The prevalence of mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, AD/HD, OCD, and suicidality is significantly higher among autistic individuals than in the non-autistic population. Co-occurring mental issues in autism have been associated with imbalances in the gut microbiome, sensory processing difficulties, chronic inflammation, and autonomic nervous system dysregulation. Our list of resources covers contemporary research on drivers of mental illness and advice for navigating mental health difficulties in autism.
Articles on Mental Health & Autism
Gastrointestinal and internalizing behaviors may be “bidirectional” in children, teens with ASD
This article originally appeared in Autism Research Review International, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2022, and discusses the relationship between gastrointestinal (GI) issues and internalizing behaviors in autistic individuals. It notes that many autistic people experience GI issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain which may contribute to internalizing behaviors such as anxiety and depression. The authors highlight the importance of identifying and treating GI issues in autistic patients, as this may improve their overall well-being and reduce the severity of internalizing behaviors. The article also emphasizes the need for continued research to understand further the relationship between GI issues and internalizing behaviors in individuals with ASD.
Meltdowns & Calming Techniques in Autism
Many autistic individuals experience meltdowns due to various triggers, such as difficulties with sensory processing, mental health issues, or physical discomfort. This article discusses several strategies for calming individuals during a meltdown, such as using sensory input or distraction techniques. The author emphasizes the importance of understanding individual needs and triggers in treatment planning and highlights proactive measures for preventing meltdowns, such as creating a sensory-friendly environment. Overall, the article provides practical guidance for autistic individuals and caregivers in managing meltdowns and promoting a sense of calm. All information presented in this article was gathered from ARI resources listed within the text.
Webinars from ARI on Mental Health & Autism
Brain Inflamed: Anxiety, Depression, and Other Mood Disorders in Teens
In this webinar, Dr. Kenneth Bock discusses the connection between inflammation in the brain and mood disorders, particularly in autistic teenagers. Bock explains that inflammation in the brain can cause a range of symptoms, including anxiety and depression. These symptoms are often more prevalent in autistic individuals due to underlying immune dysregulation. The presenter discusses potential triggers of brain inflammation, such as autoimmune conditions, thyroid disorders, and post-strep infections, and provides strategies for reducing inflammation and improving overall brain health. The webinar emphasizes the importance of addressing inflammation in the brain as a critical factor in improving mood and overall well-being in autistic teenagers.
How the Autonomic Nervous System May Govern Anxiety in Autism
Amanda Tami, LPC, BCBA, discusses the importance of self-care for adult caregivers supporting people with special needs, including autism. She provides context for mental health in the US and highlights the importance of self-care in the modern world. The speaker outlines factors that affect mental health, discusses burnout compared to depression, and describes issues with the way society views and idealizes self-care. Tami reframes self-care using five key aspects to create more accessible and realistic expectations for adult caregivers. She emphasizes short personalized self-care routines that can be done alongside other responsibilities and notes the trial and error of discovering what works. Throughout the presentation, Tami highlights community support and socialization. She provides references and resources before the Q & A.
Parents and Caregivers: The Importance of Self-Care
Amanda Tami, LPC, BCBA, discusses the importance of self-care for adult caregivers supporting people with special needs, including autism. She provides context for mental health in the US and highlights the importance of self-care in the modern world. The speaker outlines factors that affect mental health, discusses burnout compared to depression, and describes issues with the way society views and idealizes self-care. Tami reframes self-care using five key aspects to create more accessible and realistic expectations for adult caregivers. She emphasizes short personalized self-care routines that can be done alongside other responsibilities and notes the trial and error of discovering what works. Throughout the presentation, Tami highlights community support and socialization.
Nutritional Strategies for Regulating Mood in ASD – Q&A
Vicky Kobliner answers questions about nutritional strategies for regulating mood in autism. She covers constipation, hydration, food sensitivities, inflammation, vitamin D, food-chaining, and much more. The speaker discusses general information on these topics and asserts that her suggestions do not replace individualized professional medical advice.
Prenatal stress and Neurodevelopment
Dr. Beversdorf discusses prenatal stress and its implication in autism etiology. He provides a brief history of autism heredity, epigenetics, and the role of serotonin. The speaker details current understandings of the association between prenatal stress and autism. Beversdorf discusses recent research on the impact of SERT, prenatal stress, and other epigenetic factors. Clinical studies are provided alongside rodent models.
Children, Anxiety, and ASD in the Pandemic Era – Live Q&A
Dr. Moskowitz discusses coping with anxiety related to COVID. She briefly overviews anxiety and how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to treat it. The speaker outlines five major aspects of CBT and how they can be modified for autism. Moskowitz reiterates the importance of understanding anxiety instead of fearing it. During the live Q&A, she discusses how to talk to kids about COVID anxieties and provides tips for tackling medical phobias and readjusting after COVID.
Stress & Anxiety Reduction
Dr. Amy Keefer dives into common co-occurring psychiatric conditions in autism. Previous projects, she explains, have investigated correlates of anxiety and predictors of response to anxiety treatment in autistic youth. Keefer outlines contemporary collaborations and research on the mechanisms underlying anxiety in autism. She asserts the potential and need for developing novel, empirically validated treatments for emotional dysregulation. This page also includes an interview with Dr. June Groden on anxiety and autism.
Continuing Medical Education on Mental Health & Autism
Anxiety in Individuals with Autism: Part One provides expert insight into underlying anxiety disorders associated with autism. Increased understanding of autistic children and adults should be improved by virtue of educating about etiologies associated with this complex disorder.
The webcast features expert faculty member Lauren Moskowitz, Ph.D., of St. John’s University, and is moderated by Marvin Natowicz, MD, Ph.D., Cleveland Clinic.
This webcast provides expert insight into how autistic people may experience medical and dental treatments and how that may differ from the experiences of others. Autistic author and speaker Dr. Temple Grandin describes communication strategies that may be helpful in clinical settings and how to find professional healthcare support for autism. The overall well-being of autistic adults will improve as autistic-lived experiences are increasingly recorded and assessed.
Visit https://www.ccfcme.org/autismvideo to claim CME credit or learn more about the Innovations in Surgery series.
The compassionate care webcast features Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado University and commentary by Activity Director Dr. Marvin Natowicz.
The video was produced by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Center for Continuing Education and the Autism Research Institute.