Though the two may seem distant, depression and autism have a complicated relationship. Like other disorders tied to mood, depression can affect every aspect of a person’s life. According to several studies, young adults on the spectrum have a higher chance of becoming depressed than some of their neurotypical peers. On top of the tragic symptoms and challenges that people face when dealing with clinical depression, depression can have serious consequences for people on the spectrum.
In this post, we will examine the connection between autism and depression, looking at what the effects are and some of the telltale signs of depressive symptoms.
How depression affects people on the spectrum
Depression can have devastating effects on an individual on the spectrum. The most common symptoms of depression in most individuals include:
- Mood swings
- Feelings of guilt and helplessness
- Overeating and loss of appetite
- Loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable
Amongst many others. For people on the spectrum it can also result in:
- Loss of previously learned skills
- Developmental and behavioral regression
- And difficulty carrying out everyday tasks independently.
These symptoms can be devastating, severely impacting the individual and those around them including peers, family, coworkers and more. Individuals on the spectrum can also be at higher risk as a result of the symptoms of their autism. Children who experience intense loneliness or alienation as they struggle to thrive socially, for example, are more likely to experience clinical depression.
The Difficulty with Diagnosis
Diagnosing Depression in those with ASD is especially difficult. At times, those who are depressed display a certain effect of numbness and neutrality. This can be expressed through anti-social tendencies such as lack of communication or showing little to no expression on one’s face. Many children and adults with autism will display antisocial tendencies like the ones described without being depressed. This overlap can cause confusion for families trying to spot the warning signs in their relatives with autism.
Individuals with autism also tend to have trouble expressing their feelings and emotions. Clinicians usually must rely on changes in behavioral patterns and the word of those close to the individual to determine whether clinical depression is a possible diagnosis.
Studies also show that individuals on the autism spectrum with a higher IQ or intelligence score are more likely to experience clinical depression in their lifetime, even though the inverse is true for neurotypical people.
Overall, depression is a devastating disorder that can affect individual lives in adverse ways. Since children on the spectrum are more susceptible, they should be screened often. If you worry that your child or relative is displaying signs of depression, be sure to consult your doctor immediately.