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Is Autism A Mental Disorder

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What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Comorbidity

Mental Disorders: Causes Of Autism and How is it Treated With Dr. Robert Meillio

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 , anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder .

It Helps With Attention Deficit Disorder

People who have attention deficit disorder may find it difficult to focus their attention on one thing at a time and may also be easily distracted by extraneous stimuli. In addition, ADD sufferers may have trouble paying attention to details. Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to improve concentration and focus in children with ADD.

Recommendations For Future Studies And Limitations

One of the purposes of this pilot study was to provide information to guide the development of future RCTs measuring the effectiveness of SI interventions in children with ASDs. An important recommendation would be to ensure that participants are more homogeneous so that the effectiveness of the interventions can be detected and clinically applied. The use of a measure such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale to establish groups that are more homogeneous in nature is suggested. The groups in the current study varied greatly in their adaptive behavioral levels. Although accounted for through statistical analysis in this study, other heterogeneous variables may have affected the outcome of the study specific to the diverse nature of autism spectrum disorders. As mentioned previously, other considerations in designing future studies include carrying over interventions throughout daily routines, which is more characteristic of occupational therapy services, and using measurement tools that are more individualized because of the diverse nature of people with autism. The GAS allows researchers to measure individualized outcomes but must be used in a method to ensure the greatest amount of reliability and validity .

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What Needs To Change

Mental health services need to be better resourced and educated to support autistic people.

Amaze welcomed the Victorian Governments commitment in December 2017 to develop a strategy to improve autism understanding across health workforces, and we continue to advocate to the government to ensure this strategy is created, with autistic people at its centre.

In particular, Amaze is working to ensure the Victorian Government:

  • Develops a strategy for autism and mental health in an updated State Autism Plan, which includes the roll out of autism specialist mental health services and a strategy for autism training and professional development of mental health service professionals and staff.
  • Ensures all public hospital and healthcare facilities provide dedicated quiet spaces.
  • Increases funding to mental health and community health services so they have the capacity to provide services and support for autistic people with a co-occurring mental health condition.
  • Improve autism recognition and understanding, together with improved service coordination and collaboration across sectors.

Why Children Are Misdiagnosed

Autism Disease Signs Child Symptoms Mental Illness Stock ...

Autism is not always a child’s first diagnosis, particularly if he or she is verbal and of average intelligence. Not infrequently, children who wind up with an autism diagnosis receive a range of other diagnoses firstincluding, in some cases, other types of mental disorders.

There is a simple reason for these misdiagnoses: a child who is bright and verbal may not be evaluated for autism. As a result, the child’s symptoms are viewed not as a set of related challenges, but as individual issues that could potentially be signs of another mental illness. There are a number of behaviors in autism and other mental illnesses that may share characteristics and lead to an erroneous diagnosis.

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How Is Autism Diagnosed

If someone is thought to have autism, their doctor will often refer them to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist, paediatrician or psychologist, to confirm the diagnosis.

The specialist uses a set of standard tests to make a diagnosis. To be diagnosed with autism, someone must have lasting difficulties in social communication and social interaction in multiple situations, as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. These symptoms must have been evident from early life and significantly affect the persons life.

Autism is classified into different levels:

  • Level 1: people requiring support
  • Level 2: people requiring substantial support
  • Level 3: people more severely affected and requiring very substantial support

Children can usually be diagnosed at around 2, but sometimes symptoms are subtle and children are not diagnosed until they start school or even until they become adults.

Myth: People With Autism Can’t Feel Or Express Emotion Or Understand The Emotions Of Others

Truth: People on the spectrum enjoy a wide range of emotions like neurotypical people, but they often express their emotions in different ways. Although some people with autism may have trouble deciphering unspoken communication or tones of voice, the majority can feel empathy when someone clearly expresses their emotions.

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Are You In Need Of Support

To find support in your area, call or email our InfoLine or contact your local Mind. Ambitious About Autism have information about making the most out of your visit to a psychiatrist. National Autistic Society have a directory of support for people with autism and mental health problems.Counselling Directory can help you find a therapist with experience working with people with autism. These counsellors would be paid for.Please see our page on finding a therapist to consider which option is right for you.

“I have experienced services that treat mental health and autism as completely separate issues and both services seem fearful of people with the other condition.”

