Kids With Autism & ADHD at Higher Risk for Anxiety, Mood Disorders

A new study finds that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at higher risker for anxiety and mood disorders.

Published in Pediatrics, the study, completed by the Interactive Autism Network (IAN), is one of the largest to compare comorbidities in individuals with ASD alone to individuals with ASD and ADHD, according to researchers.

For the study’s findings, researchers from Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore examined the data of a cross-sectional, network-based survey of children between the ages 6 and 17 with ASD who were enrolled in the Interactive Autism Network  between 2006 and 2013.

Of the 3,319 children in the study, 1,503 (45.3 percent) also had ADHD.

Data was analyzed for parent-reported diagnosis and/or treatment of ADHD, anxiety disorder and mood disorders.

Researchers discovered that children with ASD and ADHD had more than twice (or 2.2 times) the risk of anxiety disorder and 2.7 times the risk of other mood disorders. Researchers also found that these psychiatric conditions were more prevalent in older children.

“We have known that anxiety and mood disorders are highly prevalent in those with ASD,” said Eliza Gordon-Lipkin, M.D., lead study author and a fellow in the Department of Neurology and Developmental Medicine at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

“This study, however, takes it another step further, providing insights on the differences between children with just ASD versus those with ASD and ADHD. What exactly happens in the human brain that causes children with ASD to have other mental health conditions is not fully understood, but we hope this study inspires other researchers to pursue the answer to this question.”

According to recent statistics, ASD affects 1 in 68 children and ADHD affects 1 in 10 in the United States. Researchers and clinicians have long known that these disorders have overlapping features and can occur together, having negative developmental, cognitive, behavioral and functional implications, researchers note.

“The takeaway from the study’s findings, and one that both parents of children with ASD and doctors need to keep in mind, is that managing these psychiatric disorders is a dual effort,” said Paul H. Lipkin, M.D., director of Medical Informatics and the Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute. “That by working closely together in monitoring a child for anxiety and mood symptoms, we can ensure early diagnosis and treatment, which is key to preserving a child’s quality of life.”

Source: GolinHarris DC