Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 40, Issue 11, pp 1361–1370

The Heavy Burden of Psychiatric Comorbidity in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Large Comparative Study of a Psychiatrically Referred Population

Authors

    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
    • Harvard Medical School
  • Carter Petty
    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
    • Harvard Medical School
  • Janet Wozniak
    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
    • Harvard Medical School
  • Aude Henin
    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
    • Harvard Medical School
  • Ronna Fried
    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
    • Harvard Medical School
  • Maribel Galdo
    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
  • Meghan Kotarski
    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
  • Sarah Walls
    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
  • Joseph Biederman
    • Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research DepartmentMassachusetts General Hospital
    • Harvard Medical School
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10803-010-0996-9

Cite this article as:
Joshi, G., Petty, C., Wozniak, J. et al. J Autism Dev Disord (2010) 40: 1361. doi:10.1007/s10803-010-0996-9

Abstract

The objective of the study was to systematically examine patterns of psychiatric comorbidity in referred youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) including autistic disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Consecutively referred children and adolescents to a pediatric psychopharmacology program were assessed with structured diagnostic interview and measures of psychosocial functioning. Comparisons were made between those youth satisfying diagnostic criteria for ASD and age and sex matched youth without ASD referred to the same clinical program. 9.3% (217/2323) of the referred youth (age range: 3–17 years) met DSM-III-R criteria for ASD. ASD youth suffered from significantly higher number of comorbid disorders than comparisons (6.4 ± 2.7 vs. 5.2 ± 2.9; p < 0.001). Ninety-five percent of the youth with ASD had three or more comorbid psychiatric disorders and 74% had five or more comorbid disorders. ASD youth were also more functionally impaired and required extra-assistance in school and therapeutic interventions at higher rates than age and sex matched non-ASD referred youth. Youth with ASD have high levels of psychiatric comorbidity and dysfunction comparable to the referred population of youth without ASD. These findings emphasize the heavy burden of psychiatric comorbidity afflicting youth with ASD and may be important targets for intervention.

Keywords

Autism spectrum disordersPsychiatric comorbidityChildren and adolescents

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010