Almost half of adults with autism struggle with depression

Almost half of adults with autism struggle with depression

Editor: Johnathan Meyers | Tactical Investor

Depression and adults with autism

Nearly half of adults with autism will experience clinical depression in their lifetime, according to our new research published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Depression can have devastating consequences for individuals with autism, including a loss of previously learned skills, greater difficulty carrying out everyday tasks, and at worst, suicide. People with autism should be regularly screened for depression so that they can access appropriate treatment.

Autism is a disorder that involves difficulties with social interactions and restricted repetitive patterns of behaviours. Autism also raises risk for severe mental illness.

Until now, researchers and clinicians did not know how many individuals with autism were affected by depression.
Depression in autism is defined by these same criteria, but the symptoms can be challenging to detect.

Individuals with autism often have trouble identifying and communicating their feelings. Clinicians may have to rely on observed behaviour changes, or the reports of others close to the individual to make a diagnosis. Read more


Adults with autism problems

Mark was a boy of few words. He had autism and severe intellectual disability. Sometimes he would bang his head if frustrated and become aggressive if someone tried to restrain him. He could focus on school work for up to 40 minutes at a time. But when he was 9, something changed. He banged his head and became aggressive more often, sometimes for no reason, and he couldn’t do school work for more than 5 minutes. At home, he seemed unpredictable and slept even more poorly than usual. A physical exam found nothing wrong, and an antipsychotic drug did little to stop his aggression and self-injury.

Finally, a doctor gave him an antidepressant drug, the same one used by one of Mark’s relatives for depression. He began to get better. As it turned out, Mark was depressed. Two psychiatrists recounted his story in their article about the challenges in diagnosing depression in children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).1

Major depression is one of the more serious conditions common in people with autism, one that may be misunderstood or even missed. While sleep and behavioral problems rarely go unnoticed, depression may hide from view.

A large study found that adults with autism are three times more likely to have depression, and five times more likely to attempt suicide, than the general population. Yet almost half of the people who tried to take their lives had not been diagnosed with depression before their attempts, according to researchers with Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Read more

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