Better tools needed to diagnose depression in people with autism

February 16, 2018, University of Nottingham
Better tools needed to diagnose depression in people with autism
Credit: University of Nottingham

Autistic adults are not being effectively diagnosed with depression due to a lack of asessment tools, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham's School of Psychology undertook a systematic review of data on assessment tools for diagnosing with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC) with depression. The research published in Autism Research shows that there are no validated tools to specifically assess depression in .

Unique and subtle signs

Dr. Sarah Cassidy who led the research is now developing a new depression assessment for autistic adults. She says: "It is crucial that we are able to effectively identify depression in autistic adults. However, current tools have been developed for non-autistic populations and may miss the unique and subtle signs of depression in autistic people."

79 percent of autistic people experience a at some point in their lives, and depression is the most common.

The consequences of not detecting depression in autistic people can be devastating. Depression has been shown to increase risk of autistic adults experiencing thoughts of ending their own lives, and dying by suicide.

Overlapping symptoms

Dr. Cassidy continues: "The challenge clinicians have diagnosing an autistic person with depression is that many of the characteristics of it overlap with the symptoms and behaviours of autism such as; social withdrawal, difficulties with sleep and reduced eye contact. This overlap of symptoms becomes especially problematic when using tools developed for the general non-autistic population."

The research showed that the main tools used to diagnose depression are based on either interviews with a clinician or self reporting questionnaires, all of which were developed for use with the general non-autistic population. The answers to these are then used to score the patient on a scale which allows a diagnosis to be made. None of the tools have been designed specifically for autistic people.

"The current tools available for diagnosing depression rely on people self-reporting, relying on the abilty to reflect and report on personal emotional experience, something autistic will find extremely difficult to do, with many finding it impossble" continues Dr. Cassidy, "We would suggest that autism specific questions are needed to capture the unique presentation of in autistic people, such as changes in , sleep patterns, sensitivity to the environment, repetitive behaviors, or loss of interest in a usually very strong interest."

Explore further: New autism study a "shocking wake-up call" for society, say academics

Related Stories

New autism study a "shocking wake-up call" for society, say academics

October 23, 2017
People who show characteristics of autism are more at risk of attempting suicide, according to a Coventry University study whose results are being presented to a United States federal advisory committee tomorrow.

Mental health services are failing young autistic people

June 26, 2017
More and more is being done to raise awareness of mental health problems at a public and policy level, and understandably so. One in six adults in the UK has a common mental health condition, and one in 20 adults has thought ...

How coping mechanisms help autistic people

October 24, 2017
In a recent documentary, naturalist and wildlife presenter, Chris Packham, talked about having Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. It was a rare snapshot into the life of an adult with Asperger's – and especially so ...

GPs urgently need training on autism

May 9, 2017
Most of us get slightly anxious about going to the GP. What if it turns out that nothing's wrong? Or perhaps there's something seriously wrong? Despite these minor concerns, most of us are happy to book an appointment, turn ...

Girls' social camouflage skills may delay or prevent autism diagnosis

January 4, 2018
On parent-reporting measures, girls with autism seem to struggle more than boys with performing routine tasks like getting up and dressed or making small talk, even when the study group is normalized to meet similar basic ...

Many health woes common in autistic adults, study finds

May 14, 2014
Autistic adults are much more likely than others to suffer from depression, high blood pressure, obesity and additional health woes that may partly result from their social isolation, new U.S. research suggests.

Recommended for you

Latest research hints at predicting autism risk for pregnant mothers

September 21, 2018
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute—led by Juergen Hahn, professor and head of biomedical engineering—are continuing to make remarkable progress with their research focused on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ...

Scientists reveal drumming helps schoolchildren diagnosed with autism

September 14, 2018
Drumming for 60 minutes a week can benefit children diagnosed with autism and supports learning at school, according to a new scientific study.

Overlapping copy number variations underlie autism and schizophrenia in Japanese patients

September 11, 2018
Common genetic variants may underlie autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia across human populations, according to a study appearing September 11th in the journal Cell Reports. In line with previous studies in Caucasians, ...

New biomarker panel could accelerate autism diagnoses

September 6, 2018
Investigators at the UC Davis MIND Institute and NeuroPointDX, a division of Stemina Biomarker Discovery, have identified a group of blood metabolites that could help detect some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ...

Depression strikes nearly one in five young adults with autism: study

August 31, 2018
(HealthDay)—Depression affects almost 20 percent of young adults with autism, new research shows, a rate that's more than triple that seen in the general population.

Kids with autism learn, grow with the 'social robot'

August 22, 2018
Robots may hold the keys to social success for kids with autism.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.