How are autism and depression related to each other?

This is a serious enigma. Mood disorders like depression seem to be prevalent in people with developmental disorders as compared to those in the common populace. Moreover, diagnosing it in people with autism renders a challenge which takes us back in time, via Leo Kanner’s first report of juvenile autism, in the year 1943. According to Kanner, it was the affective contact that caused agitation in people with autism, whereas, clinicians used the name affect to define how one’s emotional disposition appeared to others.

The mood is defined as a temporary state of one’s mind or emotional frame. For example, a person’s expression may seem to be dull and register the little reaction, but he/she may tell that they feel fine. Clinicians regard this condition as the incongruence of mood and affect. Therefore, affect and mood may not always align with each other.

How can one tackle such a difficult diagnosis?

 Several individuals with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) exhibit little facial emotions. However, it does not imply that they’re depressed. Also, their effect doesn’t necessarily have to agree with what they feel. This is one of the major reasons why it is difficult to spot depression in people with autism. Moreover, many people with ASD either have little or zero speech. Therefore, they are unable to express their feelings to others.

Consequently, it is better to look for other symptoms in these people that may indicate signs of depression. These could include variations in one’s sleep or appetite, whether enhanced or diminished. There may also be a significant dip in energy and loss in the ability to enjoy activities that were once enjoyed by them. This may be even accompanied by an overall decline in one’s motivation level and personal interests.

Another difficulty encountered while treating depression in a person having autism is its overlap of symptoms with those of depression. The characteristic traits of depression involve a reduced appetite, dull or depressed facial expression, enhanced sleep disturbance, reduced motivation, low energy levels, social alienation and no desire to interact with others. Surely, several of these symptoms can arise from autism instead of depression.

How to spot Depression, Autism and Suicidal Tendency?

While considering the analysis and medication of depression, it is critical to discuss the plausibility of suicidal inclinations in a person. Psychiatrists in medical schools, study the techniques to assess the risk of attempting suicide in all the patients that they assess for depression. It further applies to the evaluation of people with ASD.

According to a study published in the journal, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, researcher Angela Gorman along with her colleagues have successfully recognized the numerous risk factors that are associated with suicidal tendencies in a person and in adolescents with ASD.

The researchers interviewed parents of about 35 non-autistic children, 186 developing children and 791 children having autism, diagnosed with depression. They found that the portion of the children considered by the parents as seldom to quite often envisioning, or venturing suicide was twenty-eight times greater in those having autism as compared to those with standard development. Moreover, it was three times less amongst those having autism as compared to the non-autistic kids that suffered depression. Luckily, suicidal inclinations were rare amidst children under the age of 10.

Despite all these efforts put in by various researchers, we still lack in tools and techniques needed to correctly diagnose depression and reduce the risks of suicide in people having ASD. We must, therefore, strengthen our efforts in this regard.

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