Depression appears to be more common in autistic people. In some cases, autistic people may experience slightly different depression symptoms than those non-autistic people with depression.

Autism and depression often go hand in hand. If you live with autism and wonder or worry about depression, there are some key ways to identify it and get the help you need.

Symptoms of depression can look similar in autistic and non-autistic people, but some may be different. Depression can make symptoms of autism more pronounced.

However, for both autistic and non-autistic people with depression, the recommended treatment is similar. With the right combination of therapy, medication, and support, you can feel better and live a full and fulfilling life.

Depression is a common mental health challenge, especially for autistic people. According to 2019 research, autistic people are four times more likely to develop depression than those who are not autistic.

For both autistic and non-autistic people, depression is more than just a passing feeling of sadness.

With depression, you may also experience:

While symptoms of depression can look similar in autistic and non-autistic people, communication differences can make symptoms harder to recognize in those who are autistic. But there are some key differences to look for.

Depression can make symptoms of autism more pronounced. These may include:

  • stimming (repetitive movements or noises)
  • hyperfixation (intense focus on an object, person, or activity)
  • social withdrawal
  • alexithymia (trouble understanding, identifying, and managing feelings)
  • sleep problems

Depression can also increase thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Research from 2020 shows autistic adults have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, planning, and dying from suicide.

Epilepsy, which is linked to higher rates of depression, is also more common in autistic than non-autistic people.

Living with autism can present unique daily challenges, which may contribute to depression in some people. They may:

  • have trouble understanding social situations or relating to other people
  • feel misunderstood or unaccepted by others
  • find it hard to identify, understand, and manage their feelings (alexithymia)

As a result, autistic people may experience sadness, loneliness, or low self-esteem. They may become more socially isolated.

Without adequate treatment and support, this can lead to depression.

If you think you or a loved one may have depression in autism, there are treatments that can help.

Start by talking with your doctor about your symptoms. They will likely recommend a combination of treatments, depending on whether you have mild, moderate, or severe depression.

If you have mild depression, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, such as exercise, and strategies like mindfulness training to help lift your mood.

For moderate to severe depression, your doctor may suggest a combination of the following:


Research from 2019 shows that talk therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can reduce anxiety and depression in autistic people. CBT can help with rumination and other thought processes related to depression.

It’s important to work with a therapist who understands autism. They can adapt your treatment to meet your specific needs and differences in thinking, communication, or behavior.


Along with therapy, antidepressant medications can help treat depression. Researchers are still trying to understand the possible effects and side effects of depression medication in autistic people.

Talk with your doctor about potential risks and any concerns you may have.


When you’re feeling sad or low, it can help to talk with someone you trust, whether a family member, friend, or professional.

There are also autism support groups where you can openly discuss your feelings with others who may share similar symptoms. Consider asking your doctor or therapist for referrals.

It’s common for autistic people to experience depression. The daily challenges can cause symptoms like sadness, restlessness, and even suicidal thoughts. These can be similar to depression symptoms for non-autistic people, but sometimes, they may be more difficult to recognize.

Depression can also make symptoms of autism, such as stimming and hyperfixation, more pronounced.

But with the right combination of treatment and support, you can improve your mood and start feeling better. Consider reaching out to someone you trust, and try to take it one small step at a time.