Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Is Autism A Mental Health

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Common Traits Autistic People Experience

Kids with Autism: How Dads Can Improve Moms Mental Health

Some common traits many autistic people experience include:

  • difficulty recognising or understanding other people’s emotions and expressing their own
  • being over- or under-sensitive to things like loud noises and bright lights, and finding crowded noisy spaces challenging
  • preferring familiar routines and finding unexpected changes to those routines challenging or distressing
  • having intense and specific interests in things
  • difficulties reading body language, understanding sarcasm and facial expressions

All of these traits can be experienced to lesser or greater degrees. Experiencing one or more of these traits doesnt necessarily mean you are autistic. But if these kinds of things are consistently present and are impacting upon your life, you may consider talking to your GP to discuss how you can seek a formal diagnosis.

  • As part of my autism, I tend to take things very literally.


  • For those on the spectrum anxious about the future, I want to instill a sense of belief that I know many of us lack. The truth is every day we overcome our condition in so many different ways.


Autism Acceptance And Mental Health

Considering the relationships between acceptance and mental health, Spearmans correlational analyses showed that societal acceptance over the past week correlated significantly with DASS depression scores =0.288, p=.002) and DASS stress scores =0.281, p=.003) but there was no significant correlation with DASS anxiety scores =0.096, p=.32).

Further regression analyses were conducted to test whether acceptance from external sources or personal acceptance could predict mental health symptoms. Three separate hierarchical regressions with depression, anxiety and stress as the outcome variables were conducted. Blockwise entry was used to analyse the data age, age of diagnosis, gender and the other DASS scales were entered into the first step for each model. In the second step, the two types of acceptance were entered. Several participants were not included in the final analyses as they had missing data for one or more of the variables. Correlations between the three DASS scales and predictor variables are shown in Table .

How Doctors Define Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is indeed categorized as a mental disorderalso called a mental illnessin the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . The DSM-5 also classifies autism as a neurodevelopmental disorder . In other words, although autism is classified as a general mental disorder, it may be better conceptualized by its subcategory: a developmental disorder.

There are many characteristics of autism that overlap with other mental illnesses, so autism is often misdiagnosed as another mental illness. While there can be people who have more than one type of mental illnessincluding developmental disordersthe two may be defined, treated, and managed very differently.

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Reducing Mental Health Detention Of People With Autism And/or Learning Disabilities

From Doughty Street Chambers: On New Years Day, the Sunday Times featured the story of A, a 24-year-old man with learning disabilities and autism who has been locked in a small room since 2017: A Saturday night takeaway pizza, pushed through the hatch by his mother and eaten alone in his room, is the highlight of his week. The picture below is the hatch. The story was also covered by ITV, The Guardian and The Mail.

Although As story is shocking, its sadly not unique. Ive represented several people with autism and/or learning disabilities who have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 , as well as their families. In this blog I offer some thoughts on legal, policy and practical changes that could prevent admission to hospital and get people discharged speedily into homes in the community.

. . . A final point is this. People with learning disabilities and/or autism who have experienced and survived institutionalisation often carry the psychological scars for many years. As Lisa Perry has said, The trauma felt by the person and their family never leaves. In a similar way that victims of torture are provided with psychological, medical and legal rehabilitation, so too should people with disabilities and their families often the champions of their rights be offered these services, as an acknowledgment of the harm that the state has caused.

Myths & Misconceptions About Autism

Autism &  Mental Health: taking it personally

Researchers are learning more and more about autism every year. While it was virtually unheard of just a few decades ago, autism is now a well-known disorder. Its prevalence has risen from one in 1,500 children in 1975 to one in 59 children today, according to the CDC, making autism a very common disorder.4 Still, myths and misconceptions about autism spectrum disorder abound. Here, we debunk the most common of these.

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Common Conditions Among People With Autism

While many people with autism are misdiagnosed with other types of mental illness, many are also appropriately diagnosed with both autism and mental illness. In fact, mental illness is more common among people with autism than it is among the general population.