Mental Health Conditions Alarmingly High Among Children With Autism Study Finds

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mental Health: What to Know and How to Help
University of British Columbia
Nearly 78 per cent of children with autism have at least one mental health condition and nearly half have more than that, according to a new study. Mental health conditions were present in 44.8 per cent of pre-school age children with autism — a group among which prevalence had not previously been established using a large, population-based sample. Only 14.1 per cent of children without autism had mental health conditions.

Nearly 78 per cent of children with autism have at least one mental health condition and nearly half have two mental health conditions or more, according to a new U.S. study from the University of British Columbia’s department of psychology and the AJ Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University .

The study also found mental health conditions present in 44.8 per cent of pre-school age children with autism. The scope of the issue among that age group had not previously been established using a large, population-based sample.

It is the first research since 2008 to examine the prevalence of mental health conditions among children with autism at a population level, and signals a need for healthcare systems to adapt to account for the overlap.

The researchers analyzed data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, a survey of more than 42,000 caregivers with a total of 1,131 ASD-diagnosed children in their care.

  • anxiety

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What Are The Causes Of Autism

Research suggests there is no one cause but find that autism develops from a combination of genetic, non-genetic or environmental influences.

In many families, there have been a pattern of autism, further supporting that the disorder has a genetic basis. In many families, there has been a pattern of autism, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic base.

Researchers believe it is caused by changes in the neurodevelopment of the brain. Brain scans show differences in the structure, function and connectivity of the brain in children with autism compared to neurotypical children.

How Mental Illness Is Diagnosed And Treated


Because of the wide range of mental illnesses in the books, along with the fact that many people have one or more co-occurring mental illnesses, diagnosing mental health problems can be challenging. Diagnosis of mental illnesses is made using specific criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. In general, mental illness can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. If more than one mental illness is present, mental health professionals will try to determine whether one led to or influenced another. For example, someone with social anxiety may also experience depression as a result of feeling isolated.


For someone who is on the autism spectrum and also has a mental illness, treating the mental illness in the context of the developmental disorder is essential for success. People with autism should find a mental health provider who is experienced in treating people who are on the spectrum.

Treating mental illness, like treating autism, requires a highly individualized treatment plan. Ideally, treatment will include both medication and therapy, along with lifestyle changes that support good mental health.



Some of the therapies used to treat mental illness include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Helps individuals identify and change dysfunctional thought patterns and develop skills for coping with negative thoughts and emotions

Interpersonal Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asd

Every person with ASD is unique, so the timing and severity of the first signs and symptoms can vary widely. Some children with ASD show signs within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms may not become obvious until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD appear to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then stop gaining new skills and/or start losing skills.

During infancy , a child may show symptoms that include:

  • Limited or no eye contact
  • No babbling
  • Appearing not to hear
  • Playing with toys in an unusual or limited manner
  • Showing more interest in objects instead of people
  • Starting language skills but then stopping or losing those skills
  • Showing repetitive movements with their fingers, hands, arms or head

Up to 2 years of age, there may be continuing symptoms from infancy. A child may also:

  • Focus only on certain interests
  • Be unable to have reciprocal social interactions
  • Move in unusual ways, such as tilting their head, flexing their fingers or hands, opening their mouth or sticking out their tongue
  • Have no interest in playing with other children
  • Repeat words or phrases without appearing to understand them
  • Have behavioural issues, including self-injury
  • Have trouble controlling their emotions
  • Like to have things a certain way, such as always eating the same food

Possible signs of ASD at any age:

Mental Health Conditions Alarmingly High Among Children With Autism

Autism Signs Infographic For A Parent. Mental Health ...
Arts & Humanities

Jan 19, 2021 | For more information, contact

Nearly 78 per cent of children with autism have at least one mental health condition and nearly half have two mental health conditions or more, according to a new U.S. study from UBCs department of psychology and the AJ Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University .

The study also found mental health conditions present in 44.8 per cent of pre-school age children with autism. The scope of the issue among that age group had not previously been established using a large, population-based sample.

It is the first research since 2008 to examine the prevalence of mental health conditions among children with autism at a population level, and signals a need for healthcare systems to adapt to account for the overlap.

For a long time, mental health in kids with autism was neglected because the focus was on autism. Theres much greater awareness now, but we dont have enough people trained to provide mental health treatments to kids on the autism spectrum, said Dr. Connor Kerns, an assistant professor in UBCs psychology department and lead author of the study. We need to bridge these two systems and the different sets of providers that tend to treat these children.

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Social Understanding And Social Behaviour

People with an ASD have difficulty in understanding the social behaviour of others and can behave in socially inappropriate ways. People with ASDs are very literal in how they think and interpret language and are unable to read social context. Children with an ASD often find it hard to play and communicate with other children, who may be confused by their behaviour and may avoid or tease them.

Developmental Disorders Including Autism

Developmental disorder is an umbrella term covering intellectual disability and pervasive developmental disorders including autism. Developmental disorders usually have a childhood onset but tend to persist into adulthood, causing impairment or delay in functions related to the central nervous system maturation. They generally follow a steady course rather than the periods of remissions and relapses that characterize many mental disorders.

Intellectual disability is characterized by impairment of skills across multiple developmental areas such as cognitive functioning and adaptive behaviour. Lower intelligence diminishes the ability to adapt to the daily demands of life.

Symptoms of pervasive developmental disorders, such as autism, include impaired social behaviour, communication and language, and a narrow range of interests and activities that are both unique to the individual and are carried out repetitively. Developmental disorders often originate in infancy or early childhood. People with these disorders occasionally display some degree of intellectual disability.

The community at large has a role to play in respecting the rights and needs of people with disabilities.

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Something Specific About Autism

The study compared the prevalence of mental health conditions in children with ASD, children with intellectual disabilities, and children with other ongoing, chronic conditions that require attention from the healthcare system. Mental health conditions were significantly more prevalent among children with autism than among the other groups.

For example, anxiety was 6.3 times more prevalent among children with autism than among children with intellectual disabilities, and three times more prevalent than it was among children with other special healthcare needs.

Theres something specific about autism that is increasing this mental health burden, and its true not only for anxiety, but also for depression, behaviour problems and attention problems. This is a special population that requires special attention, said Dr. Kerns.

The researchers hope these eye-opening new numbers will prompt changes to public policy that make it easier for mental health treatments to be approved and funded for children with autism.

If we think about ways to screen and intervene against these mental health conditions before these children even get to school, then we might be way ahead of the game, said Dr. Kerns. The longer mental health conditions are allowed to exist and worsen, the harder they are going to be to treat. Its much better to catch them early. Right now, we dont have a great system for doing that.

The Strange Battle Over What’s Psychiatric Versus Neurological

Managing autism spectrum disorder | Mental health | NCLEX-RN | Khan Academy

There was an interesting exchange this past Tuesday on CNNs Anderson Cooper show about whether autism is a mental illness versus some other kind of developmental or neurological state. The two guests were Dr. Wendy Walsh, a psychologist and regular speaker on CNN, and Liza Long, an author, fellow PT blogger, and mental health advocate. The guests were discussing the new revelations that the gunman in the Roseburg, Oregon shootings may have been diagnosed with Aspergers at one time. For most of the interview, the two guests were in complete agreement and said many things that should be said, such as reminding viewers that people on the autism spectrum are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. But then Dr. Walsh veered in a different direction and made the comment that, by the way, Aspergers was not a mental illness but rather a description of people who are not neurotypical. Dr. Walsh also implied, incorrectly, that the reason Aspergers was removed from the official catalogue of psychiatric disorders in the DSM-5 manual was in recognition of this recategorization. Liza politely objected to the idea that autism should be carved out this way and argued that such boundaries were artificial and potentially harmful.

For more reading on a related topic, please see my earlier post, What If We All Got Mentally Sometimes?

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Schizophrenia And Other Psychoses

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder, affecting 20 million people worldwide1. Psychoses, including schizophrenia, are characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behaviour. Common psychotic experiences include hallucinations and delusions . The disorder can make it difficult for people affected to work or study normally.

Stigma and discrimination can result in a lack of access to health and social services. Furthermore, people with psychosis are at high risk of exposure to human rights violations, such as long-term confinement in institutions.

Schizophrenia typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. Treatment with medicines and psychosocial support is effective. With appropriate treatment and social support, affected people can lead a productive life and be integrated in society. Facilitation of assisted living, supported housing and supported employment can act as a base from which people with severe mental disorders, including schizophrenia, can achieve numerous recovery goals as they often face difficulty in obtaining or retaining a place to live and normal employment.

Myth: People With Autism Are Intellectually Challenged

Truth: Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental, not an intellectual, disorder. This means that people who have autism generally have a normal IQ and can excel in many pursuits. In fact, 44 percent of children identified with autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability.

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