Adults with autism are more than twice as likely as neurotypical people to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a new study suggests. Their non-autistic siblings are also more likely than the general population to receive an anxiety diagnosis.
…[Researchers] found that 20 percent of the autistic adults have an anxiety disorder, compared with less than 9 percent of the typical adults. Nearly 3.5 percent of the autistic adults have obsessive-compulsive disorder and about 3 percent have social phobia, compared with about 0.5 percent of controls for each condition. The work appeared in October in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The differences may in fact be even bigger because anxiety often goes unrecognized in autistic people, experts say.
“Most of the tools to measure and diagnose anxiety have been developed on neurotypical populations, which leaves the rest of us wondering how reliable and valid they are in people with autism,” says John Herrington, assistant professor of child psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the research.
The next step, researchers say, is to understand why anxiety is so prevalent among autistic people, and to find better ways to assess and treat it.
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