The most common co-occurring mental illnesses for people with autism include depression and anxiety.

It’s not completely clear why this may be the case. One theory suggests that there is a genetic link between autism and mental illness. Another theory points to the extreme challenges of living in the modern world with autism. The fact is that for many people with autism, it is anxiety-provoking and depressing to attempt to overcome social, sensory, and/or intellectual challenges that are simply part of who they are.

In addition to mental illness, many children and adults with autism receive additional developmental diagnoses. While it can be argued in many cases that the symptoms are associated with autism, it is sometimes helpful to know that a child is both autistic and, for example, diagnosable with ADHD, learning disabilities, hyperlexia, Savant Syndrome, or another disorder.

A secondary diagnosis, while it may or may not be completely appropriate, can sometimes provide direction for therapy, academic support, and services. Hopefully, in doing so, this could correct any potential misdiagnoses moving forward.

Deficits In Social Communication

Children with autism may hyper-focus on their areas of particular interest, essentially ignoring the interests and concerns of others. In autism, this behavior is the result of deficits in social communication in essence, children with autism may be unaware that others have thoughts and feelings different from their own.

This could be another potential area of misdiagnoses, however, since the behavior itself can very much resemble some of the self-obsession that may be present in narcissistic personality disorder.

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Useful Resources And Information

Ambitious about Autism has information on how to self-regulate in difficult times as well as tips on managing anxiety for young people and families. Some of this was created in response to the coronavirus pandemic but is useful for other situations too.

The National Autistic Society has a mental health hub with information anxiety, depression, OCD and other conditions. They include information on how the symptoms and treatments might be the same or different for autistic people.

Autistica also has information on autism and mental health conditions in their What is autism? section.

Signs And Symptoms Of Asd

Autism and mental health problems

People with ASD have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. The list below gives some examples of the types of behaviors that are seen in people diagnosed with ASD. Not all people with ASD will show all behaviors, but most will show several.

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Autism And Mental Health In Young People

Mental health crises are serious and potentially life-threatening events that frequently affect children, adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum. Beyond the danger of injury or death, these emergencies often result in lost education, employment and residential opportunities, as well as isolation, exhaustion and financial strain on parents and other caregivers.

In 2013, an Autism Speaks treatment research grant enabled researchers at Baltimores Kennedy Krieger Institute to address the urgent need to:

  • Better identify mental health crisis and the risk for it among young people on the autism spectrum, and
  • Better understand how psychiatrists can help these highly vulnerable young people.

The study team, led by mental health researcher Luther Kalb, PhD, and psychiatrist Roma Vasa, MD, recently published the results of their investigations in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatryand Psychiatric Services. Their reports provide mental health providers and policy makers with important new guidance.

Autism Speaks asked Dr. Kalb to answer related questions of interest to the autism community.

Autism Speaks: What is a mental health crisis?

Autism Speaks: Why are young people with autism at high risk for mental health crisis?

In addition to these issues, other autism-related health conditions can contribute to crisis episodes. These include disrupted sleep cycles and painful GI disorders.

Autism Speaks: What advice do you have for parents and other caregivers?

Autism Is Not An Illness

Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease. It means your brain works in a different way from other people.

It’s something you’re born with or first appears when you’re very young.

If you’re autistic, you’re autistic your whole life.

Autism is not a medical condition with treatments or a “cure”. But some people need support to help them with certain things.

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Mental Health Stressors For Caregivers

Sometimes when we get caught up in whether ASD should count as a mental health diagnosis, we neglect to recognize the concerns of those living with the condition. The more important concern is solving the real problems these individuals and their families face.

Autism spectrum disorder is a serious, life-long diagnosis that often requires long-term care. Like any other chronic medical condition, it takes a toll on family members providing that care. Here are just a few things to consider:

What Are The Differences Between A Mental Health Condition And Autism

Sonny Hallett: Why the crisis in autistic mental health ...

