2. Comorbidity in autism across the lifespan
Goal: To determine the role of comorbid diagnoses in autistic adults.
Results: In a chart study of adults with autism who received their autism diagnosis in adulthood we saw that the participants first contacted the mental health care (MHC) at a median age of 19 years (range 2 to 78 years). The main referral reasons were social problems, feelings of anxiety, and mood disturbances. The most common earlier diagnoses were anxiety and mood disorders or psychoses related disorders. Surprisingly few differences emerged between those who finally received an ASD diagnosis and those who did not. However, those with an ASD diagnosis contacted the MHC on average 15 years earlier and less frequently received former diagnoses, though the type of diagnoses did not differ. In a follow up study in adults aged 18 till 80 we tested whether differences appeared in the prevalence of comorbid diagnoses. Among the most prevalent were anxiety and mood disorders, but these seemed to be especially common around middle age. In the older group in their late fifties, sixties and early seventies the prevalence seemed slightly lower. Especially social anxieties seemed less common.
Details: See Autism (Geurts & Jansen, 2011) for details. Moreover, see the paper by Lever & Geurts (2016) in JADD.
For a description of this project in Dutch see d’Arc onderzoek.