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Anxiety and Depression in ASD children

Anxiety And Depression In ASD Children

This world mental health day let us be aware of mental symptoms that commonly present with ASD.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is a neurodevelopmental disorder which presents with social and speech impairments as well as repetitive behaviours. Many clinical studies have demonstrated that children on the ASD spectrum have higher rates of anxiety, depressive disorders, and ADHD (Gurney 2006).

40% of children and adolescents with ASD have clinically elevated levels of anxiety. Anxiety in a ASD child may manifest in various ways like social anxiety which leads to avoidance of social situations, Obsessive compulsive disorder, characterized by unwanted and intrusive thoughts and consequent compulsive behaviours, specific phobias which may be due to over responsiveness to sensory stimulation (often colours or noise).(Anxiety and Depression Association of America).

Presentation of Depression in ASD children is often atypical and very challenging for the psychiatrist.

Depressive symptoms in ASD children reported by parents and caregivers are consistent sadness, tearfulness, apathy, or an increasingly negative affect.

Anhedonia (loss of interest in activities once pleasurable) and other signs of depression like such sleep and appetite changes or academic skills/performance issues have been observed in children on the ASD spectrum. (Magnuson 2011).

Psychotherapy and social skills interventions like ABA must be promptly initiated. ASD children need treatments tailored to suit individual requirements and multimodal assessment and treatment. 

While designing a program for treating ASD, the severity of Psychiatric comorbidities should be taken into consideration to improve the overall functional outcomes of the child. (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).

  1. Magnuson KM, Constantino JN. Characterization of depression in children with autism spectrum disorders. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2011 May;32(4):332-40. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e318213f56c. PMID: 21502871; PMCID: PMC3154372.
  2. Gurney JG, McPheeters ML, Davis MM. Parental Report of Health Conditions and Health Care Use Among Children with and Without Autism: National Survey of Children's Health. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(8):825–830. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.8.825.
  3. Burchi E, Hollander E. Anxiety in Austism Spectrum Disorder. Anxiety AND Depression Association of America 2019. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/anxiety-autism-spectrum-disorder