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Autism and Common Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders

Autism and Common Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders

There are many types of mental health disorders that a person can be born with. One of these is autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This disorder affects how someone interacts with the world around them and can greatly range in severity. Most people with autism can live normal lives after learning critical coping skills. Others cannot live alone and require help in their day-to-day activities. 

Autism cannot be cured, as it is not an illness. Instead, those with autism receive treatment in the form of education on how to live with their condition safely and healthily. However, sometimes someone with autism can have another form of mental health disorder that can negatively impact their life. This is known as a co-occurring mental health disorder or a dual diagnosis

Mental health care facilities like Acera Health are equipped for not only treating autism but co-occurring mental health disorders as well. It can take time to find the right combination of treatments, so it’s important to get help right away should you believe that you or someone you love has a co-occurring mental health disorder.

Before discussing what common mental health disorders can affect those with autism, it’s important to understand what autism is.

A Brief Guide to Autism and Its Symptoms

As mentioned, autism is a mental health disorder that someone is born with. Researchers aren’t exactly sure what the cause of autism is, but they suspect that it has to do with someone’s genetic makeup. There may also be an environmental factor involved that can influence these genes. Someone is more likely to be born with autism if they have an immediate family member with autism. A person may also be more likely to be born with autism if they are born with another genetic disorder, such as Down syndrome.

Autism is often diagnosed when someone is young, at the age when we learn to communicate and interact with each other socially. Symptoms are broken up into two categories, which are social communication and restrictive/repetitive behaviors.

Social Communication Symptoms

Social communication symptoms involve how we communicate and interact with other people. A few examples of autism symptoms in this category include:

  • Slow or no response to verbal cues, such as one’s name being called
  • Difficulties participating and processing back-and-forth communication
  • Troubles understanding or catching social cues, sometimes causing inappropriate behavior
  • Difficulties matching facial expressions, gestures, and movements to what one is saying
  • Having unusual inflections or tone of voice, or even being completely non-verbal
  • Lack of eye contact or not looking at people who are talking

Restrictive/Repetitive Behaviors

Restrictive/repetitive behaviors are symptoms where someone is compelled to repeat an action or avoid an action entirely. Common autism symptoms in this category are:

  • Difficulties accepting changes in routine
  • Becoming overly focused on specific topics and interests
  • Being more or less sensitive to specific sensory inputs, such as touch/texture, sound, light, and temperature

Understanding these symptoms is important, as they are unique to those with autism.

Common Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

People develop mental health disorders due to several factors. In most cases, it’s a response to trauma and stress. Sometimes it’s because of a change in brain function due to an injury, or substance abuse. Other disorders are more likely to be genetic. However, with autism, environmental and genetic factors are likely to cause a co-occurring mental health disorder.

People with autism are more likely to be victimized than those who are neurotypical. Because of this, many people with autism have to deal with trauma. This can cause someone to develop anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Those with autism are also susceptible to mood and behavioral disorders. Depression is an example of a common mood disorder found in autism due to difficulty forming social connections. We need social interactions to stay healthy, which can be difficult to achieve when you have autism. An example of a behavioral disorder is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). This prevents someone from being able to control their emotions and behavior, making it difficult to live a normal life

Lastly, someone with autism is more likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is a disorder that impacts someone’s ability to concentrate or focus on tasks. 

Getting Help for Your Mental Health Disorder

It’s always okay to ask for help, no matter who you are or where you come from. If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health disorder, start by contacting your local mental health care facility, like Acera Health. They can help guide you on the next steps to take to find the treatment and care you need to recover.

Many websites for mental health care facilities often have chat or email features for those with phone anxiety. If it makes you more comfortable, you can even have an advocate accompany you. You don’t have to seek help alone. Contacting a mental health care facility gives you access to a team of compassionate mental health professionals who will always support you.

Autism is a type of mental health disorder that has increased in diagnosis rates as our understanding of it grows. However, when someone lives with autism, they also often live with other types of mental health disorders. This is known as a co-occurring mental health disorder or a dual diagnosis. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we specialize in not only treating autism but any co-occurring mental health disorders. We provide our clients with quality and compassionate care that helps teach them the skills they need to interact with the world around them. If you or someone you love has autism and is struggling with their mental health, call (949) 647-4090.

Mickey Webb
Mickey Webb
Marketing Director at Acer Health

Mickey has dedicated nearly 10 years of marketing for various industries with his superior networking, negotiation, and leadership skills. He has over 5 years of management experience including corporate with AT&T. In 2019, he began serving the healthcare industry. He is devoted to establishing promotion and advertising efforts for Acera, to help families and individuals better understand the services we provide. He has strong interpersonal skills, and helps Acera build brand awareness within the behavioral health field. Mickey has helped many individuals find placement in treatment, and will go to any length to make sure they receive the care they deserve.


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