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Young Adolescents With Autism Also Struggle With Mental Health Issues

Adolescent mental health concerns extend to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

1 in 5 typically developing adolescents between ages 9 and 17 struggle from mental health disorders that cause some degree of impairment. The prevalence is higher for adolescents with ASD.

ASD, more commonly known as autism, is a developmental disability that affects 1 in 59 individuals. It is often associated with difficulties in social and communication skills. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, it affects individuals in varying severities with different symptoms.

Adolescents with ASD may experience mental health conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and depression.

Anxiety affects 42% of individuals with ASD.

It may arise from the separation of the parent or caregiver, or in social settings that require communication with strangers. Another cause of anxiety is a disruption or change in the individual’s daily.

In terms of depression, there is not a causation but a correlation between the condition and the diagnosis of ASD. However, the cause of the correlation remains unclear.

“I don’t think we know the answer to this yet. Sometimes, the social deficits experienced by an adolescent with ASD produce social that can trigger or contribute to depression,” clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology Hannah Hoch said.

Some individuals with ASD, who enter college, are aware of their “excruciating loneliness of exclusion.” These individuals are often bullied and shunned, thus magnifying depressive symptoms.

A study founded depression to be the leading cause of suicidal thoughts among children with ASD. 14% of the children had suicide ideation or attempt evoked by depression.

Source: hepingting

There are challenges to identifying and diagnosing mental health disorders in individuals with ASD. Firstly, there may be overlapping symptoms of ASD and mental health problems. For example, OCD can be confused as stereotypy (demonstrated in individuals with ASD) due to the repetitive nature of specific behaviors.

Secondly, symptoms of mental health conditions are presented differently in every individual. There is uncertainty about whether displays of behaviors are social-emotional challenges associated with ASD or are indications of a mood or psychotic disorder.

Thirdly, individuals with ASD experience difficulty expressing their emotions.

When treating mental health conditions of individuals with ASD, “a multi-disciplinary approach is often needed,” Hoch stated. The process not only include a clinical psychologist but also social workers and psychiatrists.

In some cases, oral medication has been. For example, anti-depressant pills have been used to treat depression.

Today, studies are tracking certain mental health conditions in individuals with ASD. The studies will help reveal connections between autism and mental health conditions, such as ADHD, personality disorders, and substance use disorders. Results will further guide clinicians in distinguishing and treating the disorders.

“Recent research is clearly demonstrating a rise in the prevalence of dual diagnosis of ASD and mental health disorders like anxiety and mood disorders. We are getting better at recognizing and treating these disorders but still have a way to go,” Hoch said.

By: Kahyun Kim

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