How does ASD affect mental health?

People with ASD may experience a range of mental health issues relating to their ASD symptoms or from the social isolation generated by their ASD. Many people with ASD have previously been misdiagnosed with other conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Women with ASD often suffer mental health issues prior to getting their ASD diagnosis.

People with ASD may experience higher rates of
• Low self esteem
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
• Self-Harm- People with autism will often engage in self-harming behaviours as a response to stress , anxiety or depression.
• Dual Diagnosis – when an intellectual disability is present with a mental health condition such as schizophrenia .

It is very important people with ASD seek appropriate supports when suffering depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.
It can be very difficult to distinguish mental health problems in those with severe autism and poor verbal skills as mental health diagnosis often is dependant on the ability of the person to describe their symptoms or on a skilled clinician to be able to observe symptoms and distinguish them from autism related behaviour.

What to do
If families or caregivers suspect there is a problem they can
• Talk to the person about what they are experiencing
• See a GP and ask for a referral to a mental health professional (costs can be claimed through Medicare as part of the mental health care plan scheme)
• Document any new behaviours or symptoms.
• Keep mood diaries or behaviour charts to show changes in behaviour to doctors or other mental health professionals.
• Support the person to attend appointments and take any prescribed medication.
• Support the person to eat a balanced diet , exercise and get adequate sleep.
• Support the person to work through what is causing them stress or anxiety and modify the environment accordingly.

More help with mental health issues
Beyond blue – national mental health initiative
http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?

Headspace – help for young people and their carers
http://www.headspace.org.au/

Lifeline 13 11 14
http://www.lifeline.org.au/

Disability specific
Victorian Duel Disability Service
http://www.svhm.org.au/services/VictorianDualDisabilityService/Pages/VictorianDualDisabilityService.aspx

The centre for disability and health at Monash
http://cddh.monash.org/