Autism and mental health conditions may at first seem as easy to confuse as Jeff Bridges and Kurt Russel. Yet, when the two are compared side by side, they are apples and oranges in their differences. This isnt just regarding how they present, but more prominently in their causes, impact and treatments/support. For example:


Autism sure is taking its sweet time when it comes to letting us know how it came to be. However, as the years tick by, researchers are becoming more unanimous in the belief that the condition is genetic/hereditary . Furthermore, despite some autistic people being diagnosed late in life, the consensus is that autism is something you are born with and, subsequently, you cant just develop autism .

Mental health conditions, on the other hand, are a lot more varied in their causes being brought on by a myriad of both environmental and genetic factors, examples of which include: relationships, trauma, substance abuse and, yes, also genes. Despite this, while the ways in which a mental health condition manifests may differ from person to person, by nature they all reside in the mind .


While it is true that both the traits of autism and mental health can alter with age and support, one way of seeing the difference between the two is when you consider that most symptoms of a mental health condition will contrast in intensity , whilst autistic people will almost always bring the same passion to our quirks.


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Mental Health Treatment Locator

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at . For additional resources, visit

Diagnosis In Young Children

Diagnosis in young children is often a two-stage process.

Stage 1: General Developmental Screening During Well-Child Checkups

Every child should receive well-child check-ups with a pediatrician or an early childhood health care provider. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9-, 18-, and 24- or 30-month well-child visits and specifically for autism at their 18- and 24-month well-child visits. Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD or developmental problems. Those at high risk include children who have a family member with ASD, have some ASD behaviors, have older parents, have certain genetic conditions, or who were born at a very low birth weight.

Parents experiences and concerns are very important in the screening process for young children. Sometimes the doctor will ask parents questions about the childs behaviors and combine those answers with information from ASD screening tools, and with his or her observations of the child. Read more about screening instruments on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Children who show developmental problems during this screening process will be referred for a second stage of evaluation.

Stage 2: Additional Evaluation

This second evaluation is with a team of doctors and other health professionals who are experienced in diagnosing ASD.

This team may include:

The evaluation may assess:

  • Blood tests

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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

What Are The Common Treatments For Autism

Autism and Mental Health


Because ASD is a spectrum disorder, each person who has it is unique, and their requirements will vary.

Though they may face challenges, with the right support in place, they are more than capable of living fulfilling and happy lives.

Therapies such as Behavioural, Psychological and educational therapy consist of learning life-skills necessary to live independently, reduce challenging behaviours, learn social, communication and language skills. Research has shown that early intervention can improve learning, communication, and social skills.


Autism itself does not require medication, although individuals can be treated for conditions often associated with autism, such as anxiety.

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Asd And Mental Health

It is important to know that ASD itself is not a mental health condition and not every person with ASD will have mental health difficulties.

However, we do know that having ASD means that young people are more vulnerable to developing mental health problems:

  • As they typically find it difficult to understand and manage their feelings, and the feelings of others. They may confuse different emotions, or find it hard to understand what is causing them to feel a particular way .
  • Finding it difficult to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others can be challenging and can itself cause high levels of anxiety. This may not always be expressed in a way that is immediately understandable to others .
  • This, alongside hyper and hypo sensitivity to their environment and social situations mean that very often young people with ASD can go from being OK to being completely overwhelmed by their emotions in a short space of time.

Whilst, some of these difficulties are likely to be attributed to or exacerbated by their ASD, some mental health problems faced by people may not be directly linked to their ASD diagnosis, and it is important that this is assessed by a mental health professional where required.

What Are The Causes And Risk Factors For Asd

Researchers dont know the exact causes of ASD, but studies suggest that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop ASD and others dont, some factors that increase the risk of developing ASD include:

  • Having a sibling with ASD
  • Having older parents
  • Having certain genetic conditions
  • Being born with a very low birth weight

Not everyone who has these risk factors develops ASD.

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Mental Health Conditions Alarmingly High Among Children With Autism Study Finds

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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