Challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of depression in autism spectrum disorders across the lifespan.

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Diagnosis and treatment of comorbid neuropsychiatric illness is often a secondary focus of treatment in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), given that substantial impairment may be caused by core symptoms of ASD itself. However, psychiatric comorbidities, including depressive disorders, are common and frequently result in additional functional impairment, treatment costs, and burden on caregivers. Clinicians may struggle to appropriately diagnose depression in ASD due to communication deficits, atypical presentation of depression in ASD, and lack of standardized diagnostic tools. Specific risk and resilience factors for depression in ASD across the lifespan, including level of functioning, age, family history, and coping style, have been suggested, but require further study. Treatment with medications or psychotherapy may be beneficial, though more research is required to establish guidelines for management of symptoms. This review will describe typical presentations of depression in individuals with ASD, review current information on the prevalence, assessment, and treatment of comorbid depression in individuals with ASD, and identify important research gaps.







Tara Chandrasekhar

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Duke Autism Clinic

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