity?
Research indicates that those who have ASD also have a significantly increased risk in developing a mental health disorder, which is referred to as a comorbid or co-occurring disorder. Anxiety and mood disorders are common co-occurring disorders that those with ASD generally develop. Co-occurring conditions often exacerbate core ASD symptoms. For instance, anxiety or depression symptoms can aggravate social deficits, communicative difficulties, repetitive behaviors, or cognitive and behavioral perseverations.
Examples of anxiety and mood disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Excessive worry or fear
- Trouble getting to sleep
- Asking questions over and over again
- Stimming, repetitive or unusual body movement or noises
- Rituals or repetitive behaviors like repeated handwashing
- Recurrent, intrusive thoughts or images
- Saving and hoarding objects
- Ordering clusters of items
- Obsession with contamination, germs, or other perceived threat
Depression and other mood disorder symptoms
- Poor sleep and/or appetite
- Loss of motivation
- Cranky moods
- Decreased self-care
- Increased compulsions
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What causes co-occurring mental health disorders for those on the autism spectrum?
Co-occurring mental health disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including the severity of the ASD, genetics, and brain chemistry.
How common are co-occurring mental health disorders with ASD?
- 70% of kids with ASD have at least one mental health disorder
- 41% to 50% of kids have two or more mental health conditions
- Anxiety affects about half of those with ASD who have a mental health condition
Treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders among individuals with ASD
Focusing on the treatment of the co-occurring disorders for someone who is on the autism spectrum can significantly reduce the mental health disorder symptoms and greatly increase the overall functioning and quality of life.
Types of therapy used in treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders among individuals with ASD include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Behavioral activation
- Exposure and response prevention (ERP)
- Medication Management
- Experiential therapy
Rogers uses an evidence-based treatment model for all patients with methods that have been proven to provide relief for a patient’s symptoms.