Men with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have other co-occurring disorders like depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), finds a new study from Sweden’s University of Gothenburg. The results come from a longitudinal study that followed a group of men diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome between 1985 and 1991. Nearly all of the men in the cohort had another psychiatric disorder at some point in their lives. The findings emphasize the need for providing ongoing support to adults with ASD.
The present study is a follow up to a study that began with 100 boys and teens. When the cohort was in their late teens and early 20s, the researchers followed up with 76 of the original group. The latest study involved 50 of the original cohort, now at an average age of 30. The researchers looked at the men’s history of psychiatric disorders and assessed how well they cope with the challenges of having ASD with other disorders.
Of the 50 men with ASD, 47 had at least one psychiatric disorder—depression, ADHD, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder—at some point in their lives. Additionally:
- 27 of the men had current symptoms of at least one psychiatric disorder.
- 14 had ADHD at the time of the study.
- 14 had depression at the time of the study.
- 29 had been diagnosed with depression at some point.
- 3 had no history of co-occurring psychiatric disorders.
Men with both ASD and ADHD seemed to have the most difficulty coping with daily life. Men who had more than one co-occurring disorder were worse off than those with just ASD.
The findings, which are consistent with those of larger studies, demonstrate that adults with ASD face challenges and may not be receiving the support they need. The study also suggests a need for better diagnostic tools.
“The focus on autism alone has led to undertreatment of both depression and ADHD. Everyone who works with people with Asperger’s or autism needs to be aware that they should be looking out for these problems,” explained lead researcher Christopher Gillberg, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry.
This research is published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
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