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An update on anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders.

TitleAn update on anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsVasa, RA, Mazurek, MO
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychiatry
Date Published2015 Mar
KeywordsAdolescent, Anxiety, Child, Child Development Disorders, Pervasive, Humans

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Anxiety is one of the most common co-occurring psychiatric conditions in youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This article reviews recent evidence as well as earlier relevant studies regarding the characteristics, assessment, and treatment of anxiety in youth with ASD.

RECENT FINDINGS: It is well established that the prevalence of anxiety in youth with an ASD is significantly greater than the prevalence of anxiety in the general population. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of informant, method, and instrument when measuring anxiety in this population. Despite the high prevalence, findings to date have been unable to identify any consistent risk factors for anxiety. New psychological treatments, including modified cognitive behavioral therapy for youth with high functioning ASD and co-occurring anxiety, are emerging. Pharmacological data, however, are scant. Existing studies show that youth with ASD are at increased risk for behavioral activation when taking SSRIs.

SUMMARY: Clinicians working with youth with ASD are encouraged to routinely screen for anxiety. Until further data are available, clinical judgment is needed when prescribing treatments, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which require close monitoring of side-effects. Research on risk factors, pathophysiology, and treatment of this condition is needed.


Lead Author
Roma A Vasa

Study Aims and Objectives
To provide an update on research regarding the relationship between anxiety and individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Methods- Sample, Procedure, Study Measures, Analysis
The most up to date research on anxiety in individuals with ASD was reviewed with emphasis on studies conducted within the last 18 months of the writing of this manuscript.

Results- Main Findings
Anxiety is highly prevalent in youth with ASD and can manifest as DSM-defined disorders or atypical anxiety symptoms, which are related to ASD symptoms. Much more research is needed to improve methods to measure anxiety, but research on risk factors and mechanisms of anxiety in ASD is beginning to emerge. Limitations to assessing and treating anxiety in this population were also discussed, with a focus on personalizing care plans to ensure that anxiety symptoms are accurately assessed and addressed.

Conclusion- Summary Statement It is important that clinicians screen for anxiety in individuals with ASD. Researchers need to continue exploring the relationship between anxiety and autism spectrum disorders, keeping in mind that all individuals will present different challenges and will need unique methods of treatment.

Alternate JournalCurr Opin Psychiatry
PubMed ID25602249
Summary category: