Asperger Syndrome Brings 70% Risk of Depression

A researcher in Sweden has completed a thesis that shows nearly 70 percent of young adults with Asperger syndrome also experience bouts of depression. Tove Lugnegard, of the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy, undertook her study to emphasize how important it is for mental healthcare staff to understand the co-morbidity of these diseases so that accurate and complete diagnoses can be made.

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Of the 54 participants with Asperger syndrome, 70 percent had experienced at least one depressive episode, while 50 percent had repeated occurrences. The average age of the group was 27 years old, potentially indicating that repeated episodes might occur more frequently if the participants had been older.

The study also strengthens recent research comparing the symptoms of Asperger syndrome and schizophrenia. Both diseases can present with high levels of autistic behaviors and impaired social functioning. Curiously, only two participants in Lugnegard's study had any psychotic disorder, and none had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Depression is often difficult to detect in persons with Asperger syndrome because body language and facial expressions are often more difficult to read in these individuals. Additionally, patients with Asperger syndrome are often less able to describe their emotions, making a diagnosis of depression or anxiety much more difficult.

Lugnegard hopes that clinicians and diagnosticians will keep her results in mind when they are evaluating patients with Asperger syndrome. If they remember that depression may be hiding just beneath the surface, and that it may be harder to detect than in otherwise healthy adults, they will be more likely to identify all the factors necessary for a complete diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Source: University of Gothenburg, Sweden

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